An Excellent New Year’s Resolution for 2014: Engaging, Informative, Concise Quality Content.

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If you’ve got a website you rely on, that one sentence comes close to telling you everything you need to know about succeeding in 2014. Close… but not quite everything. So I will explain a little more.

Of Course, It Starts with Google’s Functionality

If you’ve been reading these blogs, you know that Google has adjusted the way their search engine works many times in the last few years. Some changes were more significant than others and resulted in websites that had previously been successful suddenly disappearing from sight.

Online marketing experts have scrambled to keep up with the changes. Since some changes were unannounced and unexplained by Google. Some modifications had to be laboriously deduced from the way search results changed.

The upshot of all these changes and what they mean for 2014? Be informative. Provide useful relevant content. And no stuffing the content with the keywords you think people are looking for. Google has eliminated the service that used to help you do keyword research anyway. So I’m afraid you just have to focus on adding relevant, useful content to your site.

Why Concise?

These days, your content CAN be more concise and still work for you. Google (and other search engines, too) used to assign more value to long articles. Not so much any more. You don’t need to write any more words that are necessary when you offer that informative content.

There are new ways of testing how far down a page your readers are getting before they jump off your page. Those long pages we were all writing for our web pages? Most of them, people only get half way down them anyway. So the days of writing long content for Google have been replaced by writing more concise content for readers. Remember, just like always, you only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention before they click out of that window. So get to the point fast, eliminate wordiness, and stop as soon as you have provided that useful information.

For Social Media, “Engaging” is Key

If you have any idea of working in the realm of social media, you need to think in terms of engaging your readers. If you simply post information YOU want people to have, you are not likely to engage many people. But let’s assume for the moment that you sell paint for indoor and outdoor uses. The more you engage people in your topic, the more you will win. So what about ideas like these:

  • Search for and post pictures of the wackiest home painting jobs you’ve ever seen.
  • Ask readers to submit their unusual color combinations, no matter whose paint is used.
  • Run articles on famous artists who used house paint in their creations.
  • Post a few pictures of rooms with paint jobs designed by professional decorators and ask people to vote on the color combination they like best. Give a few gallons of paint away as a reward for voting (choose winners at random).
  • Offer tips on cleaning up paint spills, keeping a paint job looking good, or making painting a room fast and easy.
  • The more you offer content that people will forward or respond to, the more you have engaged them. Social media is not about direct selling. It’s about getting the community spreading the word.

Following guidelines like these or choosing Visual Edge Design to take on these tasks for you, you can see a growth in the number of people interested in you and your product and not have to worry about the future of Google updates. You’ll do just fine in the future as well as the present.

Morgan Fagerman

Google Loves Blogs

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Fortunately or unfortunately, those of us doing internet marketing have learned that pleasing the Google search machine is the way to win at this game. Each time Google updates their methods of operation, a ripple rolls through this industry. Sometimes that ripple is as big as a tsunami and sometimes it’s just a quiver. Smart folks either study up on what they just changed (if they make any announcement) or decipher the changes by looking at how the search results changed (when they don’t make an announcement).

Several years ago, Google decided that blogs contain valuable content. So they began including blogs when they scanned the internet to add pages to their massive indexes. Not only did they begin including blogs, they also showed that they preferred blogs over much of the other information out there by tending to place blog results high in the search results.

When a blog is popular, Google likes it even more. Google looks for signs of popularity via social media, comments and links to your blog. If you publish a link to your blog post to Facebook and a lot of people like that Facebook post, this works in your favor. If a lot of people comment on your blog, that means that you either are an authority for your commenters or there is an active community related to your blog. Either way, Google respects that and pushes your blog higher in search results.

If you have gained renown in your area of expertise (and blogging) and many other commentary websites or other blogs talk about your content and link to it, then Google takes this as another sign of your authenticity and authority. Again, your blog post is pushed higher in search results.

So What Can We Surmise from This?

Well, the first is that you should have a blog for your business. And it should be maintained in a lively, fresh state. In other words, there should be fresh content added on a regular basis, at least once a week. More is OK, too.

