It’s no secret that the buyer’s journey is constantly evolving. In order to truly create a connection to customers and leave a lasting impression, your brand needs to generate awareness and build trust with consumers in their target audience. Although word-of-mouth marketing is still important, as times continue to change many people are looking online to find the products that their peers or online community are using. In fact, Nielsen reports 92% of people trust recommendations from individuals—even if they don’t know them—over brands.
Brand awareness is a necessity for most brands. Whether you’re an established franchise or a small business, it’s important to get exposed to the right customers. One of the ways to get in front of potential audiences is through a brand awareness campaign. This can be vital to an expansion into a new market, product launch, or just to keep your brand in the public eye.
Most brands don’t have the budget to partner with a celebrity, however, finding micro-local influencers is an option that boasts well for most brands. By honing in on people who are active in the community and have an engaged online following, there is an opportunity for your brand to develop a content partnership that caters to the individual’s needs while ideally using their presence to reach their audience. This tactic not only helps to spread awareness, but it can position your brand in front of an audience by using a source they already know and trust.
Who is an Influencer?
An “influencer” is an individual or publication that may have influence over potential buyers in your target market or industry. This can include:
Local guides or publications
Individuals with a large social media following on Facebook or Instagram
Bloggers specific to your industry (Fitness, Beauty, Lifestyle)
This person doesn’t have to be a celebrity. In many cases, these are individuals who are able to create content that is relevant and engaging to their audience. Whether it’s an Instagrammer who supports local businesses, someone who shares fitness tips, or even someone who does beauty tutorials on YouTube, Google has even found that 40% of millennials say that their favorite YouTuber understands them better than their friends (Google).
Benefits of Influencer Marketing
Why are more brands adding an influencer initiative to their marketing campaign?
By partnering with an individual or publication that their target consumers already trust, brands are able to share their message through authentic storytelling and content development.
Through a sponsored post, feature, event or giveaway, a brand’s message can seem less like a traditional advertising and more like organic content.
By finding the right influencer, your brand is able to get right in front of a specific target market that is already active and engaged.
Content produced by influencers can be utilized into a current content strategy and repurposed into blog posts, social posts, and email content.
There is a potential opportunity for building credible backlinks, which can positively impact SEO.
Do you think that an influencer marketing campaign might be beneficial for your brand to reach individuals on social media? Get in touch! Our team would love to discuss your needs.
The Sowell Train Awards aim to provide a little insight into the latest developments in the digital marketing world. From Google algorithm updates to the newest social media features, I take a look at the biggest trends and changes in the field, give a little analysis, and apply a rating system based on the value that each development provides to marketers. Highly valuable developments are awarded a whopping 5 choo choos, and not-so-promising changes get only 1.
While Twitter’s targeting options are not as sophisticated as Facebook’s Power Editor, Twitter advertising is an effective way to get engagement on social media and to maximize instant communication with target audiences.
With Twitter advertising, you can promote both Twitter accounts and individual tweets. Promoted accounts strive to acquire followers; promoted Tweets aim to increase the number of impressions and interaction on the actual post while gaining a follower or two as well.
Targeting comes at different levels. From keyword level targeting to targeting by interests and followers, Twitter ads allow marketers to get their content in front of people who are interested in what they have to say.
In addition to keyword targeting, you can market to potential customers by targeting followers of a particular user. For example, let’s say you want to promote a fashion blog post on Twitter. By targeting followers of influential people in the fashion industry, you have the potential to reach larger but still highly relevant audience.
With its large follower fan base and growing connection to video, Twitter advertising is a unique way to advertise and has a lot of potential for success in the hands of creative marketing teams, especially with the advent of their new ad types. Consequently, Twitter ads earn 4 choo choos for their value to social media marketers in the last Sowell Train Awards.
