Tuesday, October 27, 2015

5 Tips For Getting The Most Out Of LinkedIn

Is LinkedIn the forgotten stepchild of your digital marketing strategy? With 380 million users worldwide, you’d be remiss not to give LinkedIn the attention it deserves. In fact, according to Social Media Examiner’s Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 96 percent of the businesses surveyed use social media marketing and 71 percent of those use LinkedIn. Of the LinkedIn users, B2B companies say it’s their number-one social media platform, and all those surveyed—all!—plan to use LinkedIn even more in the future.

So, how can you make LinkedIn work for your business? Here are five ways to make sure you’re getting the best results for your efforts:
  1. Do your homework. Start at the source and find out what features and tips LinkedIn offers to help small businesses grow. LinkedIn’s small business experts offer ways to brand, connect, market, sell, build your reputation and more. Plus, you can download free ebooks with detailed information on improving your LinkedIn results.
  2. Look like you mean business. The first thing users will see on your Company Page is your logo, header image and “about” information. If your logo is complicated, it might be time to do a redesign. It’s best to use a high-res, simple and recognizable logo, as the logo will appear next to all your posts. Make sure your “About” information is updated regularly. Likewise, make it a point to change your header image periodically to keep your page dynamic. Social media users love images, so use something eye-catching from a recent event or marketing campaign.
  3. Go the extra step. Showcase Pages are extensions of your Company Page where you can highlight a new product line or service. You can also use Showcase to create targeted pages for specific clients or customers. But don’t waste your time—Showcase Pages don’t make sense for businesses with only one product or service.
  4. Posts with the most. Yes, it is possible to write a non-boring SEO-friendly headline. Think informative and engaging. Then, post often about your company’s news or trends going on in your industry. Welcome a new hire or a new client and always try to include a call to action—even if it’s just to learn more by directing readers to your website. Better yet, ask a question that’s a conversation starter or take a poll. Look for relevant videos to post to attract our YouTube-crazy culture.
  5. Spend and test. Linked in offers several paid options to enhance your LinkedIn reach. With each solution come analytics to help you determine which method or methods work best for your business.
    • Sponsored Posts get more traction by appearing in all LinkedIn feeds, not just those following your company page.
    • Ad opportunities exist as either straight ads designed and targeted by you and will appear on prominent pages that fall within the parameters of your target audience. These ads are paid on a CPC or CPM basis. You can also use LinkedIn’s Marketing Solutions Display Ads; these guarantee inventory and delivery.
    • LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a new CRM feature to help businesses find and organize prospects.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

SEO Changing Again: The New Rules for Dominance


SEO Targeting

The internet is a dog-eat-dog world for online businesses; hundreds of thousands of sites within the same niches are all competing for the best rankings, top keywords, and valuable attention from consumers. It is critical for business owners to not only know the rules and guidelines of current SEO practices, but to also be able to stay ahead of the curve by recognizing new patterns as they emerge.
Since SEO best practices are changed more often than coffee filters, it can sometimes be hard to stay on the ball at times. For that reason, marketers and business owners are constantly under pressure while conducting hours upon hours of SEO research and investigatory work to be certain that they are in-the-know and their website will outperform the competition.

To help save you all those hours of arduous online analysis, here is what you need to know about the direction SEO is heading and what factors are absolutely vital to success.

Keyword Targeting
Keywords have always been a defining factor in SEO, however, many sites are not harvesting the results that have been seen in years prior for the same keywords. This is in partly due to the growing competition. Everyday new sites emerge making the competition pool that much larger. In order for sites to generate the amount of attention necessary for survival and prosperity, a bit of creative thinking is required.

Businesses must expand their SEO vocabulary through exploring alternative terms that folks may be searching to find what they are looking for. Mid-tail and long-tail keywords are quickly becoming more popular as Google’s voice search feature often has people posing casual questions while on the go.

When identifying keywords, it is fine to start with the most commonly used terms, but only as a starting point. From there, you will want to come up with as many variations and associations as possible. Once you have racked your brain for every keyword possibility, turn your attention to digital tools for help. Some useful resources for keyword identification include:
  • Related searching in Google, Yahoo, and Bing
  • BuzzSumo
  • Google auto-complete
  • SEMRush
  • Yahoo Search Assist
  • Harvesting keywords from top-ranking competitors’ meta tags

Site Appearance
Much of a site’s success has to do with its appearance and usability. Sites that seem outdated, cluttered, or not intuitive simply aren’t trusted by most and will not get the amount of traffic desired.
In order for your site to be not only appealing (but more importantly trusted) by consumers, there are certain elements that must be present. But it isn’t just consumers that are concerned with your site’s appearance; Google is too.

