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Develop a simple internet marketing strategy

Last week, I participated in a webinar by Gihan Perera, author of Fast, flat and free: how the internet has changed your business.

There were two things from the webinar that I wanted to share (as well as all the  tips I tweeted during the webinar!) – the first being the basic aspects of an internet marketing strategy:

  1. create
    in other words, get a website and get online! Be it a static one page site, a blog or a fully interactive site with hundreds of pages, until you have a site it’s hard to market online
  2. generate
    write some content – preferably good content and lots of it. Put content onto your website and/or blog plus in a newsletter, webinars, podcasts and on sites like YouTube, Pinterest and Slideshare
  3. share
    let people know about your content, with the key method being social media links. Gihan suggested automating this as much as possible to save time and ensure it is done, and I agree
  4. participateGenerate conversations with website content
    get online and join in conversations! So visit other websites and comment in blogs, add reviews, join forums, respond on Facebook, tweet and retweet, answer LinkedIn questions, share interesting things and so on. This step is necessary to engage with other people and should take a large proportion of your marketing time

 

When you think of it as four simple steps like this it is a lot less intimidating and a lot more achievable, don’t you think? And it is realistic to think of it this simply rather than worrying  about a big picture that overwhelms you.

I also like the priority of generating content before you get caught up in marketing and building links – I honestly don’t think you can build a strong foundation online until you have decent content that people will want to use – and share.

So now’s your chance – add a comment to this post to boost your internet marketing and share you ideas. It’s easy, I’ll answer you and you will get a ‘dofollow’ back link so – what do you think of Gihan’s internet marketing plan?

Blog post linking

In a recent blog post, Anna Cairo stated that many links to other blogs can theoretically make your blog successful – rather than just the blog itself.

Working together through linksSo how does linking to other blogs help your blog?

  1. you provide additional information for your readers which they will appreciate – especially if you link to someone who gives a different perspective or technical input to your blog
  2. you can support your opinions and knowledge with other posts to build your credibility
  3. search engines give you credit for outgoing links when assessing your blog’s ranking so linking to others, especially other good blogs and posts, is good for your SEO
  4. the people you link to will probably appreciate your links. Many of them will leave a comment in your blog or return the favour by linking to your blog
  5. others’ blog posts can inspire ideas for your own post so why not link back to the post that inspired you? Either as a courtesy or as a means of introducing the issue you are posting about (i.e. it saves you writing out a detailed background for your post)
  6. your blog is more interesting if it has variety and links off to relevant materials, whether on your site or elsewhere – and people are more likely to share interesting posts and blogs than boring ones!

So when is the last time you linked to another blog within one of your blog posts?

Replying to blog comments

Speech bubbles are part of conversationBlogging is part of social media and is about communication. The only way it can become a conversation, however, is to encourage comments about the posts in the blog.

Comments are sometimes just as acknowledgement that you are reading the post but often people leave comments that enhance what was written in the post – the conversation and comments can sometimes teach  and entertain as much as the post itself.

So here are some basic guidelines to replying to comments:

  1.  in your own blog, a key to encouraging more comments is to reply to every comment you get. It can be a short ‘hello’ or thank you’ but it shows you appreciate comments and the people behind them
  2. always be respectful and polite in comments – you don’t have to agree every time but respect the fact that others have a different opinion to you
  3. before replying to a post, read through the existing comments – apart from the fact you may learn something, this gives you the opportunity to discuss the issues with others and to not just repeat a comment made by someone else.
    If here are a LOT of existing comments that you don’t read, acknowledge that to show you have noted that and may be repeating what someone else has said.
  4. When replying to another commenter, make it clear that is who you are talking to – threaded comments make this easy but otherwise use the person’s name
  5. it isn’t always possible, but try to make your comment interesting and useful – give a personal example or opinion about the topic, answer a question asked in the post or give some additional, relevant information. This expands the conversation, builds your credibility and makes it less likely your comment will be considered spam
  6. if you  write guest blog posts, treat it like your own blog – aim to reply to every person who comments on your post. You have written the post as the expert so need to be available to answer questions; blogs are about people and community so it comes across as arrogant to not reply to people discussing your ideas. From a business perspective, doing guest posts is about building relationships and expertise, so not answering comments is loosing an opportunity.
  7. never make a comment an ad for your own business/services/products. It just annoys people and makes it likely your comment will be deleted as spam. Give tips and advice, mention you have expertise and link to your site but remember that  this is someone’s blog, not your personal ad directory, and that people don’t read blogs and comments for ads.

