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Sometimes, with all the emphasis on various social media interactions, that old email idea seems somewhat stale. But there is a lot to be said for strategic email marketing:

  • it’s targeted to the people who ask to be on your list
  • it’s private so they are not afraid to respond to your surveys
  • it’s easier to customize so the relationship is cultivated
  • it’s measurable because they can unsubscribe

An email marketing service provider or autoresponder can be a good tool for businesses looking to be efficient and effective with their email strategies. It’s important to think through what you want to accomplish and how your email campaigns fit in with the rest of your internet marketing plans.

When you use email wisely, there is a personalized aspect to your communication that can’t be replicated on any other media. Even tweets and chats lack the ability of an email to have targeted links or promotions, customized coupons, and the potential for content.

But unwise email marketing campaigns are why email has a bad name. Nobody wants bloated junk mail. People get mad when subject lines promise and don’t deliver. It irritates folks when all there is in the body is another version of your ad. If you aren’t going to be sending out email that is worth reading in your customer’s opinion, then you are probably better off not sending out email until you figure out how to do it right.

Email marketing is part of a complete internet marketing strategy. For more insight on how that all fits together, visit reciprocalconsulting.com/internet-marketing-services.php#6

The last time you tried to find something with a search engine, did you think, “which strategic keywords will likely be on the site I want?” or did you think “I want to fix my bicycle so I’ll type in ‘how to fix a bicycle’”?

As someone interested in SEO, you may have been thinking about strategic keywords. Would someone interested in bicycles be thinking about keywords?

Probably not. They’d be thinking about bicycles, and that would be their intent.

Moz just asked some similar questions in Laura Lippay’s article on content strategy, and there’s some great content there along with examples and an interesting string of comments at the end. In Lippay’s view, audience intent wins over keywords as a motivation for content.

For instance, a person interested in bicycles would probably be interested in a site that is a source of bicycle-related ideas, pertinent content, authoritative reference material and discussions as well as a few products and some great humorous memes to share. They come to the site because it has stuff they are interested in (how to fix a bicycle) and come back because it continues to interest them. These interested visitors are more apt to buy what the site sells because there is a history of visits and they trust the site. That’s a win.

To quote Laura Lippay, “It all goes hand-in-hand. When you create something that your audiences like, that they link to more, share more, and engage with more, it’s likely to affect search engine rankings and traffic, too.”

What do you think? Would you agree?

For more on SEO and content, visit reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.php

Twitter has just come out with a study  titled, “Discovering the Value of Earned Audiences — How Twitter Expressions Activate Consumers.” The purpose of the study was to figure out how mentioning a brand in a tweet changes the behavior of consumers, both online and offline.

The three key findings quoted from this study are:

  1. Brands are an integral part of regular conversation on Twitter.
  2. Consumers take action both online and offline after seeing brand mentions in tweets.
  3. The source of a tweet containing a brand mention affects consumer actions.

It’s an interesting study and has a key takeaway for brands: earned media needs to be complemented with both owned and paid messages, because this combination drives greater consumer action and maximizes your return for the efforts you invest in your Twitter strategies.

In plainer language, you need to mix your tweets up by having conversations with your followers as well as the linked posts to your blog and any ads. Which makes sense when you think about it because people might know facts about your brand, but they tend to trust your brand based on a perceived relationship with your customer base and your social media presence.

So tweeting effectively is a combination of using Twitter as it originally started, which is relationship-based, and using Twitter as it is becoming, which is link-based. The people follow the links they trust based on the relationship they have with the tweeter.

One way to do this is monitoring your Twitter account to respond quickly to questions or comments you get and see what develops.

For more information about using Twitter effectively, visit reciprocalconsulting.com/social-media-optimization-SMO.php

Social Media Marketing (SMM) is a necessary tool in today’s world, but it will be a useless tool if your employees are not trained to handle social media correctly. Many reputation management challenges have been created by employees who posted foolish or detrimental things online, and it’s a lot easier to prevent problems than it is to try to repair damage.

Your employee represents your company.

Unless you are a self-employed superpower, you have employees. Most of the time, your customers are interacting with one of them instead of you. Without adequate training, you are hoping your employee makes the right guess about the way you want them to interact.

