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Excellent Penn & Teller program on multi-level marketing. BTW, NSFW. Those who are easily offended, shouldn’t watch it. Any of it. Not one minute…..

As Penn & Teller rightly point out….

Easy Money Is BS

These multi-level marketing schemes aren’t limited to home parties for sex toys, BBQ accessories, and household cleaners, of course. They are rife on the internet. If you’ve spent any time in internet marketing circles, you’ll have seen hundreds, no doubt.

Worst business ever.

What Is Multi Level Marketing?

Multilevel marketing is where the salesperson sells items on commission – with a twist. The real “opportunity” – supposedly – is to be had recruiting a downline. A downline consists of other commission-only salespeople who try to recruit other commission-only salespeople. And so on. Some may even sell a few products!

Apparently you’re not allowed to refer to the triangular-shaped Egyptian icon anymore….

The Problem With Any Marketing Opportunity

One major problem with MLM, or any market opportunity, be it affiliate or otherwise, is the size of the market.

All markets are limited. All markets are limited because the number of people is finite. Some markets are significantly more limited than others. For example, the number of people who have K, or whatever, to spend on, say, a rapid-mass-cash-code-instant-money-generator is quite small.

That isn’t to say there isn’t money to be made, however the more people trying to flick products, or recruit a downline, and the more people trying to rank well in the SERPS, the less chance a paying customer will arrive via any one site. Claims about making a lot of easy money on-selling such products, therefore, should be taken with a large grain of salt.

Evaluating Market Size And Potential

Over-hyped marketing opportunities often fail because they attempt to sell commodity product into very saturated markets. Or, there may be very little demand for the end product. If there was a lot of demand, surely they’d invest money in experienced salespeople in order to grab market share ahead of competitors.

So how do you size up a market, MLM or otherwise?

If there was an easy way, well….life would be too easy :) Really, it all comes down to some educated guesswork.

Here’s one simple way of thinking about it:

Market size = the number of buyers in the market x quantity of product purchased buyers in the market per year x price per unit

You could get a rough idea of the number of buyers by looking at search volume against keywords you deem to have some level of buyer intent. Estimating the quantity they buy depends very much on the product. Does it need to be replaced often? i.e. a battery. Or is it a one-off? i.e. A house? When multiplied by the cost, you can estimate the potential size of a market.

There are a number of methods you can use. Some more complex than others. All involve guesswork. However, it’s important to have a rough idea when deciding where to best focus your efforts.

Quantifying the potential of a market is somewhat more difficult.

I could find out the size of the car market in the US using the above equation, but that doesn’t mean I could successfully enter that market. I would also have to evaluate my abilities, the level of competition, and the level of investment required.

This is often the mistake rookie affiliates/multi/level marketers make. They get suckered by the potential numbers, without stopping to think if those numbers make any sense. Even if they do, then does that mean the marketer can successfully enter that market?

Really, the marketing approach – be it MLM or otherwise – is irrelevant. The key questions to ask when considering any market are fundamental ones: how big is the market, how many competitors are there, and how can I compete?
SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.

Posted by randfish

You may have seen the recent string of posts about SEO vs. Social Media, starting with this effective, but poorly argued controversy-bait, which was excoriated by Elysia Brooker and Hugo Guzman, then followed up with a more nuanced view by Darren Rowse. While I’m not particularly interested (nor do I think there’s much value) in re-hashing or arguing these points, I did think the topic warranted attention, as it brings up some excellent points marketers should carefully consider as they invest in their craft.

We Search for What We Want + Need

The search for information and answers has been essential to humans since time immemorial. And there’s no sign that our latest iteration, web search, is losing any steam:

Growth in Search Query Volume 2006-2010

Even as we’ve reached a maturity point with broadband adoption and online population, searches are rising. We’re not searching less every month; we’re searching more.

Search is an intent driven activity. We don’t search casually (much), we search to find answers, information, goods and services to consume. The power of search marketing – whether paid or organic – is simple: Be in front of the consumer at the time of consumption. There’s no more effective time to be present and no more effective way of knowing what is desired. All the social graph analysis in the world won’t tell you that Sunday evening, I got fed up with my current selection of footwear and, after some searching, spent a few hundred dollars on Zappos. But being front and center when I queried mens puma shoes brought them some nice business.

We’re Social to Discover and Share

Social media – whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Reddit, StumbleUpon or something else – is about connections, interaction, discovery and distraction. We hardly ever use these portals as a way to find answers, though they certainly may provide plenty to unasked questions.

Social media marketing advocates often make the case that social is how we find out about new products on the web, but, at least so far, the data doesn’t back up this assertion:

ATG Study on Where Users Discover Products
-
ATG Study on How Users Discover Products via SearchEngineLand

However, I am strongly inclined to believe the claim that social media is how we find out about new content on the web, particularly when we’re not seeking something in particular (as with a search). Blogs, pictures, video, research and the like are surely seeing an increased share of their visits from social, and that branding exposure is definitely valuable.

Some recent GroupM Research helped to shed the light of data on this supposition, noting that:

  • The click-through rate in organic search results for users who have been exposed to a brand’s social marketing campaign are 2.4X higher than those that haven’t; for paid search, it showed a jump from 4.5% to 11.8% (in both cases, this is for branded queries)
  • Consumers using social media are 1.7x more likely to search with the intention of making a list of brands or products to consider purchasing compared to those who do not use social media

Ben Yoskovitz talked about this value in his recent analysis:

Based on the information in this report, it’s reasonable to argue that social media marketing can increase the quality of leads (and not just the volume). It’s possible to hone in on, and understand intent through search and how social media exposure affects that intent. And as people are exposed (and I would say involved with – since exposure sounds like you’re just broadcasting stuff at people, which isn’t what social media is about) to social media their intent is more focused and driven towards lead conversion

That’s the kind of social media marketing value I can get behind. Get exposed to potential customers through social so that when they build their consideration set, search and purchase, you’ll have a leg up on the competition.

