Seriously, Why Does Google+ Still Exist?

Sharing on Google+

Google+For many marketers (myself included), Google+ is pretty frustrating. No matter what Google says, it just feels like a waste of time and money because NO ONE is on it. They can tout their millions of users, but at the end of the day, Google+ will never be a platform that offers anything close to what Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others do. It just doesn’t have the consumer engagement opportunities that brands need to be competitive. But the fact is, Google+ will live on because Google owns the internet and Google says so.

But never fear,Google+ does still have a purpose for us. While it’s probably not the most strategic place to achieve consumer engagement goals, it does have huge search engine optimization benefits. Even if relatively few users are on Google+, brands can leverage accounts by building out and verifying their profile, add photos, videos, posting updates, etc. It’s Google’s baby so Google+ content ranks well in natural searches. Bottom line – even if no one is actually engaging with your Google+ content directly, it’s a great support for your natural SEO.

3 Tips For Better Blog Writing

Blog writing is about harnessing method and creativity to fully engage your reader. We now understand that blogs are great tools that can help your brand to:

  •  Increase traffic to your site
  •  Increase your search ranking &
  • Engage your consumers

But, the trouble with blogs is finding that delicate balance between producing engaging and interesting content, and optimizing your SEO at the same time. Here are 3 steps to take the next time you go to write a blog.

1. Grab Their attention: You only have 3-4 sentences to captivate your audience enough to convince them to continue reading your post. Entice your readers by presenting them with a problem and then give them a solution. Readers want to have tangible take aways from your blog, so make sure to provide them with useful, relevant content. Try and steer clear of hard selling, or product related blogs.

EX: Website Development Launch Checklist

2. Give Them Engaging Content: Solution based content doesn’t have to be boring. Beef up your blog post with metaphors, fun tid bits, and numbered lists. Think of creative ways to illustrate what you are trying to say. Engaging content will go a lot further for your readers than boring pieces of information.

EX: Ice Cream Sundae, A Summer Time Analogy for Social Media

3. Be Concise: Being concise doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write a short blog post. But it does mean finding that delicate balance between being engaging and getting to the point. Keeping your blog post on the shorter side ( 300-500 words) can help keep you in check, but don’t feel tied to this number. It is better to focus on effectively problem solving for your reader. If you feel that your post is getting to be too lengthy, consider turning the topic into a series of posts to keep your reader engaged.

EX:  How To Use Paid and Natural Search to Fuel Each other

Writing a good blog post can be challenging, and the standards are constantly changing. But, if you stick to these 3 tips, you will be on your way to an engaging, and useful blog post!


How to Use Paid and Natural Search to Fuel Each Other

Paid and organic search

Paid and Organic Search MarketingIt’s not surprising that natural SEO work and managing Google Adwords often grow in separate silos at many companies. They require different skills, so they are typically handled by separate people, departments or outsourced to multiple vendors. But to constantly refine and improve results, pay-per-click and natural search campaigns absolutely must fuel each other.

Natural search can adjust your Adwords focus: Google Analytics will show the keywords and the full search phrases bringing visitors to your site – often opening your eyes to the questions people are truly asking and how they are thinking.

Google Adwords can guide natural SEO: If you optimize your site for top performing paid phrases you can reduce your dependence on paid search by snagging more of that traffic naturally. Also, the great tools that help you optimize Adwords by showing how many actual searches are performed for specific phrases can help you focus natural search work where traffic definitely exists.

The bottom line is that both paid and natural search cost money and resources – and your mission is to generate the best overall marketing ROI. However, their cost accrues differently: Adwords is like paying rent, while natural search is an investment in ownership. You may always need both, but by fueling each other, you will optimize total search performance as cost-effectively as possible.

Digital Reputation Management for Franchisees: Why it’s important and why YOU need it

In today’s society we are well beyond just online marketing and advertising. Thanks to Web 2.0, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), Google, and more, it is crucial for business success to monitor not just what you say about yourself online, but most importantly, what others say about you.

Many business owners shy away from embracing online marketing, social media and more because of the vulnerabilities it opens up. However, whether or not you have an online presence, your customers will undoubtedly talk about you, both positively and negatively, so it’s in your best interest to embrace the digital age, be present on these digital networks and effectively manage your reputation through these online channels. As a franchisee, you have the support of a bigger brand with a local appeal. As you develop an online presence with your local community, it’s important that you manage and maintain your brand representation and franchise reputation effectively. Here are a few tips to help you manage your digital reputation.

