A customer is a customer is a customer, right? No, there is the customer that asks 200 questions and buys your loss leader, returning it used and unresellable. There is the customer who comes in, asks can you ship 200 of your most profitable item? Oh, and can you autoship if they pay in advance for the next 5 years? Who would you prefer more of?
Visitor traffic is similar, not all traffic is the same value to your organization today or tomorrow. There are different types of traffic to look at when trying to create a successful site. There are different dimmensions of traffic – what type of traffic, what quality of traffic, what the cost it was to get the traffic and others. But lets just look at one dimension, where is the traffic coming from:
This is the traffic created by other sites referring / linking to your site, or your emails driving traffic to your site. This is great ‘free’ traffic. Referrals from other websites also supports your SEO traffic and rankings, because the search engines (SE) respect other sites sending traffic to your site. The more you are listed on other sites, the better your SE (search engine) ranking. The more related the sites, the better your SE ranking. For example a site about guns referring to your site on trees is not as helpful as a referral from a site about arboretums referring to your tree site.
A way to quantify your ranking is to look at your Page Rank (named after Google Founder Larry Page). There are a number of tools including add-ons to your browser that will automatically let you know your PR (Page Rank) on a 0-8 (higher is better) score. Here is one – http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php
SEO – Seach Engine Optimization or Natural Traffic
This is the traffic that comes from your site ranking well in the search engines, and the traffic coming from others looking for answers to their searches. The 1st key to creating this traffic is to create content that answers your visitors questions. The key here is to look at your site from the perspective of your visitors. What are they looking for? Not what do you want to tell them. You may shift the answers to be what you want to share, but 1st look at what would be the perfect answer to a visitor coming the site.
Of course, if you collect the most common questions you can create a FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions page or better yet section of pages (depending on your answers, it may be appropriate to have a single page for each question). The challenge is to come up with the best answer to meet everyone’s needs. But like all good communications, allow the reader to choose how much they want to read by putting the most important/simplest information first. DO NOT follow the mystery novel format and keep the best for the last.
SEM – Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing is when you pay to get traffic to your site. This can include a variety of different strategies such as:
Banner Ads on other sites – here you can pay per image shown (maybe or maybe not registered in the viewers mind), or per click thru to your site.
Email marketing like Constant Contact or iContact (a whole other post) to someone else’s email list (make sure you are not spamming) or to your own list.
Google AdWords (buying ads on the search engine)
Google AdSense (buying text ads on different websites) – this is an overlap of banner ads, but through the 600 pound gorilla Google that acts as the ad-man for you.
Ads on other search engines
This traffic can be very profitable or a total waste of money. The great part of this type of traffic is it is easier to test. Testing is a big part of what you need to do to be successful. Consider it the equivalent of practice in sports, music or dating. You don’t expect to get it perfect the 1st time, and you need to keep improving as your competition keeps getting better.
LMT – Local market traffic
Local market traffic is when visitors are looking for the types of businesses and solutions that used to be typically found in a yellow pages directory. They are usually the local businesses like restaurants, and cleaners. These are businesses that are not trying to market across the country, but only the local community. This traffic is in some ways easier to get, because there is less competition (only a few real estate agents in Downers Grove, compared to million in the whole country). You don’t have to rank higher than the real estate broker in Texas, if you are Wisconsin. But you need to have people looking for Wisconsin real estate. That is where focus is important. This also requires looking outside the ‘normal’ spots. Don’t try to rank high in ‘real estate’ on the search engine. Instead try to rank in ‘Bloomington real estate’ or even better ‘Bloomington vacation real estate’. But also look at other sites than the big 3 search engines. Look at local sites like the different yellow pages or Yelp.com.
What kind of traffic you want will determine what kind of strategies you should follow.
SEO is more on content.
SEM is more on converting the visitor. Of course you have to define what conversion is. It may be a sale. It may be a signup for a newsletter. It may be a request for a consultation and setting an appointment. Or it may be requesting a free report. You need to define what your conversion funnel is (most businesses have multiple conversions in the process of a lifetime of a customer.
