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Social Media Marketing

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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?

The Greatest Tweets and Highlights from the AdWords PPC Innovation Broadcast

Today Google announced “exciting” AdWords updates and new products via a live stream.

The Twitter hashtag for the announcements was #StepInsideAdWords, but the best place to get expert analysis and live Tweeting hilarity was happening on #ppcchat.

When there is an AdWords PPC announcement, there is a large number of people sitting on the edge of our office chairs (or fit ball) waiting to hear how it will affect our PPC strategies, campaign management, and everyday work-arounds that are part of PPC management. 

This tweet pretty much summed out how we were all handling our pre-announcement anxiety. 

As usual, there was a lot of anticipation leading up to the announcement today, especially when the promo about the announcement said that they were going to introduce “10+ new products.”

The AdWords PPC announcement started off a little slow, which is hard for those of us who are on the spazzy side. There was a 1-minute spiel about the history of radio, and advertising on the radio (hence the use of “broadcast” in the title of this post. Hehe.)

(Come to think of it…Google may have mentioned radio because they know we jump at every announcement. Thanks for messing with us, Google.)

Anyway, let’s move on to the good stuff  – The Next Generation of Advertising Innovations!

If you will recall, this time last year was all about AdWords “Enhanced” campaigns which essentially allowed for varying bidding strategies based on device within one campaign. This was a big change for most PPC managers who had separate campaigns, campaign settings and campaign strategies when targeting computers, tablets, or mobile devices separately.

Changes are hard, so this wasn’t best-received change, but we dealt with it and all got over it and have continued to rock AdWords PPC campaigns. 

It was a little scary during the announcement when they said that “it’s no longer about devices.” 

Larry Kim and Keanu described how a lot of us felt after that was said. 

That brought Google to one of the first AdWords PPC innovations/revelations –  “it’s not about devices, it’s about people.” Which could also mean, “how do we find potential customers and connect with them, no matter what device they are using, every time?”

Google’s solution for this – app marketing! Specifically, marketing your app so that people will not only download it, but use it, and use it often. 

There are 3 innovations specific to apps marketing that were discussed:

  1. AdWords will be able to help you discover users that have download a similar app to yours, and market to them.
  2. Re-engage searchers who currently have the app on their device, and send them to a specific page or search result on the app from an AdWords ad.
  3. Measure and learn from overall app engagement.

This news wasn’t as exciting as hoped for a few reasons; the first one being the fact that that “over 80% of downloaded apps are used once” (as stated by Google today!) The other is that a lot of businesses don’t create apps because it doesn’t make sense for them. Would you download (let alone use) an app for a service that you only need to use few times a year?

Moving on from apps, it was time for the fun stuff, the stuff that we’ve all been waiting for – BULK ACTIONS in ADWORDS and INTELLIGENT, ENHANCED REPORTING in the ADWORDS INTERFACE!

While this is exciting, some of us thought that it would be more “bigger picture” innovations like: 

Next in the live stream, Google said that they have been listening to PPC managers and knows that we can’t (and don’t) do all of our work in the AdWords interface.

So to keep us on the site (or under their control?), AdWords has new tools for managing and getting the most out of PPC campaigns which they referred to as “power tools.”

The AdWords Power Tools:

  1. Drafts: like a shopping cart, draft mode within the interface will allow for review before changes go live. (Also known as one of the best features of AdWords Editor.)
  2. Experiments: the ability to create and run experiments against live campaigns before making major changes, as well as measuring against live, real world data.
  3. Bulk Actions: set up and change settings and targeting across multiple campaigns. (Another reason why Editor is awesome.)
  4. Automated Bidding: a way to maximize conversions and sales. (This was kind of scary, but they didn’t get into it too much.)

The best Tool of all, the biggest, best part of the announcement was the addition of fancy-pants reporting and formatting within the AdWords interface!

Instead of the usual ritual of downloading AdWords reports, throwing them into an Excel Spreadsheet, then deleting columns, formatting cells, entering special formulas, we will be able to do that within the interface. 

The idea is to create useful reports that help us to analyze the data and to make campaign decisions, which isn’t something that has been flexible or easy within AdWords itself.

The new reporting acts much like Pivot Tables, and there is the ability to create pie charts, line graphs, tables, bar charts, and fun visuals of the like using a drag and drop feature. 

