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Rebranding is often more work than most people realize going in. Depending on how many assets your business owns, it can be a terrible headache. The more you own, the more difficult the process will be.

Let’s start with your website.

If your rebranding means a change of name for your business, then you’ll likely have to procure a new web domain and redirect your website to your new domain. You can expect a search engine fallout for your old website as you lose rankings, but if you do it right you can turn your new site into a quick-ranking powerhouse that makes up for it. Talk to your SEO before making the move.

Other things you should consider before you start your rebranding efforts online are:

  • Twitter account migration. Will you need a new branded Twitter account?
  • Facebook business page branding. In most cases, you can simply change the name of your Facebook business page, but it does require approval from Facebook.
  • If you have a Google+ page, you’ll have to change the name of that as well. That’s a bit easier than on Facebook. You just go to your page and edit the page.
  • LinkedIn changes might also be necessary.
  • If you have YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, and other social media accounts, you’ll have to rebrand those as well. In some cases, it will mean starting over.
  • Your newsletter will need to be rebranded. That will mean a redesign of the newsletter to match your new website design. Depending on which newsletter service you use, you might have to rebrand your account or start over. This will be painful if you have to start over because it will mean exporting your list and most newsletter services require that you send out a mass e-mail asking for opt-in permission. You’ll need to communicate with your list prior to the move.
  • Blog rebranding.

There may be other things you’ll have to consider as well. In some cases, rebranding your online business might be unavoidable. For instance, if you are in a legal dispute and the court forces you to, then you have to comply with the law. At any rate, don’t make the decision hastily. Consider all your options first.

Let’s face it. We live in a world where beauty matters. I have seen ugly websites get a redesign and improve visitor interaction immediately. The website’s bounce rate lowers, its unique visitors increases, and conversions increase. The same thing can happen to your website.

There are some very simple things you can do to improve the look and feel of your website. Here are 3 ways to improve your web design easily and reap the benefits.

  • Associate your brand with colors – Not too many. Pick two or three colors that you want site visitors to associate with your brand and use those to design your website. Over time, those colors will be associated with your website and brand. Make sure you use specific colors by hex code and not just generic colors like “red” and “yellow.”
  • Write content for the web – People don’t read the same way online. Make your paragraphs short, use bullet points and subheads, and use short and simple sentences. Make your content “scannable.” People will stop and read what they find interesting.
  • Use graphics – “Gray” content might be interesting, but it’s going to be a lot more interesting with graphic enhancements. Use images on your content to break up the content and to add a visual element. Be sure to choose images that correspond to the content.

If you improve your website’s visual design, then you’ll see a huge difference in your conversions and how visitors interact with your website.

We haven’t heard much from Yahoo! in recent months, but new CEO Marissa Mayer, who had lived at Google for a long time before moving to take over Yahoo!, has high hopes:

Mayer said that the biggest opportunities for Yahoo lie in “search, display, mobile and video,” and, in search, especially, Mayer still sees “a lot of headroom.” On top of that, Yahoo’s focus going forward will be to improve engagement, with the key being personalization.

The interesting thing about this is, I believe Yahoo! could actually pull it off. Acquisitions in these areas in the last few months gives Yahoo! at least a fighting chance. Two of those acquisitions include OnTheAir and Stamped.

Mobile And Video: Will They Save Yahoo!?

OnTheAir is a video app that allows users to set up their own webinar. If Yahoo! can capitalize on this technology, they could give Google a run for their money in competition with Google Hangouts.

Stamped is a mobile app, and I think this is where the real opportunity lies for Yahoo! Nobody dominates mobile search, but if Yahoo! can take Stamped and turn it into a competitive product or service, along with decent revenues, then they can establish a big foot in the door. All they need is a profitable service to give them enough financial clout to carry on with other endeavors – like video.

In order to compete well with Google Hangouts, Yahoo! will need to integrate its video live streaming with a video sharing component. Most likely, that will be Flickr, who already has a huge base of users in the photo sharing space.

It will be interesting to see if Yahoo! can build a search product that competes with Google. I’m rooting for them.

Social analytics is very important. Today I’m going to discuss a tool that you can use for a few good purposes. With this tool you can search for information about a certain topic within your niche to see how popular that topic is. It’s a good keyword research tool that you can use for your online content – that includes website content, articles, blog content, and social media content.

Another practical use for this tool is to see what your competition is up to. If your competition has been posting information on a particular topic, then Topsy will let you know. It’s good for competitive intelligence.