At Sitemason, when I begin to write for our blog or marketing pages, I often run through a checklist of SEO best practices. Not because I’m especially concerned with being technically perfect and appeasing the search gods (AKA Google), but because what’s good for search engines is good for readers. Writing in general has one overarching rule, and I make sure it’s my number one consideration when I begin writing: “Make sure your topic provides authentic obvious value beyond self-promotion.”
It is not merely enough to write content for the sake of filling a page because you should have a blog updated weekly. It’s nothing more than a waste of your time and your readers. Writing needs to communicate something of value. Whether it’s a support article or a company announcement, there needs to be focus and intention in communicating the main points.
In a distant second place — but where the art of SEO really kicks in — crafting the language of those “main points” should receive considerable attention. In the world of search, you may know them as “keywords.”
Below, I’ve provided a 17 point checklist that I reference when I begin writing. It’s broken up into the three parts: Planning, SEO Specific Tasks, and Social Media Promotion. Additionally, I’ve tried to provide an example for each, as if we were writing for SEO with this article (which I’d have to do anyway!).
Make sure topic provides authentic obvious value beyond self-promotion
As mentioned, this single point is by far the most important consideration when writing, period. Whether you agree with me or not, I’ve concluded “yes,” this article provides a benefit to readers by supplying them with a writing reference guide when considering SEO. Everyone loves a checklist!
Define primary and secondary keywords
Keywords have traditionally been the glue of SEO. It’s a way to bind the distilled message of an article to a search engine’s index. Outside of the content itself, defining your keywords is the single most important SEO consideration you can make.
For this article, I’ve settled on “Writing for SEO Checklist” as my primary keyword. It’s not a coincidence it’s the title of the article! The title is the keyword, and not vice versa. I could use “SEO Checklist” or “Writing for SEO”, but “Writing for SEO Checklist” better describes the content, and specificity is crucial. Unless you have an enormous budget or you have written THE definitive guide to something, competing for generic search terms is a losing proposition. Use keywords that are concise, catchy, and descriptive.
Page should target a single searcher intent
I want this article to reach people searching for a reference guide to help them consider SEO in their writing. This is the WHY of the article. Defining that statement right there will help me keep my writing focused and always consider that person searching the web. “Writing for seo checklist” won’t win any popularity contests, but the people who search that term should find this article.
Research keywords and determine if related keywords might be more appropriate
Google (AdWords specifically) and many other SEO services like Moz and Raven have great keyword research tools. If search result rankings are important to you, you’ll want to spend some time researching keywords to make sure you’re both using the right keywords and not contributing to an over saturated topic where your article would be of little value to the general public, or more importantly, your site users. For example, I’d originally considered “SEO Checklist” for my title and primary keyword, but upon researching, found it to be rather diluted and decided on something with more specificity. However, if the article does gain traction, it could compete for “seo checklist” as well.
SEO Specific Tasks
Generate a concise Description based on keywords in less than 160 characters
The Description is the snippet of text that appears beneath the link when presenting your content in search engines and social media sharing. Keeping it short means that the entire description will appear in the preview for your link. This is the one-liner describing your writing and should include your keywords. We’ll use “An SEO checklist of best practices to consider when writing online, from the folks at Sitemason.com.” Keeping it around 100 characters provides the added benefit of using the description when sharing on Twitter as well (and leaves room for a URL and a couple @’s or #hashtags).
Window title & article title have matching keywords
Make sure your window title (the one that appears atop a browser for a given page) matches the title of your article. This is SEO 101, and any modern CMS will do this for you, however it’s always worth double checking. For this article, I’ll make sure “Writing for SEO Checklist” is both the title at the top of the page and the window title in the browser.
