Sales & Support 1-888-220-7361

The Reciprocal Consulting Blog

You are Browsing the February 2013 Archive:

Let’s face it. We live in a world where online social networking is important for the health of most businesses. Even local businesses. But you don’t have to keep your networking online. You can meet someone online and then take your relationship off line for a deeper, more enriching experience.

Here are 3 powerful ways to take your online networking off line for better results:

  • Meetup – Have you ever been to a Meetup? If not, then you should. This is the offline version of social networking. You can sponsor a Meetup or join one. Some social networks, like Twitter, have their own Meetups. Twitter Meetups are called Tweetups. You meet someone online, then you join others of like-mind in your neighborhood in a physical social setting.
  • Conference – Many niches and industries have periodic conferences. If you meet someone on Facebook or LinkedIn who shares the same interests as you, why not have a face-to-face with them at your next industry conference?
  • Foursquare – OK, Foursquare is not exactly off line. But it is. Kind of, sort of. You can meet someone on Facebook or Google+, then migrate over to Foursquare where you can tell people your exact physical location and, in just a few short minutes, they’ll meet you there. It’s a great way to set up ad hoc business meetings when you have a little downtime.

Your online networking may be social, but you don’t have to keep it online. You can take your online relationships off line, build them deeper, and keep on trucking.

Google+ is making it easier for you and your website visitors to share information. Now, you can install a Google+ sign-in app much like the one that Facebook has. So your site visitors and app users can sign in without signing up.

Welcome to the future of the Web.

I think this is the way the Web will work for the foreseeable future. If you use the Internet in any way, you’ll likely be signed in to your Google+ account, your Facebook account, or another social media account, or all of them. Then, when you visit another website that you like and respect, you can sign in to those sites using your Google+ or Facebook account.

When you first sign in to a third-party site using Google+, you’ll be asked what people in your circles you want that site to know you have a relationship with. You’ll also be asked who you want to share information with on that site. You can opt for all your circles, select circles only, or just yourself.

Social media marketing is changing. I’d say for the better. And the Google+ sign in is just another piece of evidence to prove it.

The question, now, for webmasters is, should you implement the Google+ button on your site? I don’t see how you can lose.

The one pet peeve every client and potential client have is not being able to find contact information when they need it. Whether you are sending out e-mail announcements, newsletters, or building a website, you should place your contact information in an easy-to-find location so that your clients and potential clients can see it.

Here are a few good places to put your contact information in each medium:

Your Website

  • About Page – If you have an About Us page, you can put your phone number, address, and e-mail address on your About page.
  • Contact Us Page – Even if you have a contact form, you should include your contact information on the Contact page.
  • Sidebar – Put your preferred contact media in the sidebar, either at the very top or the very bottom.
  • Header – Headers are great places to put phone numbers, particularly for a service business.
  • Footer – Put your address, phone number, e-mail address, and social media information in your footer.

E-mail Newsletter

In an electronic newsletter, you typically have a header, footer, and sometimes a sidebar. These are all great places for your contact information. Put your phone number and e-mail in the header. All information can go in the footer or the sidebar. You might even have a special section in the content part of your newsletter for your contact information.

Social Media Pages

Most of the social media sites have an About page or special place for your contact information. If anything, there is a description or Bio spot in your profile. Add your contact information.

Online Vidoes

Even videos can include contact information. If you have a call to action in your video, then you need to make sure your contact information is available. The best place is at the end of the video. You may include any contact information to help your prospects reach you, including your web address.

In videos today, you can include clickable links. That’s a great way to include your e-mail address.

This article from Wired brings up a very important point for e-commerce vendors. If you don’t control your brand, then you don’t control future sales.

“Amazon can show they’re a friend to small and medium-sized businesses by offering them a platform that allows them to sell,” he says. “What they don’t do is allow you to control your own brand.”

So how do you control your brand, and why is brand marketing so important?

Let’s tackle the second question first. Brand marketing is important because without it you are only selling product. You can list as many products as you want on Amazon, but then all you have is inventory that rides on Amazon’s success. You are helping Amazon build their brand.

To truly build your own brand marketing machine, you need an e-commerce website with fulfillment capabilities and a way to stay in contact with your customers – for instance, with an ongoing newsletter.

Brand marketing is done in a number of ways. It starts with a website. The newsletter is another tool. You can also use your blog as a communications platform, social media as a way to develop relationships and draw people in, and search engine optimization to promote your brand through the search engines.

Paid marketing can also get people to your e-commerce website to interact with your brand.

In the long run, building a brand marketing platform will keep you alive much longer than moving product through an online retail store that may or may not be here tomorrow.

