Top Branding Resources to Make Your Life Easier

I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at this- because who doesn’t have a “top (insert trendy thing here) list?” I’ve used these tools and they have definitely made my life easier. Thank me later.

    I’ve used several newsletter services in the past, but this one is by far the best.  Your messages won’t get dumped into your recipient’s junk box, and the interface is super easy to create a professional looking design.  No, they are not paying me to say this.
    Vocus.  At first, I wasn’t sure about it.  It’s technically a “social listening” service- but I use the PR web press release service that is rolled into it.  I love it for that part alone!  It is such a great interface to upload a press release and get it in front of a lot of eyeballs.  Highly recommend.

    This book.  It is awesome.  A very quick read and explains the fundamentals behind why inbound marketing and social media/blogs are so important for your brand.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.

    This is also a great book.  It gives lots of great resources and best practices for your brand.  Erik Qualman has also created some great videos that show you the power of social media.  See below.

    Social Media Revolution
    The socialnomics channel on YouTube has a lot of great videos on social media and how/why it’s so powerful.
    Do you need a high quality logo but don’t have the time or money to hire someone to do it?  Look no further.  Also has useful tools for other marketing materials for your brand.  There are paid and free options for logo creation as well.


    So those are some of the resources I like- off the top of my head.  There are a lot of other great tools out there- what are some of your favorites?  Tell me in the comments.  Did you find this story interesting? Be the first to like or comment.


Another Cool Video on the “Social Media Revolution”

Erik Qualman, founder of Socialnomics, is speaking in this video on how businesses can effectively use social media to market their message.  What I’ve noticed with businesses/brands/politicians who use social media is that so many use it the wrong way.

In this video, one of Qualman’s quotes struck me as incredibly powerful- he says the first step in marketing/sales (in general and on social media) is to LISTEN.  I am guessing he means to listen to what your audience wants.

He also states that “a lot of companies go right to the fourth step. . . and try to sell right away within social media.  They’ll hop in there right away and do one-way communication whether it’s with a coupon or just getting their message out.  That does not work.

Check out the video:

More on this later, but if you are one of those companies just continuing to “blast” your message in slightly different ways across your respective social media accounts, please stop.

It cheapens this unique form of marketing/advertising/customer service nothing more than a flashy billboard.  To be fair,  this method might work for some.  But it gets drowned out in the white noise of the web.  The entire point of social media is to reach out to your customers/followers/prospects and have a real conversation about your passion (product/service).

You want to talk WITH someone, not AT them.

Implementing your social media properly will humanize a brand to let everyone (customers, competitors, and partners alike) know that there are real people behind this entity who do actually care about what you want or need.  And that if something goes awry, they’ll try to fix it.  It’s absolutely amazing how far a little communication about (insert important or problematic topic) goes.

Great video, Qualman.  It gave me a lot to think about.  Please keep the videos coming!

And stay tuned, because my next article is about how social media has been used – there’s no word for it- atrociously- by very prominent brands who depend on the very people they communicate with to win.

How have you seen social media being used the wrong way like mentioned in the above video?  What are some of the “social media faux-pas” you’ve seen committed?

How to NOT Make Google Engineers Mad

Rather than give you all of the ins and outs of the industry, I’d prefer to approach this topic from a slightly different angle. I think it is necessary for everyone (professionals and amateurs alike) to know about some key things to NOT do when it comes to optimizing your website for search engines. There are a few things that will get your site banned from the Google ranks VERY quickly. Obviously I am a marketing expert- so although we do run successful social media campaigns, I wanted to interview someone with much more expertise in that area. Rochester, NY has a wealth of computer and technology related business so fortunately I was able to get a teleconference with the owner of Nothing But Net Solutions, Jim Gubiotti.

I asked him to outline several black-hat SEO “tactics” that would get your site banned from the Google organic search results. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Hidden, keyword stuffed content is bad. Really bad.  A way to do this is- putting white fonts on white backgrounds.  Magic- the words just blend right in!  Google engineers don’t really like it when you trick their carefully formulated algorithms.
  2. Meta tag keyword stuffing is also an especially terrible idea. Another way to have your site banned from Google.  The difference between this and the first kind of keyword stuffing is that you’re still using keywords, but just inserting them into meta tags rather than making them different colors to blend into the background.  The recently updated algorithms on Google have put less emphasis on meta tags and more emphasis on title tags and alt tags.  So even if you are doing this, it probably won’t help, BUT it will still get your site booted from Google just for trying to do it.   As a rule, if you are using more than 10 tags, you are stuffing.
  3. Doorway Pages: What these pages do is to serve as a re-direct page- only using coding that is not acceptable according to the algorithms that Google engineers have carefully developed.  These “doorway” or “gateway” pages are usually stuffed with content to optimize for certain keywords.  The actual Google user (the human on the end of this) does not see this page, but Google crawlers do see it, which is why they work to increase your rankings.  Certain types of re-directs are allowable if you change your site for example- a clear 301 redirect is ok to do.  Google will figure out that you are doing this, because eventually a real person (and not just a crawler) will see your page.  Then, your site will be removed.
  4. Link Farms: Think of a link farm like this: If you build your house in a crappy neighborhood, regardless how nice your house is, your property value is diminished.  Link Farms are the sites that you sometimes find that contain hundreds, perhaps even thousands of links to totally unrelated pages.  If you participate and have your site associated with these link farms, you run the risk of your site being removed by Google.  So just like real estate- location is everything.   When you build your site, if you are in a “bad neighborhood,” you are the only one who stands to lose out.

