Branding/SEO tools that work!

Nowadays, it seems as if everyone has a pulse on the branding and SEO market. There are so many companies with so many products it’s hard to discern what works and what is worth making the investment and taking the risk. I’ve compiled a very small list of some of the online tools I’ve used over the years, and if you are starting out as a small business owner and want to break out into sea of SEO and brand development, I have some tools you absolutely cannot live without. Check it out!

Brandify
www.brandify.com
Cost: $0

Brandify is an incredible tool. I love this product so much I tell all my clients, big and small that they need to employ this crafty little site, just so they can glimpse at their score. Even if it’s just for kicks, big businesses should see how they score in the scheme of things. And if you are a little fish starting out, this is a great tool to show where and how you need to engage (more or less) on the internet. Your brand is everything, so build it, protect it and get noticed and Brandify helps simplifies the branding formula. To begin with, it is a FREE service. There are a couple fundamental steps to get you started.  For the sign up all that is required is an email address or an existing personal Facebook or Twitter account that is attached to your business page(s). From here it will take you through a very painless set up process. Be sure to have your social media account URL’s, and correct business name available. After this step, you can now discover how your brand and online presence appears to the world. You will be given a page that shows you your score, trends, what of their recommended sites you are set up on and how they rank by interaction. In these boxes, you will see a circle that is either orange, green or red that indicate, what your existing sites are, what you need to setup, and what you don’t have setup online at all. It is very easy to add any/all sites and once this is completed you will have a custom page tailored to your brand and online presence. It gives you insights, recommendations, social data and an activity feed so you can track and understand why your score is going up or down. You will also get a weekly Brandify update to assist you in tracking your progress. In addition to this awesome little nugget, they have excellent customer service. I had an issue with Bing, for some reason my listing wasn’t showing up, I emailed Brandify’s support about my issue and they added it for me. Recently, Brandify added a publish option as well so you are capable of publishing content and back-linking it to your website. It’s quite brilliant and it will help boost your SEO and branding efforts in addition to helping you understand how social media effects all of these things.

All in all, Brandify isn’t THE tool, but it’s definitely “a” tool to add to your marketing toolbox. Big company or not it’s worth just looking at your score and having fun with it!

UpCity (formerly DIYSEO)
www.upcity.com
Cost: $24 p/month approx.

UpCity is another great tool for your toolbox! If you are trying to become skilled at what this SEO thing is all about SEO is great way to learn the lingo get the beginner’s look at what this all means. The one thing we fail to remember about SEO is the fact that SEO is more than just becoming #1 on Google by creating off page links. There is the on page SEO as well, and UpCity will teach you what you need to know about on page SEO in addition to branding, identity management, social media content, directory listings, meta tags-titles-descriptions, the importance of reviews, creating Google keywords, how to set up Google Analytics for your website etc… This might seem like pretty basic stuff for the novice but not so much for the beginner hence why UpCity is great when learning basic SEO. For the beginner, this is a brand new world, one that is filled with acronyms, tech savvy words, lingo and website directories you’ve never heard of.

When I first started out in SEO I was able to talk my boss into paying the nominal $26 a month for DIYSEO. At first glance, I felt like I was reading a website in a foreign language but with perseverance and some good counsel from some encouraging developer friends, I pushed on. Along with DIYSEO I learned the basics of on page SEO. Our website was old, and even after redeveloping the site, we were still indexed vey low on Google’s radar. I was able to turn our ratings from 100+ to 28 in just a matter of months. Mind you if I was an SEO expert then I could’ve done this in a couple of weeks or days, but for a beginner who became a novice, this a huge triumph. UpCity gives you a report card and daily tasks to check off every week, so you can stay on task. If you don’t know how to do something they have a “how to” on every task, and if something is too overwhelming you can check, “I’ll do this later”. UpCity is not going to make you #1 on Google, but it will unquestionably impel you in the stratosphere of SEO and online capture. They touch a little bit about off page SEO by creating links and encouraging you to write reviews about products you use and linking it back to your site which is great, however, be informed, UpCity’s main intention is to teach you basic SEO. Quite honestly, I had no guidance when I was first catapulted into SEO/online marketing, and this was a great teaching tool. We still pay the $26 a month so I can go back and re-visit and polish some of the basic SEO, and UpCity keeps up with everything new, they are constantly updating their site to make sure that their clients have the freshest content out there in the world of marketing and SEO. It’s a great service at a great price and well worth the nominal investment.

