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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

An infographic at Marketing Pilgrim illustrates five obvious trends in search engine optimization. One of those trends is that social signals are increasingly leading to higher search engine results for marketers who are active on the social networks.

These social signals include:

  • shares
  • likes
  • retweets
  • +1s
  • comments
  • followers and fans
  • and other social signals such as total reach and influence

What this means for search marketers is that you should spend a little bit of time each day on social media, sharing your content and interacting with your audience. This will likely become more and more important as the search engines place greater emphasis on these social signals.

In the old days, marketers built content and tried to get as many links as they could to that content with the right amount of anchor text and other link building signals. Today, it’s all about the social signals, and we’re talking about more than those that lead to links.

There are a handful of social media websites that are most important in helping marketers increase their social influence. These include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • Instagram

While these are not the only sites worth mentioning, I’d say they are a bare minimum. You may not need to be on all of them, but you should establish a presence on most of them. And be active.

Social media marketing is as good as SEO. Learn more about social media optimization at reciprocalconsulting.com/social-media-optimization-SMO.php.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Every now and then an idea comes along that seems hokie on the surface but actually turns into a big deal. Twitter comes to mind.

Flipagram promises to be to video as Twitter is to blogging. Call it microvideo production, but it could catch on.

The name makes you think instantly of Instagram. That’s understandable. It is integrated with Instagram. But it’s also integrated with Facebook and Twitter, which means that it could see a lot of users checking it out.

It’s actually a smartphone app – with downloads for iOS and Android.

The essence is Flipagram allows users to create short videos (15 to 30 seconds) using their own photos and music dubbed over them. One question that comes to mind is this, Can users use their own music? If so, then it could catch on with independent music artists, and the marketing value for small businesses will go up immediately, as well.

That’s not to say that you can’t use Flipagram for marketing if you are forced to use music from a pre-established library, but my guess is there will be commercial restrictions on copyrighted material.

I can’t wait to see how users put Flipagram to use and begin to share their videos across their social networks.

All Facebook says it won’t have the same marketing usability as Vine, but I do wonder. What do you think? Will Flipagram become useful to social media marketers?

It’s the end of the year, which means this is the time when online marketing professionals look at the year and see what they did well and what they could have done better before turning their eyes around and predicting the trends for the coming year. Since it’s the law, we’ve decided to get on the bandwagon and make our predictions for trends in 2014.

Only, we’re going to approach it a little differently. We’re going to list 5 trends that started in 2013 and that we see continuing into 2014 – maybe beyond.

  1. Mobile marketing – Mobile marketing has been on the rise. Two things are necessary for this. The first are responsive websites. By the end of 2014, if you don’t have one, then you’ll effectively be out of the mobile marketing game. Secondly, the growth of smartphone and tablet usage make mobile marketing an all-in effort.
  2. High quality content – Internet marketers should have been focused on this all along, but people tend to focus on whatever Google forces them to focus on. In 2014, that will be “high quality content.”
  3. Social media metrics – Social media is a channel that has finally come into its own. For many websites, social media traffic will eclipse search engine traffic.
  4. Apps development – Who doesn’t love a good app? Again, smartphones and tablets are driving this train. It’s only going to go faster – until it becomes a super train.
  5. Visual content – Images, videos, infographics, you name it. Content is becoming more visual. Don’t expect this to change.

These trends started in 2013, but they’re only going to become more pronounced in the coming year. What do you think?

Search Engine Journal makes a convincing case that marketers should tweet their content more than once. To summarize, here’s what one publisher found through a study conducted on Twitter:

  • Tweeting a blog post multiple times results in more traffic to your blog.
  • By tweeting the same content several times throughout the day you can reach people in different time zones. Our comment: That’s very important if your audience is global, much less so if it is local.
  • You can reach new followers with each tweet. Our comment: Even though local businesses aren’t concerned about multiple time zones, there may still be a benefit to tweeting at different times of the day as people often have different social and work schedules based on our 24-hour economy.
  • You cant test different headlines to see which one is more effective.

