Month: August 2012

Unplugging vs. Staying Connected

The term “unplugged” used to refer to when a really cool artist would play live on an acoustic guitar, possibly without his or her band. Today, the term “unplugged” has come to mean “not being connected to the Internet”, which doesn’t sound quite as pleasurable.

Reflecting back on summer traveling trips a few years ago, I can’t help but compare those times to now, and how reliant we have all become on being “plugged in”. No matter where you go on a vacation these days, you can connect to the internet, albeit with periodic bouts of great frustration. But the desire to connect is always satisfied with even rudimentary connection.

What would traveling these days be if it weren’t for the ability to instantly upload your images to your Facebook page, or post them to your own website, or sharing interface? If there are no pictures to upload, it seems we need to Skype to stay connected to our friends and family. In fact, even if you are on a biblical tour in Israel, the donkeys you ride on are equipped with WiFi around their necks, so you can instantly upload pictures while experiencing sites noted in the Old Testament.

Is there anywhere in the world where you can actually be unplugged? The simple answer is: yes. You can do it anywhere. If you want to be unplugged, and can stave off the feeling like something is missing, then do it. Maybe you can smell some flowers, and not feel the need to share that experience with others. Or maybe that’s what we have become – a world that feels a need to share everything, and where we’re happy that we are all so plugged in.

I am not sure what this all means, and if it’s good or bad is still yet to be written. One thing is for sure – never has there ever been a time in my history where we have had such a strong need to stay plugged in or connected. We call that connection the Internet. Maybe, in years to come, we will stay connected via teleportation. Who knows?

Enjoy the last few days of this summer, everyone!

Got any tips on how to unplug? Feel free to share them below.

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Online Marketing: How To Get Found

The phrase “If you build it, they will come”, may have worked in Field of Dreams, but in online marketing, we must build something, and create the avenues that help us get found.

In previous blogs, I’ve outlined some marketing approaches and the importance of knowing what to look for, what marketing tools you might require and what social media you might use on the journey to increase brand awareness and grow revenue. In this blog, I’d like to get back to basics and outline what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) activities are, and how they can help you to attain your online marketing goals.

The term SEO is frequently bandied about for show, these days, but let us never forget what it really means:  the process of improving the visibility of your website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural,” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”), search results. (Wikipedia)

SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by targeted audiences.

The goal is to increase your SEO to achieve the highest possible rankings for searches that are relevant for your business.  In simple terms, you want people to find you by typing certain words into Google or Yahoo or Bing.

Here’s some tips to help you better navigate the world of SEO.  If you need some more clarification on how best to increase you SEO, consult with a marketing agency you trust to advise you on the best strategy for your business.

1. Get indexed

The leading search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, use crawlers to find pages for their algorithmic search results. Search engine crawlers may look at a number of different factors when crawling a site. Not every page is indexed by the search engines.

Crawlers cannot read Flash sites.

2. Increase prominence

A variety of methods can increase the prominence of a webpage within the search results.

  • Cross linking between pages of the same website to provide more links to most important pages may improve its visibility.
  • Keywords
    The language of the search engines is keywords. Based on the words or phrases searchers use, search engines determine the most relevant fit and rank results accordingly. Writing content that includes frequently searched keyword phrases, so as to be relevant to a wide variety of search queries, will tend to increase traffic.
  • Meta data
    Adding relevant keywords to a web page’s meta data, including the title tag and meta description, will tend to improve the relevancy of a site’s search listings, thus increasing traffic.  Use your keywords properly in your page titles, page headings and alt tags (image descriptions).

3. GO BEYOND YOUR SITE

Search engines give significant weight to what happens beyond your web site. This is often referred to as off-page SEO. Updating content so as to keep search engines crawling back frequently can give additional weight to a site. The premise is that they place more trust in how credible you are to others, versus how you present yourself.  Off-page SEO means web sites, and other sources, directing (linking) interested parties back to you. The greater the number of credible back links to your web site, the higher your search engine ranking.

4. USE SOCIAL MEDIA

As with off-page SEO, the search engines place more weight on how you are perceived online.  Social media is another opportunity for your site to be indexed and increase your rankings. Social Media influences search engine rankings, so keep up the frequency of your posts. The more you post, the more there is to index, and the higher your rankings.  Search engines also take into account any content created or accessed by people in the searcher’s social network.Search engine optimization is something you need to take seriously if you want increased visibility and more inbound leads: build it, create the avenues, keep it fresh and they will come!

Have any SEO questions or stories you’d like to share?

Small and Mid-Sized Businesses – Who Needs Integrity?

When small and mid-sized business owners come to me asking to redesign their website, my first reaction is always to start a discussion with them about their business, their goals and objectives, and then to drill down to what is working and what is not working on their site.  Seems like basic and straightforward questioning for most marketing professionals, right?  Well, unfortunately, not right.

I have dedicated my business and this blog specifically to helping small and medium-sized business owners because they often fall prey to unscrupulous companies looking to make a quick buck. I feel that these growing organizations, the backbone of our Canadian economy, are being taken advantage of by an unregulated industry that is just as likely to sell websites as it is to sell iPods or mugs.  They approach the small to mid-sized business owner with flashy razzle-dazzle and some even “talk the talk”, hitting them up for thousands of dollars in website design and site management with no intent to actually help the client.

