Caffeine, panda and penguin are terms that seem unrelated to most businesses, but for digital marketers they have induced flurries of action and emotions ranging from pride to panic. These are the code names given in the past few years to three major updates of Google’s website search ranking algorithm.

Businesses that were hit by these updates typically suffered losses in Google rank from being in the top three on page one to getting buried on page 50 or beyond, search engine traffic dropping by more than 70 percent overnight and significant losses in revenues. Each update created a fundamental shift in how Search Engine Optimization tactics either benefitted or harmed a business’s ability to be found — and more importantly, found at the top of the results — in Google searches by their target customers.

“Search Engine Optimization and Marketing are dynamic and rapidly changing specialties that businesses need to keep pace with,” says Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “The key to staying ahead of the curve is to have a comprehensive and connected strategy with your marketing, website and SEO.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to keep your online marketing and SEO driving top search engine results, leads and sales growth for your business.

How do I stay ahead in SEO?

The recent SMX Advanced Conference in Seattle, one of many Web industry educational events, offered practical insight and in-depth education on the latest search marketing trends, technology and best practices. One session featured a Q&A with Matt Cutts, Google’s most known insider and spokesman on search quality and algorithm matters. This very popular session revolved around the impact of Google’s latest algorithm update, called Penguin, and what kinds of SEO behaviors and tactics are being either rewarded or demoted in their search engine rankings as a result.

This scenario of face-time with Matt Cutts has been featured at search industry conferences for many years. While the tactical details keep changing, the central message Cutts delivers is the same: Google continuously seeks to return the highest quality and most relevant results to people for the keywords they use in a search.

As SEO practitioners of varying ethical orientation develop practices for attracting high search rankings and traffic for their client’s websites, Google’s algorithm adjusts to keep those results relevant and offer credible answers for searchers. What was once seen as a SEO best practice could now be a very real detriment. So it is essential that the person you entrust with the SEO for your business is not only a competent tactician, but is up to date with today’s best practices.

Why isn’t covering the SEO basics enough?

The SEO building blocks of appropriately using of keywords, metadata and link strategy used to be the complete tactical toolset, but are now just the first steps. In a very simplified nutshell, three recent major Google algorithm updates addressed these ‘Quality of search’ experience issues:

  • Caffeine: Focused on recency or ‘freshness’ of information available, incorporating rapidly updated content such as Facebook and Twitter posts. This heralded a new tactical approach to Social Media and SEO.

  • Panda: This focused on the quality of the user experience, including page design and user interface, website content quality seen from human versus algorithmic ‘eyes’ and site usage metrics that signal usefulness and popularity of a website with searchers. This caused a paradigm shift for SEOs to balance tactics with design, development and audience communication or consumer psychographics measures.

  • Penguin: Focused on quality of content and particularly on devaluing websites containing linking schemes, duplicate content and using blog and article networks that post low-quality content with commercialized links. This creates a major change in the kind of linking tactics a business can successfully use and significantly changes content marketing distribution and syndication throughout the Internet.

These algorithm updates increasingly emphasize that implementing SEO in a silo is a sure path to online marketing failure. Your SEO experts now need to be Web strategy experts. They need to have a strong understanding beyond classic optimization of all your marketing elements including how they interact and how to strike an ongoing balance among them to align with search and marketing best practices.

Where does this fit in my overall sales and marketing strategy?

There are many technical complexities and best practices to stay abreast of in SEO and online marketing. That said, it is essential that your SEO implementation is driven by a strategy that is connected with your Web design, website functionality, customer service and audience communications strategies both online and offline.  Be sure that any Web marketing partners clearly communicate the tactics they use on your behalf, and that all your online tactics promote the best possible user experience of your brand and business.

The people in your Web audience are more important than search engine crawlers because they are the ones who can get excited about your brand, share your message, lift your legitimacy in today’s search engines and become your customers.  As we are seeing through recent search algorithm updates, technology is enabling search engine crawlers to ‘see’ and evaluate experience more and more like their human website-visiting counterparts. So the best way to win the SEO game is to present a Web experience that wins the confidence, trust and business of your customers.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com. For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx.