Google Trends
Cost $0

Google Trends is another incredible tool to have in your toolbox. Wanna know what people are searching when looking for let’s say a dentist in Austin. Type in Dentist Austin, and you GT will show you the top 10 searches with those two keywords. You break it down by country, state, city, zip code. The idea of this is to make sure that your website has the right meta data content, which means you want to have the right words in your website so Google will catch you in their online searches. Now, to be clear this isn’t a slam dunk, Google has created a very intricate algorithm to keep you from placing too much Meta data within your website. If Austin Cosmetic Dentist is the top keywords search for a dentist in Austin, TX then you have to be careful how many times you place this in your content in your website and Meta data. Relevancy is key as well, if the content is not relevant to the specific pages you placing, then Google will either drop your rating or mark you as quarantine. Be careful, and be smart when writing the content for your website and Meta data. Always make sure it is original and unique, because Google and their crawlers will crawl your site and they will see what you’ve been up to!

Yext
www.yext.com
Cost: $450 annually

Directory listings are a pain in the butt! Let’s face it, none of us want to sit in front of a computer like a marketing robot and type the same thing over and over. More importantly, we want to make sure that our listings are uniform. Yext is a great tool to get yourself listed on every directory that matters. It’s simplistic to use, you basically go to http://www.yext.com, type in your business name and phone number and voila, Yext will show you every directory you are not listed on and/or what directory needs to be updated. Google likes consistency and so do consumers, the more places you are listed, the better and the higher the Google ranking. Mind you, Yext is not cheap, however, it is cheaper than paying a monthly individual fees for most of the web directories, such as Manta, Merchant Circle, Yellow Pages etc.. Yext, puts you on the map, pulls the information from your website and when done, you have a full list of directories you are posted on. When you want to make a change you don’t have to remember a million usernames and passwords, you just have to remember one (Yext) and from there you can edit each individual site. The annual charge for Yext is around $480 and you have to pay this up front but if you look at it from a monthly standpoint it comes to around $20 a month; a trifling investment for something that is tedious, time consuming and frustrating.

The online success of your business is dependent on how much effort you want to put forward. These options are great starter tools and a fabulous way to teach yourself a little bit about the branding and SEO world. And if you are a small business starting out and are trying to learn the world of SEO these are awesome! If you have the time and little bit of marketing budget, I highly recommend these tools, they are effective, smart and intuitive and well worth the investment!

Why do I need a custom social media page?

The intricacy of social media and what we should and shouldn’t do, is always an interesting battle. But just when you thought, just getting your social media active, assuring your content is accurate and posting on a weekly basis was sufficient enough, in comes the custom social media page! For those of you that have wondered how feasible or effective it may be to design a custom page, fret not, it’s easier than you think and it will benefit your company greatly.

One of the biggest mistakes companies can make is bypassing the custom social media page. Part of this bypassing is due to not really understanding how they are capable of doing this. Believe it or not, it’s not as hard as you may think and the end result is killer! There are a myriad of companies that will do this for you for a fee, but be careful, some charge you a setup fee, design fee and upload fee. Make sure to always inquire about all the fees not just the design fee. If you are a small business starting out, creating custom social media pages is largely beneficial to your company’s brand, and if you have half an idea of how to design something on Illustrator or Photoshop, you can design these pages fairly easy.

Every social media page has a specific design guideline, similar to designing an advertisement except you won’t have bleeds, but you will be making room for other things depending on that social media. A couple of years ago, Facebook changed everything when it gave individuals the opportunity to implement a large cover photo in addition to their profile photo. Google+ followed suite and recently trumped the entire thing by doubling your optional size for your cover photos and making the profile photo area smaller. Why the benefit? Well, because of that cover photo, you are able to bullet point and highlight the most important parts of your business, whether it be specials, phone number, website etc… Social media isn’t like a website in the sense that there are not several pages to comb through. Everything is right in your face, so be wise when choosing what you want to say!