What Drives Traffic (and Converts) for Whom

It pays to understand the bias of this flare-up’s instigator, and I’ve got plenty of compelling data myself to see his perspective. Last weekend, I started publishing content on a personal blog – no domain authority, no links and little chance of performing well in search. But the results from social media – Twitter, Facebook and Hacker News in particular – are fairly remarkable:

Traffic Data

The search traffic demand, all 78 visits, was generated from the articles that went popular on Twitter & HN. The site itself still doesn’t rank for its own name. Yet, social media sent 22,000 visits over 9 days. No wonder bloggers, in particular those that monetize through advertising, sponsorships and other traffic-driven systems, have a proclivity for investing in social traffic. Perhaps it’s not so crazy to suggest on Problogger.net, a site about growing blog traffic and improving monetization, that social can be "better" than SEO.

I’d still argue that overall, referring traffic of all kinds sent from social, particularly from the largest network (Facebook), is only a fraction of the visits Google sends out each day (unless you’re in the business of appealing to the Facebook audience biases – I was a bit frustrated with how the data was clearly manipulated in the reference piece to fit the story). But, social does eliminate some of the inherent biases that search engines carry and let content that appeals to social users flourish no matter the site’s ability to grow its link profile, make content accessible to spiders or effectively target keywords.

Now let’s look at an example on the opposite end of the spectrum – conversions for a B2B product.

SEOmoz’s PRO membership may not be a good investment unless you’re a marketer actively engaged with SEO, but given that both the search and social traffic our site attracts
likely fall into this intent group (interested in SEO and likely to be in web marketing), a comparison seems fair.

First, I did some prep work in our Google Analytics account by creating an advanced segment called "social traffic" that contains any referral source with "twitter," "facebook," "stumbleupon," "linkedin," "flickr," and "ycombinator" – these represent the vast majority of our social media sources. Next, I compared this traffic quantitatively with our search referrals over the past two weeks:

  • Social Traffic – 26,599 visits from 30 sources
  • Organic Search Traffic – 102,349 from 20 sources

I then compared the percent of these reaching our landing or purchase pages for PRO membership. Here’s organic search:

Organic Search Traffic

And here’s social traffic:

Social Traffic

Here’s what I see:

  • 4.5% of organic search visitors considered a purchase
  • 1.3% of social traffic considered a purchase
  • While I can’t disclose full numbers, I can see that a fair number of search visits converted vs. zero for social.

In fact, looking at the entire year to date traffic to SEOmoz from social sources, it appears not 1 visit has ever converted for us. Social may be a great way to drive traffic, build branding and make a purchase more likely in the future, but from a direct conversion standpoint, it doesn’t hold a candle to search. To be fair, I’m not looking at full life cycle or even first-touch attribution, which makes this analysis less comprehensive, though likely still directionally informative.

Takeaways

Given the research and data here and in the posts/content referenced, I think we can say a few things about search and social as marketing channels:

  1. There shouldn’t be a VS.: This isn’t about pitting web marketers against each other (or perhaps, more accurately, themselves, since our industry survey data suggests many of us are responsible for both). There’s obvious value in both channels and to suggest otherwise is ideological nonsense and worse, self-defeating.
  2. Search Converts: Billion+ isn’t being wasted on Google’s search ads – that sucker send intent-driven, focused, conversion-ready visits like nobody else on the web.
  3. Social Has Value: Those exposed to a social campaign are better customers and prospects; making social not only a branding and traffic channel, but an opportunity for conversion rate optimization.
  4. SEO Is Hard in the Early Stages: Without a strong link profile, even great content may not perform particularly well in search results.
  5. Segmenting Search and Social is Key: Unless you separate, analyze and iterate, you’re doomed to miss opportunities and falsely attribute value. I’m particularly worried about those marketers who invest heavily in social to the detriment of SEO because the immediacy of the rewards is so much more tangible and emotionally compelling (He’s following me on Twitter! We have 200 Facebook fans!) – make sure appropriate effort goes where it can earn ROI; it’s our job.

For another interesting (and more social-media biased) perspective, check out Search vs. Social from Bradford Cross.

I’d love to hear more from you on this topic, too. 

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Posted by randfish

The process of launching a new website is, for many entrepreneurs, bloggers and business owners, an uncertain and scary prospect. This is often due to both unanswered questions and incomplete knowledge of which questions to ask. In this post, I’ll give my best recommendations for launching a new site from a marketing and metrics setup perspective. This won’t just help with SEO, but on traffic generation, accessibility, and your ability to measure and improve everything about your site.

#1 – Install Visitor Analytics

Nothing can be improved that is not tracked. Keeping these immortal words of wisdom in mind, get your pages firing analytics code before your first visitor. Google Analytics is the obvious choice, and customization options abound (for most sites more advanced than a basic blog, I’d highly recommend at least using first-touch attribution).

Google Analytics Metrics

Google analytics, or any other package (see some alternatives here), needs to be placed on every page of your site and verified. Do yourself a favor and install in a template file you can be sure is on every page (e.g. footer.php). GA’s instructions will indicate that placing the code at the top of the page is key, but I’m generally in favor of leaving it at the bottom to help page load time for visitors (though the new asynchronous GA code is pretty fast).

#2 – Set Up Google & Bing Webmaster Tools Accounts

Both Google & Bing have webmaster tools programs that monitor data about your site and message it back to you through online interfaces. This is the heartbeat of your site from the search engines’ perspective and for that reason, it’s wise to stay on top of the data they share.

Bing Webmaster Tools

That said, the numbers inside these tools are not always perfect, and often have serious flaws. The referring keywords and traffic data are, in my experience, far off what analytics tools will report (and in those cases, trust your analytics, not the engines’ tools). Likewise, crawl, spidering and indexation data isn’t always solid, either. Nonetheless, new features and greater accuracy continue to roll out (more of the former than the latter unfortunately) and it’s worth having these both set up.

#3 – Run a Crawl Simulation of Your Site

No matter how perfect you or your developers are, there’s always problems at launch – broken links, improper redirects, missing titles, pages lacking rel=canonical tags (see more on why we recommend using it and the dangers of implementing improperly), files blocked by robots.txt, etc.