What’s also cool about the new reporting is that the data will be live, real-time data; who doesn’t like that? While some of us have created PPC reports using live-data for our clients, it will be interesting to see how responsive it is and how PPC managers will use it. 

What key take aways did you have from today’s AdWord’s announcement?

Did you live Tweet with your friends too?

Watch the live stream now for all of the fun innovations and updates :

“Jerry Dischler, come on doooooown!”

5 Lessons Crutches Can Teach Online Marketers

crutches-lessons for online marketersIf you have ever used crutches for a while, you know it isn’t easy. Neither is online marketing. While recently forced to use crutches, I realize that several lessons I learned were applicable to online marketing.

First Lesson: Patience

Learning to use crutches took me a couple days. I had to learn the basic movements, how to transition from different floor surfaces and how to keep bobbles from turning into falls.

In a world where we expect immediate results, we need to understand that quality online marketing results do not happen overnight. Sure you could buy an email list or Twitter followers, but that won’t benefit you in the long run. Some results come faster than others, but with strategy development , buyer persona creation, A/B testing and other activities, most results take some time. For many of my clients, I advise them to give strategies enough time to work. Of course, there are always exceptions and some tweaks as the business environment changes.

Second Lesson: Persistence

Some of my crutch use efforts were not immediately successful. I knew I was close. For example, getting up from a low couch was especially difficult. I had to determine the right timing and the correct sequence of muscles that needed to activate to get up.

With online marketing, we may have everything lined up, but our activities are not providing the expected results. What’s going wrong? Keep trying. Keep testing your assumptions and tracking your metrics. You’ll likely find the the right combination of elements that will get you the results you need.

Third Lesson: Balance

Obviously, having good balance is vital to using crutches. I credit my Iyengar yoga training for keeping me upright through proper alignment and proprioception along with a few new tricks of my own.

Sometimes if you have expertise or success in one area of online marketing, you tend to focus all of your efforts on one tactic or strategy instead of creating a balanced plan. However, not every customer or situation calls for the same type of PPC ad, social media message, blog post or other communication. Or maybe you want to try something new, like several clients of mine who simply want to jump headlong into social media at the expense of everything else. Like me, you have to adapt what you know and add other tactics or strategies. Spread out your efforts an appropriate amount like a tripod, not a stilt or an octopus.

Fourth Lesson: A Strong Core

Using crutches uses a lot of upper body strength but also a lot of core strength. Your core is vital to your overall balance. Now, a human’s core is made of different tissues and bones working together.

Your marketing campaign also needs a strong core with all the elements necessary to implement your plan, and these elements must be integrated. If a part is missing or not properly integrated, the core strength of your online marketing plan is compromised. You have enough working against you for your customers’ attention; don’t sabotage your own efforts.

Fifth Lesson: Know When to Change

After eight days of crutches, I was too worn out to safely use them. Therefore, I made the decision to rent a knee walker, which is more stable, and supplement with crutches.

Sometimes no matter how solid your plan, testing and all might be you have to scratch most, if not all, of your online marketing plans and start over. Thoroughly evaluate what went wrong, get some advice and start over. If you learn from your efforts and don’t give up, then you haven’t failed; you’re just one step closer to success.

Take a moment to learn, discover and explore lessons that can be found in everyday experiences and applied to online marketing. Yeah, stop right now and think of one or two. The experience of using crutches is only one possible source. You might be surprised at what’s out there.

When Brand Advocates Make a Social Media Crisis Worse

brand advocate-social media crisisCompanies fear a social media crisis and actively search and cultivate brand advocates. But what do you do when your brand advocates, your most ardent fans, worsen a social media crisis?

One moment your social media efforts are moving along great and then something happens or threatens to happen. For example, the crisis could be an inadvertent, offensive personal tweet on the company account, like the negative President Obama tweet on the Kitchenaid account last year. You activate your crisis communications plan. (You have one, right?) Between your efforts and your brand advocates, the situation is dealt with swiftly and appropriately. Whew!

Then, BOOM! Just as your blood pressure starts to return to normal some of your more vocal brand advocates restart the crisis. The crisis may start slowly or quickly but restart it does. Words are flying fast as advocates and detractors fight online. Now the problem starts to jump to other social media outlets and threatens to go further.

You cannot just stand there like a deer in the headlights. You have to do something, but what? As usual, it depends on the situation and the specific parties involved. You have multiple options and different levels of intervention:

  • Do nothing.