Insights Web Design, Development & Internet Marketing is brought to you by Bayshore Solutions

Published in Florida

“One of the most difficult client introductions I experience is when a CEO comes to me for help after having invested a significant amount of money in a website, only to find that the site itself prohibits effective digital marketing,” says Kevin Hourigan, president and CEO of Web design, Web development and online marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions.  “This is a harsh reality for any business to face, yet it is all too often the ‘norm’ and often requires a costly rebuild to create the correct website that can be marketed and grow a business.”

Smart Business spoke with Hourigan about how to ensure that the right items are in place from the start when building your business’s website.

Why is the way a website is built so important?

Business websites today are not only the first impression of your business to the world but a critical tool in marketing your products or services and delivering leads and sales. To effectively compete, a business website needs to be easily found via search and deliver a visitor experience that informs, assures and influences.

Here are some major considerations to address before you start building your company website, so you end up with a web presence that is capable of and fit to deliver the business growth performance you expect.

Ensure core code fitness

There are a variety of ways that websites can be coded. Some approaches result in more efficient and consistent processes and rendering of a website. The way a site is coded can dramatically affect the time it takes to load or view a web page. Load time is a key element of any search engine’s algorithm. The faster your website presents itself, the higher up on the list of search results it will appear.

There are a staggering amount of development intricacies involved in programming the features and functionality of a website. Proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requires code-level arrangements and additions to enable the optimization that makes your website competitive in search engines. Knowing that the finished website will be marketed via SEO and other digital marketing tactics alerts the development team to anticipate and allow for the integrations, arrangements and ongoing code updates the website will need.

How does your developer plan to accommodate your website for the digital marketing tactics you will use? If he or she can’t answer this specifically, you should be interviewing a different website development company.

Keep it device agnostic

Most search engine spiders and Apple iPhone and iPad devices do not read Flash code well, if at all. Yet Flash is a very popular way to accomplish impressive visual design used by many Web designers.

Today, a website built entirely or mostly with Flash design may look fantastic, but it is severely crippled in its chances of being found by your target audience, especially those using an i-device. If your Web design must incorporate Flash, what is the plan to present an equally impressive visual experience to your non-Flash-reading website visitors?

This same audience accommodation principle applies to your website visitors who use a mobile device. The visual and functional experience of your business by visitors using a mobile-device grows more important each day as more and more people are using smartphone, tablet and mobile technologies. Your website’s presentation and feature functionality need to be tailored differently to a mobile visitor. What is the website development plan to not just accommodate but elate your website visitors’ mobile experience?

Build website flexibility

SEO and digital marketing are ongoing processes with dynamic, ever-evolving tactics and best practices. Web marketers need to access, update and publish changes to web pages quickly to take advantage of and stay on top of market dynamics that affect your business. These types of items include keyword refinement, pricing changes, call to action alternatives, message and page layout edits, timely campaigns and promotions, etc.

Access to editing and updating website content is mission-critical to effective Internet marketing. Integrating a Content Management System (CMS), to your website enables this. Insist that a web content management system be a part of your website development. Some CMS systems are more SEO friendly and more administrative user friendly than others. Take care to select a CMS that accommodates your Internet marketing needs in an easy-to-use format.

Incorporate cross fit integration

Points of integration that need to be considered for optimized development of a website include data-processing platforms or eCommerce shopping carts and payment modules. Each has critical security measures that are required to make your business a trustworthy online store or information bank.

Another basic business website integration to plan for is your Customer Relations Management (CRM) platform. Determine what type of information integration you will need and how this will be accomplished as part of your website development requirements.

Social media platforms, including blogs, social networking profiles and content syndication channels can be greatly enhanced with proper integration, capability for RSS feeds, etc. Enabling and achieving these connections with your website design may require extra development effort but is a key differentiation in effective web marketing.

