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One area of business marketing that is growing more popular, as well it should, is the use of case studies.

Case studies are powerful marketing tools because they allow you to use the success of your customers for marketing your business. People love to listen to the testimonies of others. In fact, personal testimonies are powerful because they add credibility to your reputation as well as your products and services.

Even in today’s social media and search engine business environment, word of mouth is still the best advertising. A case study is an organized word of mouth campaign. And it’s very effective.

First, identify a handful of your customers who have used your product or service to solve a problem. Make sure they are a customer who had a specific problem to solve before using your product or service and used your product or service to solve that problem. Then have someone interview that customer to uncover the facts of their particular case. You can then write that customer’s story to highlight the benefits of using your product or service. It’s a valuable marketing tool.

Case studies can be used as free downloads or you can sell them as educational tools. Either way, you provide awesome benefits to your potential clients, who might be interested your brand.

LinkedIn is the quintessential social network for B2B marketing. If you do any kind of business-to-business business, then you should be on LinkedIn. Your profile is the essential marketing element for connecting with others. Here are 5 of the most important parts of your LinkedIn profile and how you should optimize them.

  1. Your headline – Your headline is very important. You need to tell the world the most important part of your background in 120 characters. Don’t just list your title and company. “CEO of XYZ Corporation” is not as catchy as “Ideator and Business Leader at a Fortune 500 industrial manufacturer.”
  2. Your photo – Is your photo up to date? If not, then you should get a more recent photo. Don’t be afraid to spend a few dollars to have one taken of you. It will make a difference.
  3. Your summary – You have 2,000 words to present your best background experience to page viewers. Make it relevant. Include strong action words that depict your most impressive credentials. You can even include links to your portfolio.
  4. Experience – Make sure your most recent job experiences are listed. Keep this part of your LinkedIn profile up to date. You never know who is watching.
  5. Media – You can upload important videos, podcasts, PDF files, presentations, and whatever else is important to your portfolio. These round out your LinkedIn profile and make it easier for potential business partners to see what value you can be to them.

Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date if you want to impress potential business partners.

If you are writing content in a highly technical niche area, then you might be wondering whether you should use lots of jargon or write with clarity in mind. Matt Cutts suggests you should aim for clarity when possible.

I completely agree. The exception would be if your audience consists entirely of technical people or professionals within your industry. In that case, use jargon.

If your audience is mixed – that is, consisting of both technical professionals and lay people – then you should aim for clarity, but it’s okay to add a little jargon for the technical people. You have to write in the language of your audience. If you are selling products and services to lay people, it is extremely important to speak their language.

This is a fundamental principle of writing in any discipline. You must keep your audience in mind.

So, what if you have multiple audiences? In that case, I’d write each blog post to a specific audience. If your audience is 80% lay people and 20% technical, then write 80% of your blog posts to the lay audience using clear language to help them understand your concepts. The other 20% of your blog posts can be technical in nature, and you can use jargon to speak to that audience. I would still aim for clarity to keep your lay audience engaged with a little jargon thrown in for the technical people.

Bottom line, aim clarity in your content message when you can.

If you go to Amazon.com and look for a product in any category, you’ll discover that their navigation taxonomy is quite robust. You can search the site by keyword to find the product you want. Usually, you’ll get a list of products that match your search criteria, then you’ll be given a list of navigation options (usually in the sidebar) that allow you to narrow your search to name brands, sizes, prices, types of products, etc.

So you want to duplicate this type of sophisticated navigation system on your own website. That’s good. Amazon is definitely the model to follow. But there is one big issue to think about as you build your e-commerce website.

First, nix the dynamic URL parameters. They aren’t going to help you. Each product on your website should have a keyword-based URL, and that goes for the categories and specific page navigation options too.

For instance, if your customer comes to your website searching for socks, your search page should have the word “socks” in its URL. Giving the customer the option to click-through to pages for “tube socks,” “athletic socks,” and “ankle socks” without including those descriptors in your URLs could lead to duplicate content issues, especially if your customers can arrive on any product or category page from multiple locations on your website.

Every page on your website should have a single URL before you start adding dynamic parameters and session IDs. Otherwise, you’ll have navigation issues.

Integrated marketing is a simple concept that is a challenge to implement, but it is one of the most important aspects of marketing a business of any size. Your first step is to develop your company’s mission statement and unique selling proposition (USP). From that, you develop your marketing plan.

It’s important, when establishing your overall marketing plan, to think about how each piece relates to the others.

