What the Heck Is SEO?

If you own a business you probably have a website (if you don’t, get one…fast!). If you have a website, then you have undoubtedly heard the term “SEO”. Well, what exactly is “SEO”? It’s a question I ask people regularly and I am still amazed at the myriad answers that I receive. The simple answer is that it’s an acronym for “Search Engine Optimization”. Most people get the search engine part; it’s the optimization part that usually has them stumped. Regardless of their level of understanding, the typical response is “I’m not really clear on how it works, but I know I should be doing it.” And they’re right! If you’re not optimizing your website for search, you’re missing out thousands of potential business leads!

So what is it? SEO is a unique, and highly effective, approach to internet marketing that aims to improve the quality of leads driven to a company’s website via search engines. More technically, SEO is the strategic and thematic alignment of specific keywords with content and HTML code. The goal is to increase the relevance of keywords within the text copy so that search engines will view it as pertinent and easy to index. Put a bit more simply: it is the process of making a website more attractive to search engines. The more attractive it is, the higher the rank.

seo1As an inbound marketing strategy, SEO takes into consideration two things: the nature of search engine spiders and how they crawl the web, and the way in which a potential consumer will search for services. Research shows that people are inherently drawn to the top five entries on the first page of a search result. The higher the search rank the more credible the source is perceived. Imagine if your company’s website came up first when a potential customer searched for the specific services you provide or the products you sell. Your company would be perceived as the best, most relevant source for whatever it is you sell or provide.

The purpose of any company’s website is to attract online users and business, and numerous studies have shown that the majority of online users find what they are looking for via search engines. This means amazing possibilities for business lead generation! In today’s Web 2.0 world, people want to find information on their own and be engaged by it. They do not want to pick up the phone and listen to a sales call when they can search for the information they want, when they want to search for it. As a business, that means that you want to be front and center whenever a search is performed on your particular services. Let your customers find you on their own – which they happily will – and when you ask them how they heard about your company, don’t be surprised when they say “Google”.

Looking For Leads? Play Ball!

A successful inbound marketing campaign, one that provides a higher ROI for clients than traditional marketing communications plans, has a lot of similarities to a winning baseball club. In order to win consistently in baseball, you need to be able to take the lead by scoring more runs then your opponent. To maintain the lead, you need quality defensive play and pitching.

 

Inbound marketing, also known as “non-interruption” based marketing, blends similar fundamentals into one winning strategy. Toting a core “lineup” of developed products or service offerings, backed by defined messaging, effective inbound marketing strategists get on the “offensive” by engaging with prospects in a meaningful and targeted way. The professional inbound marketer, like a .300 hitter, knows his/her prospects better than his opponents do. He is familiar with the specific channels that his prospects are using to communicate online and offline, and then implements the tactics (search marketing, social media marketing and public relations) that establish the “connection” needed to deliver more qualified new business leads. These tactics and strategies are more effective than old marketing standards like cold calling and traditional advertising. More often than not, these techniques merely manifest as wild swings-and-misses.

 

And like any successful baseball team, an inbound marketing program needs to be managed with exceptional scrutiny. An effective offensive strategy develops the appropriate web platforms, including an optimized and web 2.0 friendly website, and measures traffic and lead capture on a daily basis. When spikes and other issues arise, adjustments are made, like managers culling through their dugout and bullpen to see what other tools they have at their disposal. Company blogs can be developed to proactively spread the company’s message, public relations tactics can be employed to seed the internet with on-message editorial content, and other social media channels are identified and utilized to interact with prospects on an opt-in basis. The ROI of all tactics are tracked through statistics such as conversions, back links and traffic. If something is not working, it returns to the bench.