In today’s digitally marketed world, as you understand the strategic importance that your website has in your ability to grow your business, it is clear that your website needs to be purposefully developed with fitness for SEO, user experience and Web marketing.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, visit www.bayshoresolutions.com/about-bayshore-solutions/methodology.aspx.

Insights Web Design, Development & Internet Marketing is brought to you by Bayshore Solutions

Published in Florida

Techniques for optimized search engine marketing make a quantum leap every year. As more media appears on the web, customers have many more ways to find out about competing products and services, and the search engine optimization (SEO) methods required to keep your business in front of customers online become more complex.

“The cost of not strategically executing SEO is loss of significant business to your company and to the gain of your competition,” says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agencyBayshore Solutions.

Smart Business spoke with Kevin about the critical items your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plan should address in order to stay ahead of your competition.

What SEO Items are 'Must-Haves?'

Every business website that wants to capture customers needs to be relevant for what those customers are searching for when they 'Google' about a need or question they have. This starts with 'On-page SEO' which includes: selecting and implementing the right keywords, placing the proper meta-data in the code that supports them, and communicating the right on-page message that addresses these keywords and entices your potential customer to convert to the next step.

It is very important to clearly understand your keywords and have a strategy around them. Anyone posing as an SEO expert can advertise and achieve impressive No. 1 rank for your exact brand name or a niche keyword phrase, but are enough targeted potential customers searching the Web using this phrase? You want to be found for competitive keywords that bring you real business prospects. This is where SEO gets competitive, and where the true experts are separated from the rest.

When I’ve optimized my website, then what?

You must have solid keywords and on-page follow through optimization. Today this is a given for any business website.  High performance websites optimize well beyond keywords and meta-data. They pay specific attention to functionality, linking, social, local and mobile interconnectivity with SEO. Here are some strategic moves in these areas that you should consider to keep your business competitive and growing in our online world:

Functionality:

Really thinking through your website’s functionality is key. Industry statistics claim that for every extra 'click' of the mouse you require of a potential customer on your website, you lose one third of your audience.  I would suggest that your website strategy operates under a 'One strike and you’re out' search mentality.

Search engines like Google and Bing actively index and rank your website on how relevant it is to searchers. Although your keywords may exist in all the right places, if people consistently don’t find what they search for when they click to your site, search engines will quickly attune to this and drop your ranking accordingly.

Another case I saw of a strategic SEO functionality mistake was with an auto dealer who had built up considerable search engine disrespect, from the good intention of trying to run a clean online inventory. When a specific car listed on their site was sold out, they simply deleted its web page. In effect, all the search engine links they had built around these pages would take searchers to an ugly error screen, rather than closing the loop and presenting a page where the customer could see similar or same-model cars the dealer did have available. While the Inventory systems were able to be accurate, they were inadvertently damaging their reputation and results with the search engines.

Links:

Search engines have made no secret that links from reputable websites to your website can add great weight to your site’s chances of top search engine results. Links that bring targeted visits back to your website are the driving reason for businesses to engage in content marketing, social media marketing, affiliate marketing and most advanced online tactics. There are standard best practices for obtaining and implementing these links and then there are 'best-performance' practices. Do you have specific strategies for getting the best possible SEO benefit from your link building efforts?

Social-Local-Mobile:

There are many social, bookmarking, reviews and reference networks that connect people to relevant information. Search engines are giving increasing attention and credit to these new media and the influence they have with your potential customers. Last year local listings, social media and real time search results (like Twitter feeds) gained prominent real estate placement on the first page of search results. This increased pressure for SEO efforts to show businesses in the top 5 results to often be visible on the first page.

Recently, Bing partnered with Facebook to show how much your friends 'Like' websites shown in their search results. Google introduced their own crowd-sourced review function with their 'Plus-One' program. Implementing social and local online initiatives with an understanding of your SEO keywords and strategy will help these channels be effective traffic drivers to your website. This approach also can detect trending changes in the market that indicate needed keyword changes.  Siloed SEO, social media and local online marketing strategies, lose this critical synergy. How do your strategies in these areas connect with each other?

