Services Include:

Search Engine Optimization

Local Search Optimization

Paid Search Advertising

Social Media Marketing

Website Analytics

SEO and UX are Married After All

wedding rings-SEO and UXFor many years people considered user experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO) to be at odds. But do they truly have conflicting goals? I don’t think so. Rather they work together to move a visitor to the chosen conversion(s).

You can have optimized website pages bringing you lots of traffic, but if your site is unappealing, difficult to read or navigate and contains poor content, visitors will leave without converting. On the other hand you can have easy to navigation and fantastic headlines, content and images, but if your website cannot be easily found you will have no traffic to read your great content and convert. Without both UX and SEO, you will have low conversion rates, and that isn’t good for business.

Creating a compelling experience yet optimized website is possible. The key is balance. In fact, the two disciplines often reference each other. For example, Google Webmaster state, “Make pages primarily for users, not search engines.” Here are some steps you can take to optimize user experience and search engine optimization on your website.

Site Speed

Many studies report that visitors expect a site to load within two seconds and will abandon it after three or four seconds. Make sure your site is designed to load quickly. Tied to that is a limitation on the use of Flash and JavaScript. As more people search via mobile phones, this issue becomes more important because not operating systems support Flash, such as iOS.

Easily Understandable

The primary purpose of the site should be easily understood by a visitor. Keep the design and purpose simple instead of overwhelmingly complicated. Clearly explain your product or service and incorporate primary keyword phrases in a way that is natural. Use bullets and bold headings instead of large blocks of text along with proper semantic markup with an H1 tag and subsequent H2 tags for sections containing keyword phrase variations.

Do not be afraid to directly ask a visitor to subscribe to a newsletter, download an eBook or whatever other action you want a visitor to take. Visitors need to know what you want them to do next.

Easily Accessible

Use a clear page hierarchy and navigation structure. Visitors need to easily move around the site and find what they need with a minimal number of clicks. They should not have to guess about where information can be found because they will go elsewhere for their answers. Search indices need to have a crawlable link structure to find all the pages and properly index them.

Anticipate Visitors’ Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)

When creating a website bear in mind why visitors are on your website and what type of information they are looking for. Make sure the information they most need is available, easily found and of high quality. By doing so, you help both visitors and search engines.

Match Conversion Paths to Buyer Persona(s) and Sales Process

Although it is easy to find the paths people take on your website, the more important issue is why they take certain paths. Collect data about your visitors’ website behavior and create your conversion paths based on it. Sending them on an unnatural path will only frustrate them and lower your conversion rates.

By knowing your visitors’ behavior, you can also incorporate your sales process into the web design. Identify potential problem areas and design the site to prevent them. If you do have a sudden conversion drop, find the most common drop-off points and analyze further. Modify the site based on your new understanding.

These basic steps will help you optimize your website for both UX and SEO. Will there be compromises at times? Sure. However, if you stay focused on your business goals, you will best utilize user experience and search engine optimization in the end.

Google Rolls Out Website Call Conversions

Google-website-call-conversionsDo you get much of your business by phone? Are you frustrated that you can’t determine the number of calls that come through Google Adwords advertisements but are actually made from your website? Do you know which keywords or ads are driving the calls?

Google recently introduced website call conversions to help advertisers track calls that occur after a user arrives on a website via a click-to-call ad. Although 70 percent of people click directly from the ads, the remaining people go to your website for more information before calling. Website call conversions dynamically inserts a Google forward number on your website to capture these individuals. It does not matter whether they click on the number on your website or dial it. This unique forwarding number displays for up to 90 days.

Once you have place a code snippet on your website, you will be able to start tracking. The data allows you to determine which keywords and ads are driving conversions. You can even assign different values to specific pages on your website. For example, a particular landing page may be more important to you than your home page. Different values will help you determine which pages are more effective. You also can now use Target CPA and Target ROAS flexible bid strategies.

Google has provided details on how you can set up website call conversions. You may need the services of your webmaster to properly set it up on your website. Step 2 is a bit complicated.