  • Just as in any business venture, it’s crucial that you know your market. Who is your audience and what websites are they using to provide feedback, reviews and comments? Is it Facebook, TripAdvisor, Yelp? Do a little homework to find the top sites where your customers are talking about you and vigilantly monitor them.
  • Bad reviews and comments only fester if left unattended. People tend to feed off of them and a conversation can become destructive very quickly. However, some customers just like to complain for the sake of complaining. Ensure that you respond to every negative comment or review where you can provide legitimate and positive feedback. Choose your battles and decide which ones will redeem your reputation and help your business in the long run.
  • Encourage your customers to voice their positive experiences online. Whether that means heading to your Facebook page to rave, writing a review on Yelp or rehashing their visit on TripAdvisor, tell your customers where they can go to let others know about positive experiences. Many businesses offer incentives such as coupons, free products/services or other perks to enhance participation. See what works best for you and your customers.
  • As a franchisee owner, chances are high that you conduct all marketing efforts, in addition to the overall business management responsibilities. Trolling websites for reviews and comments isn’t another task you can afford to add to your growing to-do list. Thankfully there are many online and software options ranging from free to very pricey that can help you manage your online reputation more effectively and efficiently. Hiring an agency is also an option to better manage your digital efforts. We, as an agency, are very good at what we do and if hiring us allows you to better manage your business, then it’s a win-win partnership.

In today’s economy, 65% of buyers are checking out reviews before making a final purchase for services and/or goods. It’s inevitable that there’s chatter on the internet about your business, it’s how you manage it that makes the difference.


Why JC Penney Got Burned Buying Links

The SEO (search engine optimization) community has been abuzz this week over an article entitled “The Dirty Little Secrets of Search” that appeared in the New York Times about how J.C. Penney had been found to be purchasing links to their website for competitive search terms. J.C. Penney hired a search marketing firm that ran a link building campaign for them targeting keyword phrases such as “little black dress.” The large number of paid links to J.C. Penney’s website pages gave them artificial importance in the eyes of search engine spiders. They were at the top of the organic (non-paid) search results for many popular retail-related keyword phrases all through the crucial holiday shopping season.

The ethics of buying links

J.C. Penney also spends a huge amount of money on paid search results. Did this help improve their organic results? It’s hard to tell. The way I see it, buying links is a widespread practice and J.C. Penney’s main problem was that they were caught doing it. But it shouldn’t be this way. Buying links isn’t ethical and promotes the growth of  lousy sites that are nothing but unrelated links or possibly normal sites with links that don’t seem to belong and make you doubt the credibility of the site.

Google is clear on what they think about paid links. Here’s what they have to say: “[Some] webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links that pass PageRank, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.” And they mean it – the NY Times article outlines the impact of Google’s wrath against unethical SEO.

Link building is the most painful part of search engine optimization. The best way to build links is to provide great content that people will link to spontaneously. This can be a very slow process and some sites lend themselves better to this than others. However, we improve link building by making sure that your site is widely published in directories, some free and a few paid. We can also use other honest ways to build links, like requesting them from reputable sites or leaving links in blog comments. We also try to offer valuable content online in the form of press releases or articles for others to use with relevant links back to your site. Link building is an ongoing process that takes work and doesn’t usually offer instant results, but the way we do it lets us sleep at night.

BAM! Google Instant Doesn’t Waste Time.

Google Instant is Live! Not sure if you’ve noticed quite yet, but Google is a-changing. As of yesterday, you can now experience Google Instant. Once you start a search, Google will suggest results to you as you type. In other words, it predicts what your search will be and displays the results of that search instantaneously. It intends to allow for immediate feedback on your search, giving you the opportunity to edit or adapt to the search results you want to see. The new feature claims to save you time (between 2-5 seconds a search), narrow your searching more accurately, and predict results to help guide your search.

Marketing Implications

As much as we love Google, we had one major red flag. Would Instant change search engine rankings? What would it mean for SEO efforts up until this point? Lucky for marketers everywhere, Google Instant does NOT affect current rankings, which leaves our SEO efforts in tact. Phew!

Is it Necessary?

I do have to question Google Instant’s necessity. The reason many people love Google is for its simplicity – think of its clean, white front page. I’m not sure that the promise of “saved time” is enough to really make it worthwhile. Does it really benefit my searching? Does seeing the results appearing as I type really help me better tailor my search? On the other hand, it is cool and clearly displays Google’s ability to pioneer new technologies. I can’t say I’m not impressed.

Personally don’t like it? Don’t worry, they won’t take too much offense. You can shut it off in your preferences to go back to old-school Google, or “OSG” as I like to call it.

What do you think?

Will Google Instant help you search better? Or do you think that it is an unnecessary add-on that is just a flex of Google’s genius muscle?