Many employees have no idea what your SMM plan is or how they are a part of it.

Unless you make sure employees know what is expected of them on social media, they may affect your brand from their own accounts, simply by naming you in an inappropriate post.

If employees handle your social media accounts, they need to have guidelines.

Unless you have clear policies on how quickly questions are answered, how to handle disgruntled complaints, and other online dilemmas; you are expecting that employee to read your mind.

Even if you are paying a professional team to manage your social media marketing, everybody who works for you should be properly trained on social media policies from the day they are hired. The goal of your marketing is bringing in more traffic, and your employees will be the ones handling that traffic. Social media training is an essential part of the process.

For more information on social media marketing, visit reciprocalconsulting.com/social-media-optimization-SMO.php

 

Net Neutrality is a topic that is hard to avoid if you are at all interested in internet marketing (and if you have a web site, you should be interested!) Copyblogger did an excellent job on the subject with Sonia Simone’s article “What Neutrality Means For Your Business, and Why You Need To Act Now To Protect It“.

It basically comes down to the fact that there’s a push to have fast lanes and slow lanes on the internet highway, and it will take a lot more money to go fast. People prefer fast when they are online.

Now, the fight over Net Neutrality is ongoing and nobody knows what will ultimately happen. We each have a small say in the matter, but there’s a lot that is out of a business owner’s control. Nevertheless, there are things that you can control about your site speed.

The way you choose to design your website will affect the speed it will load, which will affect the number of visitors on your site. 

Internet users are usually impatient people. Even a half of a second will make the difference between someone who reads your information and someone who mutters unmentionables and closes the page to go elsewhere. The top things that can slow your site speed are all good things, but you have to weigh the cost:

  • buttons, widgets, forms, and anything that connects to another site
  • ads and the cookies that bloat them
  • images and elaborate themes
  • codes that do things in the background

If the small voices lose the Net Neutrality battle, small business sites may need to pare down to stay competitive. A well-designed site is already important, but in the future it might be vital.

Get expert help in website design at reciprocalconsulting.com/web-design.php

Moz just came out with a list of 2014 Inbound Marketing Trends and, in short, those trends are:

  • SEO is getting more money thrown at marketing automation
  • Content is still king so you need to create a content strategy
  • Social networks are only useful if your target market uses them
  • Mobile marketing needs to be responsive
  • Local mobile searches convert to engagement 88% of the time
  • Email marketing keeps on providing great value for low cost

It’s good to know what everybody else is doing, but just knowing the current trends is not enough. The best thing to do with a trend is use it.

Using a trend takes more analysis, and that’s more work. If all you do is jump on the bandwagon with everybody else, you are reacting instead of responding to the possibilities. Trend analysis is part of the competitive intelligence package because it is figuring out what everybody else is doing.

Using a trend takes that analysis and decides if your unique target market wants to be on that bandwagon. Maybe they do. Sometimes they don’t. You have to have a relationship with them and know them so you can predict accurately.

Using a trend takes a long-term perspective when strategizing. It isn’t enough that everybody else is doing it because you might not want to be where everybody else will be when the bandwagon breaks down. Those who are on the wagon in order to “be on trend” will be stuck because they are focused on that trendy bandwagon instead of where it was going.

If you are using the trend as a vehicle to reach your goals, it’s easy to jump off and keep going when it stops working for you. 

For more information about trend analysis and competitive intelligence, visit reciprocalconsulting.com/competitive-intelligence.php#5

Search Engine Journal highlighted a recent interview with Flipora’s Johnathan Siddharth and it is thought-provoking for anyone interested in internet marketing. Basically, Flipora is blurring the lines between search engine optimization and social media marketing by providing a platform based on recommendations.

“Flipora is proving to be a powerful new engine for discovering and/or marketing content to highly targeted and engaged users. Because the site studies user behavior and provides content based on individual preferences and history, businesses can use it to ensure their content is reaching audiences that are interested in it, and not annoying those who aren’t.”

There are currently about 30 million active users, with another 2 million projected to become active every month. That’s a testimony to the rapid growth of what is essentially a recommendation engine suggesting content based on user’s online preferences and behaviors.