For instance, you might have a great video marketing strategy, but how does that strategy work with your social media and e-mail marketing strategies? By making each piece work together toward a common goal, you can truly integrate your marketing so that you get more mileage out of every event.

There is no limit to how many different types of marketing you can incorporate into your integrated plan. If you can do it and you want to, you can integrate it. But you have to have someone available to manage the roll out.

There’s no sense running a paid advertising campaign, for instance, if you don’t have a qualified person available to manage your PPC accounts.

So assess your company for strengths, skills, and personnel assets, and take a look at your marketing budget. Is it feasible to do what you want to do? If not, where are the holes? Is there a way to fill them using outside resources? Take a full assessment before you begin your marketing plan and figure out how to integrate each piece before you develop it.

Adding new content is one of the best ways to increase your search engine optimization, but it can be expensive in either time or money. If you write your own content, you could spend a lot of time writing and crafting that content to say what you want it to say. If you hire a freelance writer to handle your content for you, it could cost you a lot of money. But some SEO techniques don’t cost a lot of money.

One way to increase your search engine rankings and SEO potential is to increase your page load speed.

Google’s page load speed checker will tell you if your web pages load slowly and on what devices they load slowly. This is important information because if your site loads slowly on mobile, that will translate into a bad user experience. Your traffic will go down and Google will notice that your click-throughs are lowering. That will affect your rankings.

Another way to increase your search engine rankings is to employ rich snippets.

There are different types of rich snippets, but all of them are valuable in letting the search engines know what your content is about – and not just Google either. You can use metadata markup to let the search engines know what type of content exists on a page and help them rank it accordingly. Microformats can be used for

  • Book, movie, music, or business reviews
  • People
  • Products
  • Businesses
  • Recipes
  • Events
  • And more

Identify the type of content that exists on your pages and employ rich snippets when appropriate. This alone could boost the SEO for that content.

When it comes to reputation management, most online marketers have more than one to manage. I’m sure that if you thought about it, you could identify several reputations you have to manage on a day-to-day basis. Here are a few you might consider:

  • Your personal reputation – If you are a CEO or an entrepreneur, then you are managing your personal reputation. Even middle managers or department heads have to manage their own reputations online, especially if they blog or do any social media for their companies.
  • Corporate reputation – If you’ve incorporated, or even if you’re doing business as, your business’s reputation is separate from your own.
  • Brand reputation - Your brand also has a reputation. The brand is the recognizable logo or brand identity associated with a particular product, product line, or corporate face.
  • Products – Each product or product line you manage has a reputation to manage.
  • Slogans and taglines – Believe it or not, your talking points messages need to be managed and develop their own reputations apart from the brands and entities they represent.
  • Marketing messages – Beyond taglines and slogans, marketing messages, ad spots, etc. need a level of reputation management all on their own.

Any aspect of your business that is managed by a single individual or a team of individuals is subject to reputation management. That includes geographic locations, divisions, and branches. In some cases, the different identities that need to be managed may overlap. For instance, your brand and your corporate identity may require separate reputation management campaigns, but there will be some overlap between the two. You should know where those overlap points are.

Reputation management has gone beyond a single entity to manage. You have several reputations to manage.

YouTube has announced that they’re going to audit views and crack down on view spam. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been marketing online with videos for any time.

As with any type of online marketing, it is very important that advertisers be able to trust the stats. It’s also important that other YouTube users be able to trust the metrics. If no one can trust the data, then the ultimate price to be paid is lower CTRs and lower advertising rates. That will cut into legitimate video marketing revenues.

But what constitutes a “legitimate” view on YouTube?

Here’s what’s not legitimate: Buying views.

We’ve seen it with paid advertising, with social media of all kinds, and now with video marketing. Eventually, some people are going to get the idea that they can buy short-term success which will translate into long-term profits. It rarely happens, but when it does, there is almost always a backlash and what is gained is quickly lost.

If you are considering buying YouTube views, don’t. You are much better building an audience slowly that will come to appreciate your videos and like and share them, maybe even comment on them.

Don’t get sucked into bad video marketing practices. Do it the right way.

Google Labs inside Webmaster Tools is an experimental section that allows Google to test new products before unleashing them on the public. Did you know you can check your Google Authorshipstats inside Google Webmaster Tools?

Sign in to your Google Webmaster Tools account. On the left side of the page you’ll see a link labeled Labs. Click that and you’ll see a dropdown with Author Stats. Click that.

Inside the Author Stats section of Google Labs you can get a glimpse of the pages you have authored around the web, both those on your website and those that are off-site. You can see a limited number of stats on those pages, as well.