 

Quality defensive play alongside excellent starting and relief pitching helps to maintain all runs scored by a potent offense. Likewise, any good inbound marketing campaign leverages the appropriate techniques to cultivate a new lead, and hold on to it through sale. Search engine optimization techniques can help a company “defend” against negative news and information on the web, while other social media monitoring tools enable the quick identification of current client issues that could damage a future relationship with a prospect. Even traditional public relations tactics, such as crisis communications, blend well with a defensive strategy that focuses on maintaining the lead without starting a new conversation. To nurture those leads, provide your prospects with the content they can’t live without to ensure they remain engaged; accessible white papers, frequently updated blogs, a steady stream of search optimized press announcements, and an open dialogue across all social media platforms. Like any good set-up man in baseball, an inbound marketing campaign holds the door open for the closer to seal the deal.

 

Here at 451 Marketing we play ball for our clients everyday in a way that generates leads by keeping our eye on the ball and making the appropriate contact. Let us know if you’re ready to know more about following our team to victory – www.451Marketing.com

Beer goes well with anything… especially the internet!

You know that commercial for AT&T, where the salesman tells the brewer “You sure can brew it,” and the brewer responds, “yeah, but can you sell it?” Great spot. But that’s probably just because I love beer, and I’m generally excited about anything relating to the selling, marketing and promoting of beer.

 

And I’m not alone. Beer lovers are typically fanatical about their beers, particularly home brewed craft beers, and everyone loves those excellent beer tastings at local liquor stores and festivals. Hop fanatics love to mingle with other bar flys and argue about the best India Pale Ales and German Lagers out there. Most of them even brew their own beers at home. Heck, even Kid Rock’s now in the game:  http://tinyurl.com/cy4tdh

 

Nowadays there are hosts of ways to get the word out about your beer online; sites that help promote where you can find it, how you should drink it, and why you should try it. Mashable put together a great list last May of the “13 online tools for beer lovers,” http://mashable.com/2008/05/26/13-online-tools-for-beer-lovers/

but the possibilities are really endless. Today’s online environment is dominated by social networking sites, and ensuing online social interactions. What better way to lighten the mood or get the weekend rolling than by starting a conversation about beer? A quick scan of TweetGrid found close to 35 mentions on “beer” on Twitter in just a 10 minute span. A Twellow search pulls up over 1,850 Twitter users who have the word “beer” included somewhere in their Twitter handle or bio. 

 

Clearly, there are some serious connections to be made, and conversations to start, if you are trying to shop your beer around the internet.

 

Some breweries, like Boston’s Harpoon, do an excellent job capitalizing on both traditional and new media tools on the web to help grow their business. Leveraging an excellent website and a free, inbound marketing-style “friends of Harpoon signup-program”, the brewery engages current customers with e-mail blast promotions of tastings and other events, a detailed Facebook page, a host of YouTube videos and a Twitter feed—all with the intention of spreading their message of rapturous beer consumption as quickly as possible to generate sales and expand their market. If it’s any indication that it’s working, the brewery’s Facebook page is littered with requests from users in cities like Dallas and Savannah, asking when, and how, they can start stocking up on Harpoon in their hometowns.

 

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But I feel that we’re still only at the tip of the iceberg here when it comes to what the power of the internet, and particularly new media, can do for beer makers. Beer, and alcohol in general, has always been an innovative industry when it comes to developing advertising and marketing campaigns (think of all those great Budweiser campaigns), so it wouldn’t be farfetched to guess that they’ll be one of the leaders as we delve further into the era of new media communications.

 

Just think about if for yourself. I challenge you to come up with an engaging way to leverage a new media tool to promote a beer. You should find that it might take up some time, but that it isn’t too hard to come up with a concept.

 

But be careful. As with any form of communication, you probably won’t want to drink and tweet.

Top five things every entrepreneur should do to start or keep business profitable

451 Marketing Founding Partner AJ Gerritson was recently featured in Sharmen Lane’s NY Entrepreneurism Examiner column discussing the “The top five things every entrepreneur should do to start or keep their business profitable”. I thought I’d share the list here:

1. Determine how your potential customers receive news and information relevant to their industry. In today’s digital age, prospects and customers are getting answers to their questions from a variety of sources, and when and how they want. To succeed, you need to know not only what your target market is reading and viewing, but how they are viewing it. Is it through text messages, or websites, blogs or social networks sites? Then you need to determine how cost-effective it is to advertise and publicize through these different mediums.