Google is continually trying to provide users with the best possible listings in SERPs. This means that Google also analyzes a site’s bounce rate and how much time users spend on a site. If your site looks like it hasn’t been updated since 1999, they will move on quickly and Google will recognize this and factor it in to your ranking results. Make sure your site is as modern and user-friendly as possible if you want to rank well.

Link Carefully
Backlinks are still a factor in SEO. You should take full advantage of this by incorporating links to content you have previously published in newer posts. This will help increase the time users are on your site, engagement, and shares of your content. It is equally important to create external links wherever possible, but do be cautious about the external links that you select. Links that are irrelevant to the subject at hand, spam-like, or just plain low-quality will do more harm than good.

It is also imperative to keep in mind that linking can be overdone. Not only will link-riddled copy be a turn-off to readers, but this will not bode well with Google either. And be sure to regularly review links to ensure they are still active and high-quality. Broken links will make for unhappy readers and unhappy site owners.

Go Mobile
This point has been stressed for some time now, especially with all the lead up to “Mobilegeddon”, but a surprising number of sites have still not implemented the changes that Google recommended. And as for those who did? An 11% increase was reported by mobile-friendly sites in the six weeks
following the update.

Mobile is the preferred device for the next generation; plain and simple. More people are searching on mobile devices than on desktops and this transition will only continue to progress as time goes on. Google has even commented on this sentiment stating that, “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the US and Japan.”

The bottom line is that your site must be mobile-friendly in order to move into the future. To get an idea of just how mobile-friendly your site currently is, check out Google’s Mobile Friendly Test Tool. And, if you have yet to optimize your site for mobile screens, get on it.

Think Locally
Local listings are becoming increasingly paramount for online businesses. When people search on mobile devices they are often looking for a quick, local solution. To make sure that your city’s residents can find your business, be sure to register with Google My Business to optimize your local traffic. After filling out a basic profile, Google My Business will include your company’s information on Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ making you that much easier to find.

SEO is always changing, and it always will be changing. There will never come a time when the rules are set in stone, never be amended again. To become a master of this art, you must learn to recognize the changes to come before they occur by analyzing the current status of SEO and societal search patterns. The constant evolution of SEO is just the name of the game.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

DIY Consulting—11 Questions to Diagnose Your Marketing Needs



One of the great opportunities we have as a marketing firm is to work with bright, passionate business leaders. As we interact with new clients, we get to learn all about these individuals and the companies they run. Diving into their company history, operations, and processes is fascinating, but we frequently can see things that our clients don’t. It’s not because they aren’t intelligent or insightful, it’s simply because we have the advantage of an outsider’s perspective.

Asking the right questions is a vital tool for a consultant. The right questions stir up more questions, information and data—eventually leading to solutions. In this post we’ve put together a cheat sheet for you to use to look at your own business from a fresh perspective.

Here Are 11 Key Questions to Ask As You Consider How You Can Best Position Your Business for Continued Success:

1. What do your customers care about?
Almost everyone has a gut feel for what their customers think is most important, but very few have actually asked the customer directly. Most businesses are tempted to name price as the most important factor in a buying decision, but we’ve found that there are always aspects of a product or service customers don’t mind paying more than usual for. Knowing what your customers find compelling and what factors they weigh when making purchasing decisions is essential to how you communicate and create value.

2. What are your customers’ biggest challenges?
Becoming familiar with the challenges your customer faces on a daily basis will cause you to think about how exactly your product or service can solve those problems. Simply put, companies that can solve problems are companies that bring value. When you address an issue that causes pain for a customer, you become more than just another vendor; you become a trusted partner.
3. What are the biggest customer frustrations in your industry?

Maybe you work in an industry plagued by companies that misrepresent themselves. Or perhaps you work in an industry that is woefully unproductive with outdated processes and technologies that hamper a customer’s experience. Understanding any preconceived notions a customer might have when dealing with a provider in your industry will help you emphasize how your company avoids common pitfalls.

4. What is the typical buying process for your customers?
When a compelling event disrupts the buyer’s day-to-day life, they become aware of a new need for what you provide. Once the buyer is aware of this need, it is important to know what his or her next steps are. While gathering information for purchases, some customers will start with a simple Internet search while others will go directly to trusted peers for a referral. Knowing where, when, and what to communicate to a prospect keeps you involved at every step of the way and positions you as an obvious choice to buy from.