Doing nothing is always a choice. The reignited crisis could die down on its own. However, this option is risky because the situation could get worse and completely out of control. Use with extreme caution.

  • Restart crisis communications plan.

If you choose to do something, you definitely want to take this step. Handle the crisis as you did before. The only twist is dealing with overzealous brand advocates.

  • Contact the primary brand advocates involved.

Privately, you can contact the primary people involved. Let them know you appreciate them coming to your defense and you know they are operating with the best intentions. However, ask them to partner with the company and let it take over resolving the situation. You may even be able to get them to apologize for their tone or word choice. This message must be carefully written as to not lose the advocates and should be drafted prior to such a situation occurring.

  • Reiterate any posted social media policies.

If you have guidelines posted for expected behavior, make sure people know the policies apply to everyone – pro or con. If not, advise them what kind of behavior you expect and the consequences of ignoring them.

  • Make a public statement.

Make a public statement that the comments being made are those of individuals and not company representatives. The, state your position per your guidelines. Start with the social media channel where the crisis reignited and then other outlets.

  • Turn off comments.

On some social media channels, like LinkedIn, you can turn off further comments to discussions when your efforts to bring civility or finality fail. A brief statement before doing so may help all parties understand your actions.

Most of these tactics can be used simultaneously. Please understand that when you interact with your advocates they are advocates and partners, not trolls. Frustration can easily skew your viewpoint. Resist it. They are causing problems at the moment, but you will need them in the long run.

Now don’t let such a potential situation scare you away from social media or from finding and cultivating brand advocates. They are an integral part of your marketing efforts. Simply be aware that with the positive can come some negative. However, the positives of brand advocates far outweigh the potential negatives.

Have you ever had such a situation? What did you do? What worked and what failed?

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

70% of Mobile Searchers Use the Click to Call Function

Shopping, researching, and searching for products or services online using multiple devices is becoming more and more common, but phone calls are still an important part of the buying process.

In fact, Google reports that paid search ads send over 40 million calls each month, and 70% of mobile searchers report that they click to call directly from the results making it the most used feature on a mobile search results page.

To understand the role of click to call in the buying process, Google teamed with Ipsos Research and surveyed 3,000 mobile searchers who had recently made a purchase from one of seven business verticals: travel, restaurant, auto, local services, retails, finance and technology.

The research found that click to call is important for all business verticals, but when it came to searching for local services, 76% of the group would use the click to call function to schedule an appointment.

Not only is the click to call function an easy way for searchers to connect with a business, AdWords advertisers that use click to call in a paid ad see an increase of 8% in click through rates.

Additionally, three out of four calls sent from mobile paid search ads lasted longer than 30 seconds, and on average longer than 6 minutes. This means that calls from paid ads were not quick informational calls, but longer conversations to gather information or make a transaction. And 61% of participants found it “extremely important” to be able to call the business during the decision making phase of the buying process.

The research also found that the lack of a phone number in search results, either paid or organic, also effects brand perception. Half of research participants said that the lack of a call option makes them frustrated and more likely to find another option. On top of that, 33% of participants noted that they would be less likely to use the brand, or refer a friend to it without the click to call option.

Is click to call part of your mobile marketing strategy? If not, it should be! Contact us; let’s increase the volume of valuable calls to your business starting today.

The Power of Content Calendars for Blogging

Blank screen. Blinking cursor. Blank mind. Deadline looming.

Ever find yourself scrambling for a blog post topic? Don’t worry you aren’t alone.

However, having a content calendar will help eliminate this last minute panic and integrate content and inbound marketing efforts.

Many people only write when they are inspired or think of a topic to write about. Unfortunately, this approach does not further your marketing strategy nor does it create loyal readers and brand advocates. In fact, this approach is haphazard at best.

A calendar not only eliminates the last minute panic but provides many other values, such as:

  • Helps you focus on your audience’s needs and interests.
  • Helps you provide greater value to your audience.
  • Forces you to think longer term.
  • Improves integration of marketing efforts.
  • Sets audience expectations.
  • Creates loyal readers and brand advocates.
  • Creating content once but using it across mediums.

When you start creating your content calendar, try for three months of material and expand from there. Three months may sound like a lot, but you will be surprised at once you can come up with once you start brainstorming.