Finally, you can use Topsy for social analytics. If you click on the Social Analytics link at the top of the main page, then you can compare search data for up to three keyword phrases. Again, it’s a great keyword research tool.

The great thing about Topsy is you can measure the data you’re looking for in realtime. You can also measure it over time. Furthermore, you can search for content by type (i.e. tweets, links, photos, videos, experts, and trending).

After you search for information on a particular topic, you can narrow down the content search results by time. For instance, you can narrow your search to the last hour or broaden it to the past 7 days. You also have options in between. You can also search by network, but the only options available at this time are Google+ and Twitter.

Topsy looks like it will be a good social media tool. I hope it sticks around awhile.

What determines your reputation? There are a number of factors that contribute to your overall reputation. It’s not just one thing. I’ve compiled a list of 5 things that factor into how people see your company. These 5 factors are not the only factors that affect your reputation, but they are important factors, at least where online reputation is concerned.

  1. Customer Service – How you treat your customers is perhaps the most important reputation management factor. Is your service a positive or a negative?
  2. What You Say About Your Competition – Believe it or not, people pay attention to what you say about others, even your competition. Do you bad mouth them? It’s OK to point out the flaws in your competition’s product, or to point out how your products are different than theirs, but it’s another thing entirely to continue posting negative rants that are not related to the competitive nature of your business. Keep it professional.
  3. How You Conduct Yourself On Social Media – Social media has become a huge business factor. Even if you don’t talk bad about the competition, if you conduct yourself in an undesirable manner through social media, then it will reflect on your reputation.
  4. Search Engine Optimization – How do you look in the search engines? Can people find you? Admittedly, this isn’t as important as other factors on the list, but if you can’t be found in the search engines or what people do find is all negative, then that will affect your reputation online for sure.
  5. Your Website – If your website is unattractive or hard to navigate, that will hurt your reputation. Make sure your website is helpful and attractive.

How’s your reputation online? Take a look at each of these factors and see if you could use a little help managing your reputation.

Interestingly, a new study about marketers and quality content has Marketing Pilgrim concluding that most marketers believe it is important but aren’t willing to pay for it. Sadly, we get many queries from potential clients who want quality content for a low price. The challenge for online marketing companies like ours is to maximize the quality of the content we produce with a price low enough that consumers want to pay for it.

That old adage “You get what you pay for” rings true for content. If you want quality, you have to be willing to pay for it.

But how much is the right amount for high quality content?

The graph showing what people pay for a 1,000-word article is quite telling. Besides “never outsourcing,” the amount with the highest percentage (at 17%) is between $16 and $25. The next highest (at 14%) was under $15. In contrast, only 3% of marketers earning $10,000 or more pay less than $15. The highest amount was the $26 to $50 category.

So what’s the lesson? If you want to increase your revenues, pay more for content. Choose a high quality content writer rather than a low quality writer. If you chintz, you’ll get low quality content. That definitely affects revenues.

Once again, you get what you pay for.

Last week, Facebook introduced its new search feature, called Graph Search. I just read my first review of it today.

Greg Sterling gives it a thumbs up. I think his assessment, even though I haven’t used it myself, is pretty solid.

If I search on something that isn’t within the scope of Graph Search (e.g., plumbers) I’ll get Bing results. This is significant because people are going to start searching on anything and everything to see what happens and what comes up. It avoids the “no results” problem that might have undermined getting users to “come back” to Graph Search.

I’ll have to agree. The worst thing in the world for Facebook would be for users to get a bunch of “no results” results and stop using the feature.

Bing could very well increase its share of the search market if the Graph Search catches on, but I doubt that it will be a big leap. Even a 1% or 2% increase would be something. And if Greg Sterling is right that people will use Graph Search more broadly than Facebook intended, that will bode well for Facebook as well. You may very well see people using Facebook more than Google if they find positive results – at least with certain verticals like restaurant recommendations.

The main thing is competition. If there’s enough of it, then search will improve all around. For businesses, it means another way to be found by your target audience.

If you are a local business trying to convert local traffic, the necessary first step is to attract targeted local traffic. But how do you do that?

It’s not a question of medium. Whether you are using pay per click advertising, video marketing, or a blog, the concepts are the same. SEO and social media can be used to reach an audience that is targeted for your particular services. In other words, who needs or wants what you have?

This can often be a challenge for local businesses because you think that writing content about your local area will attract people who live in your area. Maybe. Maybe not.