Second, you should send your customers there. If you send out emails to your customers, include links to your blog. Refer to your blog in your emails. Mention it on your Facebook page and publish your blog posts there, too, always with a link back to the blog post. If you utilize Twitter, mention new blog posts. Connect blog posts to your LinkedIn profile. Heck, call your family and ask them to read it!

Third, to make your blog interesting, you need to write content that relates to what people might want to know about your area of business. Or hire someone to do it for you, because not everyone is natively a good writer. Of course, Visual Edge Design provides this service for our clients. Not every business owner has the time or the skill to write a blog post every week.

Your blog content should help people, not just help them to buy your products or services, but simply help them. Whatever you are expert in, help them with your expertise and experience. If you have enough experience to run a business, you have valuable experience and knowledge to share. When you help them, they will comment, like your blog posts and tell other people that they should tune in. This is the path to popularity and that is the path to better placement in Google search results.

Encouragement to Anyone Who Doesn’t Understand Social Media Marketing

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Are you concerned that you don’t understand these things called “social networking” or “social media marketing”?

You are most definitely not alone.

I’m doing some study of social media marketing these days – talk about an industry that is changing rapidly! I think one could spend a few hours a day soaking up the developments and new opportunities in this area.

In the process of my study, I came across an encouraging quote from one of the authors of books on social media. In the book The New Rules of Marketing and PR, David Meerman Scott says, “And remember, there is no such thing as an ‘expert’ in marketing using social networking – we’re all learning as we go!”

I almost gave a sigh of relief when I read that line. And it’s true. The subject is just too new to have solidly established authorities. There are a few people who know what they are talking about, Meerman Scott obviously among them. Along with Chris Brogan, Ann Handley, Robert Scoble, Brian Solis and others.

Definition for a New Subject

I’m looking for definitions of social media for you and I’m finding words like “overarching” and “encompasses.” Not so much. I like this definition of social media because it relates to life, not technology:

Here is a quote I like: “Social media is a shift in how we get our information. It used to be that we would wait for the paper boy to throw our news on the doorstep (or into the flowers) and we’d read the paper, front to back, with our morning coffee before going to work. Now we get information, 24/7 and on the fly, from anywhere. In the more traditional senses, online, on our phones, and through the social platforms [like Facebook, LikedIn, MySpace and others]. Social media allows us to network, to find people with like interests, and to meet people who can become friends or customers. It flattens out the world and gives us access to people we never would have been able to meet otherwise.” Arment Dietrich

Social media is about interaction. When you meet a friend in a restaurant, you interact with him (or her). You talk about your car repair, a great concert you went to, a new restaurant in your neighborhood. He talks about his vacation, his kids’ school and his plans to open a small business. Social media is just the same, it’s just online. People talk, people share.

The Difference Between Marketing and Social Media Marketing

There is a fundamental shift in the way you use social media for marketing purposes. Your job now is to engage people, create opportunities for interaction, invite people to respond, vote, review, and to express themselves.

Marketing in the social media world no longer consists of that one-way flow we’ve all grown up with: “Here’s my ad, read it.” This new marketing involves giving people a reason to be interested in your products, your news and your articles. You are building a community of loyal fans by engaging them and giving them content that they appreciate. You’ll have to get over the idea that it’s about advertising in this venue. Sure, some people are still pushing ads into the social media environment, but the most successful social media marketers are creating interested communities. And then when they need something that you sell – well – you’re already friends, aren’t you? Who are they going to call?

Morgan Fagerman 

Pinterest is Not Just for Women

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Pinterest is Not Just for Women

I ran into someone the other day who told me, “Oh, Pinterest… that’s just for women.” If you’ve ever looked at Pinterest, you might agree. But that would be shortsighted.

Pinterest is a photo sharing site that allows you to create your own boards – like a bulletin board where you can pin images of a certain topic. You can create any number of boards under your own profile.

Just for the purpose of explanation, let’s imagine a young woman who is engaged to get married, who wants to have kids. She creates a profile and then adds separate boards for wedding dresses, wedding rings, hairstyles for her wedding, baby nursery ideas and so on. She selects images of dresses, rings, baby clothes and such that she would like to refer to later. It’s sort of a “wish list.”

Business Applications?

But the use of Pinterest and other image-sharing sites has a much wider application than this. Let’s look at some of the applications for small to medium size businesses.