Focus more on creating and promoting quality content than creating as much content as possible. For example, Derek Halpern of Social Triggers only does a handful of posts a month, but skillful promotion of that high quality content resulted in huge subscriber numbers and loyalty in just two years. Also, include on your calendar due dates for drafts, graphics, etc., especially if you are working on a team.

Now let’s get down to specifics – post topics. First and foremost, the blog is about your audience, not about you or your company.

If you are struggling for possible topics, here are some suggestions:

  • Answer your audience’s most frequent asked questions about your products, services or industry.
  • Compare your product or service to a competitor’s (pros and cons).
  • Discuss product, service or industry trends.
  • Do a broad overview post and then break it down into an in-depth series.
  • Adapt your social media or traditional marketing content to your blog and vice versa.
  • Testimonials.
  • Guest posts (external or internal).
  •  Think of related topics of interest to your audience (e.g., environmental issues for outdoor enthusiasts).
  • New view on a hot or much discussed industry topic.
  • Product or service launch.

Expose yourself to numerous topics and experiences, and then use them to create posts that relate to your audience. Your salespeople, social media and blog comments can provide you with additional ideas. If you do not want to write, try a video or meme. Keep asking yourself, “If I was a a customer subscribing to this blog, what would I want to read about? What would I want to know?”

Once you have a calendar of topics, set aside a specific time to write. If you are like me, you will fall back into the “when I get around to it” mode otherwise. Feel free to outline, draft or write more than one post at a time. Store them up like a squirrel does nuts for the winter. With several completed posts available, all you have to do is publish and promote them when the time comes. What a relief!

Do you use a content calendar? What has been your experience?

7 Reasons Why You Should Invest in PPC Marketing

Are you one of those businesses that has tired PPC marketing, but didn’t work for you? Or maybe it worked for a month then just “dropped off?”

Like anything that is worth it, PPC takes time, and when set up and continually managed well, it CAN be a profitable avenue.

Here are the top reasons that your business should invest in PPC (or try it again) and make it part of your marketing strategy.

You can see the actual numbers. 
One of the greatest downfalls of traditional marketing is that there is no way to know for sure how many people saw an advertisement and how many of those viewers made an action after seeing it. With AdWords PPCs not only is it possible to know ad impressions, clicks, conversions, and specific metrics, Google has also recently earned Media Rating Council accreditation  for their ability to measure viewability for one of their newer products.

You can’t be everywhere all of the time.
As a small business owner, you can’t be an expert at everything; it’s just not possible. It is worth your time to partner with an expert who has proven success record and who is active in the PPC industry. Google AdWords updates their platform very often, sometimes daily, so find a PPC expert that keeps up on trends so they can consistently optimize your campaigns and your bottom line.

You can buy  phrases that you don’t organically rank for.
Optimizing a site to rank well organically for keywords that convert is the ultimate goal, but if your site isn’t showing on the first page of results it’s probably not getting as much traffic as you need. Utilize a  PPC strategy  to target keywords that your site can’t organically rank for.

Buy more space on the results page.
Double your real estate on the search results page by purchasing keywords that you do rank well for, thereby doubling the chance of a click and a conversion.

PPC can be affordable.
You don’t need a large budget to compete in PPC. When managed well the CPA for PPC can be relatively low. And unlike other forms of marketing, the ROI can be measured with PPC.

Get a quick response from PPC.
PPC’s campaigns can easily be paused if your company no longer offers a product, or ads can be immediately updated based on your inventory, business trends, or unexpected situations. It only takes an email to your skilled PPC partner who can immediately update the campaigns.

AdWords Targeting options that WILL reach your customers.
PPC affords you the opportunity to reach relevant customers based on very targeted specifics including: location (down to a zip code), search intent, search time of day, device used to search (tablet, computer, mobile), and a slew of other options. AdWords is also actively rolling out upgrades and expanding the platform to include Social signals (Google+), advertising options on mobile apps, and bid adjustments based on a assortment of factors.

Skilled PPC agencies will ensure that you are visible to customers at the right time during their decision process and buying cycles

Beat the other guys.
Your competitors are investing in PPC and capturing your customers, let’s go get them back!

Getting to Know Your New PPC Account

At some point in time as a PPC manager you inherit an account. It may be from another agency or from an independent contractor, and it may be because the client was unhappy with the results, wants to change things up, or it’s an internal switch.