Web App Crawl Data

By running a crawl test with a free tool like Xenu or GSiteCrawler, or leveraging a paid tool like Custom Crawl from Labs or the Crawl Service in the Web App (pictured above), you can check your site’s accessibility and insure that visitors and search engines can reach pages successfully in the ways you want. If you launch first, you’ll often find that critical errors are left to rot because the priority list fills up so quickly with other demands on development time. Crawl tests are also a great way to verify contractor or outsourced development work.

#4 – Test Your Design with Browser Emulators

In addition to testing for search engine and visitor accessiblity, you’ll want to make sure the gorgeous graphics and layout you’ve carefully prepared checks out in a variety of browsers. My rule is to test anything that has higher than 2% market share, which currently means (according to Royal Pingdom): Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera.

There’s a great list of browser testing options from FreelanceFolder here, so I’ll just add that in-person testing, on your own PCs & Macs, is also a highly recommended use of an hour.

#5 – Set Up RSS Feed Analytics

Virtually every site will have some form of structured data being pushed out through an RSS feed. And, just like visitor analytics, if you want to improve the reach and quality of the feed, you’ll need to leverage data.

Feedburner Dashboard for SEOmoz

Feedburner is the de facto software of choice, and it’s very solid (though, good alternatives do exist). Getting your feed and the analytics to track and measure it is typically a very easy process because there’s nothing to verify – you can create and promote any feed you want with just a few button clicks.

One important recommendation – don’t initially use the counter "chicklet" like: Feedburner Chicklet with 0 Readers 

It has a bad psychological impact to see that no one has subscribed to your new RSS feed. Instead, just provide a standard link or graphic and after you’ve amassed a few hundred or thousand readers, use the numeric readout to provide additional social proof.

#6 – Tag the Actions that Matter

No matter what your site is, there are actions you’re hoping visitors will take – from tweeting a link to your post to leaving a comment to buying a product or subscribing to an email list. Whatever those actions might be, you need to record the visits that make them through your analytics tool. Casey Henry’s post on Google Analytics’ Event Tracking will provide a thorough walkthrough.

Once action tracking is in place, you can segment traffic sources and visit paths by the actions that were taken and learn more about what predicts a visitor is going to be valuable. If you’re pouring hours each day into Twitter m but seeing no actions, you might try a different channel, even if the traffic volume is high.

#7 – Conduct an Online Usability/Branding Test

Before a formal launch, it can be extremely helpful to get a sense of what users see, experience and remember when they browse to your site for a few seconds or try to take an action. There’s some fantastic new software to help with this, including Clue App, screenshot below:

Clue App Test on SEOmoz

Last week, I set up a Clue App test for SEOmoz’s homepag
e in 30 seconds and tweeted a single link to it, which garnered 158 kind responses with words and concepts people remembered from the visit. This type of raw testing isn’t perfect, but it can give you a great look into the minds of your visitors. If the messages being taken away aren’t the ones you intended, tweaking may be critical.

In addition to Clue, dozens of other easy usability and user-testing apps are now on the market. Conversion Rate Experts has a good list here and Craig Tomlin’s got another excellent one here.

#8 – Establish a KPI Dashboard

No matter what your website does, you live and die by some key metrics. If you’re starting out as a blogger, your RSS subscribers, unique visits, pageviews and key social stats (tweets, links, Facebook shares, etc) are your lifeblood. If you’re in e-commerce, it’s all of the above plus # of customers, sales, sales volume, returning vs. new buyers, etc.

SEOmoz Partial KPI Chart

Whatever your particular key metrics might be, you need a single place – often just a basic spreadsheet – where these important numbers are tracked on a daily or weekly basis. Setting this up before you launch will save you a ton of pain later on and give you consistent statistics to work back from and identify trends with in the future.

#9 – Build an Email List of Friends & Business Contacts for Launch

This may seem non-obvious, but it’s shocking how a friendly email blast to just a few dozen of your close contacts can help set the stage for a much more successful launch. Start by building a list of the people who owe you favors, have helped out and who you can always rely on. If you’re feeling a bit more aggressive in your marketing, you can go one circle beyond that to casual business partners and acquaintences.

Once you have the list, you’ll need to craft an email. I highly recommend being transparent, requesting feedback and offering to return the favor. You should also use BCC and make yourself the recipient. No one wants to be on a huge, visible email list to folks they may not know (and get the resulting reply-all messages).  

#10 – Create Your Google Alerts

TheAlerts Service from Google certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s free, ubiquitous, and can give you the heads up on some of the sites and pages that mention your brand or link to you in a timely fashion.

Google Alerts

Unfortunately, the service sends through a lot of false positives – spam, scraper sites and low quality junk. It also tends to miss a lot of good, relevant mentions and links, which is why the next recommendation’s on the list. 

#11 – Bookmark Brand Tracking Queries

In order to keep track of your progress and identify the sites and pages that mention or link to your new site, you’ll want to set up a series of queries that can run on a regular basis (or automated if you’ve got a good system for grabbing the data and putting it into a tracking application). These include a number of searches at Google, Twitter and Backtype:

Reputation Monitoring Queries

The queries should use your brand name in combination with specific searches, like the example below (using "seomoz" and "seomoz.org"):

You can add more to this list if you find them valuable/worthwhile, but these basics should take you most of the way on knowing where your site has been mentioned or referenced on the web.

#12 – Make Email Signup/Subscription Available

Capturing the email addresses of your potential customers/audience can be a huge win for the influence you’re able to wield later to promote new content, products or offerings. Before you launch, you’ll want to carefully consider how and where you can offer something in exchange for permission to build an email list.

One of the most common ways to build good lists is to offer whitepaper, e-book, video or other exclusive content piece for download/access to those who enter an email address. You can also collect emails from comment registration (which tend to be lower overall quality), through an email newsletter subscription offering (which tend to be very high quality) or via a straight RSS subscription (but you’ll need to self-manage if you want to have full access to those emails). Services like MailChimp, ExactTarget, Constant Contact and iContact are all options for this type of list building and management.

