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Do You Want Friends or Leads?

April 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Social media is the one of the newest additions to the marketing pantheon. What began a few years ago as a way for people to connect with old and new friends has morphed into a marketing powerhouse that companies are scrambling to take advantage of. Facebook is undeniably the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to social networking sites, but other sites like LinkedIn and Twitter have their own value. There are even smaller, niche social networking sites like Academdia.edu (for academic/researchers), Crunchyroll (an anime forum) and MyChurch (for Christian churches). Practically every niche has their own social networking hub, so companies are hurrying to position their brands on them.

While you can’t deny the value of having a strong presence on these social networking sites, sometimes it seems like companies are missing the point of social media marketing.

Why are you sending people away from your site?

One of the first things I tell clients is that they have got to get the giant “Click Here to Like Us on Facebook” button out of prime real estate positions on their webpage. The goal of SEO is to deliver targeted traffic to your site. Why are you encouraging them to leave and head over to Facebook? Isn’t it better to drive them deeper into the site and encourage them to buy? What’s more important to you? That they like your brand or that they buy your products?

I recommend that you put any of your “Connect with Us” social profile buttons in the footer of your site. You can prominently feature them on your “Contact Us” page, but they shouldn’t be dominating your homepage. A good internal linking structure is part of good SEO. Links to your social networking profiles should be incorporated into that structure and not overshadow your site’s true goal: conversion.

Drive traffic from social networks, not to it!

Just like any other business profiles you may have created (Google Local, Yelp, Merchant Circle, etc) the goal of your social networking profiles should be to drive traffic to your main website! A social network profile is both a marketing strategy in its own right, as well as a component of your overall SEO campaign. I am a big fan of posting snippets of content to my Facebook page, but not the whole article or blog post. What good is it you if someone reads the whole post on Facebook? It’s better to drive them over to your blog and try to keep them engaged there.

Don’t over promote your profiles.

You social networking profile is not a substitute for your company website! Again, social profiles are very important. They are allow you to connect with you customers one-on-one, they give you a chance to bring some personality to your company, they can increase your online brand presence by ranking in the search engines and more—but none of that means anything if they overpower your actual website. Think of your social networking profiles like a micro site. Would you ever want to have a micro site ranking better and getting more traffic than you main website? Probably not.

While having 13,000 Facebook fans and 42,000 followers on Twitter is fantastic, it doesn’t really mean anything if none of these people are heading over to your site. It’d hard to convince someone to buy in 140 characters or less. And a Like doesn’t mean much if that person never bothers to come back to your page.

About the Author

Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com), a full-service SEO services firm.

Contact Nick Stamoulis at nick@brickmarketing.com or 781-999-1222

3 Ways to Get the Most From Your Keyword Research

April 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Keyword research is undeniably one of the most important things you’ll do in terms of SEO. The keywords you choose are going to have a direct affect on what kind of search your site will rank for. This in turn affects the amount of traffic and what kind of visitor is being delivered to your site. Missing out on important keywords or including the wrong ones means you’ll miss out on potential traffic. In short, keyword research is going to determine who finds your site!

Here are three tips for getting the most out of your keyword research.

1. Think like your customers

Depending on the industry your company works in, you might rely on a lot of technical jargon to describe your company, products and services. While incorporating those industry specific keywords is important, you also have to think like your customer. While you may refer to yourself as a “personal finance management software firm,” your target audience might be looking for “home finance computer program” or “personal budget planning software.” You have to take a step back and think like your consumer. If you didn’t know your company and niche as well as you do, how would you go about searching for your products?

If you can’t separate yourself as a marketer, why not get the answer directly from the horse’s mouth? Send a survey out to your current and former customers and ask them how they would describe your company. What kind of keywords did they use to find you? This is also a great way to make sure that your branding and messaging is on target. If you call yourself A, but all you customers look at your company and think Q, something is amiss.

2. Include as many variations as possible

Are you a firm, company, agency or business? Why not all of the above? Synonyms are your best friend when it comes to keyword research. Each user is going to use a different keyword to find your site, so you have to incorporate as many variations as possible. For instance, an insurance agency would target “insurance agency,” “insurance firm,” “insurance company,” “insurance provider” and so forth.