But what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Advantages

  • Free call tracking
  • Seamless integration with Google Adwords
  • Keyword-level Adwords call tracking

Disadvantages

  • Complicated website installation process
  • Only 800 numbers
  • No support
  • No advanced reporting
  • Limited to Australia, France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States
  • Past issues with call forwarding may still exist

If you do not already have a tracking solution, Google’s tool is a good place to start to find out how much of your telephone business is being driven by your advertisements and by which keywords. They work with click-to-call ads and can be used with other tracking solutions. Larger companies will probably prefer a more robust third-party solution. 

Twitter Is Beta Testing Promoted Video

Twitter is becoming more visual with the introduction of beta testing of a new Promoted Video with select content publishers and verified users. Twitter’s initial testing shows tweets containing native video generate better engagement and more video views.

Promoted Videos are an extension of the Twitter Amplify program. Along with uploading and distributing native video on Twitter, advertisers will be able to measure the reach and effectiveness of their campaigns with full access to Twitter’s robust video analytics like completion percentage and organic vs. paid video views.

Tony Hawk Promoted Video gif

Twitter has switched to a Cost Per View (CPV) ad buying model. Advertisers will only be charged when a user starts playing the video.

Twitter claims the goal of these Promoted Videos is to “…bring more video into our users’ timelines…” However, if that was the sole point, they would be focused on users employing video, not advertisers. Advertisers are increasingly willing to spend higher prices for online video. According to eMarketer, US digital video ad spending will nearly double in only four years to a projected $8.04 billion in in 2016.

US Digital Video Ad Spending-eMarketer

If you have a Twitter advertising account representative, then you can contact that person to get on this beta launch. Otherwise, you will need to set up an advertising account first and then talk with an account representative. Agencies are already reporting surprising success with Promoted Videos.

LinkedIn Introduces Standalone Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Photo: LinkedIn


“We’re embarking on an era of social selling,” declared Sachin Rekhi, LinkedIn’s head of product management for Linked In Sales Solutions.

 

Sales are the lifeblood of a company and often include cold calling in the B2B world. But is there a more effective way to find leads? Recently, LinkedIn made its Sales Navigator a standalone product instead of a series of features. LinkedIn made this move based on the belief that social media is changing the buying and selling process. A LinkedIn company survey showed that salespeople who used social media in their selling process were 51% more likely to meet quotas that those who did not. For LinkedIn, social selling consists of establishing a social presence, finding the right people, engaging with those people and building trust. This understanding is built into Sales Navigator.

Features

Sales Navigator’s features are intended to allow salespeople to focus on the right prospects, stay informed with insights and build trusted relationships. Some features are available in all plans whereas others are only available in Professional and Team editions.

  • Personalized lead recommendations
  • Account and contact importation from and syncing with Salesforce and other CRMs
  • Premium Search with Lead Builder using premium filters with ability to save up to 3,000 leads
  • TeamLink to find connections and leads from within your company and sales team’s contacts to prospective companies
  • Real-time updates on leads and companies – job changes, etc.
  • Full network unlocks (25/month)
  • Full list of who’s viewed your profile
  • Premium profile
  • InMail messages (25/month)

CRM integration, TeamLink and Lead Builder are three of the most notable features of the new Sales Navigator. The first two allows salespeople to capitalize on their current contacts and those of their team members. Lead Builder allows you to create a custom lead list.

Pricing Plan

So how much does all this cost? For corporate customers, the subscription starts at $1,200 a year per person, but discounts apply based on payment plan and the number of team members. Also, individuals can get a discounted plan for around $60 per month. How much value is assigned to a customer will help determine whether this product is worth the price.

LinkedIn anticipated its users may be wary and annoyed about receiving sales pitches. Block rates and other statistics were closed watched during the pilot phase. Furthermore, Sales Navigator users are limited to 25 targeted emails (aka InMails) per month to control spam. LinkedIn users can also decline connection requests and block members.

You or your sales team are probably already using LinkedIn in some respect but still using a multitude of tools. Sales Navigator could simplify the process so your salespeople can focus on selling. This new product is presently available for desktop and mobile web with plans for mobile apps.