#13 – Create Your Site/Brand’s Social Accounts

Social media has become popular and powerful enough that any new site should be taking advantage of it. At a minimum, I’d recommend creating accounts on the following networks:

And if you have more time or energy to devote, I’d also invest in these:

Setting up these accounts diligently is important – don’t just re-use the same short bio or snippet over and over. Spend the time to build fleshed out profiles that have comprehensive information and interact/network with peers and those with similar interests to help build up reputation on the site. The effort is worth the reward – empty, unloved social accounts do virtually nothing, but active ones can drive traffic, citations, awareness and value.

BTW – Depending on the size and structure of your site, you may also want to consider creating a Facebook Fan Page, a LinkedIn Company Page and profiles on company tracking sites like Crunchbase, BusinessWeek and  the Google Local Business Center.

#14 – Connect Your Social Accounts

If you’ve just set up your social account, you’ve likely added your new site as a reference point already, but if not, you should take the time to visit your various social profiles and make sure they link back to the site you’re launching.

Rand's Twitter Profile

Not all of these links will provide direct SEO value (as many of them are "nofollowed"), but the references and clicks you earn from those investigating your profiles based on your participation may prove invaluable. It’s also a great way to leverage your existing branding and participation to help the traffic of your new site.

#15 – Form a List of Target Press, Blogger and Industry People for Outreach

Depending on your niche, you may have traditional media outlets, bloggers, industry luminaries, academics, Twitter personalities, powerful offline sources or others that could provide your new site with visibility and value. Don’t just hope that these folks find you – create a targeted list of the sites, accounts and individuals you want to connect with and form a strategy to reach the low hanging fruit first.

The list should include as much contact information as you can gather about each target – including Twitter account name, email (if you can find it), and even a physical mailing address. You can leverage all of these to reach out to these folks at launch (or have your PR company do it if you have one). If you tell the right story and have a compelling site, chances are good you’ll get at list a few of your targets to help promote, or, at the least visit and be aware of you.

#16 – Build a List of Keywords to Target in Search Engines

This is SEO basics 101, but every new site should keep in mind that search engines get lots of queries for virtually everything under the sun. If there are keywords and phrases you know you want to rank for, these should be in a list that you can measure and work toward. Chances are that at launch, you won’t even be targeting many of these searches with specific pages, but if you build the list now, you’ll have the goal to create these pages and work on ranking for those terms.

As you’re doing this, don’t just choose the highest traffic keywords possible – go for those that are balanced; moderate to high in volume, highly relevant in terms of what the searcher wants vs. what your page/site offers and relatively low in difficulty.

See this post for more tips – Choosing the Right Keyphrases – from Sam Crocker.

#17 – Set Targets for the Next 12 Months

WIthout goals and targets, there’s no way to know whether you’re meeting, beating or failing against expectations – and every endeavor, from running a marathon to cooking a meal to building a company or just launching a personal blog will fail if there aren’t clear expectations set at the start. If you’re relatively small and just starting out, I’d set goals for the following metrics:

  • Average weekly visits (via analytics)
  • Average page views (via analytics)
  • Number of new posts/pages/content pieces produced per month
  • Number of target contacts (from item #15) that you’ve reached
  • Social media metrics (depending on your heaviest use platform, e.g. # of Twitter followers if you’re a heavy Tweeter)
  • Any of the key items from #8 on this list (your KPI dashboard)

And each of these should have 3, 6 and 12 month targets. Don’t be too agressive as you’ll find yourself discouraged or, worse, not taking your own targets seriously. Likewise, don’t cut yourself short by setting goals that you can easily achieve – stretch at least a little.

Every 3-6 months, you should re-evaluate these and create new goals, possibly adding new metrics if you’ve taken new paths (RSS subscribers, views of your videos, emails collected, etc.)

#18 – Plug in the SEOmoz Web App

I know this one’s a bit self-serving, but I’d like to think I’d add it here even if it wasn’t my company (I recently set up my own personal blog and found the crawling, rank tracking and new GA inegration features pretty awesome for monitoring the growth of a new site).

PRO Web App

The SEOmoz Web App has a number of cool tracking and monitoring features, as well as recommendations for optimizing pages targeting keywords, that make it valuable for new sites that are launching. The crawl system can serve to help with #3 on this list at the outset, but ongoing, it continues to crawl pages and show you your site’s growth and any errors or missed opportunities. Tracking rankings can let you follow progress against item #16, even if that progress is moving from ranking in the 40s to the 20s (where very little search traffic will be coming in, even if you’re making progress). And the new GA integration features show the quantity of pages, keywords and visits from search engines to track progress from an SEO standpoint.


Using this list, you should be able to set up a new site for launch and feel confident that your marketing and metrics priorities are in place. Please feel free to share other suggestions for pre and post-launch tactics to help get a new site on its feet. I’m looking forward to seeing what other recommendations you’ve got.

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Posted by Dr. Pete Red car in a sea of white carsWhen you’re a small fish in a sea of competitors, getting noticed by search engines is never easy. If you’re a car dealer, local restaurant, real estate agent, lawyer, doctor, etc., you’re not only competing with hundreds of other businesses just like yours, but when it comes to link-building, everyone is trying to pick the same low-hanging fruit.

Strong content that attracts natural links can really help break the mold of low quality directories, blog comments, and spammy article marketing, but where do you start and how do you stand out? The world only needs so many mortgage calculators. I’d like to offer a few tactics to get you moving (and thinking) in the right direction.

Car Dealers (Tactic: Positive UGC)

Many companies are afraid of user-generated content (UGC). They imagine the worst – negative comments, brand-bashing, customer service horror stories. Although that fear is often overblown, it’s easy to sympathize. It is possible, though, to use UGC and still control the message.

Let me illustrate with a story. In the late 90s, my parents bought a Saturn. Back then, Saturn was known for their unique buying experience – when you signed your paperwork, they took your picture, posted it on the wall, and the employees all came out and cheered. It was a little odd, admittedly, but it was definitely a memorable experience.

Why not use that same approach online? Find your brand evangelists – ask your customers to submit photos of themselves with their cars, for example. This type of positive UGC has a number of advantages:

  • You’ll tend to attract brand loyalists.
  • People will link to their content on your site out of vanity.
  • You’ll create natural testimonials.