Search engines are increasingly detecting and refining the results they present to mobile devices. Mobile search optimization and mobile advertising fulfillment require a focus on not just meeting the mobile visitors current needs but presenting an easy path for your business’s best outcome (like mobile-accessed specials and reasons to keep clients in your store as they are doing mobile research a product’s UPC barcode there). This can often mean separate SEO tactics to support your mobile audiences. Industry sources forecast that mobile will overtake desktop Internet access in the next few years. Does your SEO strategy put you on top of or rolling under this next wave?

SEO needs to be connected to every aspect of your marketing online. When all tactics are working in synch with your Web strategy and with each other, your business is primed for optimal results in leads, sales and growth.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, click to: www.BayshoreSolutions.com/method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or www.BayshoreSolutions.com.

Published in Florida

As a business makes its debut in online marketing, it is immediately presented with an alphabet soup of choices in channels and media. “All businesses are after bottom-line results, and depending on the competitive landscape they face, different online tactics will have different effectiveness in delivering those results.” says Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO of Web design, Web development and Internet marketing agency, Bayshore Solutions. “Implementing the right initiatives can make the difference between creating a marketing expense or achieving a return on marketing investment.”

Smart Business spoke with Kevin about how to evaluate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Paid Search, or Pay-Per-Click (PPC) online advertising to get the best mileage from your marketing efforts and dollars.

How do I choose the right approach?

First things first—create goals and a timeline. Define what results you expect and when you expect to achieve them. Are you aiming to boost sales during a holiday season or to double your online leads year-over-year?

Once you have a clear list of goals and a timeline for them, do some competitive research. Look at your competitors and review their strategy. Simply “Googling” the product or services keywords will help illustrate who and where your competitors are on the web.  There are a number of tools available (such as Keyword Spy and Spy Fu) to see if they’re running PPC ads and which keywords they’re bidding on.  Browse their websites to understand which keywords they’re optimizing for.

Then do some Keyword research on these and similar relevant terms. This will give you a gage of the online competitiveness you will face and an estimated cost per lead. Comparing this with your average sale and margin data will help you make decisions about the right Internet marketing strategy including a more accurate budget for achieving the results you expect.

Finally, before structuring your web tactics, you’ll need to Create an Online Marketing Plan. Now that you’ve done the homework on your specific business and competitive situation, you can better select the right tactics to leverage in your plan.

How will I know if PPC or SEO is the better choice?

Comparing pay-per-click (PPC) advertising with search engine optimization (SEO) is an “apples vs. oranges” scenario.  Both are a type of online tactical “fruit” and depending on your situation, one may be easier to pick or better match your taste.  PPC and SEO are similar in their logistics of selecting keywords, optimizing website pages and measuring conversions, but they are each unique in specific ways.

PPC is like renting a house while SEO is like paying into a mortgage.  Paid Search can be a quick and easy way to land traffic and generate leads and sales, but it only works for as long as you fund it with ad-spend. Much like owning a home, SEO is a commitment and a long-term investment of time and effort to build your website’s organic search engine “equity” of strength to attract traffic.

Real estate professionals suggest that when purchasing a home, you should be willing to live there for at least 5 years. While implementing proper SEO doesn’t take 5 years to reap results, it is not instant (like PPC can be).  It is not uncommon that it can take 6 months or more to build the SEO strength needed to sustain a high-performance business website.

Matching these attributes to your web marketing goals as well as your business requirements of urgency, resources and skills will guide your strategic decision for which tactics to deploy.

What situations indicate SEO or PPC?

Implementing an SEO strategy has several benefits and should be executed to advance goals of:

  • Brand positioning
  • Long term positioning
  • Increasing visitors
  • Ranking higher in search engines organic results
  • Increasing the number of keywords driving traffic to your site

Once a website begins ranking “Organically” via SEO, it should continue to do so, with proper maintenance measures. SEO is an ongoing effort that needs attention to maintain relevance and competitive strength. Hiring or partnering with a search engine optimization expert will decrease the time you spend on this tactic, as well as provide the most profitable ROI.