5 Common Mobile App Marketing Mistakes

The Apple slogan “There’s an app for that” has become a part of everyday speech and is true for so very much. Every company appears to have a mobile app or is at least seriously thinking about building one. However, many companies are making very basic mobile app marketing mistakes. Avoid these five common errors for successful mobile app marketing.

Building a Mobile App Without a Reason

Just because so many other companies have mobile apps does not mean your company should. Take time to think it through. A mobile app deserves the same strategic consideration as any other aspect of your marketing. Make sure it complements your digital and physical brand experience. Most importantly, a mobile app needs to provide value to the users.

No Mobile Marketing Plan

You cannot rely on the Field of Dreams method of marketing. People will not instinctively know you have a mobile app. Multiple methods are available to market your app. For example, you can leverage your digital presence with website links, social media mentions, email lists and pop-up notifications on your mobile site. I found out about a department store’s app from a simple door sign. App stores are also common marketing outlets, but you need to optimize the app’s title, keywords and description.

Walgreens prominently places its mobile app notice in its left hand navigation:

Walgreens Mobile App Website Notice

Mistaking a Mobile Site for a Mobile App

A mobile website and a mobile app are two different digital assets. Unfortunately, so many mobile experiences are smaller versions of the desktop experience. The smaller screen requires you to focus on what is essential, the core tasks. Unlike mobile sites, mobile apps can also provide unique features like directions from a user’s current location.

The current NewsChannel5 Nashville app is an example of what not to do. As you can see, you are directed to the website when you open the app. I have since switched to using their primary local competitor’s app:

NewsChannlel5 Nashville mobile app pic

User Retention

How many mobile apps have you downloaded and only used a few times? A large number of downloads means zilch if very few people are using it. If you understand what people want from your app, you can keep users. I use GasBuddy to find the best gasoline prices near me, especially when traveling. Further, create reasons for users to engage with exclusive content, benefits and special features. I kept my Macy’s app longer than expected because I could use it for price checking sale items that often get mixed in with other items. App updates also remind people about your mobile app.

Two-way Communication

Most user feedback is presently done via ratings and reviews at app stores. That does not allow for issues or questions to be directly addressed. In today’s hyper-connected world, people expect to be able to directly communicate with brands. Add a way for people to provide in-app reviews or feedback. This way you can handle problems and questions before a user gets so frustrated that he or she leave a review or rating at an app store that you cannot address. You also gain insights into how people are using your mobile app and how to improve it.

Avoid these five common mistakes when creating your mobile app marketing campaign if you want to be successful mobile app marketing. Instead, carefully plan your campaign, include user-friendly features, allow user interaction and foster app retention. Happy mobile app marketing!

Facebook Introduces “Buy” Button

Will people make ecommerce purchases inside the Facebook platform? Maybe.

Recently, Facebook started allowing people to make ecommerce purchases from a group of U.S. small and medium-sized businesses without leaving its page or app. These businesses can place a “Buy” call-to-action button on ads and Page posts. The companies can use this feature for free, but Facebook is reserving the option to change to a pay model. Facebook states that the feature was built with privacy in mind. None of people’s payment information will be shared with other advertisers, and people will have option of storing the information for future purchases.

 

Facebook Buy Button-Modify Watches Ad

If successful, this feature could be a boon for marketers. Customers can complete the entire transaction within Facebook. The lower friction means a possible increase in conversion rates. Who wouldn’t want a chance to increase sales? As Josh Constine of TechCrunch wrote, “It’s like the candy they sell in the grocery line. You’re already at checkout with your credit card out, so it’s easy to make an impulse purchase.”

Shortly after this announcement was made, MSN.com conducted an unscientific survey:

Facebook Buy Button-MSN.com poll results

This survey does not represent a large enough sample to be truly representative. Therefore, I looked at the comments on articles about this feature for greater understanding. For the most part, commenters agreed with the basic results of this survey. However, many marketers have great hope for this latest by Facebook to enter ecommerce.

So what obstacles does the Facebook “Buy” button face?