Try this. Visit www.pinterest.com and use the search window in the upper left corner to look for images in the categories I talk about below. And then think about how you might be able to use images from your own business on Pinterest and similar sites.

Custom Cars: If you want a real treat, go to www.Pinterest.com and do a search for images featuring custom cars. You’ll find custom paint jobs, custom bodywork and some cards that are so unique they are unrecognizable. Even a search for “engines” will bring you plenty of results.

Landscaping: If you’re a landscaper, this is a great place to showcase your work. Homeowners will be looking in this category to get ideas for their yards.

Kitchens: If you’re a remodeler, place some pictures of your finished projects on Pinterest.

Fitness: If you’re a fitness instructor or have a gym, try a search for “fitness” and see how many results you get. Post pictures from your classes some “after” shots or images that contain your fitness advice in a text format.

Photography: Give classes or lessons in photography? Post examples of shots your students took in your classes.

For categories like hairstyles, jewelry, clothing, furniture and similar subjects, it’s easy to see how posting pictures of your work can reveal your talents.

Even a company that builds trade show booths can display their work on this site.

Why Post Images?

There are three reasons.

1. Business can come directly from the image. I was sitting with a friend of mine the other day when she saw a necklace on Pinterest that she fell in love with. Within a couple of minutes, she had ordered it by following the link that was posted with the image.
2. Promotion. Someone who sees your work can track you down if you add your web address to the comments field. If your business is localized, add your city and state to the description field.
3. Strengthening your website. Google and other search engines take your other social media accounts into consideration when they are ranking the strength and authority of your website. If you have a strong Facebook page with plenty of “Likes” and your Pinterest images get “Liked” and shared by plenty of people, this popularity will strengthen your business website.

Photo sharing is part of the bigger world of social media. And taking advantage of the promotional opportunities in social media is part of the bigger world of search engine optimization.

I hope you do take the time to browse some of the photo sharing sites out there and get a feel for the way it can help you reach more customers.

Running Away with the Running Shoe Business

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There’s a runner’s equipment store that I have driven by several times, often at around dinnertime. I am amazed to find this store mobbed with hundreds of people milling around outside the store on a fairly regular basis. There must be 200 to 300 people attentively standing around the store entrance on these days. These people are mostly dressed in runner’s garb and even have numbers pinned to their shirts. I don’t know who is running their PR but whoever it is, he or she is brilliant.

I thought I better find out more about this company. When I go to their website, it is not just a store. The website is dedicated to creating the community that gets them this kind of devotion. They invite everyone to be a member of their Running Club – walkers, runners, young and old. At the moment, they are advertising a scenic run through historic neighborhoods, a running clinic, a fun run on Saturday morning and a Thursday fun run.

It’s almost hard to find the SHOES because of the multiplicity of events, offers, news and even a weather report. You can find links to the brands they sell but these links take you to the manufacturer sites where you can get all the technical information on the shoes that you want. Yes, they sell shoes but also every other kind of running clothes, socks, nutrition and accessories. I think you could walk in that store with any running-related problem imaginable and they would know how to solve it.

It Comes from the Heart

If you pardon the pun, these guys are just a runaway hit with their customers. What makes it work is a real, heartfelt devotion to the sport. The business was established by two running enthusiasts (no surprises there), one of whom is a physical therapist who runs a clinic from this business (pretty unique!).

Of course they have a very busy Facebook page, with tons of customer interaction and fast answers from the staff. The site has a blog and a newsletter and tons of pictures. There are plenty of Tweets going out that feature club news, too.

Can you create this level of dedication among your customers? Some businesses can and perhaps it would be harder for others. But I would not underestimate your power to receive devotion back in exchange for what you provide. I’m thinking of an insurance broker I know. Especially right now, people are starved for information and understanding about insurance, with the whole health insurance issue looming for all of us. If you send out a series of articles on the basics of insurance that your friends and clients need to know, you will generate gratitude among those who really needed that information. Some of them will forward these articles to other people and your popularity will grow.

To win fans, give them something they can be a fan of. Hold events, Publish information. Report on news. Comment on other people’s news. Describe trends. Explain new features of equipment. Be useful! Become the go-to resource for your clientele and potential clientele. And maybe one day you will find hundreds of people milling around your door, too.