Restaurants (Tactic: Positive UGC)

This is another spin on the car dealership idea. If you’re a restaurant, you have to deal with reviews. They can really make or break your business, especially now that there are entire companies dedicated to flooding the internet with positive (or negative) reviews. Why not ask for feedback in a way that naturally spins positive? For example, add a feature to your site where you ask people to post pictures of their favorite dish from your restaurant. No one has a bad favorite dish – the haters will naturally exclude themselves. Meanwhile, the brand evangelists will love seeing their photo posted online and will naturally tell their friends.

Real Estate (Tactic: Local Interest)

Real estate websites and even blogs have a tendency to be generic – they talk about why it’s time to buy, how to find a decent interest rate, etc. This information, done well, is fine, but it’s hard to stand out when you’re saying the same things that 1,000 other realtors are saying.

Why not focus on the local angle? Think more broadly than just real estate – talk about the highlights of the neighborhoods you sell in. This could be everything from the best schools and local tourist attractions to talking about your favorite local restaurants. Don’t be afraid to get a little personal, and you’ll tap into a few advantages:

  • You’ll show you know and like the neighborhood you sell in.
  • Local content will naturally attract local links.
  • You’ll naturally highlight the reasons to live in your neighborhood.

Lawyers (Tactic: Local Expertise)

Lawyers, like realtors, face the problem of how to say the same things as everyone else and still sound unique. Again, focus on your own niche and the local angle (assuming you’re a smaller office). Highlight local stories that show how the law impacts your area – this could be everything from crime stories to civil suits. Discuss these stories in the context of your practice. You could even have fun with it – talk about weird laws in your state or city, for example. The advantages?

  • You’ll show that you’re up to date with current laws and events.
  • People will see that you understand how the law impacts them.
  • Local interest stories naturally attract local links.

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative

If there’s a theme here, it’s that you can’t be afraid to start getting creative, even if you think you’re in a "boring" industry. Think about what got you into your business in the first place – there’s always a story, and the more you put your own spin on content, the more authentic and unique it will naturally become. Say something that no one else is saying, and natural links will create themselves.

"Hundreds of cars" image provided by ShutterStock.

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SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

I recently came across an interesting stream of search traffic.

The demographic using this search stream was one I had no direct experience of previously. I was amazed at the high level of site interaction this group engaged in. It was related to the wedding of two people I’d never previously heard of – Ti & Tiny. From the names of the people who responded, I determined the traffic was mostly African-American. Pretty obvious given the topic, right.

What was interesting was this group engaged and responded at a much higher level than other groups I was targeting on similar campaigns. It was a reminder of the different ways some demographics choose to participate online, especially when the marketing pitch reflects them.

Target Marketing

Target marketing, otherwise known as market segmentation, is marketing focusing on specific groups of people.

Marketers use demographic profiles to break down groups into a series of traits, such as gender, race, age, income, disabilities, mobility, educational attainment, home ownership, employment status, and location. This helps marketers determine the correct pitch, language and approach to use when trying to appeal to a given audience.

When we use search keyword lists, it’s often easy to lump people who use the same keywords together. However, if we add demographic information into the mix, our marketing can become more focused, which can translate to higher conversions, and higher returns.

For example, according to a recent demographic study, the African-American market makes up 13 percent of the U.S. population and spends more than 0 billion every year. African-American buying power is expected to reach trillion this year. 26 percent of African-American households had incomes of ,000 per year. 64 percent of African Americans—versus 51 percent of Caucasians—spend more on products they perceive as being “the best”. That last piece of information is very useful if you were designing a page to appeal directly to this market.

How about the gay market. This market tends to be affluent. The average annual income for a gay household is ,000, 20.4 percent higher than in a heterosexual household. This group tends to have a high level of education. Some 83 percent of gays and lesbians have either attended or graduated from college. This market is also brand-loyal. Approximately 89 percent of gays and lesbians are brand-affiliated and are highly likely to seek out brands that advertise to them – i.e. advertising that depicts gay lifestyles and models, for example.

How about women. Women make up 51 percent of the US population and influence at least 80 percent of all spending on consumer goods in the United States. By 2010, women are expected to control trillion, or approximately 60 percent of the nation’s wealth. Retail stores are designed around women, and it would be interesting to note how women and men may respond differently to the online retail equivalent.

General marketing one-size-fits-all messages may miss such groups. How much advertising language is geared towards white, middle class family groups, for example? That’s fine if a white, middle class family group is the target market, but it pays to be aware of groups we may be missing.

Relevance

Relevance is more than matching a search keyword to page topic.

“Know they customer” and reflect your audience in your site design, language and pitch. Do your pages reflect your world view, or the world view of your customers? Is there a difference? Can you use keyword terms to identify and segment specific demographic groups? Are there keywords that women are more likely to use than men? Keywords that Hispanics are more likely to use than African Americans? Think about the ways different groups in our society use language.

Your website should hold up a mirror to your target audience, using their language, depicting their lifestyles, and speaking directly to their wants and needs.

Research

In my Ti & Tiny example, the demographic was pretty obvious. It was easy to picture the fanbase, and adjust the language, and pitch, accordingly.

For more in-depth demographic information, you could look at census data, available at the US census beureau, or your regional equivalent. Check out the Country and City databook.

Using keyword research tools, look for broad keyword associations to get a feel for language use and associated areas to target.

The Inside Facebook Blog often provides interesting snippets of demographic data about Facebook usage and trends, which will likely be reflected in the wider online community.

Professional data mining companies, such as Nielsen, are great sources, if you have the budget. And if you want to dig even deeper, check out the VALS survey.

VALs. SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.

Posted by timsoulo

Howdy Seomoz fans! It is an overused practice to start from some "shocking" stats and dissertate on how FaceBook is powerful and important for business. So, I will just consider you all know what is FaceBook and how cool it is.

What you’re about to read is a step-by-step SMM strategy for promoting your business on FaceBook. I’ve gathered all the best practices and tips that I have used myself, together with some advice that I haven’t tried but am confident will work well. Ok. That’s enough for the intro, let’s go!

Where To Start?