The Benefits of Advertisements, Years Later

Do you ever wish you could get more out of those old advertisements for which you paid so much money? They were so darn expensive, and now they are just sitting in storage, collecting dust! Once again, social media is here to the rescue. Here are some great reasons to put your old ads online:

  1. Search Engine Optimization – Adding content to social networks can do wonders for your search engine optimization.  For instance, when we add pictures to Flickr or video to YouTube, we make sure the content is tagged with the right keywords. We also make sure that descriptions and titles include the brand name, keywords and links . All of these things increase the amount of content a company has on the web, and therefore increases the search engine optimization.
  2. Another way to reach your audience- Just because there are 240 million Facebook users doesn’t mean you should focus all of your attention on that medium. Yes, uploading multimedia to Facebook is an great way to provide your friends and fans with content, but plenty of people use flickr and YouTube on a daily basis.
  3. Increase online footprint- The more content you are putting out on the web about your brand, the more users are going to find you, and the more comfortable they will be with your product or brand.
  4. Provides opportunities  for two-way communication – Uploading multimedia is great way to incite commentary and get feedback. Having imput can help brands track the success of their marketing efforts. Knowing that your customers think “This commercial is hilarious,” or “This ad stinks” is valuable knowledge. And unless you are sitting on the couch next to millions of TV viewers, you can’t get that kind of feedback with traditional advertising.  In addition to getting feedback, sites such as YouTube and Flickr also allow opportunities for brands to join the conversation, by talking with viewers or answering their questions.

Robert Andrew Salon & Spa, a client of The Cyphers Agency, has a  Flickr account that we set up for them.  As you see circled in the screen shot below, the brand is mentioned several times for one picture. We have hundreds of pictures uploaded to the Robert Andrew Flickr account. With every single picture tagged and described appropriately, viewers are exposed to the brand name more frequently. The particular set of pictures featured below was viewed more than 40,000 times!

If you’re thinking that 40,000 views is measly compared to the millions of views you can get through advertising on television, you’re right–if you’re just comparing the numbers.

People are opting into the brands message, they are actually interacting with the content (instead of sitting on the couch with glazed eyeballs), and you (the brand) can speak directly to them. Their comments also give you insight into your target audience, and their behavior (clicks, time spent on page, what sites they came from) is highly track-able which also contributes to further understanding of your audience. You don’t get any of that with a TV ad. Unless it’s that old TV ad that you just uploaded to YouTube 😉

How to Use “The Google”

The phone book is dead. It’s a sad truth phone directory publishers might not tell you, but we can’t remember the last time we used a phone book for anything other than kindling for a fire or a booster seat.  Today’s digitally conscious consumers are plugged in 24/7 and research shows they prefer to go online for research. Additionally, it is a fact that consumers are increasingly turned off by most forms of advertising – they despise being sold to, and see it as a monumental waste of time.  So how then, if traditional media such as phone books aren’t working, do you make sure that people can find you or look you up? One of the most important and cost-effective ways is through Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

SEM is defined by (you didn’t think I was going to pull Webster’s dictionary off the shelf, did you?) as a set of marketing methods to increase the visibility of a Web site in search engine results pages (SERPs). In plain English, it’sall the stuff you do to get to the top of search engines where people will see you.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet for conquering SEM. It’s a complex process that has lots of complexities; however, conquering two main categories (or paying a professional to handle it) will get you started:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art of adjusting the makeup of your Web site so that it comes up high in organic (unpaid) search listings. Much of this is done as the Web site is being built – in copy, page titles and meta tags. But increasingly, it’s crucial to improve site navigation, name pages and images properly, and increase relevant outbound and inbound links. It’s a constantly evolving process and usually requires monthly maintenance and tweaking by a professional to maintain high rankings.

Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising can be wildly successful and very cost effective. It involves purchasing keywords and phrases that people use when searching online for your product or service so that you come up at the top and to the right of unpaid search listings. These are extremely effective because unlike traditional ads, these are directly related to the needs and wants of the consumer. The challenge is determining which keywords and keyphrases are going to get you the best results for the money you’re willing to spend. Through PPC advertising, you can achieve qualified leads, and you only pay if your ad entices someone to click through to your site. New technologies available to agencies like ours even allow us to target geographically and track phone calls from Web sites.

So next time you’re preparing your yearly marketing budget, ask yourself whether you’re taking advantage of this crucial new medium that’s helping customers everywhere find exactly what they’re seeking. If not, perhaps you should consider dumping some of those print ads and phone book listings and writing SEM into your plan. Get on the bus now, before your competitors beat you to it. “…it’s all the stuff you do to get to the top of search engines where people will see you.”