Primary keyword phrase appears in page URL
The path of the page should match your title/keyword, all lowercase, without spacing, and preferably a dash ( – ) between each word. This article’s path will be /blog/writing-for-seo-checklist
Images on the page employ descriptive, keyword-rich alt attributes
If you’ve ever run a site audit, you’ll know that missing ALT attributes gives errors that makes you think the world is coming to an end. Search engines HATE it when images don’t have ALT attributes. These are the short descriptive titles for an image that do not necessarily appear on the page, like:
<img src="/images/writing-for-seo-checklist-illustration.jpg" alt="An illustration header image by Kevin Kennedy at strazi.org for the Writing for SEO Checklist blog post" />
ALT attributes are expected both so search engines can better understand the image and for accessibility purposes for visitors who are visually impaired or who turn images off.
Title is < 75 Characters
Similar to limiting your description to < 160 characters, keeping a slim page title is important for the same reasons. The entire title should fit nicely on a search results page. More than 75 characters will truncate the title, risking a reader overlooking the article if they can’t read the whole title. “Writing for SEO Checklist” weighs in at a lean 25.
Word count should be a minimum of 500
Unless you’re running a haiku blog, how often can you say something meaningful in less than 500 words? Readers and search engines suggest it’s unlikely. I don’t think I’m going to have any problem though, as I’m already over 1000 and still have a ways to go.
Make sure the page is the only URL on which the content appears
If the same content appears on multiple pages, search engines will treat those pages in one of two ways: assume it’s spam or split the traffic. Both are no good. Avoid duplicate content everywhere on your site.
Add internal links to reference your own published work
Keep the juice flowing by referencing pages on your own site to keep readers engaged and hopefully moving towards a transaction. By linking to another blog post or a marketing page with more details about a topic, you’re increasing the authority of your writing and site in general. Traditionally, the basic algorithm of search engines is “clicking a link is voting for a piece of content.” The more votes, the more likely a page is to be highly ranked. Here’s a link to my other writings on SEO at sitemason.com. See how that works?
Use external links when appropriate to reference useful or contributing sources
Link building in general is a great way to generate traffic to your site. External links are often used as a reference tool to provide readers with more in-depth coverage of a topic on another site, as a mini-bibliography, or just to provide some link-love. If a popular site notices they’re getting traffic linked from your blog, that could open a business opportunity or, at a minimum, make them more apt to return the favor. In this article, we have a handful of external links to outside services.
Use schemas if content contains a transactional event
Search engines rely on formats set by schema.org to understand the types of content in a blog post and specially format the results. Examples of this might be an event or tour dates, an office location, a promotional product for sale, etc. Search engines are displaying results more and more specialized to provide the most context possible to the search user. This article doesn’t have an example, but I especially use schemas when promoting an event so it’s more likely to be picked up by aggregating calendars. Here’s an example of an event search result for “nashville meetups”:
This article isn’t especially about marketing, so I’ll keep the promotion recommendations to a minimum and chime in where I think they help SEO. If you only have five connections on Google+, that’s a good sign it’s probably not worth the effort. Engagement is a much more valuable metric than simply posting. Focus on those networks where you are an active participant. If you’re a small organization, that probably means Facebook and Twitter. If there’s an active conversation around your content on Twitter, and you get a lot of traffic from t.co, that’s more valuable than a couple here, a couple there, etc.
Try to post @somebody who would benefit from reading your article
Using Twitter as a newsfeed is fine, but it’s not likely to increase engagement. Tweet at people or tag Facebook users you have a relationship with in your industry, or somebody you know was having a problem you’re addressing in your writing. This will get the conversation going in a personal way, and increase the likelihood of user engagement. Search engines promote content with active social media conversations.
Use keyword based #hashtags when posting to social networks
A great way to contribute to an active conversation is through hashtags. Take a few minutes to research hashtags related to your keywords, and include the top one or two in your Tweet. For this topic, there’s obviously an extremely active #seo conversation on Twitter which would be difficult to gain traction, but it doesn’t really cost you anything other than 4 characters. For our Tweet, I think I’ll probably use the more dedicated #seochecklist hashtag but probably include #seo as well.