From comments you’ve seen and blogs you admire, are there any other guidelines to add to my list?

Recognising an ineffective guest blog post

Good guest blog posts can be a great tool in your blog. However, as I wrote last week, low quality posts can be detrimental.

So what makes a low quality blog post low quality?Fail key for bad content

Here is a list of errors and faults I have seen in recent blog posts:

  1. the post is simply poorly written – I’ve seen poor sentence construction, multiple ideas squeezed into one confused sentence, changes of tense (future to past, etc) and lack of flow from one sentence or paragraph to the next
  2. poor use of sub-headings and bullet points – one I recently saw had bullet points appearing as sub-headings that didn’t actually make sense (maybe that is another blog post for me to write!)
  3. rambling – we all ramble a bit when we’re talking to friends, but rambling in a blog post wastes people’s time and often indicates you don’t know the topic well. It certainly shows you didn’t plan the post nor edit it well.
  4. using unnecessary, impressive words or misusing words makes the post very hard to read and understand
  5. rehashed content that is boring – using the same content over and over is not interesting. The post needs to contain new information or a new perspective on it
  6. using inaccurate data is not good for credibility at any time, but using incorrect data that the audience will spot as incorrect is just stupid or lazy. If you get the basics wrong, why should anyone trust your ideas and opinions?
  7. support of illegal/immoral/stupid things to do. I don’t like reading blog posts encouraging spinning articles (using the same content over and over with just enough changes to make them appear different), spamming people or using black hat (i.e. generally disliked by search engines and people) SEO tactics – there’s no way I would let a guest blogger put something like that in my blog as I value my honesty and credibility.
  8. A combination of the above! If one factor makes it look bad, imagine my response to multiple factors…
What other things have you noticed in poor guest blog posts? Or poor blog posts in general for that matter!

Quality content for guest blog posts

Guest blogging can be a great tool for both the hosting blog and the guest writer, and helps generate more content in the blog community.

However, if the content of guest posts is only average, the benefits are reduced; if the guest posts are low quality they can actually do more harm than good.

I have seen a number of examples of poor guest posts lately and I end up frustrated with wasting my time reading them when I could have been reading some great posts elsewhere. Such posts on an otherwise good blog is even more frustrating.

As a host blogThe globe and people connected via computers and internet

Imagine if the first post I read on your blog was a low quality post by a guest blogger. I am busy so it is likely I won’t come back to your blog because I only want to read information that is useful and easy to grasp.

If I already trust and value your blog, I will be disappointed but will probably give  you another chance. However, I certainly won’t share that post on social media and am less likely to leave a (constructive or positive) comment.

Whatever the reason for accepting guest posts in your blog, you want the post to be an asset in your blog, with the ultimate aim of attracting more readers. If you add in low quality posts, you are failing your readers and therefore your blog.

As a guest bloggerFingers at a keyboard and mouse to share information

Would you accept a low quality post from someone else in your blog? No? Then it’s safe to assume that a low quality post is more likely to be rejected by any host blog you may approach.

Especially if you are approaching a high-ranking blog that probably has many would-be guest bloggers to choose from.

Even if your low quality post was accepted, is it going to work for you?

As a guest blogger, I want to showcase my skills and knowledge to a broader audience – it builds credibility for me and develops my SEO which hopefully leads to additional traffic for my site. If you read my guest post and like it, you may visit my blog; if you think my post is poor, you won’t click through or share it and may even ignore future links or recommendations to me.

Make the posts you offer to other blogs some of your best posts and you will get results – low quality posts need editing or deleting.

* Low quality may mean the actual content is poor or the writing is poor and therefore hard to read. Worse, it could be poorly written and offer no value in the content either.

Social media choice

Which social media platform(s) do you find useful for your business?

Twitter or Facebook?

I have seen a number of discussions on this topic recently, in blogs and forums, and most people have answered in favour of Twitter or Facebook, with some being against the other. Other sites get little mention or are listed as additional channels.

It intrigues me that people still consider Twitter to be about what someone had for breakfast and won’t look at it while swearing by Facebook as a business tool. Both sites can be used seriously or frivolously – you can choose to not like/follow anything you think is nonsense.

My personal experience is that business people share a lot of information and resources on Twitter while Facebook is great for products and consumer services that people can relate to in ‘their time’ rather than in ‘work time’.