Many SEO consultants use these techniques, but you will find that these are the SEO consultants who have absolutely NO clue what they are doing whatsoever.  If your SEO consultant starts recommending any of these, I’d run as fast as possible.

Mr. Gubiotti does not ascribe to these beliefs and maintains that the best way to have your site highly indexed by google is by giving them credible, remarkable content.  There are several SEO tactics that are allowed according to Google webmaster guidelines- but the best rule of thumb according to Jim is this: “If the site is good for the human being reading it, then it will be good for the Google crawler.” If you have questions on how optimizing your site for search engines can benefit your business, you can contact Nothing But Net Solutions and see how they can help you.

Remember, it’s not going to be an overnight thing if you are doing it the right way- it takes time.  If you do things the wrong way, not only will you be penalized by Google, you will also lose a ton of credibility which can happen in an instant on the world-wide web.  In short: Black hat SEO= Bad Google Karma!  And as we all know… the Google karma police are always on patrol.

Inbound Marketing, phpBB3, customer service

Adventures in phpBB3 Land…..

Well, we’ve finally done it. We’ve added a new trick- administrating and moderating phpBB3 forums! Many of you probably are not familiar with what phpBB3 is let alone what php is. “Php” stands for “hypertext preprocessor” which is a very widely used open source scripting language for message board forums. Php was not created strictly for these forums, it is used to write web applications. It just so happens that php is easily embedded into HTML- so that is why it works so well for these message board style forums.  The “BB” part of PhpBB3 stands for “bulletin board.”

At any rate- we’ve had fun administrating and moderating this forum.  It’s a bit complicated at first- setting it up, moderating user groups, moderating the new users that sign up- it can get kind of crazy, but we’ve learned a few things.

  1. Having a phpBB3 forum for your business is pretty cool- not only will your customers come in to chat and ask questions, so will the other like-minded businesses in your industry.
  2. You can set up different areas of the forum that are accessible to different user groups- such as if you have sensitive information in one area that only customers should see, you can make it so that only users from the “customer” user group have access to it.  Similarly if you want to apply a “waiting period” to certain users to make sure they are not spamming your board, you can do it this way also.
  3. Having your employees take part in this adds extra credibility.  I find that since we’ve been working on this most recent bulletin board forum, it really gives the “faculty” a chance to shine- and show that they really know what they are talking about.
  4. It also helps with SEO!  Our SEO guy (Jim Gubiotti) who I interview in the new article coming out later this week, gave us this idea- so not only is it good for your customers, and partners, it adds to the “relevant content” that Google searches for to index pages.  Although there are many things that help with your search engine optimization- this is by far one of the best ways to optimize your site and truly make it a “hub”.

Lets get back to the basics: According to Brian Halligan from Hubspot, Inbound marketing is “where you help yourself ‘get found’ by people already learning about and shopping in your industry.”  It’s sort of like being able to predict what someone is looking for and strategically placing yourself in their path as if to say “hey! you’re looking for me!  let me make it easier and just walk up to you and introduce myself!”  This is also why it has steadily become the gold standard of customer service.  It becomes so much easier for the would-be customer to find the outstanding service they are looking for, saving them time, and consequentially, money.  It becomes so easy for the potential clients to rely on Google because they do rank search results according to credibility.  And although there are many white-hat SEO “tricks” you can use to increase your rank in the search results, the best way, by far- is to create remarkable content.

So… by using a bulletin board forum for people who are your clients, potential clients, and industry partners- it gives you a lot of credibility especially since you open up the door for people to ask your company, staff, and clients questions about the goods/services provided.  It shows you are being totally transparent as a business (this is a good thing), it shows you are the master of your craft, and it shows that you not only care about business, but care about enlightening your industry. It makes people like your business for participating in a meaningful way, and everyone knows that one of the most basic principles in selling things:  people will buy from you if they like you!

If you need more information on how phpBB3 style forums can help your business, feel free to contact me anytime with questions.