You will never be able to come up with every variation on your own, so that is where keyword research tools come in handy. Google’s Keyword Research Tools is free (you don’t even need a Google account) and provides you handy data about the search volume for your keyword and its variations.

3. Look at the competition

Sure, it would be great if your small boutique could rank well for “women’s shoes,” but the odds of that happening are pretty slim. The truth of the matter is that big brands have the money and people to really dominate the search results for those highly competitive keywords. While you can still include them in your keywords, you’re better off researching more long-tail keywords that you have a good chance of ranking for.  These long-tail keywords (“red women’s high heeled shoes” for instance), may not have the high level of search volume you’d like to see, but the people using those keywords to search are a much more targeted visitor and likely at the end of their buying cycle. Sometimes it’s better to get less, but more relevant traffic because it will lead to a higher conversion rate. Would you rather rank on page one and have a 1% conversion rate, or rank on page two with a 7% conversion rate?

One thing to keep in mind when conducting your keyword research is to do it page by page. Search engines rank individual pages of a website, not the site as a whole. Go after the most relevant keywords (2-5) for each page based on that page’s unique content.

About the Author

Nick Stamouls is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com), a full-service Internet marketing and SEO services company.

Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or nick@brickmarketing.com

Tips for Improving an Internal Linking Structure

April 15, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Building a large supply of quality, one-way links is critical for a site’s long term success.  Search engines look at how many links a site has, and what kind of site is being linked from, to help determine a website’s position in the SERP. The goal is a good mix of quantity and quality. 10,000 links don’t mean anything to the search engines if they are all from splogs or porn sites. In fact, having that many “bad” links can actually end up hurting your site more than helping it. Building quality links from articles, online press releases, blog posts and more takes time, but it is an essential part of SEO. The link juice that comes from those sites gets passed along to your site, helping build trust with the search engines and boost your ranking position.

However, the internal linking of structure of your site is just as important, yet is oftentimes overlooked.

Internal linking helps flatten out your site structure. That means it takes less clicks to get from your homepage to deep, internal pages of content. A good rule of thumb is a max of three clicks between your homepage and any other page on your site. Internal linking greatly affects the user-experience. The easier it is for someone to navigate through your site, the more likely they are to stay and do business with you.

Internal linking also helps carry link juice through your site. Since a link only passes on part of its juice to every page it links to, the closer you keep them the more value the links have. Internal linking creates a horizontal structure so your internal pages get more of the link juice. Since search engines rank individual pages, not websites as a whole, it is important that these internal pages do as well as your homepage.

Here are a few ways to build your site’s internal linking structure:

Include a footer

Why make your visitor go all the back to the top of the page, or backtrack through you site to get to a different page. A footer is a great way to help visitors navigate through your site. You can include the important links from your top level navigation bar, as well as other important links like the Privacy Policy page that have to be included, but you don’t want cluttering your high level navigation. It’s also a great place to link to any social networking profiles and a company blog.

Use anchor text to link internal pages

A great way to link your internal pages is to hyperlink keywords on Page A that are related to Page D. By turning naturally occurring keywords into anchor text, you draw the readers’ attention to that word. This can help move traffic within your website and draw visitors to different pages. Obviously some pages are going to bring in more traffic than others, so anchor text can help spread the wealth.

Linking from/to your blog

A blog is a great place to build a strong internal linking structure. Connecting related posts together provides the reader with more information and helps keep them engaged longer. You can also link from your blog posts to various pages of your website to help drive targeted traffic. Blog posts can rank on their own in the search engines and provide valuable one-way links to you site, especially if the blog is hosted as its own site (exampleblog.com and not examplecomany.com/companyblog).

The most important thing to remember with internal linking is to not go overboard with it. Too much anchor text can distract the reader and clutters the page. You want to link the pages that are related to each other. Linking to irrelevant pages/posts can make a reader feel like they’ve been tricked once they’ve arrived. The anchor text is a promise of more information, make sure you deliver on that promise.

About the Author

Nick Stamouls is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com), an Internet marketing and SEO services company.

Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or nick@brickmarketing.com