A couple of weeks ago we received a meeting request from a large manufacturing company. The company’s representative found us while doing a Google search on social media for the manufacturing industry and read this article on our website. Before her search, we were not on her radar. We don’t pay Google for ads and we don’t have the company on a mailing or email list. We now have an appointment with the CEO and are definitely looking forward to the opportunity to present a proposal.
The above is just one example of how prospective clients have contacted us because they found an article on our site that matched their internet search. In fact, a good portion of visitors who come to our website do not come through the “front door” – in other words, most don’t get here by typing in www.mediavinemarketing.com. When we look at our Google Analytics, we see that most visitors are landing on either our articles or one of our website’s interior pages. That means that they are searching for something we address on our website, not our company name.
If we had minimal content on our website, we would not receive even a fraction of the visitors that we do every month. There is simply too much competition out there and we are a small firm with a relatively small marketing budget, so we cannot spend huge dollars with Google to capture search traffic for “social media marketing” or even “social media Chicago”. But we can keep adding articles to our site that speak to what our target market wants to know. And the articles stay on our website as long as we want; they don’t go away once we stop paying Google, such as what happens when your daily ad budget is spent.
When you’re a small business, it can be tough to find the time to write and post good articles. We know this- we do a much better job with this for our clients than we do for ourselves. But, the return on the couple of hours it takes to research, write, refine and post an article on your website can be huge.
If you would like to have more people find your business “through the side door”, consider adding a blog (preferably a WordPress one, but we’re biased) to your website and giving your prospects a bit of the information you know they want. We can help with both adding a blog to your site as well as supplying you with writing resources!
Note: We didn’t coin the phrase “coming in the side door.” Adrienne LaFrance from Nieman Journalism Lab did.
Many B2B company owners and leaders ask us to share one “social media” activity that they can use to encourage traffic to their websites and more interest from their target market. Our answer is usually the same; write interesting and helpful articles, place them on your website and share the articles with your social networks and opted-in email lists. Although not necessarily easy, this one activity can bring interested and engaged visitors to your website on a regular basis as well as help you focus on your target market.
Article writing can be a marketing gift that keeps on giving for the following reasons:
1. Article writing forces you to listen and find out what information might appeal to your target market. In order to plan out a series of articles, you might, for instance, ask your salespeople and customer service staff about the common questions and concerns they hear from prospects and customers. Sharing thoughtful content and listening to what your target market finds interesting and useful is at the heart of good social media. If people like what you post, they’ll be more likely to remember you when they need your products and services. And if you’re always thinking about what THEY like, well, so much the better.
2. If you place your articles on your website, people can access them at any time, even months (or years) after they were published. And if you give your articles interesting titles and add relevant, meaningful keywords to the content, your articles may be found when your prospects do a Google search on the topic. We have many articles on our own website that are listed on the first page of Google for certain phrases and keywords. The same can be said for our clients who take the time to write and publish articles (or have the articles written for them). Even small businesses can, and do, build significant traffic to their websites using this tactic.
Adding a WordPress blog (an excellent place to post your articles) with a subscription option to your existing website is not usually a huge undertaking; most web developers can do this for a fairly small fee.
3. Article writing allows you to showcase your expertise and the core values of your company. You may get a few visitors to your “About Us” page every now and then, but those pages on most websites are usually pretty dry and static. Adding periodic articles to your site, however, allows you to become the “go-to” expert for your target market. Occasionally, you can also use the opportunity to talk about what’s happening in your company, such as your involvement with a non-profit organization or a successful project. It’s surprising how many people will subscribe to your articles if you provide them with relevant and meaningful information. And the beauty of it is, if you build into your website the tools to allow readers to share your articles with THEIR networks, many people will.
If you have a B2B company and you’ve been struggling with what to share in social media, start writing or get someone to write for you. You’ll start to see results after just a few articles, and you’ll keep on reaping the benefits.