LMT is about converting and getting them to call or use traditional business channels. That may be getting them to drive to your store. That may be getting them to call and set an appointment. It may still be just calling or emailing for a report or other trust building step.
Understand that just like traditional sales takes on average 7 touches to convert to a sale (after having built up enough trust), online channels can take multiple steps to build the trust required for your final conversion. Make sure you design your website presence to convey that.
The Illinois Main Street Alliance (IMSA), is one of the organizations I am working with. This is a small business association with chapters across the country representing actual main street or real small businesses. The US Chamber of Commerce being more focused on large corporations (based on who is on the board, and amount of donations and how it lobbies). So as a small organization, it has a limited budget and resources. Most are volunteered with limited technical expertise.
Recently, I was asked for some input as to what would I do to improve its website.
Not knowing the answers to the core questions asked in part 1 makes concrete and prioritized recommendations a challenge. But, to start the ball rolling, here are some recommendations:
A Twitter re-tweet button, and all social media sharing buttons. This allows members to easily share group ideas into different circles with accuracy and ease.
Google analytics to allow us to track to see who and what people are looking and as well as how much traffic we are getting.
Update the Graphical masthead that shows a variety of different businesses rather than a Macomb, Illinois sense of Main Street alliance. We need to show that various types of main streets across Illinois that IMSA represents. We have many members from across the state and need to let others understand not just in words but also visually:
City – Chicago is the obvious business here.
Use more illustrations and images through out the site. The term a picture is worth a thousand words is just as applicable here as elsewhere on the web.
Easy call to action.
How to reach out to Senators Durban and Kirk
how to reach out to Congressman.
How to reach out to Illinois state capital Springfield.
How to reach out to us – IMSA.
This should be where we are linking people to our site from our Facebook postings, as well as tweets, as well as our LinkedIn and e-mails.
Ideally past and present meeting agendas would be posted here as well.
RSS feeds. these would list and include key articles from the news about the different campaigns that we are most interested in, such as:
These could be either separate pages, each of themselves for each feed or one ongoing stream. The more pages the better the website (typically) from an ease of use and ability to be ranked well by the search engines. Generally speaking from the standpoint of making it easier for people to find what they’re looking for, as well. As for the search engines to make it easy for us to rank higher and therefore getting more traffic. It also helps in allowing other websites to link directly to us in more appropriate lead directly to the specific area that they want reference.
Links to other blogs related to our main street business’ costs such as:
This area could have two different purposes. One would be just to build community.
The second would be to create a resource tool for the press to see images that we have available that they may desire to utilize with stories and articles and letters to the editor that we may be submitting or writing about. This section would need to have probably watermarked or properly controlled images that the press could utilize for reproduction in their newspapers. Once they get approval from us. We can send them full resolution versions of them.
Standalone domain name. Having a standalone domain and therefore standalone site is important in creating the credibility appropriate for an organization with the clout of IMSA. Multiple domain names may be appropriate, especially for segmenting into different parts of the website. This is a good way to help improve search engine results/Google ranking.
Many of these suggestions should be relatively easy to implement continuing to use WordPress as a underlying CMS or content management system. Some of these start to walk to the edge of WordPress’s abilities and a more sophisticated CMS such as Joomla! or Drupal may be appropriate. Again this goes back to the original goals and objectives and the amount of resources that would be available to help maintain and develop a website.
Again, without context, it’s really hard to focus on the right parts of your very broad question. there are a variety of tools in evaluating effectiveness of a website that are free that I could go through and highlight but it feels like those aren’t even the appropriate sense of direction to be looking at at this point. However, I may be wrong in understanding what we’re trying to accomplish your at this time. May I suggest that a conference call may be more appropriate and getting with key decision-makers of who’s working on this process. Let me know who and when and how will try and plug into that. Also understanding where we are in the lifecycle of this is also key. In other words if the website is 80% done, then most of this is too late. Then I can move my focus elsewhere, on the other hand, if this is all too early, I can put this in a more exploratory framework.
In our next post I will explore some suggested pages to add to the site.