Let’s say that you operate a restaurant in New Orleans. Not everyone in New Orleans is interested in eating out every day. Even if your restaurant is an Italian restaurant, not everyone in New Orleans likes Italian food. But, if someone is looking for an Italian restaurant in New Orleans, you definitely want them to find yours.

So what’s the point?

If you think that targeting “New Orleans” in every blog post is more important than discussing food-related information, you might be confused. People looking for an Italian restaurant are not likely interested in the Greek festival taking place in your neighborhood. They might be interested in a kids carnival if it is going to be in your parking lot. I hope you see the difference.

The key take away here is to be judicious and thoughtful in how you approach your local content. If it’s relevant to your business, post it. If it will attract people who might be in the market for your services, post it. If not, then don’t mess with it.

There are a lot of ways to go about link building. It’s pretty well common knowledge now that reciprocal link building doesn’t work. But if you do it right, then you can get away with it.

What you don’t want to do is contact other website owners and bloggers and ask them for a reciprocal link. That’s so 2000, and it won’t get you very far in the search engines even if they agree.

A better way is to make a list of people in your niche who are doing things you like. Contact those people and tell them you’d like to help them out. Then ask them what they have that you can promote. And link to it. Link to it from your blog and promote it through social media. Don’t ask them to reciprocate. You’re just being a nice guy.

If you do that, most people will find a way to do something nice for you. They’ll share your links and link to you from their blogs.

People by nature want to reciprocate niceties. We’re hard wired that way. All you have to do is find a way to promote other people, then let them find the way to promote you. This kind of reciprocal link building works and won’t get you in trouble with the search engines.

First you heard that social media was good for customer service. Now there’s someone saying that it isn’t.

So which is it?

I think it depends. There are viable ways to use social media for customer service. However, it won’t work for every company.

If you find that it uses up too many resources or that you can’t respond to customer service queries fast enough, then let your customers know that you can’t take customer service concerns through social media. The big thing is communication. In fact, the best customer service you can deliver through any medium is communication.

Consider limiting your social media customer service actions to specific hours – then post those hours on your website and in your social media bios.

If that won’t work, you can take more drastic measures and remove your Facebook page or Twitter account – but only do that if you need to. After all, you can use those accounts for purposes other than customer service.

If your marketing department and your customer service department don’t communicate well and you are making customers unhappy by not responding fast enough, fix the problem. Maybe you need to encourage more interaction between your departments. Or maybe you need to set up a separate social media account for customer service. Kick around the ideas and see what works for you.

When I ask clients what they think the most important element of web design is, I usually get one of several responses.

  • The header
  • Navigation
  • Attractiveness
  • Usability, or functionality
  • Shopping cart
  • Conversions, or calls to actions
  • Search engine optimization

These are generally the most often stated elements by people who don’t design websites. Even web designers will often repeat one or more of these often spoken responses. But the truth is, the most important element of web design is none of these.

So what is the most important element?

In a word, it’s content that speaks to your ideal customer.

Notice that I didn’t just say “content.” That’s because content in and of itself is just a tool. It can be effective or ineffective. It can be the right content for your target audience or the the wrong content.

If the content on your website isn’t written to attract your ideal customer and then close them, then it’s not good content. Period.

The bottom line is, you have to lead your ideal client to the sale. That means your content has to be targeted to appeal to the ideal client and convince them that you have the answer to their most pressing questions. In other words, it has to solve a problem. If your content doesn’t convince your ideal customer that you have the solution to their biggest problem, then you won’t get the sale.

That’s why content that speaks to your ideal customer is the most important element of web design. It’s what gets the sale.

Social media and competitive intelligence go hand in hand, but the first step to a good intelligence maneuver is listening. In fact, listening is absolutely essential.

So what entails listening?

There are quite a few free and paid tools you can use to listen. It’s the online equivalent to putting your ear to the ground and listening for oncoming horses. You want to know where your competition is and what they’re doing. So listen.

Your first step should be to subscribe to a few Google Alerts. You choose your most important keywords and subscribe to the Alerts. Google will notify you when those keywords are mentioned anywhere online, or at least on pages indexed by Google.

You should also look for blogs in your niche to subscribe to. Google Reader is especially helpful for this.

Other online tools like Tweetdeck and HootSuite allow you to subscribe to Twitter followers. More than just allow you to see who’s saying what on Twitter, these tools give you additional features that allow you to massage your Twitter stream so that you can manage it more easily.