Like any successful relationship, the key is to honestly communicate from the start to establish trust between the yourself and the client. It is worth taking the time to get to know the client and how you can best impact the account and their business.

Ask Questions and Get to Know the Business
Having an in-depth conversation to clearly understand the client’s goals, expected results and expectations is the first step. PPC is just one piece of marketing, so understanding how it fits into their overall business strategy and knowing what factors affect their bottom line is essential.

Get to know the business specifics like:

  • Is there a seasonality to the business?
  • What is the sales cycle? A week, a month, a few hours?
  • What is the average value of a sale?
  • What is the average value of a lead?
  • Who is their target market? Who matters to them?
  • Who is the competition?
  • What is the brand known for?
  • What marketing messaging has been successful in the past?
  • What has been unsuccessful in the past, what have they learned?

Establish Metrics for Success
Understand the KPI’s of the business so together you can develop realistic goals that will enhance the bottom line. What their established KPI measurements are and what they should be aren’t always align, so work together to create practical goals for the short term and long term. I prefer 1 month, 6 month and 12 month goals, which can be update as the campaign moves forward.

Understand the sales process of your client including:  

  • What is considered an online conversion? An online sale, a sign-up, perhaps a phone call?
  • What is the average number of conversions per week, per month? How many of those are driven from PPC vs. other channels?
  • How do you measure success, is it reasonable?
  • What are the benchmarks they want to achieve in the next month, 6 months and year?
  • What reporting do they prefer? Weekly or monthly emails and updates? In-depth reviews?

Jump Into It
Once you know the business, understand their goals and the metrics that the PPC campaign will be measured on, it’s time to jump and review the campaign itself.

Don’t make changes just yet, now is the time to take notes and learn about the account in its current state:

  • Take note of campaign and ad group structures.
  • Run reports on top keywords, look for trends. 
  • Do an audit of both duplicate keywords and negative keywords.
  • Review campaign settings including ad scheduling, geo targeting, device settings, networks, bid types and budgets.
  • Review keywords and match types.
  • Test and take note of landing pages.
  • Check to see what ad extensions are in play.
  • Review dimensions of each campaign and ad group.
  • Check display network audiences, topics, placements and exclusions.

Take notes about the campaigns and write down questions that you have for the client. This is also the time to export reports, and take snapshots of dashboards or KPIs so you can create campaign benchmarks to measure against in the future.

With clear communication, research and planning, you can start off on the right foot to being campaign cleanup and optimization.

Why no one knows what you offer

One of the more colorful moments during a recent small business marketing presentation came when someone mentioned their biggest challenge was that people didn’t seem to know all they offered. It seemed everyone could relate. It didn’t help later when I asked if anyone in the room sold life insurance and my friend, who I knew sold home and auto insurance, very exasperatedly said “Well, duh!”

Even though you spend all day, every day, dealing with the minutia of all the things your business can do, most fail to let their prospects and customers know about what they can do. In short, you’re leaving money on the table. Prospects and customers are going elsewhere because they do not know what they can get from you.

If you’re not sure if this applies to you, start listening to your customers. Are you hearing them say anything that sounds like, “I didn’t know you did that.” When prospects and customers are surprised to hear you offer something they didn’t expect you to offer, this applies to you.

service questions
Of course you make sure prospects know where to find you, your hours, what great customer service you offer and this month’s specials, but do you really lay it out there for them to see. Apparently most do not.

When considering all the options to remedy this situation, the simplest is to simply start mentioning your offerings in your customer and prospect messaging. Email signatures, newsletters, advertising, signage and even invoices can be used to provide “Did you know we also offer …” messages. But be wise when doing this. Don’t pile everything on at once. Mention each of your less-known offerings one-at-a-time. Let them stand on their own. This will give them the greatest chance to be recognized by their best prospects.

A more effective method is likely to come from your sales force. They should be making prospects and customers aware of additional offerings when prospecting and doing post-sale follow ups. This is especially effective after you’ve earned their trust with your primary offering.

It will take getting the word out *repeatedly* in emails, newsletters, advertising, signage, etc. and then making sure your direct sales efforts include cross-selling everything you do when appropriate. This won’t be an overnight fix. And it will require ongoing support and emphasis from management.

So remember, just because you spend every waking hour dealing with all that comes with what you do, it doesn’t mean anyone else knows what you do. You still have to tell them.

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