  • People are on Facebook to be social.
    People are on Facebook to catch up with friends and family and share photos and memes. They are not in the buying mindset. Facebook will need to tap into impulse buying to get people used to purchasing on its platform and have people save their payment information.
  • Facebook has a privacy/trust issue with users.
    Facebook has a long history of tension with its users over privacy and trust. The latest issue involved its psychological experiment carried out on 689,003 users’ newsfeeds. Facebook directly collects a tremendous amount of information on its users and buys more data from third parties. Will people trust it not to misuse or sell information? What about a data breach involving saved payment information?
  • Increased reliance on customer reviews
    People are increasingly looking at customer reviews before making purchases, especially more complex or expensive ones. This feature does not offer the opportunity to look at reviews. Users may be more likely to make a purchase if they are already engaged with a brand or have already decided to make a particular purchase.

Time will tell if this latest ecommerce effort by Facebook will succeed. As a consumer, I will not use it. However, as a marketer I cannot write it off yet. Consumers may now be ready for ecommerce on social networks.

Video and Your SEO Strategy

Video SEOVideo is an ever increasingly important part of content and inbound marketing. In fact, more than 100 hours of videos are uploaded every minute to YouTube alone by individuals and businesses. Imagine if you add other video-sharing sites and company and personal sites. With such a crowded field, how do you stand out in results?

Whether your goals are rich snippets, conversions, brand awareness or link and social shares, techniques exist to get your videos noticed.

Solve Problems and Provide Information

Cute cat videos are great (like the one below), but few companies benefit from producing them. So how do you come up with video content? Put yourself in your customers’ position. What problems do they face? How can you solve them? What information do they need to better understand your products or services? These questions are a great starting point for creating content that is relevant in searches. Also, look at your FAQ page and customer feedback for more possible topics. The video itself can take many forms, such as an interview, animation, product demonstration or screen views. Be creative.

Organize Videos for Easy Browsing and Indexing

Knowing a site or video-sharing has the video with the information you need is great if you can find it. If not, it’s an exercise in frustration. Use categories and tags to help people find what they need. A long list of videos on your site or a hodgepodge of videos on a video-sharing sharing channel is not conducive to video views. If self-hosting, use separate landing pages so search engines can index each video. Again, think about what keywords people will use to search through your video collection.

Use Interactive Elements

Use interactive elements to create calls-to-action at key points. Such elements capture your viewers’ attention and can drive them to take specific actions. Elements can include social sharing, in-video links, forms, surveys, subscriptions, YouTube annotations and other such CTAs. As technology evolves, the list of possible CTA elements will grow.

Use Relevant Metadata

Depending on where you host the videos different metadata applies. Titles should include keywords. Use relevant categories and tags. If hosted on your website, use hidden tags in the HTML code of your video landing pages, especially Facebook’s OpenGraph tags, Schema.org’s microdata tags and possibly Twitter Card tags. Also, include detailed descriptions of the video’s content. On YouTube, you can create rather long ones and include a URL back to your domain. Add closed captioning on YouTube if you have the time to create your own.

Offer Video Transcriptions

Add transcriptions of your video directly on the pages where your videos are hosted. Not only do they allow people the option to read when they cannot watch but provide indexable content for search engines. Transcriptions can also be used to create blog posts, slide presentations and other content.

Video Hosting

Should you host your videos on your own website or a third-party site? Some experts advise clients to host videos directly on their own sites. Other experts, like Crescent Interactive, advise posting directly on YouTube because they feel the SEO impact is minimal. However, video hosting does not have to be an either/or proposition. Some videos may be best suited for your website, such as conversion-focused ones. You will need to decide between the benefits and risks of the two options.

If you host videos on your own domain, you can easily use rich snippets, send SEO juice to your own domain, keep people on your site and have higher conversion rates. However, videos can slow down your site’s load speed and require additional storage. Also, you risk lower exposure and social shares.

Hosting on YouTube gives the benefit of being on a Google owned video-sharing platform. The potential for exposures and shares is very high if your video is well-produced with great descriptions and strong organization. Video-sharing sites are suitable for top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) videos. Unfortunately, SEO benefits go to YouTube or other video-sharing sites, not to your domain.

So what are you waiting for? Start creating videos and reap the associated SEO benefits. Be creative about ways to reach your audience.