Klout allows you to get a handle on your competition’s influence.

All of these tools are free. There are a few paid tools out there that give you a little bit more functionality and organization. Some of them can prove useful as well.

Whatever tools you use, take the time to put your ear to the ground and listen. That’s the only way you can know what your competition is up to.

In most cases, I’d say if you wanted to build an off site e-commerce application to replace your onsite store, then you should rethink your strategy. But what if you want to add an off site store – on Facebook, for instance – as an adjunct to your onsite store? Then I’d say more power to you.

Facebook now has applications that allow you to set up your page as an e-commerce storefront. That’s not a bad thing.

Remember what your Facebook page is. Primarily, it’s a branding and marketing tool. If you promote it well on Facebook and it gets a good bit of traffic, why not allow your fans to buy directly from the page? Why send them to your website to look for what they want when you stand a chance of losing them in the process to recidivism? Give them the opportunity to buy right where they are and they are more likely to buy.

In other words, put the end goal closer to your customer.

That’s what the Facebook page as e-commerce store is all about. You can use it as an outpost, a franchise to your main store. And sell more product in the process.

I see a day when serious online merchants will have their main website as well as outposts on Facebook and the other most popular social networks.

One of the most important parts of marketing online is getting a handle on what your competition is up to. One of the most important growing trends in that space is social media. It’s what I call social intelligence.

Social intelligence is learning what your competitors are doing with social media. To do that effectively, you have to follow them.

There are different ways of approaching social intelligence. You can simply follow your competition in your own name, but what if they decide they don’t want to include you in their posts? What if they exclude you because you’re the competition? There’s a simple fix. Create an online persona not associated with your brand and then follow your competition.

It’s clandestine, yes. But it also works.

Your social intelligence persona should be very controlled. You are only interested in following your competitors. But to make sure that you arouse no one’s suspicion, follow your own brand as well. You can use this strategy on any of the social networks:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • and more

What should you be looking for with your social intelligence profile?

For starters, you should be looking for new important announcements about products and services, new marketing initiatives, contests and specials, etc. If your competition makes a move, you want to know about it. That’s what social intelligence is all about. It’s competitive intelligence using social media as the information gathering tool, and it’s an essential element of your marketing plan.

SEOmoz published a blog post last year titled “12 Things That Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time.” I agree with all 12 of them, but there are six of the 12 that stood out to me as absolute blog killers. The others can hurt your blog but don’t necessarily knock it dead. For instance, not adding page titles and descriptions in the All In One SEO Pack may not hurt your blog at all (I’ve seen blogs do well without that information).

Nevertheless, the following six practices can certainly send your blog hurling to the bottom of the trash heap if you continue them:

  1. Not linking to old posts – Sure, you can get away with never linking to old posts, but by linking to your older posts you are telling readers that you have covered certain topics before and that you like to write about those topics on at least a semi-regular basis. Plus, those links send traffic back to those old posts and keeps visitors on your site longer.
  2. Not linking to other bloggers – Linking to other bloggers makes you a part of the global community.
  3. Using clunky URLs – These can often not be indexed in the search engines, which means you won’t get any traffic.
  4. Plagiarism – There’s no excuse for stealing someone else’s content. If you can’t come up with something original, then don’t post.
  5. Infrequent posting – You should post to your blog at a minimum once a week but more often than that if you can. If you post less than once a month, then your blog is invisible.
  6. No social media presence – In today’s online marketing culture, you need a social media presence. That’s where a lot of your readers are hanging out. Not only can you reach new readers, but you’ll build quality backlinks on the popular social media platforms.

If you’re going to blog, and you should, then follow the best practices for blogging. Otherwise, don’t bother.

Telematics is defined as the convergence of telecommunications and informatics. In other words, it is primarily concerned with the transport of information through electronical telecommunications devices such as mobile phones. Vehicle telematics uses GPS navigation, mobile technology, and the Internet to send and receive information important to drivers inside their vehicles.

The below video illustrates the use of a vehicle telematics program called Glympse. Notice three things about how the technology is being used:

  • It is voice activated to make it safer for the driver to use
  • The driver is able to send her present location to a friend on his smartphone
  • The computer is able to process the information given to it in real time and with near precision

So how can this technology be used for marketing purposes?

Vehicle telematics is still in its infancy. It will get a lot more sophisticated before it’s over with and done. But I envision vehicles having an e-mail-like communication tool that operates on voice commands and which will deliver your mail to you in voice. Much like SMS messages, you’ll be able to receive incoming mail from your favorite retail shops and merchants.