To begin with, the overview consists of the number of pages you have authored, the number cumulative page impressions your pages have received in the last 30 days, and the number of clicks. When you scroll down you’ll get an overview of each page.

The stats you can check for each page you have authored include:

  • Number of page impressions
  • Number of clicks
  • Click-through rate
  • Average search engine position

This is all useful information, especially if you do a lot of guest blogging, which you should.

I hope this experiment continues and that Google rolls it out as a real product. I’d like to be able to track my authorship stats around the Web. Wouldn’t you?

Social sharing is one of the most telling aspects of content marketing. If you write to your blog every day and your content is never shared, you might wonder if you’re really being read. By having your content shared on the various social networks, you can cast a wider net and attract more targeted readers to your content. But how do you encourage that?

Start by writing the content that readers want to read. If you’re not sure what that is, ask. Nothing will stop readers from sharing content more than the wrong content.

Fundamental to the right content, however, is the right audience. If you aren’t targeting the right audience, then you need to search out the right audience for your niche and produce the content that will get them excited.

Right Audience + Right Content = Social Sharing

Seems simple, right? It is … once you figure out the formula and start working it.

Also, be sure to add social icons to your blog and each page of your website. If people don’t see a way to share your content, they likely won’t share it. Don’t forget to add a way for people to share by e-mail. Even in this day and age, many readers do not have Facebook or Twitter accounts. But they do have e-mail, and so do their friends.

Facebook has become one of the most important social media websites for businesses seeking to engage with potential customers. B2C businesses in particular have a challenge when it comes to social engagement due to the nature of Facebook’s algorithm.

EdgeRank is weighted to give more cred to the last 50 items a user engaged with on their news feed. For that reason, we recommend these 4 content tactics for improving your Facebook engagement:

  1. Post more frequently – Obviously, you don’t want to spam your followers, but if you post more frequently, then you’ll increase your chances of engagement.
  2. Use images – When you post to Facebook, you’ll make your content more engaging if you include images.
  3. Encourage discussion – Post content that encourages discussion rather than including strong sales calls to action. Facebook frowns on the calls to action, but posts that get people to commenting, sharing, and liking increase engagement.
  4. Keep it relevant – Post content that is relevant to your business as opposed to fluff, cat pictures, and information that isn’t within the context of your niche. Instead of sending out game invites, send out content highlighting third-party sources that discuss important issues in your business niche.

Facebook engagement depends on how well you reach your target audience through relevant content. Start with these four principles and branch out from there.

In October, Dr. Pete posted a nice image of a mega-SERP at Moz. The idea was to highlight and draw attention to 25 separate SERP features that searchers may see at any time for a search query. It’s truly enlightening.

These SERP features include:

  1. Local Carousel – You’ve seen this black strip with images when you conduct a local search.
  2. List Carousel – This carousel features a white background and includes menu items as links, such as songs on an album.
  3. Adwords Ads – These appear at the top of your SERP.
  4. Shopping Results – Image-based sponsored ads on the left side of the page.
  5. Answer Box – These include dictionary definitions, weather reports, and direct answers to search query questions.
  6. Image Mega-Block – Search for an image and you’ll see these.
  7. Local Knowledge Panel – Usually include a map and a local listing.
  8. Site Links – Often called 6-packs, these are subordinate links that are related to a website and point to internal pages on that website.
  9. Video Results – No explanation needed.
  10. Local Pack Results – Like the 6-pack, these 7-packs are internal pages related to a main page associated with a local search.
  11. Authorship Markup – Associated with a Google+ profile.
  12. Review Markup – Usuallay associated with recipes, products, and other review content.
  13. Local “Near” Results – Tells you what is near the location you actually searched for in Google Maps.
  14. Image Results – Standard image result.
  15. News Results – A pure vertical result under the News tab.
  16. Social Results – People you know because they are in your social circles.
  17. In-depth Articles – A new kind of result that features long in-depth articles that cover a topic heavily and could be considered evergreen.
  18. AdWords Ads – Appear on the bottom of search results.
  19. Related Searches – Self-explanatory.
  20. Shopping Results – Like the above, but these appear on the right of the page.
  21. Knowledge Graph – Wikipedia entries, nutritional information, and other big box information that appears on the right side of the SERP.
  22. Brand Graph – Like the knowledge graph box, these brand boxes are connected with a Google+ page.
  23. AdWords Ads – Appear on the right side of the SERP.
  24. Disambiguation Box – Google’s attempt to clarify your search intent.
  25. Google Map + Pins – A fairly new search feature, this features pinned results on a map.