Instead of backlinks and cookies, Flipora analyzes browsing history and matches users with similar histories. It is a way get your content shared with users who are likely to want that content, instead of hoping they find you by typing in the right keyword in a search engine.

This isn’t going to make traditional SEO obsolete, but it is another indication that marketing doesn’t break down into artificial categories with no cross-over. After all, people don’t successfully compartmentalize their lives, so it makes sense that reaching people with your message should be holistic as well.

Your internet marketing is part of your business, true, but the lines are blurred because the components overlap in some ways. The more effectively you integrate and coordinate reaching your customers, the more effectively your business operates.

For more information on social media optimization, visit reciprocalconsulting.com/social-media-optimization-SMO.php

 

Firmology just came out with 3 Common Misconceptions About Online Video Marketing:

  1. it’s too expensive
  2. it won’t resonate with my target audience
  3. it won’t increase sales

That’s three statements said in quite a few business meetings, by any number of executives. How can so many people be making one of these mistakes about video marketing?

If you do the research, you can see the numbers showing how the addition of video to online marketing is making a difference. In March 2014, 187.8 million Americans watched 46.6 billion online content videos, while the number of video ad views totaled 28.7 billion, according to comScore.

It is possible that these three misconceptions just need to be researched to see if they hold true for your own business. If you know your customers, you should know what they’d be interested in, right? If you make a video that is easy to understand when someone tries to watch it (because it is about something they are interested in), it doesn’t need to be expensive, just well-made.

And if you have made videos that are easy to watch and understand, you will get viewers because those videos are about stuff they are interested in, right? The videos might even be shared because they are helpful or entertaining. That means they are resonating with your target audience.

The end result of helpful or entertaining videos will be increased sales because people are coming to your site and they stay to see what else you offer. That’s pretty good marketing, and that’s why video should be part of your internet marketing plans.

For more insight on internet video marketing and production, see reciprocalconsulting.com/video-production.php

 

 

Over on Search Engine Journal, Bill Belew has come up with The New Definition of Search Engine Optimization. He might be being a bit sarcastic, because he shares that most people don’t know the OLD definition of Search Engine Optimization. In fact, most of the people in his audiences just stare when he asks for one. Here’s his definition:

Search Engine Optimization is creating good content on a web site in the form of pages and posts that real people want to read, which satisfies the query AND can be found by a search engine. In that order. Readers first!

So what does this look like? It looks like the writer focuses on good content that has these 8 characteristics:

  1. is served up with a title that promises to satisfy a query.
  2. is original and delivers early on the promise of the title.
  3. has images that are relevant to the query and are also searchable.
  4. is consistently on topic within the site where it is found as evidenced by internal links.
  5. appeals to other like-minded sources with relevant external links.
  6. is recognized as such by other credible sites as evidenced by backlinks.
  7. is sometimes timely.
  8. is sometimes timeless.

The result will be good content that is found when people look for it because the keywords are logical and it’s on the first few pages of the results. It’s clicked on because the title looks like it will answer the question, read because it is well-written, shared because it is relevant, and optimizes your site’s reputation.

What do you think? Is this how you’d define SEO? You’ll find more information on the subject at reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.php

Your web site is the way many of your customers first get to know what you offer and how it will benefit them. Ideally, that site comes up on the first page of a search engine (SEO, we are looking at you!), but the experience a first-time visitor has on your home page will determine whether or not they come back.

How is your message displayed and delivered? Today’s multi-device using customers are using laptops, phones, and more, to read email, surf the net, and view ads. A clear technological understanding of how that works and what won’t work should define how your message is put out there. For instance, a dancing bunny with wiggly balloons to click on is actually difficult to program successfully because a lot more information is needed and more can go wrong. That same bunny sitting still might be better for your purposes.

Is your web site easy to figure out on different devices? Since there will be users with varying speeds and bandwidths, simple is better than flashy. A good search engine is essential. The home page should have the most commonly sought information right there, easy to see. Tabs or links for further information should also be easy to see and should work when clicked on. Get feedback from your customer base and use it to improve their experience on your site no matter how they visit.

Are you using your data dynamically? There’s more to metrics than click rates. If you aren’t analyzing the right data for the right information, you are simply learning how to play with software and numbers. Know what makes a result statistically significant and numbers start to mean something real. Today we have access to an overwhelming amount of unique data that can improve specific business practices, but it has to be handled correctly.