Recently during a SXSW (South by Southwest) panel, Matt Cutts, who is the head of Google’s search spam team (now there’s a one-of-a-kind job), spoke about Google’s new focus on websites that are “too optimized” for SEO. He explained that Google is working on an algorithm update that will penalize websites that “throw too many keywords on the page, exchange way too many links, whatever they’re doing to go beyond what a normal person would expect”. Cutts also said that those sites site owners who will be penalized are “all those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site(s). We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it…”
For small business owners, the next quote by Cutts speaks to the frustration of many who are trying to get our websites found. ”Are you pretty much out of luck if you’re not optimizing your site but it has relevant content? If I’m a mom or pop and I’m trying to optimize a site by myself, I’m going to get beat by people paying thousands of dollars.”
“Make a site that’s useful. Make a site that’s interesting.”
As an antidote, Cutts also said something that we business owners and leaders should note: “Make a compelling site. Make a site that’s useful. Make a site that’s interesting. Make a site that’s relevant to people’s interests… We’re always trying to best approximate if a user lands on a page if they are going to be annoyed… All of the changes we make are designed to approximate, if a user lands on your page, just how happy they are going to be with what they’re going to get.”
If you’re working with an SEO company and you’re not exactly sure what tactics they are using, ask them. What you don’t want is an SEO company that is stuffing your pages with keywords, building back-links aggressively and doing other “black hat” sorts of activities. SEO is still useful for making sure that your website is easily “crawlable” and that you do have good and targeted keywords on your site, among other things. However, for most SMBs, I believe that an important takeaway from Mr. Cutts’ statements is that we need to create and post good content that we know our readers will want.
If your strategy lately has been to add interesting and relevant content to your site on a regular basis, then you’re probably ahead of a lot of your competitors. If that hasn’t been your strategy, now is the time to start.
Whereas many B2C companies sell products and services that can inspire raving fans, B2B companies often struggle with inspiring that same type of interest and interaction. The key to staying in front of people is producing the kind of content that your target market will want to read or watch- and perhaps even share with others. People will notice and pay attention if you give them something that will pique their interest, help an issue or even make them chuckle. Also, when potential customers do take the opportunity to check out your company website or profile on Facebook or LinkedIn, for instance, they will see activity and recent content. After all, more and more of us do all of our research about a company online, regardless of the industry.
So, what type of content can offer the most value to your B2B company?
Articles/blog posts: As painful and daunting as it may seem (or actually be), writing articles and blogs can be really effective at gaining an audience, increasing website traffic and solidifying your expertise in your area. When you add a new blog post to your website on a regular basis and share it out on all of your social media accounts, you never know who might end up visiting your website and reading your post. Our clients who produce articles the most often also see the most return on their social media activity.
Videos: These days, videos don’t always need to be high-quality productions that cost thousands of dollars. With the popularity of YouTube, people are used to videos that have been made on the fly and have a human quality to them. You can set up a camera and do a video blog instead of a written blog, if you prefer. Keep them short and authentic, and share them out wherever you have a profile.
Questions and Polls: Posting questions and polls on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can be an effective way to start a conversation about a topic of interest to your target market. Questions beg for an answer, and usually someone will be compelled to give an answer if the question is thoughtful or provocative enough. Fred McMurray, one of our partners, has had great success with this strategy, especially on LinkedIn. He has made numerous valuable connections in the B2B space with people who have chosen to answer his questions.
Photos: On Facebook and even Twitter, photos draw a lot of attention. They are easy to share and don’t require a lot of thought. Not that photos should the sum total your content, but interspersing photos and images can be a way to continue your visibility on days that you don’t have more comprehensive content to share.
Share articles/blog posts of others: Don’t have time to write an article right now? Consider sharing the articles of others that you believe your target market will appreciate. Although the traffic won’t be coming to your site, at least your company name and logo will be associated with something that could be of value to someone. The idea is to keep your company name in front of people on a regular basis.
If you have a B2B business and are finding success with your own content, we’d love to hear about it!
You’ve started a blog for your small business, and you (or your designated writer) have been putting out some great content. However, no one seems to know that your blog even exists. How do you get the word out about your blog and get some people to read it?
Here are 7 fairly simple and practical ways to share your blog:
1. Start an account with StumbleUpon and submit your posts there. StumbleUpon is an excellent social bookmarking site that allows you to share content as well as discover some incredible websites, blog posts, and videos you would have never come across otherwise. One word of caution: If you “stumble” your own posts, you must “stumble” other people’s content as well. StumbleUpon frowns on people who only share their own content, and it looks really self-serving, anyway. Whenever I submit one of my own posts, I always spend a few minutes “stumbling” and “liking” other people’s content that I find truly engaging. I really enjoy StumbleUpon and know many other people who do as well.