5. Who is your ideal customer?
Throughout your history as a company, it’s likely that there are certain characteristics in a customer that assimilate much better with what you offer. For instance, the geographical location of the customer, the organizational structure of their company, the markets they sell into, and the specific demands of their end user all have implications on your experience with any particular customer. Increasing the total number of leads you generate is a positive thing, but increasing the number of the “right” leads is a much more valuable pursuit.

6. Are you meeting expectations?
In order to meet (or exceed) a customer’s expectations, the first step is to mutually define them. These expectations could revolve around the level of service or responsiveness that is desired in communication, or the level of quality at which the customer expects your product to perform. The next step is consistently pursuing honest feedback about your performance through customer satisfaction surveys. Customer satisfaction is critical because it impacts not only your relationship with them but also how likely they are to refer you to their peers.

7. Who are your competitors and what do they offer?
This might be another question that sounds too obvious to be taken seriously, but it is another area where we have seen disconnect with companies. Business owners will often highlight offerings they deem as a true competitive advantage, but after our competitive research is complete we discover that particular offering to not be so unique after all. The only way to stand out is to know what your competitors are offering and communicating to your prospective customers.

8. What can you offer that no one else can?
This should be one of the first questions you ask yourself after taking an honest survey of the competitive landscape. Identifying a void between what is offered (or at least communicated) by your competitors and what customers have deemed as important (from Question 1) provides an opportunity for a real competitive advantage.

9. Are there industry or economic trends that will affect how you do business in the future?
To varying degrees, every business is affected by their immediate industry, their customers’ industries, and the economy as a whole. It’s important to be aware of advancements in technology, shifts in demographics, new research, or larger economic factors in play at any given time. Determining how these factors will affect your customers, their needs, and your offerings will be critical to staying competitive and relevant.

10. What are your weaknesses?
Most companies have conducted some sort of internal analysis and have identified self-prescribed weaknesses. Far fewer companies have actually asked their customers for their opinions on what areas could be improved. Keeping the customer experience in mind will help you prioritize where you spend your improvement efforts. Attention should first be given to improving the areas of your business that most directly affect your customers, and as those problems are resolved your efforts can then turn towards those that may not be as pertinent. This can be an uncomfortable exercise but it is certainly valuable as you have the opportunity to correct mistakes that might otherwise linger.

11. Why do you do what you do?
In his most popular presentation, Simon Sinek taught us to “Start With Why.” According to Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” At its core, every organization should have a true purpose that drives its decisions and aspirations. The most successful companies are those who attract customers (and employees) by establishing a deeper bond through a shared sense of purpose.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

How To Help Your Team Stop Fearing Data

Data is permeating the nooks and crannies of every industry, which understandably makes many people nervous about their jobs, teams, and companies. Fear can paralyze both teams and individuals, so good managers don’t allow it to fester. To help your team stop fearing data, start by reading and studying. Find books and news articles that are relevant to your industry. Next, practice using data. Pick something that interests you, then gather some data on it. Create simple plots, compute some statistics, and ask yourself what the data means. As your knowledge grows, push forward. Dig into other data sets, learn the difference between causation and correlation, and share what you find with your team. Finally, bring data into your daily work. Challenge your team to gather all relevant facts when making decisions. Using data in your everyday routines will help everyone feel more

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comfortable with it.

How To Sound More Persuasive When Speaking

Breathing plays a big role in how you sound. The ability to harness your breath is critical when you’re speaking up in a meeting or giving a speech or presentation. To speak with more confidence and power, focus on your breath. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your arms up over your head. Breathe in deeply. As you exhale, slowly lower your arms down to your sides. Make sure your shoulders are back, not hunched. This is the best posture for speaking: you are standing tall, owning your full height, and resonating confidence. Put one hand on your belly button and one hand on your chest. Breathe deeply and notice which hand moves. Keep your chest steady and breathe into your stomach. Then exhale slowly, and speak “on the breath.” Also, make sure to use your breath to support your words by letting it out steadily while you are speaking.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Is the Death of Twitter’s 140 Character Limit Upon Us?



Anyone who has ever used Twitter knows the pain: typing a Twitter post and agonizing over how to meet the 140-character limit.

Does “later” become “ltr”, or should “sorry” become “Sry”? Do you need to use ampersands instead of “and” or simply cut your message short in order to fit the most important pieces in?
We’re all for brevity, of course, but sometimes 140 characters is just simply not enough.
We’ve got great news, though: it looks as if Twitter may be re-thinking its 140-character limit altogether.

Read on to learn more.

A Call for Direct Publishing Privileges
Re/code reported on September 29th that Twitter is planning to offer a long form text option for its users. While nobody knows exactly what this change will look like yet, it seems safe to say that this means the death of the 140-character limit and that Twitter has finally chosen to bend to popular trends and opinions.