You could try to figure all this out by yourself, or you could delegate the bulk of it to professionals who already are doing successful web design for others. 

http://www.reciprocalconsulting.com/web-design.php

 

PPC is different than SEO because you are in more control of where your ads land. Where Search Engine Optimization is intelligently relying on keywords and algorithms, Pay Per Click advertising relies on intelligently paying for prime placement on a page.

This is an equally valuable tactic in marketing because it allows you to target specific audiences by location, interests, associations, and more. You are not only waiting for results to develop, you are being exposed as soon as your ads are live and able to adjust immediately as it’s called for when the market changes. This instant feedback is an important aspect of pay per click advertising.

Most reputable internet advertising firms will monitor referring links in order to eliminate fraudulent clicks. This is done to keep their clients from having to pay for clicks that are generated by competitors hoping to increase your expenses or site owners hoping to get paid a commission. Fraud may be inevitable, but professionals will work to avoid affecting their client’s investment by eliminating the source of the fraud.

PPC can be a defined budget item because even though you pay per click, you can set parameters in maximum spending per month. This is very attractive to those new to pay per click advertising. It’s also easy to track the various types of ads so you can see which are more effective and should be enhanced. Most businesses utilize both SEO and PPC; they are different tactics for marketing and are considered equally important.

For more information on the potential benefits of PPC, a good resource is reciprocalconsulting.com/pay-per-click.php

In the middle of listing Link Building Tips That Actually Work, Tina Courtney-Brown suggests that you let your competitors determine where your links come from:

“Just as your metrics tell a very poignant tale, so do the results of your competitors. Research where they receive the majority of their links from, and the methods employed to gather these links. This analysis will also help you to identify ideal partnerships.”

That’s a valid observation for link-building, but competitive intelligence analysis adds even more depth to the things you can learn from your competitors. One way that really sticks out is by learning from their mistakes. If you can do this, your competitor has “paved your way” by making it easier to avoid the problems they ran into or the blind spots they may have.

Learning from someone else’s mistakes requires an understanding of their perspective, and a recognition of your similarity. In competitive intelligence terms, you would get that from developing a familiarity with their business and how it operates. This isn’t trade secrets, but things like reading their blogs, looking at their websites, and analyzing public data on their performance. After a while, that understanding of your competitor allows you to see where they made some mistakes.

But seeing someone else’s mistakes is useless unless you actually do learn from those mistakes. This is how your competitor can pave your way, because you can strategize how to avoid those mistakes, and compete intelligently. Your business will make the same mistakes unless you recognize the similarities and figure out an alternative plan of action.

Competitive intelligence is a lot easier if you get expert, professional help. You’ll find it at reciprocalconsulting.com/competitive-intelligence.php#6

 

By this time, just about everybody that has been online has heard about Heartbleed, the devastating superbug that looks like it has turned internet security upside down. Mashable has created a hitlist of the passwords you need to change “right now” and some experts suggest you just go through all your passwords and change each one anyway. But there is an added factor for businesses, and that is your online reputation and the security of your websites.

Even if your sites were not affected by the Heartbleed bug, you need to reassure your customers with reliable proof that your sites are safe. If you were affected, it’s better to say so and explain what you did to fix it. It wouldn’t be out of line to contact your customers with that statement and a link to one of the “check for Heartbleed” sites out there where they can run yours through and check other sites as well. That does two things: they know what is going on and they have a tool to use.

This isn’t an issue that will be going away soon. For every day people read about it but get no information from you to reassure them your business is safe, that is a whole 24 hours for folks to worry, talk, and decide to take their business somewhere else. Proactive strategies to deal with the current situation help you now and they give you a reputation for integrity that will be useful the next time something like this happens.

If you need help figuring out what to do about your online reputation management strategies, you can get that help at reciprocalconsulting.com/online-reputation-management.php#3

Whatever your business is, there are some assumptions that can probably be made:

  • you came up with an idea that meets a need or want
  • you came up with a way to make that idea a real product or service
  • you developed a business plan to make the product or service available
  • you don’t do every aspect of your business yourself

In order to be successful, everybody eventually has to delegate. The best way to delegate is figuring out which things can be done by another person, finding people capable of doing the tasks to your standards, working with them to make sure there’s no questions, and being available if questions come up in the future. There are a lot of things that can be delegated by a business owner, including internet marketing.