Inbound marketing, blog your way to millions, web presence, SEO

How To Blog Your Way To Millions

Millions of eyeballs reading your content, that is.  While I’m sure if you own a business, you’d want to make millions of dollars, you need to first focus on winning friends who believe in your brand.  That is the idea behind social media:  to engage your audience by giving them something they can use.  You’re going to need to abide by a few very easy and simple cardinal rules of blogging in order to be effective and show your craft-mastery.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

1)Keep it simple:  The web is full of white noise, you need to keep your  message simple so it does not get lost in the frey.  Be suscinct, don’t be overly wordy.  If you’ve already written blogs, go back and edit to be more concise.  Don’t feel bad, everyone makes this mistake.

2)Be Relevant: Don’t use your work blog as a soapbox to spout your views on topics that are totally unrelated.  Make sure you stick to the subject at hand, and only stray from the pertinent subjects if you are extremely clever or witty and can find some way to make it relevant.  This is a word of caution, not everyone can pull this off.

3)Use Keywords: Tag your blog articles with relevant tags.  For example, if you are writing a blog about medical device measurement, make sure you are tagging the posts with “thickness measurement,” “medical device,” “medical device inspection,” etc.  This will increase your visibility on the web.

4)Be patient: You are not going to be an overnight success.  Do not expect it.  It will take weeks, maybe months, maybe even years to get to the “millions.”

5)Participate in a meaningful way:  Find other blogs that are either industry relevant, or geared towards success in business and start following them.  Subscribe to other blogs.  Comment on posts.  People want to receive comments, just like yourself.  In this case, one hand washes the other.  DO NOT leave spam comments with links to your site.  Think about what you are going to say first, and make it relevant, ask a question that provokes an answer from the author.

6)Post regularly:  You’ve worked hard to gain the readers you have thus far, you don’t want to lose their interest.  Update frequently to give them the content they want.  Also, if you are posting regularly, the search engines will crawl your pages regularly looking for new content to index.  Again, this circles back to the whole concept of increasing your visibility on the web.

7)The More The Merrier: Quantity does matter, when it comes to increasing your web presence.  However as a word of caution: don’t post just for the sake of upping your post count.  Make sure your articles are relevant and remarkable.  Keep the quality standard high so you don’t lose credibility in the eyes of your fans.

8)New information matters: You don’t want to post about topics that are outdated.  If you do post on an outdated topic, it needs to be relevant to something that is going on right now.  Your readers do not want to read old news.

9)Encourage participation: Always make sure your articles call your readers to action.  Ask for their opinion, their resources, or even just feedback on what types of future articles they would like to read on your weblog.

10) Research everything: The quickest way to lose credibility is to publish misinformation.  You want to make sure you have your facts straight, or you won’t be seen as the master of anything.  Also, cite your sources- you want to give due diligence to the professionals whose work you use for your information.

11) Have a voice:  Give your weblog a personal side.  You want your readers to feel as though you are speaking directly to them.  It’s okay to have opinions, so long as they are industry relevant.  Do not be afraid to write about controversial “hot topics” in your industry, as this is one of the best ways to inspire participation from your audience.

12) Use different posting styles:  It’s a good idea to mix up the styles of your posts- you can post “How To” articles, like this one.  Post video interviews, transcripts of real life interviews (always get permission to use these first), white papers, or business best practices such as “10 ways to increase your sales.”  Do not bore your readers with continuous long research style posts.

13)Titles matter: This is the first thing your readers will see when gauging if they want to continue on reading.  Make sure it’s catchy.  This becomes even more important if you are blogging in an industry where your audience will not have long periods of time to read long articles- and if they do have time for one, they will be drawn in by the post title.  Know your audience so you can tailor your weblog style to meet their needs and time constraints.

14)Get your blogs out there: Use these articles in the rest of your social media and your other marketing strategies.  Make it known that you have important information to give to your fans.  Make sure you have the option to subscribe on your blog- RSS or other types of subscription services will work very well.

Remember, this is not the final say on what will help your blog gain readers.  The main thing to keep in mind is that you need to be patient.  If you are doing these things, along with incorporating your blog into your other social media and your existing marketing strategy, you will definitely see your numbers increase.  Be consistent with your work on your weblog, if you cannot meet these requirements, consider hiring someone to do it for you.

You  may wonder if a blog is the way to go with your business.  Trust me, it is relevant for any business regardless of industry or size.  You want your customers, contacts, industry partners, competitors to see you as someone who really knows what they are talking about.  You want to be seen as someone who cares about your industry as a whole.  These articles will help your customers feel like more than just a number.  They give your audience a sense of importance, it gives them information that is useful to their own agenda, and ultimately becomes the gold standard of customer service.

If you blog, what are your strategies to increase your readership?  If you already have lots of readers, what have you done in the past that has worked really well?