One thing I found particularly interesting is that the writer of the article mentioned that after testing several headlines she would go back and change the original title to a blog post. Here’s what she says in her own words:

When we see a big difference in engagement on a different headline like that, we usually go back to the original post and change the title itself (the URL never changes, just the heading of the blog post), so this can be a really useful learning experience for us, as well as helping us share our content with more people.

That’s not a bad idea. Maybe it’s time to rethink your social media strategy.

A few years ago, if you’d have asked anyone doing any kind of Internet marketing at all what their No. 1 referrer was, the answer would have been overwhelmingly “Google.” In fact, Google accounted for about 90% of all website traffic at one time. Today, that number is reduced drastically.

If 60% of your traffic is coming from Google today, then you’re doing well. Chances are, however, that you’re getting the bulk of your website traffic from other sources.

But what are those other sources?

For many website owners, those sources include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Craigslist
  • Third-party niche websites
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Google+

See a trend?

For many website owners, social media has risen to be the No. 1 referrer of traffic. If you are active on several social media sites, then you may have noticed that too. But more often than not, it’s not just one social media website that is referring traffic. It’s several sites delivering a portion of the traffic each.

In that climate, Google may still be your No. 1 referrer, but it isn’t a majority referrer. In other words, they may refer more traffic to your site than any other website but not above 50% of your total traffic. If you do get more than 50% of your traffic from any one source, then you’ve got a gold mine.

This is important to note for several reasons. You should put your money where your traffic is, and where your conversions are.

In other words, if your No. 1 traffic referrer is Facebook, no matter what the percentage is, then focus on converting that traffic to sales. If Facebook is your No. 1 traffic source but most of your conversions come from Twitter, then spend a little more time on Twitter. But don’t neglect Facebook! Instead, try to figure out how to turn Facebook traffic into sales.

It’s an age-old strategy. Put your investment where your payoff is. Re-invest in your biggest moneymaker and you’ll see your ROI go up.

An interesting study that pits tablets against smartphones concludes that tablets are being consumed more for books and reference material as well as travel and local-related content than smartphones. Smartphones rule everything else.

I find this to be quite interesting. Books and reference I understand. But local and travel? Tablets, not smartphones?

The study counts click-throughs from mobile ads. Interestingly, smartphones and tablets run neck and neck with smartphones having a slight lead in the music and entertainment category. I’m guessing, like Cynthia Boris, that tablets dominate video and smartphones capture most of the music downloads.

The one category I’d like to see split in two is the travel and local category. Is it possible that travelers search for information on their tablets BEFORE they leave for their destinations while smartphone users are more likely to search for local information on their smartphones? That’s just a hypothesis, but unless there is a study specific to that questions we can’t know.

What we can know is that smartphones show marketing potential for a lot of categories, including productivity apps, games, shopping, news, weather, and dating.

I don’t know what you’ll do with this information, but I’d suggest studying your smartphone and tablet markets to see if you can ascertain any nuances of usage among your audience. If so, then adjust your mobile marketing appropriately. That includes mobile advertising, social media, and mobile search.

Bill Slawski has an excellent post this morning on Hummingbird and Authorship. What it boils down to is short text, or social messages.

If you’re one of those people who has developed a habit of sharing links on social media but not including any context for those links by adding helpful commentary so your fans and followers can understand the importance of the link, then you probably aren’t doing yourself any favors. You should start adding more to your social messages.

I’m not saying you should write a book. Twitter only gives you 140 characters, but those 140 characters are very important.

In a word, they add context to your links. But that’s true of your messages on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ too. What you say about the links you post can determine an awful lot about what you think of that link. In the case of Google+, it could also determine your authority on the topics you post about. Google knows what those topics are based on your social messages – or short text.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you post a link to a how-to on changing the oil in a Mercedes. If you are a Mercedes auto mechanic, then that’s a link that is right in line with your expertise. But how will Google know that if all you post is a link. One paragraph of text explaining that the article is a must-read for anyone who owns a Mercedes helps Google associated the keyword “Mercedes” with your name and reputation. Do that enough times and Google will learn to associate your name with “Mercedes” all the time.

One post here and there isn’t much, but long term, a habit of turning your links into short commentary will give you a boost in authority.