You could invest a lot of valuable time understanding the way the Google algorithm has changed over the years, for instance, and figure out how to stay on top of all the details involved with SEO, PPC, SMM, WD, and VID. Or you could delegate that to professionals who make a career of it and invest your valuable time in understanding your unique spot in the market and managing your business effectively. Then, you are able to deliver when the increased demands come as a result of professional internet marketing.

Delegation doesn’t mean you have no control or input. It means you don’t have to do the time-intensive tasks related to the job so you employ someone else to do it to your standards. Your time is best invested in doing the things that only you, the business owner, can do.

For full service internet marketing, consider delegating that to professionals – reciprocalconsulting.com/internet-marketing-services.php#2

 

Over on SiteProNews, Mark Garland has listed 50 Top SEO and Link Building Tips You Need To Be Using. Before his list, and it’s a good list, he makes some very good points about SEO.

  • links for links sake won’t get you very far
  • the only way to rank high is by genuine links to genuine sources
  • nobody outside Google’s inner sanctum knows exactly what the algorithm is
  • we do know that Google prioritizes relevant, high quality sites

So we need to be thinking of our content as the primary focus, and links as highlights of that quality content.

“Think of it in terms of the top 40. A song reaches the number one spot if it sells the most (for SEO purposes sales = links) but you can’t just take a collection of words, with no melody and try and get sales. In order to get to number one you have to start with a good song (for SEO purposes song = content). The song may not be to everyone’s liking but as long as a large enough number of people like it, then they will buy (or link to!) it.”

Marketing techniques, Search Engine Optimization, Web Design, and all the rest of the package really are useless if the song/content doesn’t appeal to anybody. Being an authority with easy-to-find information goes a long, long way to get your site ranked high. It’s the song most people want to hear, and you will find that your links are shared by quite a few people.

If you need help getting yourself into the “top 40″ and staying there, there’s help at reciprocalconsulting.com/search-engine-optimization.php.

 

Search Engine Optimization has been around for quite some time; long enough to go through an evolutionary process that has changed the way internet marketing is done. The goal of being on the first page of the search engine remains the same, but the method has changed as search engines used new algorithms to determine how to prioritize findings. It’s a constantly changing puzzle that keeps professionals challenged.

Social Media Optimization is the new kid on the SEO block, promising great things and looking easier to deal with than the arcane formulas of traditional search engine optimization. But is it an either/or situation? Of course not. Neither one is a magic bullet that will maximize your marketing goals. Both SEO and SMO are tools that need to be used skillfully in order to work well, and they should both be in your marketing toolbox.

SEO will be used to bring your business up in the ranks of a search engine. Since search engine algorithms are trending toward using social media input, SMO starts getting important in search engine optimization. But while there’s an overlap, social media optimization has a completely organic side based on human nature. The way you optimize your social media is by engaging people in an ongoing relationship. A first-time customer might find you from an internet search or from a “share” from a friend on a social media site. That is the beginning of the acquaintance and it grows through interchanges that increase familiarity and connection.

Optimizing your business means you use the technology at your disposal to develop the relationships with your customers that result in a loyal base you can rely on for future transactions. If you only have been thinking of SEO, you need to add SMO to your toolbox so you have the advantages of using both. If you need help with your social media marketing tools, you’ll find it at reciprocalconsulting.com/social-media-optimization-SMO.php.

 

In the middle of a great post at Moz on mobile-friendly websites, Bridget Randolph points out;

“We are increasingly living in a multiscreen, device-agnostic world.

And this means that “mobile” can’t just be an add-on anymore…Mobile is not a separate channel; it’s a technology. So although at this point there’s “no such thing as mobile” for the user, don’t be fooled: Making it easy for users is really hard. We can’t be lazy. What we need to be doing is asking the right questions.”

Her advice covers 4 phases of the customer journey: discover, explore, buy, and engage. Each category has a lot of good ideas to consider, case studies to look at, and it is set up in an easily read format that is classic technique portrayed. You could use it as a textbook example of how to explain a potentially complicated process.