1. Brand Ambassador.

First of all, don’t use your personal account to promote your business, unless you want your customers to see your childhood pictures and lulz from the recent party. You can create another (purely business oriented) instance of yourself or hire someone to become your brand ambassador. This will be the person who represents your business online and handles all communications, so the info on the profile should be brief and clear and all the pictures neat and professional. Remember that users will associate your business with this guy.

Power Tip: Create a separate e-mail account in Gmail and import all the e-mail addresses of your clients there. Now when you use this account to create a new FaceBook profile – the system will automatically find all of your clients in your address book and suggest to add them as your friends on FaceBook! What a great start!

2. Creating a FaceBook page.

Promotion on FaceBook is all about having a page for your business. To create one, go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/ and click the "+ Create a Page" button.

Power Tip: "Page Name" is one of the the strongest ranking factors on FaceBook search. Don’t miss the opportunity to add some keywords you wish to rank for as you are not allowed to change your page name later.

Configuring Your FaceBook Page

1. Profile picture & avatar.

Profile picture is one of the few things in the design of your page that you can actually customize, so be sure to make the most of it. Here are two great articles that will help you: "5 Creative Ways to Hack Your Profile Photo"; "Making the Most of Your FaceBook Profile Picture". 

2. Page info.

The next important thing to do is fill your FaceBook page with information about your business. Most of it is stored under the "Info" tab, which you cannot remove or hide. Lots of people visit it, so work hard to make your info as brief and engaging as you can. "Think SEO" and use your keywords, as each of the tabs is indexable by the search engines.

Power Tip: if you type a URL starting from http:// in the info box under your profile picture, FaceBook will turn it into a clickable link. So you can easily refer your visitors to your website, blog or twitter account.

3. Applications.

  • Static FBML (FaceBook Markup Language) – allows you to create 10 additional tabs, which can contain HTML/CSS, Flash, FBML, iframes and FBJS
  • NetworkedBlogs – allows you to post your RSS and Atom feeds directly to your wall; 
  • Twitter Tab – posts your twitter updates to a separate tab; 
  • Extended Info – adds an additional box which supports html/fbml, images, video and music to the left sidebar of your page; 
  • Fan Appz & Promotions – helps you handle all kinds of contests, sweepstakes & give aways.

Tip: you’ll probably end up with lots of tabs by adding various applications. However you can easily drag them around if you think that some of them are more important.

4. Vanity URL.

To be able to convert your ugly "326727833086?ref=sgm&ajaxpipe=1&__a=7" URL into something fancy-looking, like "http://facebook.com/mybusinesspage" you need to have at least 25 fans. Once you do – go to http://www.facebook.com/username/ and click the "Set a username for your Pages" link at the bottom.

5. Custom landing page.

You need an attractive landing page, which will convert your visitors into fans. Here is when the FBML application comes into play. Using HTML, CSS, FBJS and even flash you can create awesome landing pages that people will not only "like", but link to, and suggest to friends.

Tip: If you’ve got no development skills you can find some nice facebook FBML page templates that have just started to appear around the template stores.

What To Expect?

Before we start reviewing various FaceBook promotion techniques, I’d like to clear things up a little bit. Essentially when someone "Likes" your FaceBook page, they will be notified every time you update its status, it’s almost the same as following someone on Twitter. To have your message spread on Twitter you need to have your followers retweet your post so that their followers could see it and retweet in turn. On FaceBook, the principle is a bit more sophisticated: when someone likes or comments your status update, this fact is being reflected in his profile. And when your status update gets a decent amount of "likes" and comments it is promoted to the Top News section of a user’s News Feed, so that more people could see it.

 Now let’s refer to a famous "90:9:1 Social Behaviors Rule" to understand what it takes for your message to become visible.

Let’s consider that "Heavy Contributors" are those ready to comment on
your update, "Intermittent" ones will probably "like" it, and "Lurkers" will read it or just scroll through. Say your page has 100 fans. Knowing the fact that only 12%-20% of all your "Fans" will see your status update in their Live Feed, we can see that:

I hope this delivers a clear understanding that FaceBook promotion takes an enormous amount of effort to become successful.

Promoting Your FaceBook Page Internally.

1. Using your Brand Ambassador.

  • Add to friends any people that may be your potential customers or somehow relate to your business. Recently, FaceBook has added Skype integration, which can suggest you some FaceBook friends from the list of your Skype contacts. Once you have a decent amount of friends use the "Suggest to friends" and "Share" buttons to promote your FaceBook page to them;
  • Use FaceBook Search to discover relevant pages, groups, events, people and even messages. With Search you can easily track any mentions of your brand and provide feedback – people really love that;
  • Once you join pages, groups and events, you are able to participate in the conversation, which is a great way of direct promotion. Moreover you can see the list of the group members and easily add them to friends;
  • Communicate. Once someone comments on your new status, a photo, or anything else – answer back. Moreover you need to make people love your brand and become active contributors and then brand ambassadors. 1/4 of search results on each big brand is UGC (User Generated Content).

Power Tip: When composing a message put the @ symbol and start typing the name of your business page to mention it, just like you mention someone on Twitter. This can be used as a signature to your updates.

2. Keep the page fresh and interesting.

People join your page hoping to receive some interesting stuff from you, so do not disappoint them. FaceBookers usually prefer pictures, videos and links to plain text updates. Here is a comprehensive list of things that you should keep in mind to avoid losing your fans: don’t post too many updates; don’t automate your content; don’t be a duplicate of your website and don’t be boring. Your page wall is your social proof and a signal for people to get involved.

3. Cheat a bit.

Ask fellow staff & your team members to post "likes" and comments on each of your status updates to boost its rankings. Only status updates with 5 or more "likes" and comments show up in the Top News section. This will also make your wall look "alive", which will inspire your fans to be more active on your page and participate in the conversation.

4. Fill in your page with media content. 

  • Upload pictures of your products/services, your office and your team at work to make your company easier to relate to;
  • Encourage your fans to post  pictures of how they use your product;
  • Upload pictures from each event you host and tag your fans there;
  • Post videos of your team members talks;
  • Show your products/services in action;
  • Use video to respond to your fans (Bill Clinton frequently does video responses on his page).