The goal of Moneyball is to get the best results out of the least money spent. In other words, Billy Beane viewed his baseball team as a business, looking to get the best value or ROI. Beane’s Oakland teams made the playoffs four straight years in the early 2000s despite being in the bottom five teams in salary.
As a sports fan and a sportswriter, reading Moneyball changed the way I look at baseball like few other things have. Each week, I’ll try to do the same thing with SEO for you in this series, SEO MoneyBall, using some deeper statistics to give you a better look at how to improve your web presence. This week, I look at the tools Twitter provides businesses and people with to get a better look at their social media strategy.
Are your tweets getting the interaction and attention you want? If not, taking a look at your Twitter analytics page can reveal some insights into your social media presence and your followers.
Anyone can use the free analytics provided by the site by going here and signing into your Twitter account. From this page you can view your timeline activity, followers and website analytics.
In this section, you can see an overview of you last month on Twitter, with mentions, follows and unfollows in a handy graph format.
You can also see each of your tweets below that, with the amount of favorites, rewteets, replies and clicks that each post received. Looking at these stats can give you a good idea of which times of day receive the most interaction, as well as which topics your audience cares about.
The first thing you see in the Followers section is a graph of your follower count in the past year.
You also see a list of topics your followers are interested in, sorted by percentage. As you can see below, the followers of Local Search Masters are interested in business, leadership and (of course) SEO. Seeing the topics your followers interact with most often can help to shape your content or let you now that a new strategy in building an audience is needed.
There are other statistics on followers available within the analytics page as well. Gender and location can tell you a little more about your audience, while seeing who else your followers follow reveals even more insight about their interests. Again, use these to shape your message or reevaluate your strategies.
By adding a bit of code to your website’s index and linking it to your Twitter profile, analytics will let you see how many tweets have mentioned your website.
Other graphs in the section show how many clicks those links to your website have garnered. Looking at this can reveal strategies for getting more page views and conversions from social media.
Utilizing Twitter Analytics won’t do everything for you. It won’t miraculously allow you to drive interaction and clicks to your page, without putting in the work to implement the strategies you find. What it can do is give you a better view of you and your business. It can give you a better view of your audience, and what they like.
Use these statistics to evaluate and reevaluate your social media presence. Use them to improve your tweets and tailor them to your audience. Use them to formulate a strategy to build a more relevant audience. Knowledge is power, and Twitter Analytics can give you that power.
The media was quick to say that Facebook’s addition of hashtags was a complete failure. The social media giant “borrowed” the use of the symbol from competitor Twitter, and the backlash was immediate and harsh.
The research also shows that posts with hashtags in them have not yet started to receive more engagement than posts without them, further confirming that the public has been slow to adapt to the change on Facebook.
Just like with Twitter, Facebook users will slowly become accustomed to using hashtags to search for posts. Use of the hashtag has taken off on other networks like Instagram and Vine already, and there is no reason why it won’t do the same on Facebook.
Even if the general public never increases its own use of the hashtag, businesses will continue to take advantage of the indexing and search purposes the symbol brings them. The point of a hashtag isn’t just to receive more engagement directly (although it does help); the main goal is to boost the amount of eyeballs that will come across the post.
Where hashtags seem to have the most effectiveness is with mobile social network users. A study by RadiumOne discovered that 70% of consumers favor using hashtags on mobile networks and that over half of those mobile users felt motivated to explore new content when hashtags were present.
That study found that 58% of social network users as a whole use hashtags, a number that can only go up with Facebook’s integration of the function. It also found that 43% of users think hashtags are useful, and 34% of users searched for content using hashtags.
The survey found another way that businesses can utilize hashtags for maximum effectiveness: 51% of respondents would share hashtags more often if they knew advertisers awarded discounts for sharing product based hashtags.
Smart businesses have already started to take advantage of the function. American Express is creating media buzz for its #PassionProject campaign by using the hashtag across all social networks. By using one focused hashtag for the entire campaign, the company has seen six times the engagement on posts using the #PassionProject tag than all other posts.