Here are a few of my additions to look at:
Remember that different people refer to the same food in different ways. Yams/sweet potatoes… The guest is correct, even if you have to translate to the chef to smooth out the egos. In Search Engine Marketing, the customers keywords are the correct keywords, even if you have to coach the CMO.
Sometimes the guests/family prefer the lesser ingredients (canned cranberries over fresh cranberries), salty canned gravy over homemade. Listen and understand, your objective is to make a happy celebration for all the guests at the table. The less precise keyword or more generic keyword that customers click on are the correct keywords. Seborrheic dermatitis may be the correct term, but far more people are searching for Dandruff shampoo.
While the dinner is very important, the whole day is a celebration – conversation, flag football outside, the game(s) on TV, waiting for Sue to get off work or drive from Milwaukee all are important factors. Dinner may be the centerpiece of the day, but not the only consideration. With SEM, understand that customers determine when the best time to close a sale are and ask questions, not your staffs desires.
Mistakes happen, the pie is burnt, the dip gets spilled, dad forgot the …. – it happens, so determine if a substitute is needed and adapt. If you need a simple dip rather then the wonderful family favorite 7 layer, because that is all that is left at the Jewel closing in 5 minutes, adapt. If you need some FAQ’s that are not the best written, to keep visitors from buying at the next site for cyberMonday, then do the best you can and deal with it (let the call center know that these may not be the best and to expect more).
Of course all of the similarities are based on the fact that both Search engine marketing and Thanksgiving are for people that have different desires and needs. Those people want to be treated special and with respect. If you are the host, you need to adapt to the needs of your guests, or brother George may be going to his in-laws next year rather then your dinner table, even if he gets divorced.
A post in LinkedIn (a tool you should be using for learning, sharing and reputation building) asked the above question. The answer is core to most businesses. But it is also what needs to be shared in short order on your website. Assuming your website is trying to communicate why someone should work with you. If you have other primary objectives (and you need to be clear on your site’s objectives), then this still needs to be a part of your site somewhere.
Comfort of the Relationship:
I will choose a vendor based on the comfort of the relationship we can build. That comfort is in communicating that a vendor:
Understands my needs, That may be by being local, in my niche, knowing me personally, sharing your expertise.
Understands the industry today, Most industries are rapidly changing. Do you understand the journey my business is on and the challenges my competitors and myself are and will be facing?
Understands Where the industry is going. Help me understand the opportunities, and to help me avoid the traps, What are the new regulations, what are the new 600 lb gorilla’s, what new technology will be crushing my advantage, what new profit model will change my world?
Communicates What are the liabilities to avoid with other’s solutions. Your competitors have disadvantages – don’t bad mouth the competition, but inform me of what to pay attention to, let me understand how to evaluate your services independently so I know what is real (steak) and what is sizzle.
Communicates that you are trustworthy even if you don’t promise the most. Let me see you participating in my community, returning my calls when promised, sending me information relevant to my needs (the more specific the better), recommendations from others-the more closely related to me the better.
Another way to say ‘by differentiation’. You may provide the exact same service, but I know you are providing the right service for me because you understand my needs, and are looking out for my best interests not others (including your own) in our transaction and relationship.
When you understand that your relationship with a potential client may start with your website, you can see how important the look and feel of the site is.
By the way, in order to effectively address most of these issues, you will create pages that is SEO friendly if not well designed.
Talking about your industry will let Google know where to ‘slot’ your services. Referencing the past industry issues will show your expertise. Of course linking to experts makes it even easier. Sharing your knowledge about the future again lets people know that you understand and care, but also lets Google know that your solutions are broader in scope.
So after you try to show how much you care about your clients, ask your clients for feedback to see if you are successful. If you are not, be patient – you probably did not give your elevator speech perfect the 1st time you attempted it. Part of building relationship and trust is having dialog, and being open to feedback and continuing to improve your site, skills, and presentation.
What are your thoughts on differentiating yourself from your competition?
Social Media Club [SMC] is a worldwide organization, with local chapters, that serves as connecting organization for anyone interested insocial media. Membership is free and open to all levels, including beginners. Chicago’s SMC chapter, launched in October 2008, presents events that mix socializing, networking and learning. SMC Chicago events include:
Last week we started looking at how the powerful social networking tool LinkedIn can help you promote yourself or your business. This week we continue with some specific recommendations based on a clients request to review her profile. If you would like your profile reviewed, please contact me.