Did you know Constant Contact has tools to help you grow your e-mail list among smartphone users? It’s true. You can use Text-to-Join to get new list members by texting them and Scan-to-Join to get smartphone users to scan QR codes.

What Is Text-to-Join?

If you use Constant Contact for e-mail marketing, event planning, or even for taking surveys, then you can use Text-to-Join. It’s a free app that allows you to market your events, surveys, and mailing list to smartphone users.

Your customers can send you their e-mail address by text. This will allow you to print advertising messages, market through signage, or use word of mouth to promote your business. And you’ll get more sign-ups by allowing customers to sign up for your lists by text.

What Is Scan-to-Join?

You can publish a QR code in print anywhere – on flyers you place in your store window, on your brochures, wherever you have a message in print. Your customers can scan the QR code with their smartphone and join your mailing list, take your survey, or get event details.

That’s powerful marketing.

Go Mobile Or Go Home

Mobile is here to stay. You can tap into the power of mobile marketing and reach more customers with these two Constant Contact apps. Grow your list and sell more product by reaching smartphone users with smart marketing.

Dave Pasternak wrote a post on WebProNews proclaiming SEO to be rocket science. Accusations of flip-flopping behind, this got me to thinking about where he might be coming from.

For many larger companies who have a lot of data to sift through, SEO may very well be likened to rocket science. Online marketers will have a lot of analytics data to sort through, links, keywords to manage, etc. But for small businesses, it’s still largely about long tail keywords and quality content.

In fact, you could argue that it’s all about quality content even for the big players in (choose your) industry. But, the fact is, those large companies still have to sort through the data. Mom & Pop don’t.

SEOs and online marketers have to decide if they want to build a huge ship to sail the oceans or steer a tugboat through the harbor. If you are a small business owner, then your job is achieve respectable results through SEO and social media that keep your company profitable and your customers happy. A larger business has to measure every element of its marketing campaigns to determine ROI, and that can get tedious.

Panda and Penguin changed a lot, but they didn’t kill SEO. They just made it a bit more complex. Even for the small business owner.

Still, it’s not rocket science. The basics are still the basics.

A new study by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth shows that Inc 500 companies used LinkedIn and blogging tools more in 2012 and Facebook and YouTube less. The companies also turned to Foursquare and Pinterest more often.

This is an interesting trend because the year before the companies were excited about Facebook.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn has become the business networking tool. Facebook is a great place to go if you are a B2C company or local, but if you cater to B2B businesses, then LinkedIn will be better for you, and more effective.

Of course, Inc 500 companies are not small businesses. But I think small business owners can learn from the big guys what is effective in online marketing.

Let’s start with blogging.

For a while, businesses turned away from blogging. They didn’t see the value. At that time, interest in social media was beginning to grow, so there was a natural exuberance that resulted from this new phenomenon. I think businesses have learned that social media isn’t quite the magical panacea they thought it was. In truth, social media can be effective, but it’s best used in conjunction with a well-maintained corporate blog.

The Truth About Social Media

So is social media worth it? It depends on what social media you are pursuing. Our rule of thumb is to choose the social media that is going to put you closer and more in touch with your targeted audience.

For some companies, that might be YouTube. For others, it could be Pinterest and LinkedIn.

If you go where your audience is rather than where all the other businesses are, then you’ll be much more effective in your online marketing.

I’ll have to agree with Frank Reed about Amazon. Sometimes, you might have to take harsh measures, or extreme measures, to protect your reputation. You can’t have a jelly spine.

This is the first I’ve heard of this brouhaha, but if the security company once employed by Amazon was guilty of any of these allegations, then Amazon did the right thing in breaking off relations with that company. Otherwise, as the story went more mainstream, Amazon would have had a huge public backlash regarding its own policies related to discrimination. By firing the security company now, they can avoid that criticism.

Think about your own company. Do you have any questionable relationships, or do you do business with companies with questionable policies? If so and you know about it, then you might find a way out of that relationship as soon as possible.

The economic reality behind Apple’s relationship with Foxxconn is well taken. If the company you’d like to be free from offers essential services to your company, then you have a tough choice. But your reputation will ultimately pay the price for whatever decision you make.

Think long and hard on these issues. Your reputation is at stake over every little decision you make.

Whether you are engaged in e-mail marketing, social media marketing, search engine marketing, or any other type of marketing, you can test the elements of your marketing campaigns to see what is most effective. If you can measure the results, then you can increase your profits.