I heard it summed up nicely by Tom Webster (of Brand Savant) recently when he said (paraphrased) “Facebook is for sharing with people you know while the other platforms are for sharing with people you don’t know.”

Benefits to business

As a B2B business, having my information shared widely is valuable so Twitter suits  that need. I also like reading what other B2B people share as I can learn from it. Reading what friends share on Facebook may be interesting or fun, but generally doesn’t teach me business skills or knowledge.

One set of  statistics* I found interesting is:

Comparison of social media platforms for B2B and B2C results

B2B 39% & B2C 53% have acquired a customer via Twitter
B2B 41% & B2C 67% have acquired a customer via Facebook
B2B 61% & B2C 39% have acquired a customer via LinkedIn
B2B 55% & B2C 63% have acquired a customer via their business blog

It clearly shows that LinkedIn is more about professional links rather than leading to consumers. But more relevant for now is that Facebook works much better for B2C than B2B, and Twitter and Facebook have produced similar results for B2B users.

Those figures also make it obvious that a blog is still a very useful tool for both B2B and B2C – with the advantage of complete control of the blog and content (social media platforms can and do change).

Your social media experiences

How do you use social media as a consumer/client? Where would you look for a business in social media?

What results have you seen from social media for your business?

*From HubSpot State of Inbound  Marketing Report 2011 (2012 version due out soon)

Learning social media rules

I have been using a lot more social media (specifically twitter) recently as part of my Love Santa project. It because abundantly clear that some people have no idea (or don’t care) about how to effectively use Twitter. Follow TashWord on Twitter

Top most is having an understanding that twitter is for communicating and building relationships – not for blatant ads like old-fashioned media (e.g. a newspaper ad was a one way message). I saw a few businesses tweet their ad at least every couple of hours with no other messages in between. For one business, they had 3 variants of it and ran them in succession once every hour or so during their business hours. I wasn’t their audience anyway but seeing it so often bored and annoyed me, and gave me an uncomfortable feeling about them as a business.

Next is to have one honest profile. It because obvious when 3 supposedly different twitter users repeatedly sent the same tweet straight after each other – a number of times. It came across as trying to trick and con people, plus it seemed they were desperate for business rather than offering quality or showing a genuine interest in people watching their tweets.

The other behaviour that was annoying while I was on twitter a lot (I haven’t really seen it when just keeping up with people I follow on twitter) was an excessive use of hash tags*.

To me it was like reading a blog post or webpage written to show off keywords rather than actually communicate something – boring, annoying and an insult if they think I am impressed by such actions.

Adding # to key words within a message is fine, adding a keyword or two after the message is also fine, but the following wasn’t so fine:

  • adding five or more hashtags after a brief message
  • adding hashtags that were about advertising not the message (e.g. adding #santa after a message about a computer breaking down to get noticed for Christmas or adding #webdesign to a message about dreading a visit to the dentist)
  • making the entire message hashtags with a link

Tweets are like any other content you write – make it about the message and people reading it, not about SEO and getting noticed by more people, as that is what will genuinely get your message heard and distributed.

I can’t say what results those people get from their tweets, but I know I would never retweet or follow them (and I’m sure I’m not alone). I can say that most of the retweeted Love Santa tweets were those based on replying to someone else – in other words, ‘talking’ to people was appreciated and earned greater exposure to other tweeters.

Twitter can be a great marketing tool but it needs to be thought of as a relationship tool with marketing bonuses to have the best impact on your business.

Or maybe you are happy to read tweets with some of the above characteristics? Or have found them effective for viral marketing?

* A hashtag is simply adding # at the start of a word (or group of words without a space in between) that can be used to highlight a topic and make searching for relevant information on twitter easier.

Christmas leads in your content

Chrustmas trees, stockings and giftsUsing topical links and keywords is good for marketing, but perhaps you can’t see how your business can be related to Christmas or other major events.

I wrote about building trust like Santa earlier in the week as a Christmas-related article. Another example of tying in Christmas is to make a list like Santa to prepare for next year’s tax return (note this example has some good ideas but a lot of the detail are US specific and Christmas is closer to their end of financial year, too).