Like all projects, it is important to know what your goal is. Marketing of yourself or your business is certainly no exception. So identify what you are trying to accomplish as specifically as possible. Get a job is not as specific as ‘get a job earning at least 80,000 in the Chicago area in the next 2 months as an accountant using my international skills’
The power of LinkedIn is it ability to create connections. That is also where you build your reputation and validate what you share in your profile. Anyone can say they walked on the moon if they are anonymous, but if your are saying you walked on the moon, and hundreds of your colleagues can see you saying that. And those connections that worked with you don’t scream. Or visitors know they can check with those connections to verify your claims, then you are more likely to have been an astronaut. Therefore, it is very key to build your connection base. Here are some other steps to build your marketing of your portfolio:
Get more connections.
There are 68,000 listed under for the current company you work at alone.
I would re-import your email address book at work and at home once a month to invite everyone you know into your network. Not everyone ‘gets’ LinkedIn at the same time. I am constantly finding new people that are just getting on it. In addition, people use different addresses on their LinkedIn profile then you may be using.
Look at the CC’s on some of the emails you are getting (especially at work) and add them to your address book. That will allow you greater ability to invite others into your network more easily. It will also allow easier contact should you or those people ever change situations. The key is relationship over the long term. This exercise is just getting the relationship started to the next level.
Look at old emails that may have older email addresses – these may have the addresses that others have used to register their LinkedIn accounts (not everyone has all of their email addresses registered with LinkedIn).
Turn on the ‘Collect’ feature of your email client to automatically add all addresses you send to automatically to your email address book. Again the address you use to get to Harry may not be the one that Harry registered at LinkedIn. But it may be one he uses when he emails you next week.
Register as many email addresses as you have ever had with LinkedIn (old work addresses, Yahoo, Gmail, MSN,…., alternate domain names (bigcorpNA.com, BigCorp.USA, …). Hopefully, others are following the same advice so you can also find them.
Ask friends to review your profile, just like you would your resume.
Next week we will continue to look at recommendations how to improve your meeting your goals with LinkedIn.
A client asked me to review her LinkedIn profile. While her intention was for job search preparation, the concepts for self promotion or business promotion are the same. So I will share my suggestions with you in these series of posts. If you would like a review of your profile, feel free to ask. The comments are a lot scattered, so dip and skim for what applies to your situation as usual.
Remember that LinkedIn is a professional toned site where there is a sense of verification by having others in your connection ‘valid’ what you share. I would put the key tenants of the community in this order:
Validation by connections. The more connections you have the greater the validity you have. There is a caveat to this that tends to happen over a 1,000 that relates to depth vs. breadth in your connections that I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say, try to get all the valid connections you can up to around a 1,000. After that look at the issue closer and make your own judgment on strategy.
LinkedIn is not a 1 page resume. This is the place to be reasonable about describing what you have accomplished and how it can be useful in your next project. Using more words, makes it easier for someone to:
get to know you,
be able to search for you,
determine if they want to have you be part of a team. It is your marketing piece.
Your profile is your walking portfolio. Put as much meat as you can to let others understand why they want you. This is not the place to force someone to ‘ask you in the interview’. If you don’t sell them on you here, there will be no interview.
A place to give back – there is a lot of places to be in community. That means listening actively –
participating in the conversation,
sharing your wisdom
sharing your ignorance and allowing others to demonstrate their knowledge
sharing your unique perspective.
A place to demonstrate. Your participation in groups, your posting what is happening, your complete profile, your sharing of reading and other activity, your involvement in events all demonstrate your ability to communicate clearly and succinctly while giving. This is what almost every person looking to buy your services; whether a job or your business or your services.
With that outline, I will pick up next week on how to optimize your profile.
Continuing on with our list of ways to improve your search results from Part 2 of How Do I Get Bad Stories About Me Off Google:
Consider posting on Answers.yahoo.com. When you write a post and sign your name to it, you increase the number of positive results associated with you. You can also add a link to your website or blog, which also increases the number of positive returns and gives you a better ranking.