Like most of us, unless you know what you are looking for, you don’t know what you don’t know. As such, I have outlined a few questions that will hopefully protect you, the small to mid-sized business owner, against web designers or web programmers calling themselves marketers.  If you need help in deciphering the legitimate companies from the charlatans, consult a real marketing consultant to help guide you.

When a business owner wonders why their brochures or flyers, e-newsletters or e-blasts are not working for them, or says that they really want to create a new website or add QR codes to their business cards – as a marketing professional – I have to put on the brakes and ask them why they want to do so.

The Anti-Charlatan Questions to ask:

  1. How did they hear you needed a new site – e.g. solicitation via email or online?
  2. How well-written was the email or letter of solicitation? Did it provide you with links to projects they have done?
  3. Ask to have a meeting with them at their office. This will give you some indication if they have a legitimate business.  If they work from home, then they should be comfortable telling you that.
  4. When you meet with them, do they spend most of the meeting talking about what they can do for you, or on finding out more about your company and your challenges and needs?  If it’s all about them, you might expect your site project to be as well.
  5. Did they claim to be a web designer or marketer? Can they substantiate their claims of experience and practice?
  6. Do they have examples of their work? You need to know exactly what their involvement was in the development of the site. Did they design the site?  Did they design it using a website template (e.g. WordPress), or are they custom sites?  Note:  A template is a sort of prototype that they would simply modify by adding your content and pictures. The amount of design is very limited, and these sites all look very similar, but this is the least expensive option. A WordPress site also offers templates, but can be customized (although the WordPress icon in the URL will be visible to your audience).  A custom site is developed from scratch by a true designer, and this is usually the most expensive option.
  7. Ask them about the project process – do they create a critical path, a site map, with timelines clearly stated, etc.?
  8. Do they have writers who can write the content for the site? Is the content written from an SEO perspective or is it straight copy?
  9. What kind of SEO provision is outlined in the project?
  10. Do they write the programming for the sites? You are looking for them to tell you PHP, Java scripting, etc.
  11. Do they provide you with a Content Management System (CMS) so you can manage the site in-house?
  12. Ask them if they create wireframe designs.  If yes, ask them to show you an example.  If no, ask them why. The answer should speak to their expertise.
  13. What types of quality control measures are in place?
  14. Do they have references you can call?  Look through their work samples, and choose ones you’d like to talk to. Make sure it is a senior person at the company, not a reference for a junior employee.
  15. How will you be able to measure the ROI of the site?  You are looking for them to tell you that they use Google Analytics or other site measurement metrics. You’ll need to discuss if they will be providing on-going site measurement and recommendations.  If they are not marketers, I strongly recommend you work with a marketing agency or consultant for increased site value.

As a marketer and as a small business owner, integrity is more than simply a word – it is something live by, to follow and believe in. Integrity is one of the most vital assets I bring to the table for my clients.

Was this blog helpful?  Do you have any questions I can help you with?  Please share your questions or stories in the comments, so that others may learn from your experiences.

Look Who’s Using Twitter!

They said it would never happen.  They said it just wasn’t relevant. Well, the tables have turned, and lawyers are now starting to use Twitter to engage and attract clients.

Although many firms do have blogs and Twitter accounts, they often link back to e-newsletters or company bulletins – meaning, lawyers actually do not have much of a presence online beyond what the firm website has to offer.

If lawyers, renowned for their time-tracking activities, are now taking the time to tweet and blog, then it means it’s time for other professionals to get on the bandwagon, too!

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Tweeting doesn’t take as much time as you think. Do a simple test; assess the amount of time you take to write your article in the company e-newsletter or other marketing pieces and compare it to writing a test tweet of 140 characters. It’s 140 characters, not words. This test can be repeated for the blog, too. A blog will take you more time as it should be at least 250 words long.
  2. Create a Twitter account name that makes sense for your business. Cute names or long names are not appropriate for a professional Twitter account.
  3. If you have nothing to tweet about today, then simply let Twitter help you by reviewing the top tweets or news and developments in the business world.  If you see something of interest, then re-tweet it.
  4. If you do find you have the time to write an article, then start a blog. A blog is a document longer than a tweet (250 + words) and it is an opportunity to impart your knowledge and information with your stakeholders.
  5. Create a blog name that is relevant and targeted to what you want to be the “expert” in.
  6. Blogging and Twitter require a commitment from you. Either commit or don’t even start (see #1).

As I have said in many of my previous blogs, don’t start something if you can’t commit to it, otherwise what started out as a great way to increase your exposure and build integrity will do the opposite and make you look worse for having tried.  Consider asking a marketing consultant to help keep you on task with a social media plan. At Creativeworks we not only develop social media plans, we are happy to take the lead in writing and posting your tweets, updates and blogs.

Was this blog helpful?  Do you have any questions I can help you with?  Please share your questions or stories of how you are using Twitter or blogging in your professional career.