Google’s Hummingbird update has turned the SEO world upside down. Everywhere you turn now, it seems you can find an article or blog post explaining how webmasters should optimize their websites for the new search engine. The talking point is that Hummingbird isn’t just an algorithm update. It’s a complete change in how Google ranks web pages.

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.

Regardless of what you believe about Hummingbird, there is one thing that is absolutely true. It has changed the way we do SEO going forward. And because of that, it’s time to evaluate your website to see if it stacks up against the new search engine ranking system.

Your first step should be to look at your content. Is it written well? Does it target a specific target? If not, then you need to fix that first and foremost.

Next, take a look at your link portfolio. If you have any questionable links, then you need to disavow them. It’s better to mess up and disavow a few good links than it is not to evaluate your link portfolio at all and be penalized for have a few bad links. You don’t want to be hit like the content farms were under Penguin.

Thirdly, review your technical SEO. There are some very specific things you should look at. Search Engine Journal has the list.

Finally, take a look at your social media strategy? Do you have one? Is it a good one? If not, then you seriously need to think about starting a social media strategy that helps you promote your brand.

SEO post-Hummingbird isn’t a far cry different than it used to be – if you’ve always tried to follow the search engine guidelines – but it is different.

The last thing in the world any business owner wants to do is respond to negative mentions. It can be especially tedious if you have a really bad negative report that climbs the search rankings and overtakes your own search engine results.

The first thing you should NOT do is panic. Keep in mind that many content pieces rise high in the search engines within the first few hours of publication then fall again. Give the negative content up to three hours to settle before getting too wrapped up about the negative reports. If the content is still ranked higher than you after six hours, then it’s time to respond.

DO NOT respond directly on the page where your negative report appears. That almost always signals to the search engines that the piece is valuable and offers legitimacy for that page to stay high in the search rankings.

Instead, undergo a positive publicity campaign.

If possible, publish two or three press releases. Make them about different newsworthy items. If you can’t do that, then write three separate press releases on the same newsworthy item, and be sure the content in each press release is very unique. Publish them at three separate press release distribution websites, and be sure to send them to relevant news media personnel by e-mail as well.

Write a blog post and send a couple of guest blogging queries out as well. And share as much as you can through social media. The goal is to combat the high search rankings of negative content with promotion of positive content.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. And be sure to target the exact keywords that your negative content is ranking for. Be diligent in publishing new, fresh, and original content targeting the proper keywords. It may take a few days to push the negative content down. If you see minimal results, keep going.

The worst thing you can do is react to the negative mentions by retaliating. If you do that, you could have a worse reputation management problem.

Do you know which demographic spends more time on social networks? If you guessed moms with young children, then you’d be right.

It isn’t hard to figure out why young moms spend more time online than anyone else. Their children aren’t old enough yet to demand running around here and yon. Older kids have extra-curricular activities. Younger kids have diapers.

Young moms can put the youngster to bed for a nap and sneak away to Facebook.

But they’re not just talking to their friends either. They’re actually engaging with brands.

These moms also engage with more brands online and they say advertising helps them choose the right products for their children.

In addition to using social media to find products for their young children, moms also are active on mobile devices. In fact, they’re twice as likely to use their mobile phones to access the Web than the rest of the population. They’re also heavy users of their tablets for Web surfing.

All of that spells one thing: If your target market is young moms and you sell online, then you can have a heyday. Take to social media and look for those moms who are searching for products for their young children. It’s a great demographic to market to anyway, but it’s even better now that you know they spend more time online than their neighbors.

Both Starbucks and Amazon have started a gift giving campaign using Twitter as the delivery vehicle. In Starbucks’ case, gift senders can send a $5 gift card to one of their Twitter followers. But one problem with this seems to be that the receiver may not know about the gift and, if they don’t redeem it, then it’s money down the drain for you.

One quick fix for that problem, however, is this: Hold a contest. That way, the receiver of the gift will be expecting it and should redeem the gift certificate when it comes through to them on Twitter.