Location tracking will also be important for marketers when in-dash apps much like apps for smartphones and tablets start to become popular. When a certain app user drives by your shop and you have a special going that day, you’ll be able to automatically notify that driver of the special deal, and you may even be able to customize that deal to the specific interests of the driver.

This is just a tip of the iceberg on what is possible. We are still a few years away from that vision, but I can see it coming.

Stuntdubl has a very detailed post on how to build a website you can sell. He’s got some awesome nuggets of wisdom in that post, but be forewarned – it is super long. Be prepared to spend some minutes learning.

There’s one paragraph, however, that struck me as obvious but that a lot of potential website sellers/marketers don’t quite get.

Rule #1 – You can’t sell potential. Take the word out of your vocabulary. Cringe when you hear it from others.

There’s a reason this is Rule #1. It’s real simple. Potential is something the buyer brings to the table, not the seller. Potential is nothing more than the ability of the buyer to capitalize on the opportunity. If you succeed in selling your website with “potential,” there is no guarantee that the buyer will succeed in making it profitable. Why? Because they have to do something to earn payback on that “potential.” Savvy buyers understand this.

If you are going to sell your website, you won’t sell it to smart buyers if you are trying to sell potential. That’s why it’s better to build a revenue model into the site and prove that model by earning the revenue yourself before you sell the site. A site already making money will be easier to sell.

This is a lesson to anyone interested in buying and selling websites for a living. Just like flipping houses, if you want to flip web properties, you have to improve them first. That requires imagination.

The key to getting strong search engine rankings is to first get your website indexed. In the old days of SEO the way to get your site indexed was to submit it to a few website directories. But that method is pretty much dead today – for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is that Google has made algorithm changes that have killed off a lot of website directories as spam sites. You don’t want to be associated with them.

The other reason website directories are dead is because of the rise of social media.

What hasn’t changed is the need for inbound links. Your site will never get indexed by any search engine unless there are inbound links that will allow the search engines to find it. The search bots crawl through the links to find new pages to index. No inbound links = no indexed web pages.

So how do you make that happen fast?

After you build your website, you should share your pages on the social networking sites you are a member of. I’d focus first and foremost on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest if your web pages have images (and they should).

Most of the time, if you save your web pages on Google+, then you’ll get ranked quickly. But I wouldn’t just do it in succession. I’d save one page per day on each social network. You should have your website indexed in less than a week if you don’t have any crawl issues.

I’ve noticed that in the last year or so many small business and mid-size business owners who were blogging a couple of years ago have cut back on their blogging. I think this is a bad idea.

The thinking may be that blogging will eventually go by way of the directory and people will no longer need a blog for content marketing or SEO purposes, but I don’t think that is the case. I think blogging, in some form, will always be around.

While certain blog strategies are certainly not as effective as they used to be, I’d still say that blogging is the best online content marketing.

The main reason that blogging is good is because the search engines still like to see websites with fresh content. A blog keeps your website updated regularly and invites the spiders back to crawl it again, and again. There’s no better SEO than that – as long as you aren’t spamming the search engines.

What makes blogging different than it was a few years ago is the rise of social media. If social media is a necessity for 2013, then it will be much more effective with a blog. Use your blog to create a dialogue with your readers. Use your social media to drive traffic to your blog. Once you draw your readers in, then you can send them to your landing pages. But your blog is the perfect conduit.

Constant Contact is predicting that social media marketing will become a mission-critical activity in 2013. Funny. Some of us thought it already was.

It’s already an established fact that Google is relying on social media cues in its search algorithms. While that might not exactly spell “mission-critical,” it’s pretty close. If you want your websites to rank in the search engines, then you should be doing some type of social networking. For search, I’d say the most important social media sites are:

  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest

But not necessarily in that order.

Facebook is important for other reasons. If you use Facebook, much of what is done on Facebook is walled off from Google’s robots, so you won’t get a lot of search traction. You could get some traction on Bing through Bing’s social search features, but that’s it.

On the other hand, if you have a Facebook page, then that might get you some search traction – even on Google. Even that is suspect, but it’s possible.

In 2013 – I think Constant Contact is onto something – social media will become much more important, and not just in search marketing. You should spend some time now brushing up on each of the major social networks and what they have to offer. Learn how to use the tools and get yourself involved. 2013 will likely be a year that defines the winners and losers in a lot of niches based on the social media question.