PPC ads are a short term infusion solution. You’ll get results more quickly than with SEO methods but paid search has a hard-cost that you may not be willing to incur over the long haul. Unlike SEO, which can take months before ranking on the first page, PPC immediately offers the option to rank at the top for the right price.

PPC campaigns are great for:

  • Seasonal campaigns
  • Special offers and promotions
  • New product launches
  • Geo targeting

Investing in PPC advertising can be a very effective strategy for generating results from your site. But take into consideration that the investment includes ad spend in addition to the cost of an experienced PPC professional either in-house or an external partner to manage it correctly for best performance.

For many businesses the optimal strategy is a blend of both tactics.  PPC can be effectively used up front, while the strength of your SEO is building.  When SEO results show this established presence, it is common to find that dialing down the PPC tactic somewhat can provide more cost effective leads and sales. Ongoing experience will also reveal which keywords are better organic versus paid search investments for your business.

Your online marketing plan may include both PPC and SEO.  Knowing how each contributes to your goals and best compliments your specific situation will help you strike the right balance for powerful and cost effective online marketing.

For a snapshot of Bayshore Solutions Web marketing methodology, click to: http://www.bayshoresolutions.com/Method.

Kevin Hourigan is the president and CEO of Bayshore Solutions. Reach him at (877) 535-4578 or http://www.bayshoresolutions.com.

Published in Florida

When people are curious about a company or product, the first thing they often will do is visit the website. So more often than not, your website is going to be the first impression your company will make to a prospective customer or business contact.

“Your website is a strategic marketing tool, just like an advertisement, press release or brochure,” says Jonathan Ebenstein, the managing director of Skoda Minotti’s Marketing Services Group. “It must fit into the overall marketing strategy you have established for your company. It should be charged with accomplishing specific pre-determined marketing goals and objectives and communicate a consistent message that is tied to your brand.”

Smart Business spoke with Ebenstein about how to optimize your company’s home on the Internet.

What kind of website do I need?

There are three main types of websites: basic information sites, lead generation sites and e-commerce sites.

The information site today is what the company brochure was 20 years ago. It functions as an online brochure that supports your off-line marketing efforts. That is the bare minimum today; you need a well-designed site that gives site visitors the information they need in an intuitive fashion. If that’s all you’re looking for, that’s OK, as long as it fits in with your overall strategic marketing goals and objectives.

The next step up is a lead generating site. Lead generation sites are unlike information sites because you want them to generate leads and business opportunities on their own. You want people to not only find the site while they are browsing on the Internet; you want them to feel compelled to contact you so you are set up to make a sale.

An e-commerce website can be a combination of a lead generation and information site, but added to the equation is the ability to purchase products and services online. After finding the site and viewing the content, the visitor is compelled to click to make a purchase. Those can be very profitable sites and an integral part of a marketing plan.

How do I know if my website needs to be redesigned?

When people are curious about a company or looking for a supplier, the first thing they will often do is visit its website. You need to ask yourself: ‘Does my site properly introduce my company?’ Does the site give visitors the perception that I am a leader in my service or my industry? If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘I’m not sure,’ you should probably consider a redesign.

Think about how prepared you are for a first meeting with a prospective customer. You have your brochure with you, you have your best suit on, your shirt is pressed — you look good because you want to make a great impression, and you want to be prepared to discuss the needs of that individual and how your company can meet those needs.

Your website is no different. It too has to be able to do that for you, because more often than not, it’s the first impression people are getting from your company.

How do I evaluate a website developer?

There are a lot of people out there with different price points for the same type of website. It’s not just about looks and cost. Your website is a strategic marketing tool, and it needs to fit into your overall marketing strategy. It needs to be charged with accomplishing specific predetermined marketing goals and objectives, and communicate a consistent message that is tied to your overall brand and marketing. The Web developer needs to understand that.