Every time you add a channel to your enterprise, it is a good idea to do it in a way that works for the devices that will be used to access it. Mobile devices are different in experience than a laptop, for instance. So why would it be wise to take the laptop design to the mobile device without changing anything? Short answer: it isn’t.

So how does that look for web design? It looks like using dynamic serving, different HTML based on user agent while a single URL is used for simplicity. You want to be thinking about the consumer’s experience, and that means a smaller screen needs a different design in order to be effective.

  • How easy is it to find the “order” button from a phone?
  • How hard is it to navigate your site on a tablet?
  • Can the user go from one device to another in a seamlessly synced experience?

Testing all the devices your customers use, the way your customers use them, is a very good idea. We live in an increasingly multi-device, mobile-savvy culture and business has to keep up with it by designing your site appropriately for all the channels your customers will access. You can get help with your web design at reciprocalconsulting.com/web-design.php.

Some business owners struggle with what images they should post on Pinterest, particularly if they don’t own an e-commerce business or don’t sell physical products. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what kind of business you have. You can still make use of Pinterest.

Here are 5 ways to make your Pinterest pinboards more interesting:

  1. Pin your instructional videos or images associated with your podcasts. You can always pin the pages where your videos are posted in YouTube.
  2. Take pictures of your customers and employees interacting and upload those to Pinterest. Alternatively, take pictures of your employees behind the scenes (at office parties, industry events, etc.) and upload those to Pinterest.
  3. If you own a brick-and-mortar store, upload pictures of new products in your inventory when they come in. A great way to do this is to take pictures of your employees putting them on the shelves.
  4. For service businesses, you can pin images from around the Web that showcase problems that your staff can fix. For instance, an auto mechanic might pin an image of an overheating radiator. Be sure that you pin images on websites that have a Pin button so that you don’t run into potential copyright issues.
  5. Pin work you do for clients or supporting documents around the Web that back up claims you make on your blog. Infographics are very pinnable.

Need help with your Pinterest account or another social media account? Get Pinterest help at reciprocalconsulting.com/social-media-optimization-SMO.php

Some of the most important metrics for pay-per-click advertisers are ad positioning metrics. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Click-through rates
  • Visitors
  • Pages per visit
  • Average duration on site
  • Conversion rates

Each of these PPC metrics weighed against your ad position can help you save money on your advertising budget. One important way this happens is by gauging your metrics for each ad position relative to other ad positions.

For instance, if you discover that your CTR for position three is higher than your CTR for position one or two, then that’s a huge benefit. But what if your conversion rate is higher for position two?

You have to determine what metric is more important for you in reaching your goals.

If you are not concerned with conversion rate but are concerned with a higher engagement with your visitors, then you might look at your pages per visit and average duration metrics. Adjust your budget to target your ad to the optimal position so that you can reach the highest engagement possible for your ads.

This is no easy task. It does require keeping an eye on your ads and performing some tests to determine the best position for the goals you want to reach.

You can get started with ad position adjustment by consulting with Reciprocal Consulting at www.reciprocalconsulting.com/pay-per-click.php

Blogs have been around for a long time and it’s amazing that there are still a lot of people who don’t know how to comment on them. You’ll see comments like “Nice post. I learned a lot,” or “Thanks! Great post.”

Okay. Why bother?

If you want to get someone’s attention, write a comment they’ll remember. Take issue with what they’ve said. Disagree. Not in a combative way, but don’t be afraid to state your own opinion and back it up with a fact or two.

You can even create a great comment by agreeing with the author. Instead of saying “Nice post,” how about saying something like, “I agree with that. In fact, I read another post on the same subject the other day at Such-and-Such blog where the author went into detail about statistics and included a couple of infographics. The interesting thing was …” and give a couple of sentences on why you thought the post was interesting.

Those kinds of comments have value. They are more likely to get someone’s attention and keep the conversation flowing.

Many people are still treating blog commenting as a spam pool. Quit trying to get links from other people’s blog posts with crappy, spammy blogs. Join the conversation and add some value. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your own time.

Learn more about online marketing at http://www.reciprocalconsulting.com/.