10 Blogs You Should Be Following

writing-fountain pen

photo credit: matsuyuki via photopin cc

Keeping up with a fast changing world and spotting trends is no easy task. I follow a bazillion (or is it gazillion?) blogs on different aspects of marketing, social media and business/entrepreneurship. The blog post emails are blowing up my inbox as I write. I could spend all day reading them and learning more and more but then wouldn’t get to implement what I learned for my clients or myself.

So you don’t have to decipher where to start I have gathered a list of 10 blogs I follow and why. Picking a list of my favorites is impossible so I simply scanned my inbox. Some of these blogs are written primarily by one person while others are written by large teams.

Chris Brogan @chrisbrogan

Chris Brogan, CEO of Human Business Works, provides business, marketing and sales insights along with personal development advice. His posts often arrive at exactly the right time I need the information or a kick in the pants. You also definitely need to sign up for his weekly newsletter. It’s a great way to start your Sunday. His laidback, conversational style is genuine and makes you feel like you are talking with a longtime friend. He also has a podcast for those who don’t like to read. I can’t wait to read his latest book, Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.

Gini Dietrich / Spin Sucks @ginidietrich

When I first encountered Gini Dietrich, I thought Spin Sucks was only for public relations professionals. However, much more is discussed on Spin Sucks for both the PR and marketing professional, including branding and social media. Not only are the posts well-written and informative but the discussions are thoughtful. Along with writing her own posts, she has fabulous guess bloggers and hosts Livefyre discussions. Also, for some fun, she writes a weekly post called Gin and Topics. These posts contain five videos that she finds or are submitted to her.

Derek Halpern / Social Triggers @derekhalpern

Ever wonder about the psychology behind how people behave online? Derek has the lowdown. His blog will help turn people into loyal subscribers, increase sales and grow a website’s reach. Along with text posts, he does a lot of short videos, and I also love finding out which freeze frame facial expression he’ll have. He has a straightforward, passionate approach and backs up his information with extensive research from top academicians and experts.

HubSpot @HubSpot

HubSpot has a large team of writers covering all areas of marketing. They provide best practices, tips and hacks for marketers of all levels. Along with blog posts, they offer multiple whitepapers, templates, case studies and other freebies you won’t want to miss. If you have a marketing question, they likely have a post with an answer. Oh, and I hear the HubSpot marketing platform is great, too.

Jon Loomer @jonloomer

Jon Loomer talks about all things Facebook. He writes about best practices and explains in detail how to do Facebook advertising. When anything changes on Facebook, he is on top of it and often talking about it in advance. He is my go-to source. I even has his Facebook image dimensions post bookmarked.

MarketingProfs Today @Marketing Profs

Ann Handley and her great team bring a wealth of marketing information through its blog. I don’t think there’s a marketing-related topic they don’t cover. You also get access  to free webinars, case studies and whitepapers. I’ve attended some of the webinars and have been impressed.

The Moz @Moz

The Moz writing team brings a  great deal of information, tips and tricks about content marketing, analytics, SEO, email marketing and social media. I find it to be a great resource personally and when I’m writing blog articles.

Mark Schaefer / {grow} @markwschaefer

Mark Schaefer is the author of the classic book The Tao of Twitter along with great books. He writes about digital marketing, social media, marketing strategy and business. His insight into what’s happening in those areas is valuable. While I don’t always agree with his opinion pieces, he does make me think; that’s always good.

Marcus Sheridan / The Sales Lion @TheSalesLion

Marcus Sheridan writes about inbound and content marketing, social media and branding for businesses. He got started with online marketing when he started blogging as a way to save his pool business. I love how he shares his personal experiences both good and bad. It makes you feel that you can also  have the same success. When I’m not reading his blog posts, I catch his Mad Marketing podcast.

Social Media Examiner @SocMed_examiner

Social Media Examiner’s writers provide information on how companies can maximize their use of social media, blogs and podcasts. Along with articles, this blog provides expert interviews, case studies and industry research reviews. I often go to this site to find an answer to a specific social media question.

This list could go on and on. I strongly encourage you to explore these blogs and many other great blogs that are out there. Don’t just read what they post online. Subscribe to their blogs for additional information. Where did I learn about these blogs? Twitter. So, yes, social media works.