Other effective ways to use hashtags can be a focused tag for seasonal products or campaigns, “Newsjacking” popular topics to increase engagement, running contests or promotions under one hashtag, or utilizing a creative talent to make funny or inspired posts on already trending topics. A good example is Oreo’s brilliant social media strategy during the Super Bowl power outage.
However your business uses hashtags, it’s time to extend that strategy to Facebook. Even in the early days of the function, studies have shown that utilizing hashtags won’t hurt posts and, if used correctly, can significantly boost engagement on certain posts, driving business your way.
It’s been beaten into your brain over and over again that you HAVE to use social media to market yourself and your company in today’s business world.
I could throw a whole bunch of numbers around to belabor that point, like that Facebook alone has 850 million active monthly users or that 50% of all small business owners have reported getting new customers from social media. I could also tell you that more and more companies are recognizing the opportunities available and reaping the immense benefits of these channels. Or, I could break it down into three important reasons why you should make social media a marketing focus.
Before that, I’ll give you one more statistic: 27% of total internet time in the US is spent on social media and social networking sites, while 15% of mobile internet time is spent on those same sites. With such a vast network of eyeballs out there to consume your product, there are some major perks to focusing on social media in advertising. The Big Three (not LeBron, Bosh and Wade) are:
It’s free! Or at least cheap!
The major social media channels are completely free to use. Promoting your company to the millions of eyeballs on those channels costs absolutely nothing. While Facebook and Twitter allow more advanced options for a cost, having a company account is free.
However, it does make sense for companies of at least moderate size to have a dedicated person to manage their social media outreach. With the rapid dissemination of posts comes the need to respond quickly to customers as well.
It allows you to engage and interact with your customers.
A well-run social media campaign will generate not only webpage views, but plenty of responses and interaction from customers. These interactions can be great for your business if appropriately handled, but ignoring customers or mishandling their comments can result in a bad reputation and lost business opportunities.
Today’s media cycle runs faster than ever before. A sizable percentage of customers expect a response to their social media interaction within an hour of posting. Because so many customers respond best to word-of-mouth, having a vocal complaint from a known customer can do a disproportionate amount of damage to sales.
The results are measurable.
Using built-in statistics from these sites helps you track the overall reach of your message, how much your customers interact with you, and even how many of your sales you can attribute to your social media following.
Utilizing these free reports, even a novice at social media can see what works and what doesn’t. By taking advantage of the analytical dashboards on sites like Facebook to see the results of their efforts in real time, companies can tailor their marketing approach faster and more effectively than ever before.
Because the benefits of social media as a marketing tool are so clear, there are more and more companies on each channel every day. By taking advantage of the various channels available, you can add a strong marketing presence to your company with a lower cost and often greater benefit than you can with traditional media.
For larger brands like Apple, Pepsi, and Chipotle, it’s not too difficult to make a splash on social media. They simply show up to the digital party and collect their millions of fans fairly quickly thanks to their outstanding levels of brand awareness and popularity. However, if you run a small business, it’s significantly more difficult to build up a dedicated army of social followers that will interact with your posts consistently. Therefore, for smaller companies and less visible brands particularly, it’s important to give your current and future customers a reason to take the time to find you on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.
So what counts as a “good reason” to get someone to connect with you on your social networks? That’s the million dollar question, and it really depends on the nature of what your business does and what sorts of things customers in your target market will likely respond to. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Coupons- Giving away coupons and other special offers is a very common practice amongst smaller businesses. Make sure that the offer is noteworthy enough to really draw interest. However, you should note that you run the risk of someone liking your company to get the offer and then unliking you afterward, so try to combat this by posting interesting, helpful content on a regular basis.
Prizes- Instead of instantly granting a coupon for any like or follow, some companies go for a sweepstakes-style approach, exchanging a like for a chance to be entered into a drawing (or multiple drawings that occur periodically). Because a sweepstakes is usually accompanied by long odds, you need to make the prize particularly enticing if you want to see significant action from customers.