If you agree to that philosophy, it’s important that you partner with a Web design firm who is accomplished not only in designing and programming websites, but is also a strategic thinker. The ‘jack of all trades’ developer can sometimes get you into trouble. Your Web developer needs to be accomplished in all aspects of website design and development (i.e., project management, design, content development, programming, search engine optimization, etc.). And, they need to be a strategic marketer so they can tie what needs to be done from a website standpoint into your company’s overall strategic marketing plans, goals and objectives.

Is there an easy way to make frequent updates to a site?

Five-plus years ago, you had to go back to the developer if you wanted to make any changes to your website. Now, sites are built with content management systems (CMS), an administrative software system that allows users with little to no knowledge of web programming languages to create and manage the site’s content. So, if you want to add a picture, new copy or a new link, you, as the owner of the site, can make those administrative changes without taking on additional charges by going to an outside vendor or consultant. So make sure your website is built with CMS.

What is search engine optimization (SEO) and why is it so important?

SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a Web page through its structuring so that search engines, such as Google or Bing, can find, read and index them in the most effective manner. When done properly, SEO makes your website and its content attractive, relevant and visible to search engines and Web searchers. In short, it will help folks find you or your company. A good way to think about it would be if you decided to build a beautiful new house out in some rural part of the country, but you didn’t build any roads to get there. How would your friends and family come to visit you? SEO creates the road to your website.

Jonathan Ebenstein is the managing director of Skoda Minotti’s Marketing Services Group. Reach him at (440) 449-6800 or jebenstein@skodaminotti.com.

Published in Cleveland

Every day, it seems the social media world is growing, making the physical world around us appear that much smaller. With those changes, the line that previously separated our personal and professional lives has blurred as websites and applications like Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr and YouTube provide the ability to connect with family, friends and business colleagues and to share information, news, videos and photos.

So what exactly defines social media, and where is this new frontier headed? More important, how can we best take advantage of what’s out there?

Who better to answer those questions than Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, the Web’s largest and most powerful network of professionals.

 

Q. Social media means different things to different people as well as companies. What would be a good definition of social media?

Broadly defined, it is the creation of content, information and knowledge, distribution of it, consumption of it, and leveraging social interactions. Whether that’s a status update, sharing an image, a video or a blog post, even retweeting a headline or sharing a headline — those are all examples of social media.

I think the social interaction component, the virality, really takes what historically has been behavior we all have done offline, and when you bring it online and digitize it, it starts to scale and moves at a speed with which we haven’t seen previously. It really has the opportunity to change everything it touches.

 

Q. So what do you see as the true cultural sea change that is being caused by social media?

This goes way beyond brand building and customer outreach, which is how many organizations are using social media. ... Leveraging social platforms is going to fundamentally change the way we work and how business gets done. It’s going to really revolutionize and disrupt all of it. So whether it’s the way you hire people, find your dream job, transition from cold calling to warm prospecting by leveraging the power of first-, second- and third-degree relationships or whether it’s exchanging and sharing information, knowledge, insight and data that you need to derive insights to make better and more informed decisions, I don’t think people can really afford not to participate within these platforms.

 

Q. Since it’s going to be everywhere, where would you start?

It starts with recognition. There are three behavioral changes we focus on the most at LinkedIn. First is the way in which we represent our professional identity. Think about that for a moment. The way in which individuals now build their professional brand starts with their profiles. And those profiles, when they’re kept fresh and relevant, are search engine optimized so that when people search for your name or the names of people like you with your experience, your skills, your aspirations, you’re the first thing they see when they do that search on Google.

This ability to carve out a piece of digital real estate that you, yourself, can control to put your best foot forward is an incredibly powerful and valuable dynamic. It’s not just the individual; it’s also your company. There are over a million active company profiles on LinkedIn. And these company profiles not only represent who you are and your company’s identity, but they enable you to build your talent brands, establish the way in which you’re going to recruit and how you recruit, and build word-of-mouth around your products and services. So identity is an absolute cornerstone.

The second is building your network. I think historically, when people hear the expression ‘professional networking,’ they think of the guy at the conference who is handing out as many business cards to people as possible, just building the Rolodex. That’s not what we mean anymore. We mean the way business gets done.