Local.google.com – you can post your Regis or HQ addresses as additional locations for your business if you have temporary office space.
Consider posting on:
Try to get your alumni or other .EDU to link to your site and to post your biography.
Post videos of yourself
Create books and self-publish on Amazon.com
Post reviews with your name on Amazon.com
Post your information on ZoomInfo.com and set to public
Post your information on Classmates.com and set to public
Post your information on MySpace.com and set to public
Put different content on each location – do NOT just copy and paste- customize to some extent. Google will penalize you and your sites for cloning information.
Don’t just repost content
Link to different spots, not all the same. Links can be to different pages on your blog(s), good articles or other positive content.
Link to what is linking to other good content. In other words, if Sue’s blog has links to the positive articles about you, then link to Sue’s blog, especially her article that has links to the articles about you.
Ask others for links to you and your good sites.
Create a template email. Ideally you would give a phone call before hand to explain the situation.
Ask others to visit the good links, especially from Google searches
Ask that they add content (comments) and links to your site.
Set up a Twitter account to allow for more posting
Set your home page to Google with the search of keyword phrase set. Then open tabs of the ‘good’ links on a regular basis.
Create SlideDecks of information with links and reference to yourself.
Create PodCasts with information about yourself
Create a resources page on your website – link to other articles
Consider outsourcing parts of this to virtual assistant or e-lance. You may also want to consider a virtual business manager to most effectively manage a project like this.
There are tools for monitoring your reputation. These range from free to high-cost. The more they can do automatically, the less they will be able to foresee the place that you did not expect to have an issue.
Google alerts is a great place to start – set up alerts to let you know when ever your search keyword phrases show up in Google’s search engine. You can also set up customized news pages that provide all the occurrences of your keyword phrases as well. These are easy to do, but look to find someone who knows how to look at the situation with fairly objective views, to get all the different variations of the keyword phrases that may be in use.
You can also use Google news as a feed for your website to keep your content fresh. But of course be aware, this may post good and bad.
A client who had some smear stories written about him, recently asked – how do I get bad stories about me off of Google? Or more accurately, when someone else has written a story about you online which presents you in a negative light, how do you get that story pushed further down in the return results of a Google search? You want to preserve your good online reputation. You want your reputation online to be as positive as possible. When someone does a Google search on you, you want favorable stories and results which put you in a good light. And when someone writes and posts a story about you, right or wrong, accurate information or made up, inaccurate fabrications, those stories come up in a Google search. You can’t control what others write about you. So when they write about you and it is negative, what do you do, and how do you get your good reputation back?
Rather than fight the story at the source, and demand a retraction, it is easier and better just to optimize your site for searches. By going to the original source which wrote the negative story and asking them to remove or retract their story – you risk waking the ‘ sleeping giant’. That could backfire on you and create even worse press for you. The other possibility is there is more than one negative story about you, so you would end up chasing way too many people to get them to take their stories off, which they may not. It would be far more effective for you to ignore the source, and manage the search return results a different way.
As it turned out, my client was a lightning rod of feelings – Good and Bad. And while the saying all press is good press, in his case, it was not working to his benefit. It was costing him jobs and he seemed to have this other issue – the truth and wanting others to see the truth over the lies.
With that in mind, I figured I would outline how to improve your online reputation.
This area of Internet presence management is labeled Search Engine Reputation Management or SERM. It is a subset of SEO, and contains many skills – including an understanding of crisis management. Many of the solutions will not be quick, like much of SEO – but results will vary, like your mileage and situation.
Understand that Google results change – 1st of all not everyone gets the same results at the same minute. Two different people can do a Google search at the same time, using the same search words, and one person will have the same entry ranked higher than the other search return will give the other person. One person can have ‘peas’ returned as the third listing, while another person can have ‘peas’ returned as item number 5, using the very same search words. Google is trying to improve the results for everyone. So it will create different results based on what you have searched before and what is in your other Google account including:
Gmail – Google will try to customize your search results based on what is in your GMail emails,
Customized news on Google News – If you follow Cricket over Candian Football, your search results will lean that way as well. Follow McCain over Clinton – your results are different.