Aren’t SEO and SEM the Same?

runner-finish line_SEO_SEMOften search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are used in ways that make it difficult to tell them apart, especially since they are both used to drive website traffic and brand awareness. Though they both involve online marketing, one is like a marathon and one is like a sprint.

Search Engine Optimization: The Marathon

Search engine optimization is the act of optimizing a website and other online content through the use of keywords and website development to increase organic search listings. It is a cost-effective method and is one aspect of search engine marketing. Regardless of search engine algorithm changes, SEO consists of on- and off-page activities. To be truly effective, they must be done consistently and long-term. Results will not be instantaneous.

Sample On-Page Activities

  • Clean, SEO-friendly URLs
  • Natural keyword inclusion in title tags, meta descriptions, alt text, heading tags, etc.
  • Image optimization
  • Inclusion of social sharing options of content
  • Quality blog posts and other web content
  • Fast page load speed
  • Use of Google Authorship
  • Internal linking

Sample Off-Page Activites

  • Create quality backlinks
  • Social bookmarking (e.g., StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious)
  • Social media
  • Reviews on Google+, Yelp and other sites
  • Local directories

Search Engine Marketing: The Sprint

According to Wikipedia, search engine marketing is a “form of Internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages through optimization and advertising.” As you see, SEM contains SEO and pay-per-click (PPC); it’s an umbrella term. Search engine marketing adds a paid component via paid inclusion and trusted feed programs and pay-for-placement management.

Because of this combination SEM provides you with immediate exposure to your desired audience. The PPC aspect can be cost effective for even small companies when done correctly, which includes using SEO. When done incorrectly, it can be a costly lesson. It is best to hire a professional who has a thorough understanding of search engine marketing.

As a search marketing company, Crescent Interactive is uniquely qualified to help you make the most of your online marketing efforts. Don’t make that costly error I mentioned.

 

Say Hello to Google My Business – an Integrated Business Services Interface

No more switching between services to keep your company’s Google presence updated. Yay! Google recently launched a new business services interface, Google My Business. This new product will improve a business’ ability to be found by customers on different devices and services and business owners to showcase their companies across Google Search, Google Maps and Google+. Current users of Places for Business and the Google+ dashboard will be automatically upgraded. Though focused on local businesses, Google My Business is also available to non-local businesses.

(Did you notice the spotlight on Nashville businesses? Cool, huh?)

And, yes, there will be an app for that. An Android version has already been released with an iOS version promised by the end of the month. Here’s how it looks on Android phones:

Google My Business-Android App ViewFrom the Google My Business page, you can sign in if you have a Google account or click the “Get On Google” to get started. You can then find a business page you have not claimed, go to pages you manage or take advantage of the service as a non-local business. Google will add your information to Google Search, Google Maps and Google+.

Google My Business-Find Your Business View

If you already have pages, you will be taken to your Google+ dashboard where you can choose which page profile to manage:

Google My Business-Pages

What can you do with this new interface?

  • Edit business information, including contact information, business description, hours, website, URL, directions and more.
  • Manage online reputation by seeing reviews from across the web, responding to Google reviews and tracking ratings
  • Post updates, news and other information to your Google+ page
  • Manage your information from anywhere with the app
  • Showcase your business products and services with photos, videos and virtual tours
  • Understand how people find and interact with your business using Insights and integration with AdWords Express
  • Engage directly with customers through Google Hangouts
  • Gain social proof / recommendation via +1’s, comments and page follows
  • Manage multiple locations from one place with a simple bulk location management tool, Google My Business Locations

Many page managers, including myself, are delighted to see Insights added to the mix.

Google My Business-View of Insights
Insights provides key information, including:

  • Visibility: All time total, photo, and post reviews and page impression trends
  • Engagement: Type of posts getting the highest level of Google+ engagement
  • Audience: Overview of your follower demographics

A full list of metrics can be downloaded at http://goo.gl/p06NWS or http://goo.gl/tAwPnW.  

Many companies have avoided Google+ and other Google offerings. Some companies have a cursory SEO Google+ plan. Will these changes to the dashboard and the inclusion of Insights change how companies view Google’s business offerings? Will it change yours?


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