Cutting out the duplicates, this is really 21 types of SERP features, but it’s a lot. These represent the various ways webmasters have of ranking in the search results, and there are multiple strategies for each type of SERP feature.

All this means that you shouldn’t spend most of your time tracking keyword rankings because there is a lot more to search now than there used to be.

When it comes to advertising through Google AdWords, nothing is more important than your quality score. Your quality score will determine your ad placement and in turn affect future click-throughs (CTR). If you see your CTR go up and your quality score go down, the first place you should look is your landing page.

Why the landing page?

You should check the landing page because there is a good chance your ad relevance isn’t matching your PPC ad keyword targeting. For that reason, I’ve put together this short list of 3 items that are very important for your PPC quality score.

  1. Landing Page Relevance – Your keyword must match the keyword targeting in your ad. Relevance also includes making sure the product or service you are selling matches what the targeted customer is looking for.
  2. Keyword Grouping - Do you have a tight keyword grouping for your PPC campaign? If your grouping is too broad or doesn’t target narrowly enough, that could affect your Google AdWords quality score.
  3. Landing Page Design – Don’t think design doesn’t count. If you have too many images or videos on your landing page and it loads slowly, that will affect your quality score. If the images and videos don’t look right on the page, that could also affect your quality score.

These are not the only factors that affect Google AdWords quality scores, but they are important.

Is it just me or have you noticed that blog posts seem to be getting longer and longer? And they almost always feature a half a dozen images or so, plus a couple of videos, and maybe a cartoon or two. Undoubtedly, this is to keep your interest so you don’t go roaming on someone else’s blog. It’s a constant competition for attention.

One idea suggests that longer blog posts are better for SEO. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. But if your only reason for writing long posts is to improve your SEO, then you should stop now. It likely won’t happen.

Even if it does, how many readers are going to stick around day after day while you bore them with 10,000-word blog tomes? Not many. I can assure you.

The most important thing in blogging is that you capture and keep your readers’ attention. With ever shortening attention spans, that’s getting to be a greater challenge. But you already know your audience. Meeting them where their attention is seems like a good idea. After all, if you don’t grab their attention, someone else will.

Blogging is a personal communication tool that you can use professionally. It doesn’t require any special tricks. It requires a voice, a POV. If you connect with your readers, your chances of them telling their friends and bringing you more traffic is better than you ever ranking No. 1 for a great keyword. That’s the most important thing you should know about blogging.

Guest blogging has become the de factor link building technique for some people. It’s become so popular that Matt Cutts recently declared it dead – too spammy. The good news is, it’s not the only link building method there is. It never was.

To be really effective at link building, you have to get creative. That requires a little out-of-the-box thinking, but it also requires some level of understanding how the Internet works.

Here are three easy-to-identify but often underused link building methods don’t involve guest blogging.

  1. Webinars – With webinars, you can list all the information for your webinar on your website. If you promote it properly, you’ll get others linking to your webinars page. Beyond that, offer resources on your website that you promote through your webinars. Your webinar attendees will leave pumped up and link back to your resources page.
  2. Video marketing – You can do essentially the same thing with videos. Create a few outstanding videos, upload them to YouTube and other video sharing sites, and lead people back to your resources page. You can do the same thing with podcasting.
  3. E-books – Write and publish awesome e-books. Create an e-books page where people can download your latest. If these are truly valuable resources, they’ll draw links.

You don’t have to scour directories and go on a guest blogging spree to create great links. Just get a little creative.

Affiliate marketing icon Sugarrae posted a rant knocking Google and Matt Cutts off their conjoined high horse. Near the end of her post is this brilliant little gem:

From here on out, you work on generating traffic. From here on out, you work on generating branding. From here on out, you work on obtaining customers.

There’s more. You’ll have to excuse the profanity, but you should read the post. I’ll add this caveat:

This is really nothing new.

Your job has always been to build traffic and brand. That hasn’t really changed. The problem is, many online marketers got away from the real goal and started focusing on search engine rankings. Rankings are nice, but they’re not an end in themselves. They’re not the end goal. They are a means to an end.

With personalized search, Google+, and other late great algorithm changes, you can’t predict search rankings.

You might have a page rank #1 for a search phrase only to later in the day rank #10 for the same search phrase. There are a number of reasons for this. One reason is because different searchers have different search profiles and Google is tracking them. You can’t control that. That’s why you shouldn’t focus too heavily on ranking in Google.