Along with StumbleUpon, there are many other bookmarking sites that you can use to post your content, such as Digg, Delicious and Reddit. Take some time to explore at least one of them and try posting your links to it.
2. Make sure that you give readers the ability to share out your posts by adding share buttons to each post on your website. WordPress and other blogging platforms make this pretty easy to add. However, you can also check out addthis.com for a solution to including sharing buttons on your site.
3. Many of you do this already, but make sure you share your post on Facebook. Preface the link with a comment or question. Ask your social media power partners to share it out as well.
4. Share a link to your post on Twitter, more than once. Sure, you may already tweet your posts, but do you tweet them several times, spaced out over a couple of days, for maximum exposure? Posting once is not enough. Try using a tweet scheduler such as Twaitter, Tweetdeck or Buffer. Vary the tweets that you send out with the link. Experiment with catchy headlines, questions and hashtags in your tweets. Also, if you are going to use Twitter in this way, make sure that you are tweeting other content besides your post over and over again.
5. Comment on other people’s posts and include the link to your own post when you are asked to enter in your website URL for validation. In other words, instead of entering in your general website address, enter in the URL for your specific post. Don’t talk about your post in the comment, however- that is not cool. Be thoughtful and give an authentic comment; if you do, people are apt to take a closer look and check out your link. This tactic is more effective if you comment on a blog post in the same industry as yours.
6. Share you post as a status update on your LinkedIn profile. Also, post it as a discussion item in any of the relevant LinkedIn groups that you have joined. Each group has its own rules for posting, so check with the Group Rules for their guidelines (if a group has guidelines, they show up under “Group Rules” on the right-hand corner of the group’s home page above the “Manager’s Choice” box).
7. Give your readers an opportunity to subscribe to your blog so that they receive an email each time you post something. There are several services out there that allow you to add a subscription function to your website. Aweber.com is one of the better known services, and they do charge a monthly fee, but they keep a database of your subscribers and give you many options for including an attractive subscription form to your website.
These are just some of the things you can do to get more pairs of eyes across your blog. Please share your own ideas.
By now most of us have heard that blogging is one of the best things we can do to drive traffic to our small business websites and increase the awareness of our brands. In fact, here’s a great post from Phil Mershon (Social Media Examiner) that gives statistics on the impact that frequent blogging can make on website traffic as well as customer leads.
However, we speak and work with many small businesses in industries that, on the surface, don’t seem to be very “bloggable”. Plumbing companies, for instance. After giving tips about leaky faucets or the best temperature setting for a hot water heater, what is there to write about? That’s a great question, but it’s also taking a narrow approach.
When a small business begins to blog, the primary goals for having the blog are usually increased awareness, website traffic and, hopefully, leads. The content that a small business posts on a blog needs to be something that people are likely to read. If nothing else, it needs to be something that people will “skim” and associate with your company name and brand. Many small business owners believe that any blog posts from the company have to be very industry-specific. However, this is not the case. If you’re a plumbing company, you can post content about a wide range of helpful topics, with the operative word being “helpful”. As an example of what can be done with a seemingly “unbloggable” industry, here are some interesting ideas I found while perusing plumbing company blogs:
Oldest water heater contest: Radiant Plumbing in Austin, Texas gave away two free water heaters to homeowners with the oldest water heaters in town. They found one that was 47 years old! The company got two posts out of the contest- one announcing the contest and one reporting on the winners- complete with pictures.
What would you do if you didn’t have a toilet? Benjamin Franklin Plumbers of Arizona posted an article about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s challenge to reinvent the toilet to bring better sanitation to the 3 billion people in the world who don’t have access to a toilet.
Choose the potty of your dreams: Yes, you read that right. Moon Valley Plumbing of Phoenix, AZ invited everyone to ask about their June special on Toto brand toilets and find the toilet of their dreams. Moon Valley Plumbing also posted articles about the local home show, the truth about hard water, and the importance of supporting local companies.