Regardless of whether or not you decide to customize your social media sites, take note that you only have to customize the sites you use the most. My rule of thumb is, keep your logo consistent on every profile picture, use the cover photo to reiterate everything else. The idea behind these custom designs has more to do with fluidity and brand development. You can keep your brand consistent throughout all of your social media platforms, which is vital in developing your business. Consistency is and always will be king! In addition to consistent branding, you can also add more information on your custom pages as well. Your social media pages are your landing pages for many things, and people that are on your website, link in to your social media. Your social media has the capability to give quick bursts about what you do, what you offer, hours of operation, phone number, website in large bold text. If you are in the service industry and run specials, you can also highlight these on your custom page design as well. Obviously you should be posting these items in your feeds as well, but there is nothing more powerful than the power of big and bold!

Follow these guidelines for successful custom page implementation

1. Keep it consistent
2. Set up a template for the social media platforms you use (see dimension cheat sheet below). Keep this template for future changes to your custom page design
3. Keep your logo in the profile picture unless it requires a photo of you (ie. Yelp requires this)
4. Always keep your phone number bold and on the cover photo or side bar (depending on your the social media platform)
5. Use the cover photo to display a picture of your business and what you offer, if there is room, always make sure to have your phone number and website on this cover
6. Change the information that only changes regularly and keep the rest of the layout exactly the same
7. Keep your colors consistent with your logo and brand
8. Make sure to save your designs in RGB color (it’s the best for web image display)

Once you’ve set up your template for each of your social media platforms, then you are good to go. Uploading is as easy as uploading a personal photo, they are all saved with the same file extension and format. Some words of advice when creating your custom pages, keep this in mind, make sure that you are meticulously editing all of your copy if it helps have a second set of eyes proof your custom page before posting/uploading it. The last thing your business needs is scathing bold typo on your highly trafficked social media page. And ALWAYS keep the page the same! Which means, only change the copy that changes, ie. specials, new business information;consistency across the board don’t confuse your audience!

Something as simple as a custom, consistent social media page can assist you with the longevity and success of your business. My advice, if you can design it yourself, then do it, you will save yourself some cash. If you don’t know how to design a custom page, teaching yourself how to do it (there are many YouTube tutorials), will be the greatest investment in your business and yourself, especially if you are a small business starting out. Custom design isn’t as intimidating as it sounds and believe or not it is effective!

Adobe offers a small monthly membership to access all of their Creative Cloud programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Pagemaker, Photoshop etc…

NOTE: Every social media site has their own dimension requirements for their custom pages. I put a cheat sheet below from a site I reference often! Mind you, as of March 2013 Google+ has just changed their dimensions for their cover photo and profile photos, they are now: 2120 X 1192 (coverphoto) | 250 X 250 (profile photo.)

The Ultimate Complete Final Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet LunaMetrics

Brought to you by the LunaMetrics blog.

The Who, What and When’s of Social Media Posting!

For those of you starting out on that incredible confusing journey of social media marketing for your business, I am sure you are scratching your head wondering what to post, when to post, and who should be doing the posting. Believe it or not there is a pseudo science to social media marketing, but this is SMjuggle2all dependent on your business and the clientele you are trying to draw. I have a pretty good formula for a successful social media stratagem that has worked for me and can be altered and tailored to your company’s needs, check it out!

Who?

First of all, consistency is key, and you are going to hear me say this a lot in this post. If you want consistency, you have to find someone to designate the social media posting to. If not, it will feel like an unprofessional hodge podge of posts that are unrelated and come off as disingenuous content. You want someone creative that has the capability of capturing the company’s pulse through their posts and/or blog or both. There are a couple of options to go about this, you can hire an external marketing company or person, or hire someone internally. Either way, gathering data for your social media strategy and moving forward is the most important point to all of this!

External Marketer
Some companies elect to pay an external marketing company or individual marketer to manage their social media campaigns. This is fine if you are that busy, and your social media is small in the design of your marketing strategy. However, in my humble opinion this can be good and bad. If you do choose this route make sure your marketing person understands your business and the personality you are trying to echo. Otherwise, the posts will appear flat, robotic and insincere, which wholly contradicts the sole intention of SOCIAL MEDIA. It is called social media for a reason, so make sure it feels that way, sociable. Do your research on your external marketing company; look at other companies they are blogging and posting for so you can get a feel for their diversity and what they are capable of from a social media marketing standpoint. The biggest mistake any company can make is forgoing the one big connection they have to their clients. Your customers want to be heard, and your genuine responses are paramount! Most people will not interact with your social media sites if they feel as if it isn’t genuine.