Here are 5 different elements you can test no matter what kind of marketing you are engaged in:

  1. Your headline – Your headline is the attention-getter. Whether we are talking about e-mail campaigns, social media, or something in between, the right headline will get your prospects to read. Do extensive testing and see what works.
  2. Call to action – Whether you are trying to close the sale on your landing page, get people to open your e-mail, or click through to your website, a good call to action is the money line.
  3. Visual effects – Images, graphics, and even typographical fonts can all be effective. Test to see what works. Throw out what doesn’t and keep improving.
  4. Language – Different audiences respond to different messages. It doesn’t really matter what you are selling, language matters. Tweak the way you word your content, from the first line to the last. See what works and perform continuous testing.
  5. Media – I’ve seen landing pages with nothing but a video. I’ve also seen long form text content. They’ve both worked and they’ve both failed. Test your media, see what works for your prospects and your message. Test, test, test; measure, measure, measure.

Marketing is not an exact science. That includes Internet marketing. It’s a constant process of testing and measuring. Test and measure your way to success.

Shortcodes are little snippets of code you can insert into your website template or WordPress pages and blog posts to create visual images that stand out. If you don’t use shortcodes, then you have to figure out a way to put the elements into your pages and posts using HTML and other code. Shortcodes make the process more streamlined and easy for lay people like yourself.

If you have built a website in WordPress, or you simply have a WordPress blog, then you can add shortcodes by adding a plug-in.

The Shortcode Ultimate plug-in is a great tool for anyone. It’s easy to use, simple to install, and can take your blog or website from plain Jane to raving beauty in just a few minutes.

So what are some cool things you can do with shortcodes? How about these:

  • Create custom “Buy Now” buttons
  • Add a Contact form to any page or blog post easily
  • Design an awesome blockquote box
  • Implement tabs on your website pages
  • Jazz up your site or blog with sliders

These are just a few of the powerful uses for shortcodes. Instead of fighting with HTML or other code to create the look and feel you want for your WordPress website or blog, try a shortcode plug-in. Another popular one is titled J Shortcodes.

If you’re doing any Internet marketing and using WordPress, shortcodes can be fun to play with.

If you are designing your small business website, one of the decisions you’ll have to make is whether or not to use a theme or build your website from scratch. That is, will it be in HTML or based on a template?

Even if you choose a template, it’s still based on HTML. The difference is, you’ll be using someone else’s framework versus building your own.

There are pros and cons to both approaches.

If you build your own website from scratch, then you control every element. You also take ownership of the problems. So you have to make sure that every element is useful. Your navigation needs to be easy to follow. Your infrastructure needs to be helpful to your site visitors. The design needs to be attractive. And the content needs to be top-notch.

In many cases, these things are already done for you with a website template, but you still need to check them out. Some templates, for instance, offer little to no SEO benefit. But how do you know if you don’t have the knowledge and skills to test them?

This is where a professional web designer can help you. It might be less expensive to have your designer build from a template, but you’ll get a much better website if you allow them to build it from scratch. A good designer can get you a unique look that makes your company look professional and ready for business.

Your call, but be sure to weigh the pros and cons to every business decision.

Harris Interactive has released the results of its 14th annual Reputation Quotient Study and there are some interesting results. Here is a short summary:

  • Amazon ranks No. 1
  • Of the 2013 top 5 picks, only Google and Apple lost ranking points since last year
  • Out of the top 10, besides Amazon, only three companies increased in ranking points since last year (The Walt Disney Company, Johnson & Johnson, and Costco, who moved into the top 10 from 19)
  • UPS fell out of the top 10 in 2012 to completely out of the top 60 in 2013
  • Facebook rose from not on the list in 2012 to No. 42 in 2013
  • With Microsoft at No. 15 and Google at No. 4, it makes you wonder how anyone thinks Bing can compete with Google for search share
  • Finally, the ranking quotients are lower overall this year from last year (for instance, Amazon at No. 1 has a lower quotient this year than Apple did last year when it was No. 1; this is true of all the place rankings)

How The Reputation Quotient Is Derived

One of the most surprising aspects of this study are the criteria used to judge reputation and how they’ve changed in the past two years. In 2011, consumers judged reputation by respect and admiration, trust for the company, high ethical standards, whether they outperform the competition, and whether consumers get good value for their money. In 2013, the criteria include:

  • Competitive performance
  • Admiration and respect for the company
  • Trust for the company
  • Whether it plays a valuable social role
  • Is it a good company to work for
  • and the “feel good” factor

I’m with Frank Reed. Those criteria scream narcissism to me. But they do indicate that Amazon’s reputation is based on a perception that consumers have toward the company, namely, that it can be trusted and offers a benefit to consumers, employees, and society as a whole. Not to mention, they’re beating the socks off of their competition, and who doesn’t like a winner?