2. Focus not on how great your product or service may be, but on how effectively it solves a problem or business need for your customers. Awards and accolades are terrific third-party validations, but prospects want to know the specific benefits that will help them. Real-life case studies, even if they are not exclusively related to your products or services but signify a growing trend (i.e. emergence of social media as a communications tool), are much better indicators of a company’s value. If a prospect reads about how one of your clients grew their business by hiring you, and you can back it up with the references, they will have a real clear picture about what to expect from an engagement with your company.

3. Become an industry expert. Ideally, you should know all there is to know about your products or services, your customers, your competitors, and the trends that will shape the marketplace for years to come. Basically, be an expert. Sit on panels, engage reporters covering the relevant beats to interview you, or initiate and lead your own roundtable panels and discussions. In essence, don’t be afraid to grow your own personal brand and align with your company’s brand. Prospects find exciting and engaging industry leaders and experts to be more credible, and in turn, will be more likely to hire them or buy from them.

4. Make sure to continue to network everyday. You may be able to position yourself as an expert, and may even already have a steady stream of new business opportunities, but you should never limit the time you spend networking. New business and leads can come from anywhere; conferences, tradeshows, parties, trips to the hardware store, or even from one of those great online social networking sites like LinkedIn. If you are in New York, you have more opportunities than most. I have found that there are several networking events going on every day in Manhattan. You don’t have to let your entrepreneurial drive immerse every second of every day of your life, but you should never forget that anyone, and everyone, is a potential customer.

5. Align yourself with causes, stakeholders and individuals that make sense for your business. Starting and growing your business from scratch can seem like a daunting task, especially if you try going it completely alone. Whenever possible, seek opportunities to align your company with causes (environmental, humanitarian, community etc) that relate to your business and showcase your commitment to being a socially responsible company. Similarly, take advantage of opportunities to join industry organizations that increase your credibility, expand your networking options, and afford you the chance to learn from others in your field. Finally, engage experts and important stakeholders (government agencies for example), and discuss your products and services, explaining how you can build a mutually beneficial relationship with them. The opportunities to identify and interact with these stakeholders online are plentiful, demonstrating once again how a successful entrepreneur in this day-in-age knows how to entrepreneurially navigate the complex online waters.

Are you on the right track?

So why would you use social media to market your products?  Is it because it’s what the cool kids are doing? I hope that’s not your rationale.  If that is your reason, then you’re probably not using it to its full potential.

Granted, the cool kids ARE doing it, but that’s not the point.  Social Media Marketing is an incredibly effective tool with a reach that is ultimately beyond being truly quantifiable.  Nevertheless, there are techniques to track many of the results of a Social Media Marketing campaign and use those results to determine ROI.

It’s not always easy, but it is absolutely essential to running a successful campaign.  More to the point, it’s essential to get your client’s CFO to sign off on that campaign.  We all understand the profound value of Social Media Marketing campaigns, but the reason we’re successful is because we know how to communicate that value to the campaign’s beneficiary.

Here is a quick primer on some of the more basic ways to track a Social Media Campaign:

1. Site Traffic: If the goal of your campaign is to increase brand awareness, then benchmarking and measuring spikes in traffic to your website and blog or numbers of followers on Twitter can serve as a rough indication of how a campaign is driving brand impressions.

2. Conversions: Similar to what you might do with an SEO campaign, having your Social Media Campaign tied to specific conversion goals on your site can provide you with very specific success benchmarks in the form of highly-qualified leads.

3. Backlinks: If the goal of your campaign is to build a general following, then you should be measuring increases in backlinks to your Website, blog, wiki or whatever happens to be the epicenter of that following.  They can be easily tracked with Google and give you a great feel for who’s taking you seriously enough to link to you.

There are much more involved techniques that we use, but these represent some simple ideas to start with.  I’d love to hear feedback and suggestions for other basic techniques!