Here are some more ideas for businesses not obviously connected to Christmas to be able to make use of the season in marketing (other than just putting a picture of Santa or a Christmas tree on a webpage anyway):

  1. Santa checking his naughty and nice list make a naughty or nice list relevant to your field. For instance, a list of reasons to proof read or safety equipment for horse riding are nice lists whilst explaining how to damage your hair or get sun burnt are like Santa’s naughty list
  2. get into the giving spirit of Christmas – give an amount from each sale to a specified charity throughout December or match client’s donations to a charity
  3. Santa, his reindeer and boomers all work hard on Christmas Eve so fitness and nutrition people can easily write about how to prepare and maintain their energy
  4. the reindeer and boomers tie in nicely with animal health and care stories
  5. anybody selling plants or related services can give alternatives to pine trees for decorating or give tips on caring for a pine tree
  6. any service provider can of course promote their services as a means of reducing clients’ work load in the busy November/December period
  7. accountants and bookkeepers can write about the costs of Christmas – tips on avoiding debt, setting budgets, comparing savings systems for next year and so on
  8. psychologists, counsellors and others can talk about relationships, coping with grief or loneliness at Christmas, dealing with stress, setting appropriate expectations and how to fit everyone’s needs into one day
  9. anyone dealing with lights (electricians, bike retailers, lighting shops) could probably come up with a message about Rudolph lighting the way for safety
  10. do some work or sponsoring of a local community group (a neighbourhood house, meals on wheel, elderly club, RSL, etc) to get known locally. You may also be able to use it in a media release, your blog and social media, and possibly in your marketing (e.g. ‘as used by Santa at xyz Christmas party’ or ‘proud sponsor of xyz at Christmas’)
  11. like some houses have an incredible array of lights and paraphernalia, make your business stand out with a Christmas look – maybe cover your company car with tinsel and reindeer ears and use fake snow on the windows, or make your shop window stand out at night with a beautiful display of lights. Either way will catch direct attention and word of mouth, but again you can add it to a blog, media release, newsletter and a picture on your contact page is a nice touch!
  12. arrange for Santa to visit and be in your shop or waiting room for set times

That’s just a few I thought of quickly – what other ideas can you suggest or have done?

Coming up, I will write about general topical connections – it’s too much to do Christmas and general topics on one post!

* Images courtesy of Love Santa

Using Santa for trustworthy content

Baby in a Santa suit is trustworthy and cuteRight now, Santa and all things Christmas are popular topics and adding these keywords to your content can be useful.

At any time of year, using topical words and common events in your marketing can be valuable. For example, think about a chocolate company that advertises all year but leading up to mid February, they use more romantic concepts to tie in with Valentines Day.

If you don’t sell gifts, however, you may not think Christmas and Santa can help your marketing.

Actually, you may be surprised at how you can use current events to promote your business (and I’ll give some ideas later in the week) but here is an example from Jeff Bullas where he used Santa in a heading and one tip to tie an article on building trust to the Christmas season.

Let’s face it, are there many people more trusted than Santa? Would people trust your business based on your online presence?

If you do try to link your business in with Christmas, Santa or some other major event, it is important to do it in such a way as to build and maintain trust; make your message relevant to the added keywords rather than just adding topical words in a heading or description for purely keyword and SEO purposes.

 

* Image courtesy of Love Santa

No to under construction sites

Red cross through a roadworks sign stating 'under construction'I honestly thought most people online know that an ‘under construction’ website is not a good move. Search engines don’t give any credibility to sites with nothing more than a ‘coming soon’ message and people don’t like wasting their time on such sites.

As I posted about in my ‘starting a website’ series, it is very easy to put a simple web page as a temporary site while a full site is being developed. This way you can get onto search engine lists, provide some interest and begin marketing efforts.

So I was very surprised this morning to visit a site I had received an email about.

The homepage has a nice background but twice stated ‘under construction’ as well as ‘temporarily unavailable’ and ‘coming soon’ – that’s a lot of repetition in eight short sentences (one of which was ‘please be patient!”) Other than the business name as a heading, there was no information about what the business does and no real content.

Given I was making a decision about the company, this wasn’t good marketing for them. They didn’t include contact details but at least there were links to their twitter account and email.

Oh, there was no twitter user name or email address attached to the links, so their credibility fell further.

However, the biggest shock was when I clicked on the link in the footer which I assumed was their designer but thought may give me some information. It wasn’t their designer but a site selling ‘under construction’ themes for blogs! People are spending money on pretty backgrounds to put up words that may hurt (and certainly won’t help) their online reputation.

If you’ve been online for a while, does this shock you as much as it does me?

If you are looking at getting your business online, please don’t waste your money on a template or designer offering under construction pages. A plain page with an introduction and contact details will work much, much better.

What did you do while your site was being developed?