5. Treat your fans.

You need to offer your fans something special and reward them. For instance 1-800-FLOWER FaceBook page shows the discount code only when you click the "Like" button.

You can make some special offers, which are available to your FaceBook fans only and are not announced outside of FaceBook. It’s dead easy to reward your loyal fans by promoting them to the admins of your page, which will most likely turn them into enthusiastic brand ambassadors. Anyway, if there is some prominent fan – he should be publicly rewarded.

6. Send an update to Fans.

Direct messaging is a very powerful tool, but do not misuse it. Think twice before sending a message to all of your fans – it should be really valuable if you don’t want everyone to ignore it or get irritated.

Tip: FaceBook allows you to send targeted updates. Think of a way you could use that feature for your business.

7. Ask your fans for help.

Now and then you can post a status update asking your fans to help build the community by suggesting your page to their friends. Just refer them to "Suggest to Friends" and "Share" links on your page and measure their response.

8. Build partnerships with other pages.

Notice that each page on FaceBook has an "Add to my Page’s Favorites" button. When you do this, the logo of this page appears in a special "Favorite Pages" box on your own page. People see it and they might click the link to find out more about this page.

Your aim here is to build partnerships within your niche and be "favourited" as much as possible. Add to favorites pages that you like or that your business is related to and inform their owners about it with a wall post or a private message. Most likely you will be "favorited" back.

9. Use the applications.

There are a lot of crazy apps that you can use to promote yourself. You can even develop one of your own if your budget allows that. But how do the viral applications work in common?

You need something that people would willingly launch. This might be a game or a quiz or any other kind of dynamic content that most people love. Once a person has his score, bagde, vitual gift or any other result – the application publishes it to his wall so that all his friends could see it. The application should have a clear call to action, so that new people could easily get engaged. If the application has some kind of a High Score – people will play it again and again till they outrank their friends. You can (should) use the apps for sweepstakes and giveaways – people love them a lot.

10. Spy!

Yes! Always keep an eye on your competitors, especially on those outranking you. Check what they do and if you consider it to be a successful strategy – do the same. When they fail – try to avoid their mistakes. Anyway, you should always be informed on what others are doing to promote themselves.

11. Ads?

Indeed the most common way to promote your page. But before you use it, check out these stats:

 

Promoting Your FaceBook Page Externally.

 1. FaceBook for webites.

The FaceBook team has come a long way toward making your website more personalized and social. There is a list of great social plugins that can be easily embedded into your website and drive lots of new visitors: "Like Button" plugin, which is almost everywhere now, "Like Box", which let’s you become a fan of the website without leaving the page, &q
uot;Live Stream" which is often used while broadcasting some event. Try them on your website and see what happens next.

2. "Like" and "Share" buttons.

These two are so powerful that they require a separate paragraph. Once you own an online store – those buttons are of exceptional value. Whenever you find something that appeals to you in an online store – you no longer need to copy the URL and send it to your friends to ask for their opinion. Just press the "Like" button. They will see that and comment on it. This applies to photos, videos, games, blog posts, reviews – literally anything that can be found on the web.

3. Put a link everywhere.

Once you have a website, you put its address everywhere – e-mail signatures, forum signatures, twitter info, author bio section, LinkedIn profile, links section of your blog. Do exactly the same with your FaceBook page. Highlight your FaceBook presence at offline events, print it on your business card, use every opportunity you have.

Power Tip: Take some twitter auto follow script that follows a person whenever he has specific keywords in his tweet. Some percent of the people you’ve followed will follow you back. Write an engaging request to join your FaceBook page and set it as an automatic direct message to people, who have just followed you. Being launched, this system will drive some new fans to your FaceBook page on a regular basis.

4. Using video.

Almost every video sharing service allows you to annotate your videos with links. This is a great way to drive some new fans onto your FaceBook page. You can make viral videos, funny videos, tutorials, explanations, presentations etc. and include a link to your FaceBook page with a request to join. Works perfectly!

5. Other services.

There are a lot of websites where you can get some targeted audience. For instance, upon writing this guide I’ve gone though dozens of presentations at SlideShare and Scribd. There I’ve seen many referrals to join FaceBook pages specialized on marketing, and I did join some of them truthfully as I enjoyed their presentations. Examine carefully all the websites where you post information or showcase your services and think of the way you could refer people to your FaceBook page.

Power Tip: In case you have some kind of a digital product – create a torrent with some demos, name it with trending keywords and upload to all torrent trackers you can find. In the info or in the comments section add a link to your FaceBook page. Then go to your analytics and watch your numbers grow.

Wheew… That’s the end of my guide. Sure there’s a lot more to add, but I tried to keep my tactics brief, to leave some space for your imagination. I’m sure each of you can invent lots of fantastic ways to use FaceBook for SMM. I am open for any questions, shoot!

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The Society of Digital Agencies – a group that serves as a worldwide voice of digital marketing professionals with a mission to advance the industry through best practices, education, and advocacy – recently sent me the results of a large survey they conducted. SoDA solicited feedback from over 1,000 digital marketing executives from agency and client-side worldwide and captured some solid insights worth sharing here.

There is no question that digital marketing continues its upward trend. Certainly, when a company like Ford – from the historically lethargic automotive industry – spends 25% of our marketing budget on digital and social media, you know there’s a significant movement afoot. And across all industries in 2009, budgets were impacted by the economy, forcing marketers to be more ruthless about seeking efficient results. It should be no surprise to anyone that the rise of digital is a sure thing.

The 2010 Digital Marketing Outlook contains some 70 pages of particularly poignant facts for the U.S. and abroad (Russia, South America and Mexico), emerging trends, changing platforms, social media and more. Here are some key takeaways worth calling out:

Online Marketing Spending
  • In 2010, two-thirds expect to spend the same or more than in 2009.
  • Approximately 70% plan to increase (1-30%) or significantly increase (30%+) their unpaid/earned/proprietary media.
  • The top priorities in 2010 will be social networks/applications and digital infrastructure.