How much it would cost to remodel a bathroom? Click’s Plumbing in Spring, Texas wrote an article about many of the questions a homeowner needs to take into consideration when planning a bathroom remodel. Plumbing is only one part of a bathroom remodel, but Click’s Plumbing provided some helpful information about the entire process.
New energy efficient household products: Raymond Plumbing of Lorain, Ohio, posted an article about some new household products that are designed with green technology and can provide savings to homeowners.
Blogs should be written with the target market in mind. Good questions to ask when blogging for a business are:
-What questions do we get asked the most on a regular basis, and can we answer them in a series of posts?
-What type of information will be helpful to my customers and potential customers?
-What content will help them feel as if we are looking out for their best interests?
-Is there anything humorous or attention-getting that we can post in order to increase our awareness and bring a little personality into our industry and company?
-Could we create and include some simple videos into our blogs?
-Where else will we be sharing the blog posts to gain maximum exposure?
Even if you are not a writer, you don’t have time to write and/or you don’t have a writer on staff, there are many people out there who would be happy to create great content for you.
Small business owners and leaders struggle to develop and maintain the consistency and frequency of their marketing program, especially now that social media is in the mix. We are already consumed with running the business and hopefully moving it forward. With mailers, flyers, newspaper ads, radio spots and even Google Adwords campaigns, you do a bunch of work to get them scheduled and set up, but then you can (I realize I’m oversimplifying this) sit back and wait for the phone to ring. A mailer might go out every 6 weeks. However, if you only post to your Facebook business page every 6 weeks, you’ll be lost in the torrent of information. With social media, the work to remain visible and engaged is constant.
It is not the job of the customer to remember us. It is our job to be responsive and deliver valuable information on a consistent and frequent basis. Consider if your favorite TV show aired for a couple of weeks and then dropped out for 3, then aired again for 1 week and dropped out for 2 more. You’d probably stop watching it.
Quality of the content you share is very important, but in social media, consistency and frequency may be even more so. I’m not saying that this good or bad; it’s just an observation taken from experience.
So how do you attain consistency and frequency? This is often such a struggle, but here are some of the tactics that we use and share with our clients:
1. Set up an editorial calendar. Your editorial calendar should document the days and times you plan to blog and post in the various platforms. Although the ideal may be every day, “I will aim for progress, not perfection” is a good mantra.
2. Read. It may seem difficult to carve out time to read something, but I have found that doing a bit of reading in a business book or 2-3 blog posts per day really helps with content generation. Sometimes it’s a quote (like the one above) that I run across during my reading that gives me the impetus to share something helpful (at least I hope it’s helpful!).
3. Observe and record. If something happens with a customer or employee during the day that would be a “shareable moment”, jot it down for later. People really respond when you share experiences that provide insight to your readers and customers.
4. Map out ideas for the next year. Most businesses already have certain dates or periods of time throughout the year that are important to the company, industry and/or sales cycle. Putting those dates down on your editorial calendar and brainstorming related ideas for social media content far in advance can really give you a laser focus for some exciting campaigns and content.
4. Get help. A social media specialist can assist you with planning, scheduling and content creation.
What tactics do you use to stay consistent?
Most small business owners are now familiar with the most popular social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. However, there is another group of sites that can help drive traffic to your website and organize, manage, search and store bookmarks of resources pertinent to your industry and/or target market. These sites are called social bookmarking sites.
Social bookmarking sites give you the opportunity to share links to web sites, specific web pages, or blog posts to a large potential audience. You can also bookmark or save links to other websites or web pages that you want to reference. Most social bookmarking sites encourage users to organize their bookmarks with tags or keywords so that they are easily categorized and found by others. Many of the bookmarking sites also have features such as ratings and comments on bookmarks, importing and exporting bookmarks from browsers, and social networking elements.
Here are a few of the more popular and valuable social bookmarking websites that your small business should explore.
Digg focuses on story or blog submission and a voting system and is often called a social news website. Users are able to keep up to date on the latest news and current events. You may submit your latest blog posts or articles to Digg and other users can vote them up or down. The story or post with the most “diggs” makes the front page. Digg has an estimated 45 million unique monthly visitors, and that’s a large potential pool of viewers to your content.