Online marketers now have a lot of reasonable avenues for attracting new traffic to their websites. You have:

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Bing
  • Niche websites

And more!

Focus on building your brand and traffic through a variety of online promotional means. If you do that, rankings will take care of themselves – as long as you don’t get too spammy.

If you are trying to figure out whether you’ll get more mileage from a blog or a newsletter, then I congratulate you for thinking of it. You’re well ahead of most small businesses who are still trying to figure out how to get started with online marketing.

To be sure, there are advantages to both platforms.

A blog allows you to get feedback through comments. You can interact with your audience, which increases your engagement. You can also have a more robust social media experience when you promote your blog posts. And your blog has the added benefit of being searchable through the search engines.

An e-mail newsletter offers you the opportunity to develop a warm list. This is very important for direct sales.

Blogs are typically poor media for making direct sales pitches. They’re great for engagement and reach. You can, however, use your blog to increase your newsletter subscriber numbers. Then you can use your weekly or monthly newsletter to drive traffic to important landing pages and increase your online sales.

So it’s not a matter of which is better – your blog or your newsletter. It’s really a matter of how effectively you can use each tool.

For better marketing, engage with readers through your blog and invite them to subscribe to your e-mail newsletter. Then close the sale there.

Chad Whitman of EdgeRank Checker conducted a study on Facebook reach and engagement and discovered that there are two types of content that Facebook has targeted as specifically low quality content and should be avoided. What are they?

  • Memes
  • And calls to action

This is interesting because that second one – calls to action – flies in the face of everything we’re taught about writing great content. You want a strong call to action.

Not on Facebook.

Based on the study cited by Whitman, if you frequently ask for engagement, Facebook will punish your content and cause it not to be seen by the people you want to see it. The same goes for frequent memes, you know those jpeg images with witty sayings? People like them, but Facebook doesn’t.

Another suggestion Whitman makes is to increase the frequency of your posts on Facebook. That’s drastically different than what is recommended by experts who use LinkedIn.

Keep in mind that every social media website has its own guidelines and set of preferences – that goes for users as well as the site. If you want to be effective in using social media, learn how they are all different and pay attention to what actually works when you post it. In other words, use intelligent analytics and measure your results.

SEOs love to talk about link building. Everybody does it. The problem is, everybody does it.

Let me explain.

Yesterday, MOZ posted a blog post titled 31 Link Building Tactics Discovered From Competitive Analysis. That’s a great title. And a lot of the link building strategies recommended are real solid. But many of those same strategies are used by spammers, which is why Matt Cutts declared guest blogging dead.

The list contains all the usual items you’d expect on the list, such as:

  • Contests
  • .edu domains
  • .gov domains
  • Guest blogging

You get the drift.

The list also includes items that might not be relevant to all online marketers. For instance,

  • Eco-friendly causes
  • Student and minority resources
  • Offering a job

I’m not saying these aren’t good link building sources. I’m just saying they may not apply to all types of businesses or websites.

When it comes to link building, it’s important that genuine value-oriented marketers distinguish themselves in some way from the spammers. Matt Cutts and the Google web spam team are after the bad guys, not the good guys or the people with good intentions. Educate yourself on best practices and try to do the right thing. That’s how you do link building in 2014.

If you run frequent social media campaigns, you will undoubtedly use certain applications to assist you with posting messages. There are quite a few of them out there. The purpose of this blog post isn’t to discuss the merits of those applications or compare them. What we’d like to discuss today is whether or not it is prudent to pre-schedule your social media messages.

Some of the applications you can use allow you to pre-schedule your social media messages on the various social media sites.

Hootsuite, for instance, will allow you to pre-schedule messages on Facebook and Twitter, but you can’t pre-schedule on Google+. Do Share is a Google Chrome application that allows you to pre-schedule messages for Google+, but you have to be logged in for those messages to actually post.

Despite these drawbacks, there are benefits to pre-scheduling. First and foremost is time management. By pre-writing and pre-scheduling your messages, you can save time. Write your messages in advance and schedule them to post when you want them to.

I’d be careful to rely on this method too much. You still want to interact with your audience, retweet and re-share posts on the various social media sites you participate on. You want your presence to be personal and approachable if not spontaneous. Still, pre-scheduling some of your messages – those that are not necessarily timely or that are easy to write and can be posted at any time – can benefit you in the long run.

Our recommendation: Pre-schedule certain posts that you can share at any time without detriment. More timely messages should be posted when prudent for your business and your audience.