Now for the million dollar question: What can you take from this study to improve your company’s reputation?

Read all the results of the study here.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what actually constitutes search engine optimization. Many companies are stuck on a five-year-old model of SEO. They’re still trying to build links and do on-page optimization by adding keywords to the meta tags and optimize their Title tags perfectly.

I’m not going to say those are worthless activities, though there isn’t much need for the keywords meta tag any more, but if you’re still hanging your SEO on the Title tag, then you’re missing the boat.

That’s not to say the Title tag isn’t important. It’s just not your golden egg.

Today, if you’re not approaching SEO as if it is synonymous with marketing – because it is – then you’re not doing it right. It should actually be called search engine marketing. The goal is to increase your company’s bottom line with conversions, not to see how many links you can acquire.

The only real purpose for links today is to increase your traffic. And you want that to be targeted traffic. When you attract targeted traffic to your website, then you’ll see an increase in conversions – if your landing pages are well written with strong calls to actions. A strong call to action closes the sale, but to get the prospect to that call to action you have to lead them there with great content.

Approach your content (on page and off site) as if it is marketing. If you focus too much on SEO, you’ll just start looking for links.

You’ve decided it’s time to update your website design. Good for you. There’s just one problem. You’ve achieved some pretty high search engine rankings over the years and you don’t want to lose them. What should you do?

Think about these three considerations before you do anything:

  1. Keyword Research – At the heart of your SEO are keywords. You’ll need to analyze each page on your website for keyword usage. Are you ranking for keywords that aren’t searched for any more? If so, your SEO could be outdated. Or perhaps you have pages that still get great traffic for keywords that are still being searched for. Make a list of all the keywords you are ranking for and how much traffic those pages are getting. Also make a note of any relevant keywords you are not ranking for.
  2. Conversions – Traffic is great, but conversions are better. If you have web pages that get a load of traffic, especially from search, but no conversions, then maybe you just need to rewrite the content. Compare your conversions to your search engine rankings and traffic.
  3. Content Anomalies – This is a broad category of content problems that could include duplicate content or low-value content. Perhaps you have a large number of pages with little content on them that could be beefed up a bit. They’re targeting good keywords but just don’t have enough content. Make a list of your web pages that might have some version of a content anomaly and determine what you can do to improve them.

It’s important that you improve web pages that have content problems in your redesign, but it’s also important not to significantly change the content of web pages that are ranking well and converting well. So make your lists and analyze your content before you commit to the redesign.

An article at SitePro News lists 4 SEO lessons from 2012 to make 2013 your best year ever. Yeah, right.

Here’s a tip: All 4 of these SEO lessons from 2012 are lessons you should have learned in 2005. And if you didn’t, then you don’t really know SEO. Let’s summarize the article:

  1. Love the longtail – People were talking about the long tail in SEO back in 2005. That hasn’t changed. If you’re a new business, your best bet is to go after the long tail phrases in your niche. Same strategy that has worked for years.
  2. White Hat Is Back – In fact, it never left. Black hats succeed for a little while, then they always get caught. If you practice white hat SEO techniques, you’ll never have to worry.
  3. Relevancy is the New PR – Again, relevancy has always been one of the key principles of SEO. For awhile, people got away with gaming links. But that was short term. Google came back and got them. SEOs who practices relevancy all along are still going strong.
  4. Focus On Quality Content – Here’s another buzzword amateur SEOs like to throw around. If you didn’t focus on quality content in 2012, then it’s because you didn’t know quality content was a key factor long before that.

Nothing has changed in SEO unless you’ve been trying to game the search engines. If you focus on quality content and relevant link building, then you should see positive results no matter what year it is.

If you’re looking for ways to get people to sign up for your e-mail list without using online marketing methods, then here are three ways you can do it using off line marketing techniques.

  1. Sponsor a Contest – Give something away, but make signing up for your e-mail list a condition to enter the contest. You can promote it through your in-store promotions, on TV and radio, and virtually any other traditional marketing method you now employ.
  2. Attend Networking Events – This can include Meet Ups in your town. Get yourself in front of people. Face to face. Hand them your business card. Make sure your business card has your website address on it, and to make your offers more enticing, include a call to action on your business card. Say something like, “Get a free __________, go to (your website address here).” Or, write your message on the back of the card. The personal touch always works.
  3. Offer Shopping Tips – You can take e-mail addresses at the point of sale. Tell your customers you provide shopping tips through your newsletter, or other pertinent information they might be interested in. Try to tie it into your industry. For instance, if you sell sporting goods, offer a free e-mail newsletter that provides sports safety tips. Take sign ups at point of sale.