Internal Marketer
If you have determined to hire or designate an individual to your social media marketing then you have chosen wisely. An internal marketing person is by far imperative; it is your voice, your ears, your eyes, your everything. Social media allows you to keep a pulse on your community and customers. If customers have something to say, trust me, you want to hear it and a response from you that feels genuine to your customer will always be well received. By having an internal person handle your social media you can make certain your posts are genuine, fresh, unique, fun, innovative because this on-site person is in the mix and present in your day to day operations. Soon enough, you will hear phrases like “post that to our Facebook page!” or “Yelp about us!”.  An internal marketing person is capable of keeping your social media up to date and current, which customers want see and it will encourage them to interact with your companies pages more. Now that Social Media has become “the” thing in marketing, keeping a fluid stream of posts, relevant and consistent content is paramount and valuable for your Google rankings and online traffic.

What?

Personal vs. Business
The biggest bewilderment most companies have with social media posting is whether or not to make some or none of their postings personal. Social media from the business side is vastly different than how we post on our personal sites.  Some companies want their team members to post to their social media sites instead of just one person managing the exchanges. However, when it comes to anything other than a company blog or anything less than a “like” +1, relevant comment or share by a team member, I would stray away. By avoiding any mishaps or confusion about who can say and do what, write a social media policy.  Having your staff members interact with your social media posts is beneficial for your social media numbers and Google rankings, but you want to make sure that everyone adheres to your social media policy and signs off. It is important that everyone understands what they should post and what is appropriate to your business social media.

The person managing your social media should mix it up a little bit, depending on your business a good formula to use is this: business (specials, changes, locations, anything relating to your business, follow your blog etc..) + personable (a funny cartoon, quote relating to your type of business) + fun (local events, events that you are throwing, pictures of events or staff events etc.). Repeat this formula during your weekly/daily posts. You want to keep your followers engaged and entertained and you will get healthier, more frequent responses and counter engagements in return and that’s really the point of social media anyways. Connecting! So get connected and be fun and have fun with your social media because believe it or not, consumers want to see who you are as people, human beings so they can feel better about supporting your business!

Purpose
Post with purpose! Social media allows you a great opportunity to not only endorse your business but also your website which is your greatest marketing tool for online lead generations. Tip: If you have a company blog, copy the URL into a social media post and promote your other social media streams. This is a great way to force traffic to your website and your other sites. Not only will it help with your Google rankings but it will also give you vital analytics data about who is visiting your site, when, and where and how! Also, another way of learning what you should post, is by checking out your competition, see what they are  posting and get a feel for what you are up against. You dont’ have to copy your competition but you can certainly try to do better!

When?

I have clients ask me all of the time, how often should I post to my social media sites? It’s a valid question and in all honesty the answer is, it varies depending on your business. One of my clients is a good ol’ boy construction company that is new to social media, do they need to post 7 days a week? Not really. However, the way I see it, yes, the more engaged you are on a daily basis always the better, but it is not utterly crucial. Will it make or break your business? Absolutely not! I think for most small businesses that dedicate a person to social media, and work 5 days a week, you should be posting 3-5 times a week on all of your social media streams. You can download tweet deck or hoot suite to help with quick posting to several sites at one time to make things easier. Most companies should be posting between 2-4 times a week on average. Obviously if you have more content, which most do, post a couple of times of day, as long as it is relevant to that day or pertinent to something you are trying to promote. By all means whatever you do, keep up with your social media, keep your posts unique and relevant and consistent!  Tip: Set a calendar reminder for yourself to post on your designated day(s), make a list of ideas of what to post for that week/month and create a content folder of pictures, articles and videos for future social media posts.

*Post Videos and pictures once a week, these are always your best bet for online traffic and numbers for you analytics.

Social Media is not rocket science but it is necessary to today’s market and business. It’s not about following the crowd it’s about getting the crowd to follow you. By keeping your content relevant, unique and fluid you are on your way to a great social media marketing foundation. And it does work! Don’t give up, social media is free to use, so use it and get connected!