Google Docs – What you store helps Google understand what you are focused on.
YouTube – Also owned by Google, so watch Oberman clips more then Beck or Cute Kitties – your results also reflect the shift.
Previous Google searches
This assumes of course, that you have a Google account, which not everyone does. Using a Google account can be to your benefit, because Google keeps track of what you have searched for, what you have looked at in the returned results, how long you were there, and what you did from there. It keeps track of this, so that when you do another search, it in effect thinks, well, they were interested in x before, so based on that, I will return things more likely to be like x, since that is what they seem to be interested in.
You can choose to have it optimize its results for you on your Google account.
Follow the discussion on Part 2 of How Do I Get Bad Stories About Me Off Google…
You are assigned the position of IT Manager in a new company. You don’t know the business or the developers you’ll be managing. What are the first steps you would take?
A few additions on my part:
1) Look at the ‘written’ /published documentation (preferably 1st) of stated goals, visions etc. They may not be accurate, but someone wanted them at some point. Ideally you have time (ha) to incorporate this perspective as you ask others how they view the issues.
2) Being ‘new to the business’ may imply new to the industry. Find the top 3-6 periodicals for the industry. Read as much of the last 6 months to learn the jargon and issues coming down the road in the next 2-3 years. If you are not at the leading company in the industry, these will tend to indicate what needs to be done to be competitive in the near future.
3) Take a look at previous reviews for your developers. These indicate what previous perspectives were. Even if they are totally off base, the reviewed may still be battling the criticisms in those reviews. This also allows a point of reference for areas to keep an eye on what other staff may view as issues.
4) I would look to find what may be written about your customers – whether that is blogs, press releases or trade journal for external customers, or wiki’s, newsletters, blogs, annual reports for internal customers. What is written can be a starting point for conversations of how others perceive and understand the situation.
5) I suggest the SPIN approach to conversations –
– What is the Situation?
– What is the Problem(S) created by that situation?
– What is the Implication of the situation, the ‘So What’ of the situation?
– What is the Need of the situation, This lets you help set your priorities described in previous posts.
6) Keep a sense of humor – seldom is it that life or death, and your attitude can build far more bridges than the ‘perfect’ knowledge or a perfect plan written yesterday.
Is your website reaching its full potential? If not let us help you out.
For 21 years we have been producing results – Traffic, Prospect Inquiries, Phone Calls to Your Office, and most importantly SALES for clients using the Internet – websites, and email.
Let us briefly discuss your vision and objectives to see if we can assist you. While our list of successes is long, one brief example might wet your appetite – we grew the Internet side of one retailer from 2 orders a month to $1 million a month in online orders using search engine optimization, and email marketing in just 13 months.
We have a variety of ideas on how to optimize your business’ site for more traffic. But traffic alone is a waste of bits. We will gear your traffic towards results and profit.
We can offer solutions that range from simple (a quick phone conversation, where I will gladly share for the high price of a smiling voice) to consultative (let us get together for a lunch and a small fee to let you pick my brain of 21 years of web marketing experience) to structured (there are a variety of models).
Your Goals and Your Objectives determine the approach we can take to best work with you. Some of the custom approaches that have increased profits for our clients in the past are:
Pay per visitor
Fee per Phone call,
Fee per Email
Fee per Form filled out
Percentage of sales
Flat fee for services
Mix and match of the above approaches
Custom Solution Specific to Your Business Situation and Needs.
Rather then point you to a fancy website with a lot of fluff, or a 20 page whitepaper, we ask you to call us and cut through the jargon and speak on your terms. The biggest reason, we are not sure what your true objective is, so we currently have no idea what solution makes sense for you. So we will ask you to trust us this far – call us at (312)554-5009. Let us have a no pressure conversation where we get to learn your needs, we will share some tips and ideas. Then let us see if we can work in partnership to let you meet your objectives.
Another reason we don’t have a fancy website, to be brutally honest; we would rather put the effort into marketing your business rather than our’s.