Building a mailing list can expand your marketing opportunities – online and off line. Get creative in building your list. You can do it.

Facebook has a new tool. It’s called “Lookalike Audience.”

If you are a Facebook advertiser, then you can create a custom demographic. Facebook then gives you the option to add a lookalike audience to your PPC advertising campaign. This lookalike audience will consist of Facebook users who match the demographic criteria of your custom audience who are also not fans of your Facebook brand page.

Convenient, eh?

I think so. This is a step forward for Facebook advertisers because it means that you can actually reach more targeted customers. More easily. More quickly. More cost effectively.

You can then turn those customers, with click throughs, into Facebook fans for your page. A certain percentage of those will then see your Facebook content and be able to interact with it. It’s a great way to grow your fan base, market your products or services, and increase your conversions.

In fact,

According to Inside Facebook, advertisers in the beta are seeing lower costs per action than with traditional targeting options.

Lower costs per action translates into higher profits. With this tool you can increase your conversions, lower your costs per action, and increase your profit margin – all while expanding your reach in a sensible cost effective manner. What more could you want?

Google has introduced a new tag for publishers that essentially allows you to link your website to your Google+ page. It’s an interesting concept.

First, why would you want to do it? The most important reason I can think of is to help Google better identify your website as relevant to specific search queries from inside Google+. You can learn more about that here.

Two other reasons Google gives for using the rel=publisher tag are:

  1. To connect more easily with fans, friends, and customers
  2. And to become eligible for Google+ Direct Connect

What is that Google+ Direct Connect and why is it important?

Verify Your Brand Page With Google+ Direct Connect

If you’ll log into your Google+ account and search for “Pepsi,” you’ll see, on the upper right side of your screen, a “People and Pages” heading. Below that is the Pepsi brand page. You can add that page to your circles from there. Notice that there is a check mark next to the Pepsi brand name. That signifies that Pepsi has verified its brand page.

Doing that is really simple and it makes your Google+ brand page more prominent in a search when people are looking for your brand in Google+.

I suspect that this feature may not be used much now, but I believe it may very well become useful in the future. It’s easy to implement and it’s better to do it and never been seen than to not do it and miss good opportunities.

Super Bowl XLVII was one of the most exciting Super Bowls in history. And like most Super Bowls in recent years, you can find the topic trending on all the major social media – Google+, Twitter, where else?

You’d naturally expect the Super Bowl to be a trending topic. But what about local content?

You can create local content that goes viral. You may not see it on the social media trending charts, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t trending locally. Of course, there’s no metric (that I’m aware of) that measures local trends. But your end goal isn’t to do better than everyone else in measuring trends. It’s to get your content out there far and wide – to go viral.

What tools are available to you to help your content go viral? Essentially, the same tools that are available to the Super Bowl marketers.

You have Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and more.

On Facebook, if you look at your page metrics, you’ll see a Virality metric. That means Facebook measures the viral output of your brand page’s content. If you create great content and share it on your page to your followers, all it takes is a handful of your followers liking it or sharing it before it can go viral. Remember, it’s got to be great content.

One of the keys to developing local content that goes viral is to develop online relationships with local clientele. Get them to follow you. But you can also push your content out in other ways. Consider:

  • Your blog
  • Your e-mail newsletter
  • Your print newsletter
  • YouTube
  • Local billboards
  • Local TV and radio
  • Local newspapers
  • Bag stuffers and flyers

And don’t forget word of mouth. Let your customers know that you have a website and a blog. Let them know that you post to your blog often. And sign them up for your newsletter. Get the word out. Your content can go viral.

The question often arises, “Can you compete both in local search and global search?” Of course, the answer is “Absolutely.”

The key is to claim your Google Places and Bing Local listings while continuing to optimize your website for organic search. Where you want to dominate in local search is on Google Maps and Bing Maps. To do that, you want to claim those listings. Be sure to include address, phone number, hours, and other locally identifying information in those listings.

With global organic search, you just do all the normal things you would do on your website and off site to rank your web pages. I’d also encourage you to open up a Google+ account.

On Google+, you want to link to your website’s home page. When you set up your Google+ account, you have a Links section. That’s a good place to link to all of your websites. Just link to each website once. And if you are a contributor to third-party websites or blogs, and you should be, then list those links in the Contributor section. Ask the owner of those sites to follow the Google guidelines for Authorship.

You can rank locally and globally. You just have to focus your efforts on organic search for your website and make your local search efforts focused through Maps.