If we believe the world is getting flatter, more global, more digital, more networked, this is the way business gets done — it’s the way people are tapping knowledge, exchanging information — and if you’re not taking advantage of that and building out your network, your competition is.

And then lastly is the whole notion of sharing information and knowledge — collaborating, sharing business intelligence and competitive intelligence. To be able to really derive this kind of insight from whatever networks or social environments you’re operating in becomes an enormous advantage versus those folks who aren’t able to do the same.

 

Q. You mentioned identity. How accurate do you think people or company’s identities are on the Internet? Who and what should we trust?

When you’re talking about a professional context, I think things change versus a social context. One of the first things people do when they meet in a professional setting is exchange business cards. The more your professional identity is out there, the more opportunities potentially accrue to you. It’s kind of a tried-and-true practice. So when you’re putting your profile out there for everyone to see publicly and transparently, the people who work with you and know exactly what you did, well, they’re going to call you out if you’re not telling the truth.

It’s very much self-policing in a professional context. The comments you see and the quality of interaction from people’s professional identities are very different than what’s shared outside of the professional context. It’s that important. If you’re sharing what you’ve done in a professional context or what your company is about, it’s perfectly transparent.

 

Q. And if you look at work/flex integration, where do those boundaries start and stop?

For a platform like LinkedIn, one of the reasons that we create the value that we do is that no matter where in the world we go, what cities we go to and the members we meet up with, we hear that people want to keep their personal lives and professional lives separate.

That context matters to people, for very obvious reasons. We all went to school, and we all had fun at school. And when I was back at school, not everyone was carrying a camera around in their pockets via a phone and uploading essentially everything that everyone did every minute of the day, having those images tagged and then having those images viewed by everyone they met.

I think people appreciate keeping their personal lives and professional lives separate, if that’s what they want. But there are also environments where those are unified.

 

Q. Should you have different conduct online than you do offline?

Generally speaking, for the most part, you need to conduct yourself online the same way you conduct yourself offline. This whole notion of creating a separate social media policy, save for regulatory environments where you have compliance issues, and there are very hard and fast rules, you really want to conduct yourself the same way. You want to be true to yourself. You want to be true to the values of the company you operate for. I think the sensitivity comes from the dynamic described earlier — when it goes online, it moves at the speed at light. So you’re talking about a far different scale at a far different speed with greater sensitivity.

 

Q. Are there some good ways to create a company’s social media strategy, and how do you measure a return on investment from that strategy?

Pursuing a social media strategy for the sake of having a social media strategy is not the right thing to do. It will end up being a big waste of time. And it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of folks are doing it because they’re told this is something you have to be doing right now. But try to figure out how you take your organization’s top priorities and leverage social connectivity to create greater value. That, I think, is a very, very smart thing to do. So trying to align your priorities and objectives makes a lot of sense.

If you’re trying to go out and do recruiting using social tools, how is that going to benefit your organization? Explicitly, there are ways of measuring that.

Historically, people are filtering through hundreds or thousands of active candidate resumes. Now technologies exist that you can find the perfect person, which creates huge efficiencies for your recruiters. They can target the ideal candidate instead of constantly spending 90-plus percent of their time saying no.

For your salespeople, how are they tapping first-, second- and third-degree relationships to eliminate cold calls? Think about the effectiveness of tapping warm prospects and how much more business you’re going to be able to do as an organization. That kind of stuff can be measured.

And then there’s the implicit stuff, such as how your company, in and of itself, can leverage social connectivity ... or the ability for your organization to share news or insights that one person in the company has identified as being valuable to everyone else in your organization is going to be a little more challenging to measure the explicit ROI of that. But implicitly, as people start to share that kind of information, best practices and knowledge, your organization is going to work more productively.

And so it comes back to what are your objectives and how are you going to leverage these technologies to achieve greater productivity.

 

Q. What’s the most fundamental change coming up?

It’s going to be transparency. These technologies are going to eliminate, if not dramatically reduce, the ability for organizations to conceal the things they don’t want people to know about — both internally and externally.