Helpful information- Again, this will vary depending on the industry your firm competes in. Restaurants should consider keeping customers up to date on things like specials and new menu items. Entertainment venues can announce upcoming events and update show information. A shoe store might announce sales on certain brands. You’re only limited by your offerings and your imagination.
Donations to charity- If your business works with a non-profit, it can actually be fairly effective to offer to contribute a small donation in exchange for each unique like or follow. In this case, you give the non-profit an incentive to promote your social channels as well.
Like most social initiatives, strategizing to increase follower count should be a fun opportunity to let your creative marketing juices flow. Try to think outside the box to come up with radical incentives that really catch customers’ eyes.
One of the things that often keeps me up at night is how to get more followers on social media accounts. There are a number of creative ways to do this (which is why my job is so fun at times), but today I’m going to focus on one that I had an experience with recently.
A couple of days ago, I stopped at a bagel place for lunch. When I got to the register and paid, I was given a little promotional stub along with my receipt. On the stub was a deal offering three free bagels to anybody that signed up for their membership club or liked their Facebook page. And while I know it’s a little sad that these are the things that excite me, I couldn’t wait to talk about some of the little things that make this a good idea.
There are four things to notice here.
First, it’s important to use offline channels to boost your online channels to customers. There are places to promote your social accounts other than your website or email blasts. Promoting your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Pinterest at your physical location(s) is just as important and can be just as effective as digital alternatives.
Second, sometimes businesses do promote at physical locations, but the social indicators are not exhibited in a highly visible, prominent spot. One of the most obvious and most effective places I’ve seen used regularly is the restaurant menu. Anything near the register is a safe bet, too. The fact that I was handed something made it virtually impossible for me to miss the promo.
Next, offering something in exchange for a like or follow (like bagels!) isn’t such a bad idea either, but make sure what your offering is worth the customers’ while. You don’t want to insult them.
Last, I like how they give the customer a choice. That way, even if the patron isn’t into the whole interacting-with-brands-on-social-media-thing, the bagel place can still potentially get them signed up for their membership program and add value to his or her experience in another way. Either way, the customer is interacting with your business in some fashion, and you’ll stay in his or her mind for longer.
My millions of dedicated followers out there will remember a time not long ago when I posted about Oreo’s clutch tweeting during the infamous Super Bowl blackout. Well kids, Oreo is back again, and this time they’re going after the other snacks. A few weeks ago, a woman tweeted about following both Oreo and Kit-Kat’s Twitter accounts. To her (and, I assume, everyone else’s) surprise, Kit-Kat tweeted back at her, challenging Oreo to an epic duel of tic-tac-toe in an effort to win over the woman’s affections.
I could explain it more detail, but you should probably just go read the tweets in the article… It’ll be more entertaining. However, for all you brands out there, take note: interacting with other companies on social media is a great (read: cheap and effective) way to generate buzz. Not only does it show that your business is with the times, but it also shows that your corporation has a fun side, which consumers like to see.
Leverage other companies’ networks to help increase your brand’s visibility. It works.
For all 3 of you out there that were not watching the Super Bowl last night, the Superdome actually lost power for a little over half an hour. Oreo took advantage of this with a simple but brilliant tweet that went viral immediately, enjoying over 14,500 retweets.
What made the post so effective wasn’t that it was particularly clever on its own. It was the speed with which Oreo and their ad agency, 360i, produced the tweet that was truly amazing. People operate in real time, so it makes sense that social media should as well. Creative social accounts that react and respond quickly to current events have the ability to delight followers beyond expectations and tend to make a huge splash in the digital community.
Just goes to show that you really don’t have to spend millions to have your voice heard, even during the Super Bowl. Be responsive and innovative with your social media, and you’ll get noticed. It’s fun, effective, and free!