Emerging Trends

  • Customer experience will be more important than ever.
  • Storytelling will evolve – location will become a key component; the speed at which stories are developed is crucial; and above all, emotional connections matter.
  • The beginning of the end of the banner ad.
  • Branded content syndication will replace some paid media.
  • 40% of opportunity is mobile



Social Media

  • Social is becoming increasingly mobile.
  • Measurement will be more important than ever.
  • Real-time search is inextricably linked to the “statusphere.”
  • Forms of content consumption will continue to be fractured; the nimble marketer will need to be in as many places as possible.



If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I think you’ll recognize a number of the themes mentioned in the report. But there’s also much more – not to mention really smart – stuff in the entire report. Take a look for yourself.

Two Thousand and Ten Digital Marketing Outlook

Photo credit: Will Lion

The Social Media Marketing Blog

When you start hearing about social media taking up more budget rather than having to struggle for dollars and attention, it’s clear that the practice is gaining in legitimacy. 

 

Remember the days of having to gently introduce the concept, or of having to prove that in fact it’s something that’s a coming trend? We had to deal with skeptics – the same type of people, who maybe less than 10 years ago, doubted that the Internet was going to catch on. And we’ve had to deal with a struggling economy and limited funding. 

 

Things are a little different now. In fact, you might say that things are actually looking up. I think part of it may be that the tough economy forced marketers to be more savvy and frugal about their efforts, and social media became a natural receptacle for the underfunded. As such, it’s grown in stature and maturity, and with the rise of the awareness of social networks in the general public, it’s only going to get larger.

 

Here are a couple of charts from “The CMO Survey” undertaken by the Duke University Fuqua School of Business and the American Marketing Association, as reported by eMarketer:

Social Media Marketing Spending by US B2B and B2C Marketers, August 2009 & February 2010 (% of total)     Percent of Marketing Budget Spent on Social Media According to US Marketers, August 2009 & February 2010 (% of total)  

 

When you compare the spending on social media marketing from August 2009 to February 2010, overall there’s an increase of 60% in the budgets (from 3.5% to 5.6%). Similarly, the planning for the next one to five years shows a similar level of consideration as well: in August 2009, social media spending was thought to be 6.1% for the next year and 13.7% for the next five years; and now, it’s more like 9.9% in the next year and 17.7% in the next five years.

 

And since this was a survey of CMOs, it’s a good indication that these budget predictions may get some traction, rather than just being a  fond wish of pundits. It’s a relief to see something that doesn’t resemble a death spiral in this economy.

 

 

Photo credit: emrank (Flickr)

The Social Media Marketing Blog

A common practice in the marketing space is for people to diminish what you do, state that it is below them, help rebrand your stuff in a negative light, and then at some point in the future basically clone the idea (maybe with a few new features, maybe not) and then push their clone job aggressively as though it is revolutionary.

Another shady practice is when you ask people for advice and they say “no don’t do that” and then as soon as they hang up the phone they send off emails to their workers telling them to do that which they told you was a bad idea.

I don’t think that the average person or the average marketer is inherently sleazy. But I think when you look at the people who are the most successful certainly a larger than average percent of them engaged in shady behavior at some point.

To keep building yield and returns at some point short cuts start to look appealing. And so you get

None of the above is a cynical take or an opinion at this point. That was simply a list of 3 stated facts.

Create a large enough organization with enough people and you can always make something shady seem like it was due to the efforts of a rogue individual, rather than as company policy. A key to doing this effectively within a large organization is to publish public thoughts that are the exact opposite of your internal business practices.

The word “propaganda” was a bad word, as that is what the Germans were using, so Edward Bernays had to give it another name – public relations.

Recently the Google public policy blog published a post titled Celebrating Copyright. Around the same time Viacom leaked the following internal Google document

You can’t get any clearer than that!

In the past when I claimed Google operated as-per the above I was accused of being cynical or having sour grapes. But when you tie together a lot of experiences and observations others lack and you are not conflicted by corporate business interests you have the ability to speak truth. You are not always going to be right, but the lack of needing to cater to advertiser interests and filter means you will typically catch a lot of the emerging trends before they show up in the media – whatever that is worth.

If you’re ever confused as to the value of newspaper editors, look at the blog world. That’s all you need to see. – Eric Schmdit

Speaking of the media, have you heard about the Middle American Information Bureau

The Century of Self is an amazing documentary, well worth buying SEO Book.com – Learn. Rank. Dominate.

Posted by great scott!

Content, content, content…everybody wants it, everybody needs it, and you’re great at creating it, but maybe nobody’s reading it. Since that brainy brain of yours is already pumping this stuff out, how can you leverage your great content to get some quick and easy links?

"How ’bout this for a story: ‘Man with giant baby head considers gubernatorial bid’?"

There are all kinds of ways to distribute your content: article submission sites, one-off submissions, self-publication…on and on.  As with everything else, there are trade-offs to each dissemination vector and that’s what we’re talking about this week:  What are the pros and cons of using article/content marketing as an SEO strategy?  Where and how can you identify potential partners to get the highest quality links for your content? When is it better to let someone else publish your work? Are links the best arbiter of value?  The answers to all these questions and more await you in this week’s Whiteboard Friday…

 

 

Yes, content creation is a lot of work. It takes time, effort, and creativity to generate high-quality content, and that’s why it’s in such high demand.  While you may hate to send your precious baby off to live on someone else’s blog, it may be what’s best for the child (and you).  Sure, you won’t get as many links as you may have by self-publishing, but if you’re selective about the site, you’ll get one or two very good links, but wait, there’s more…

By publishing on a larger, more visible site than your own, your content could be seen by many more people. This makes it an excellent branding strategy. The reputation effect of an author byline on a popular piece on a well-read site can pay huge dividends in reputation, traffic, and business if you select the right partners.  Do you need to publish somewhere directly in-line with your niche? No. Look for sites with relevant readership–SEO content creators may want to look to email marketing, web design, or ecommerce focused publishers for instance–that will have an interest in your topic but may not have as much exposure to it as they would like.  This can quickly help establish you as an authority among a valuable audience segment, and once you’re their authority, they’ll seek you out for more content and advice.

p.s. Someone in the comments pointed us to this Guest Blogging Community Portal from Ann Smarty. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think she’s certainly on the right path with that approach.

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