And the best part of this transparency is the efficiencies it creates in the marketplace. For example, when you take the friction out of the ability for people to move from one company to another, guess where they’re going to end up? They’re going to end up at those companies that are the best places to work because they know those opportunities because recruiters from those companies are able to identify them in ways that were impossible before because they can align their skills, objectives and their aspirations with those companies.

There are myriad examples of companies that are going through situations where they’ve introduced a bad product or service and are getting customer complaints over here. Historically, they’ve tried to hide that. That’s no longer possible because everyone’s an influencer. So if you’re not constantly having dialogue with your customers via some of these tools, you’re going to be punished for it.

Steve Jobs said an amazing thing at a conference I attended when asked whether he liked doing business in an enterprise setting or with consumers. He said he loves doing business with consumers because, at the end of the day, they vote with a thumbs up or a thumbs down. They’re either buying your products or they’re not. That’s the kind of efficiency that’s created when you have this kind of transparency. 

HOW TO REACH: LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com

Published in Northern California
Friday, 18 February 2011 13:56

Time to optimize

Studies have shown that 90 percent of all Internet sessions start with or include the use of a search engine. This means that it’s likely nine out of 10 visitors to your company’s website probably typed a few keywords into Google, Yahoo, Bing or another search engine and stumbled upon you.

Directing search engine traffic to your site is not a simple one-step solution. In fact, a good search engine optimization strategy, also known as SEO, requires a variety of tactics and frequent maintenance in order to continue appealing to unique visitors.

Many SEO tactics can be done in-house at little or no expense to your business. All it takes is time and talent and a little bit of know-how. Affordable search engine marketing tactics are a great way to augment your SEO and win the competition for visitors. That can mean the difference between your website being an expense or a sales engine for your business.

Here are some things for you to keep in mind.

Content is king

In order for your website to be ranked by search engines, you need well-written, relevant content that includes the usage of a set of keywords or keyword phrases. These are words that identify your business, products or services and come up when users type them into a search engine. Tools for establishing which keywords are most relevant to your business include Google’s Keyword Tool and Wordtracker’s Keyword Questions. These keywords should be used throughout your website as often as possible.

Each product or service that you offer should have its own page of content. For instance, if you are a retailer, you should create a Web page for each product. Try to avoid copying and pasting the descriptions that come from the manufacturer. Every other retailer selling the product is doing the same thing. Instead, write your own description and be sure to use your keywords and keyword phrases.

Put in the time

When used correctly, meaning updated frequently with relevant and recent posts that include keywords, a blog can push your content to the top of search engine results pages and introduce your company, products and services to those who are seeking them.

It takes time to develop keyword strategies, measure the impact those strategies have on conversions and build authority with Internet users and search engines. Marketers must allot the time and have a measured, purposeful strategy to ensure long-term positive results when it comes to organic search. The ROI is incredible, but it’s not a silver bullet. It takes effort, consistency and resources.

Not all good things are free

The pay-per-click Internet advertising model is an effective search engine marketing tool to help you get noticed. Advertisers bid on keywords or phrases relevant to their target market’s search habits, such as Google Adwords, and pay only when their AdWords are clicked and the user is directed to their company site or landing page. Pay-per-click allows you to influence the user experience, control your message to a specified audience and PPC typically converts at higher rates than SEO efforts alone.

Be cautious

Just because a website has a good ranking doesn’t necessarily mean it will generate a click and deliver engagement or produce a sale. SEO is a tactic that makes your business easier to recognize in a vast marketplace of products, services and ideas — which can give you a decisive advantage over your competitors. It is not, however, a magic spell that ensures the success of your company. You still have to have desirable products or services, reasonable prices, exceptional customer service and the other attributes that are common to successful businesses.

Jim Jay is the president and CEO of TechPoint, a statewide initiative to grow the tech sector and entrepreneurship in Indiana. To learn more about TechPoint, please visit www.techpoint.org and for more information on Indiana’s Measured Marketing Initiative, please visit www.indianameasuredmarketing.com.

Published in Indianapolis