On StumbleUpon, users can rate websites, blog posts, photos and videos. The service creates virtual communities of users who have similar interests. Links to web pages or posts are displayed based upon users’ “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” ratings. Ratings update the website or web page profile and creates a social network that distributes the content you submitted on a wide network. So, users can “stumble upon” your content that has been recommended by your peers and friends.
Similar to Digg, Reddit also offers an extra feature. In addition to being able to submit links to your content, you are also able to make posts and submit your original content within it. Like the other sites discussed, users are ablet to rate the links and content.
Delicious is quite popular and allows users to tag bookmarks using index terms. Other users are then able to tag their bookmarks under the same index term and create a collection of bookmarks that reference a similar interest.
Diigo gives you the ability to take personal notes and highlight content on web pages just as you would on a piece of paper. You are then able to bookmark,tag and save the highlighted content for further review. You are also able to share your bookmarked content with friends with others.
Social bookmarking websites can help your business gain access to multiple networks and communities. Create an account with one of the sites above and bookmark your blog posts and articles every time you post in order to spread your reach. Get involved with a bookmarking community and interact with others in your industry or your target market. You’ll increase the visibility of your content, which can benefit your business.
If you are like many business owners, the idea that you should be blogging came after you spent a bunch of money on your website. So you figure that you can just start a blog on one of the free blogging sites and link it to your website. That should be good enough, right? Wrong.
Here are 3 reasons why your blog should be on your website:
Drive customers to your main digital property: If you are using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to announce and post links to your latest blogs, you should be driving that traffic to your main website so that people can check out your company’s products and services. Your blog posts should come from the place that represents your company. Also, it may be tough to brand one of the template sites to look like your own website.
Enhance your SEO (Search Engine Optimization): When your blog is located on your website, any traffic to the blog goes to your website. This can help your search engine ranking. Also, updating your blog gives your website fresh content, which is something that the search engines like to see. Having a blog on your site does not guarantee great search engine rankings, especially if you don’t blog much or use platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to send out links to your posts. However, some fresh content and some traffic is usually better than nothing.
You are at the mercy of the blogging site. When you put your content on someone else’s site, you could risk losing everything if they fold, get shut down or change their policies. Why trust another website with all of your good content?
Talk with your website developer about including a blog on your website (we prefer the WordPress Content Management System). It is also a great idea to think about converting your main website to a WordPress site because you can then update and edit much of the content on the website yourself. Good web developers can make a WordPress site look like a “regular” website.
If you are like many business owners and professionals recently, you have challenged yourself to write one blog per week. For some of you, finding material and writing that great blog comes naturally. However, many people find themselves banging their foreheads against their desks every week as they search for topics ideas and supporting information.
Google Alerts to the Rescue
Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) is a great service to help you, according to Google, “monitor the web for interesting new content”. With Google Alerts, you get email updates of the latest Google results (web, news, video, etc.) based on your search terms. You just enter the topic you want to monitor and choose your notification options. You can select the type of content you receive as well as how often you receive it.
Say you sell health insurance coverage to small business owners and you want to provide helpful, timely information to clients and potential clients. You could set up a Google Alert for “health insurance small business” and be emailed every day or once a week with news items, other blogs, videos, etc.
Google does the hunting and gathering for you. Obviously, the broader your search terms, the more results that you will get. So, be as specific as you can and set up multiple alerts at first to see which ones bring you the best results. Happy Blogging!
How do you connect the popular subject of the Super Bowl (or any major event or holiday) to your blog’s main theme? Here’s an ingenious way. Daniel Stoica, an accounting professional, was able to connect his main theme of taxes to the common practice of sports gambling in the following blog:
Super Bowl XLV Pittsburgh Steelers vs Green Bay Packers
Super Bowl XLV will be played at new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, February 6 2011. Super Bowl Sunday is the highlight of the year for all Football Fans. The Super Bowl is also the highlight of the year for sports betting.
Gambling Winnings Are Always Taxable Income:
Gambling winnings are fully taxable and must be reported on your tax return…
(For the top seven facts the Internal Revenue Service wants you to know about gambling winnings, visit the Daniel Stoica Accounting Professional blog).
Daniel’s blog post proves that you can be informative, timely and engaging by finding a common thread between your blog’s main theme and a current event. You just have to be a bit creative.