Let us explain: for the last several years, social networks have petitioned brands to allow them to publish long form content rather than only being allowed to post links. LinkedIn, for example, made a large announcement stating that it wanted to become a heavyweight in the world of professional publishing and, since then, more than 1 million people have used LinkedIn to publish content directly. Companies like Medium and Facebook have since followed suit and more and more users are publishing directly onto these large social platforms.

That, of course, leaves Twitter as one of the last holdouts.

In the face of all of these recent changes, it would be downright foolish for Twitter to remain one of the only social platforms that doesn’t allow users to publish content in full. While Twitter is already a massively successful content giant (worth more than $18 billion, at last count) it is obvious that more content spells more money and more customer engagement for the media platform.

Additionally, this move on Twitter’s part signifies a major shift in the company’s priorities. While Tweets were and have always been meant to be short, quick, on-the-go updates about news and other important information, the death of the 140-character limit means that Twitter is bravely jumping on the bandwagon and becoming a truly interactive social platform that allows users to post more content and enjoy the benefits of content in full.

Since the death of the 140-character limit is the first major change that Twitter has seen in years, many users are speculating that the character limit increase is a strategic move on Twitter’s part, designed to keep it from slipping into stagnation and becoming decidedly uninteresting to its users. Experts have long said that, in order to really draw new audiences, Twitter needs to shake up its game a bit. This is due to the fact that users who aren’t familiar with Twitter may find the character limit hostile or confusing and, when virtually nobody else places a limit on character usage, it’s easy to see why confused customers would simply take their thoughts to another social media platform. That said, it seems likely that the decline of the character limit is a bold move on Twitter’s part – aimed at maintaining the charm of its service while also opening it up to new clients.

What This Means for Users

For individual users, the disappearance of the 140 –character limit spells more freedom and a friendlier interface. For content marketers, however, it carries a very different meaning. Twitter has roughly 271 million active monthly users and studies have shown that 85% of the time people spend online is dedicated to the use of apps.

With that in mind, it’s obvious that the increased character limit means more rein for content marketers to distribute smart content in intelligent ways to a truly massive audience. Twitter is a unique platform in that it offers an unparalleled platform for exposure, awareness and going viral.
While the 140-character limit certainly served its purpose (keeping Tweets short and sweet) the disappearance of that has the potential to open the site up as a full-blown content machine, allowing users and marketers alike to share more and, thus, promote more direct relationships with readers.

3 Rules to Live by in the Post-Character Limit World

The challenge associated with the new character limit, according to many experts, will be for marketers to learn how to fully capitalize on Twitter’s new expanded character limit while also nurturing their audience to the fullest extent possible. The downside of the decreased character limit, of course, is that it opens the site up in a new way to being a dumping zone for icky content or content that simply wouldn’t make the cut were the character limit still in place. With that in mind, responsible posting will boil down to these three things:
  1. Only Share Relevant Content: The withdrawal of the character limit may make some marketers feel like kids turned loose in candy shops, but this is dangerous. Don’t get carried away by the newfound freedom. Remember, as always, to only post content that is relevant to your users or your mission and to keep your content focused on catering to the Twitter platform, new and improved as it may be. Extended and involved posts are best suited for a platform like Medium while a video cast may find itself more at home on YouTube or Facebook.
  2. Be Picky: Don’t flood your Twitter feed just because you can. Only share things that are truly valuable and useful to readers and ensure that you’re abiding by content marketing best practices.
  1. Inspire Your Audience to Act: What are you going to do with all the new freedom afforded by the lack of a character limit? You’re going to write astounding CTAs, of course! To take full advantage of the new long form content, include an award-winning CTA at the end. A great CTA tells your reader what to do next and is an effective marketing strategy that will translate well to Twitter.
Although nobody quite knows what Twitter’s new long form platform will look like just yet, you can trust that we’ll keep you posted as this develops. In the meantime, visit the Express Writers blog to learn more about how you can write better content in preparation for your big long form Twitter debut.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How To Help Your Team Tackle Tough Problems

The 4 Questions to Ask When You Debrief on a Project

Debriefings can help you accelerate projects, innovate new approaches to problems, and hit difficult objectives. More than a casual conversation about what did and didn’t work, a debriefing digs into why things happened. It should review four key questions:
  1. What were we trying to accomplish? Start by restating the objectives you were trying to hit.
  2. Where did we hit (or miss) our objectives? Review your results, and ensure the group is aligned.
  3. What caused our results? This should go deeper than obvious, first-level answers.
  4. What should we start, stop, or continue doing? Given the root causes uncovered, what should we do next, now that we know what we know?

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