Amazon’s gift giving program allows you to donate money to your favorite charity, which can actually make you feel better about your philanthropy. The program is called Amazon Smile Program, and how it works is like this: You designate .05% on eligible purchase items to go to a charity of your choice. This is done before selecting your shipping options.

With Amazon’s program, you can choose a recommended charity or pick one of your own.

Here’s the question: Is this the new thing in online marketing? Will this start a new trend? Will other companies, like Amazon, commit to giving to charitable causes out of their own pockets as a branding strategy? Will other retailers, like Starbucks, allow you to give Twitter gift certificates to your followers? If this catches on, expect Twitter to get a little bit more like the wild west – and that may not necessarily be a bad thing. Getting any ideas?

There’s an article on Tumblr about using the service effectively for SEO and social media.

And it’s not a bad idea, but Tumblr isn’t for everyone. It could be for you, but before you decide that it is, take careful note of the benefits Tumblr promises you. Are those benefits that you actually need or are they just fluff?

One of the nice things about Tumblr is that it is highly visual, which makes it a great platform for highly visual marketing campaigns.

You could argue that all marketing campaigns should be highly visual. Maybe. But not all need to be that visual. If yours does, then you might consider Tumblr. However, there’s one drawback to Tumblr that Tumblr fanboys aren’t going to share with you. If you put your content there and Tumblr goes belly up, you’ll lose your content. Period.

That’s not exactly a selling point. WordPress, on the other hand, is a software that you download and upload to your servers.

The key takeaway here is that you should think hard about where you put your content. Outposts like Tumblr, Facebook, and other social media sites aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but you should count the cost and be prepared for the day when they may get shut down. It’s happened before. Remember Geocities? Posterous? They are no more. At one time, they were thriving metropolises.

Build a marketing campaign that you can match with the platform. That way, if you lose the platform, it won’t matter to your overall marketing plans. You can still keep your A game.

LinkedIn has become the de facto B2B social network. If you do business with other businesses, or you want to, particularly if you offer a service for businesses, then you should be on LinkedIn. But simply being on LinkedIn won’t guarantee your success.

Rather, you’ve got to work LinkedIn just as you work any other social network. Here are my top three suggestions for working LinkedIn to increase your B2B leads.

  1. Optimize your profile – Your profile should be optimized for achieving high ranking search results for the keywords you want to target. Take a look at the industry you are in and the types of businesses you want to target. What keywords would people search for to find your profile if they wanted to do business with you. Optimize your profile for those keywords.
  2. Create a LinkedIn business page – If you don’t have a business page on LinkedIn, then you should build one – ASAP. If you are targeting other businesses, create a business page and target it specifically for the types of people, or businesses, you want to do business with.
  3. Update your status often – Don’t just sign up for LinkedIn and forget about it. Social media only works if you work it. Update your status once or twice a day with meaningful high value content.

LinkedIn is a great way to find new business leads, but only if you do all the right things. Optimize your profile, build a business page, and update your status often.

If your idea of keyword research is that it is a one-time activity, then you should probably take a primer on keyword research. It may not be something you need to spend time on every day, but you should definitely revisit the issues periodically. How often is your call, but don’t wait a whole year.

Brainstorming for keywords is not necessarily as simple as using Google’s Keyword Planner either. A lot of the free tools are dead, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative.

Here are 5 ways you can brainstorm for new keywords to use in your online marketing:

  1. Suggested Search – Both Google and Bing will suggest search terms as you enter a keyword into the search box. Take advantage of this. Use your keywords and look at what the search engines suggest. You might be surprised at the gems you’ll find.
  2. Make a list – The old brainstorming method of writing it down still works. Write down every variation of your keyword phrases that you can. Use it as a jumping off point, not a definitive list.
  3. PPC campaigns – You’ll have to break down and use Google AdWords or Bing Ads for this, but look at your keyword groups and suggested opportunities in your PPC admin panel.
  4. Social media – What are people saying on your social networks? Are they talking about you or your competition? What words are they using?
  5. Customer reviews – I hope you’re reading them. You can often find out precisely what people think about your brand by reading their reviews. What keywords are they using to talk about your company and its products?

Keyword research is an ongoing activity. You should spend at least a few minutes each month doing keyword research.