Contact Us – The Importance of Lead Generation

Contact Us – The Importance of Lead Generation

Contact usOne of the most imperative properties of your website is your contact form. And, one of the most valid reasons for using a website as your main marketing tool for your business is to not only create awareness around your brand but to also ascertain lead generation. Believe it or not, people DO want to connect with you and your business and trust me, you want to make this as simple as possible. That’s right, not only do you have to put cheese on the mousetrap but you also have to put the mousetrap where it is easily accessible for the ever so curious mice!

I work mainly with WordPress web development not because it’s my favorite but because it is the best and the best meaning, it is SEO ready out of the box and you can customize WordPress websites with all sorts of helpful plugins. The standard contact form that comes with WordPress websites is completely functional and customizable and above all, absolutely necessary! Contact Form 7 has definitely improved and even though it does the job, there are some drawbacks. It is simple in terms of esthetics and it can be a little confusing for the common Joe just starting out, but as I mentioned and will continue to say over and over, it is better than nothing!

Because of Contact Form 7’s limited abilities, I decided to research what contact forms and plugins were available for WordPress. I first looked at functionality and price. Secondly, I looked at the ability for customization and implementation. I really wanted a robust contact form that encompassed everything from social media links to website links (yes website links) and email connections. Sounds redundant right? Here’s a Pro-Tip: backlink everything even it is on your contact from relinking it to your website and social media. Yes they are on your website looking at this contact form but in the that form are important links that enhance your SEO, so yes keep the links on there! I also wanted something on every single web page not just the side bar or footer but something that pops up and says hello, connect with me everywhere, almost to the point of annoying because the power of suggestion should never go underused!

What I Found
After testing out several options and contact forms, reading reviews, forums and implementing and using different contact forms suggested by bloggers and WordPress lovers and experts abound, I stumbled upon one that particularly stood out against the rest, it is called Contact Us (http://contactus.com. It is fully integrateable with your WordPress website. Not only is there a plugin that integrates it seamlessly but, it is free to use and has more customization once you sign up for your free account on the Contact Us website which you will want to do regardless. You can choose from several colorful, simple, robust templates to design your perfect contact form and for a small annual fee you can also up the ante and choose from premium themes and customizations such as request an appointment etc…
But for now let’s stick to the FREE offering.

I recently tested this out for a client of mine who really wanted to have an option for their patients to be able to connect with them in addition to requesting an appointment. We implemented the contact from and within one day we already had a return. This FREE contact from captures one new patient a week and now they are averaging 4-5! That’s a huge return for something that is FREE! We recently implemented the Request an Appointment (for a small annual fee) option and this also works like a charm. The patient is able to click on a day and time they would like to be seen and the office receives a traffic email stating they have a new appointment request from, they are also given the patient’s information, email phone number, address, email and insurance (you can customize required lead information). You can also add your social media links as well as website at no extra cost to you. This is a full package brilliant marketing piece! Some other items that

Contact Us offers the following items:

• Custom Lead Generaton Design Forms
• Data, Analytics and Testing
• Contact Management
• Social Media Implementation
• Appointment Scheduler
• Opt In/Out Forms
• Chat
• Custom Fields

When evaluating the marketing functionality of my client’s websites the first thing I look for is how they capture leads, secondly how can I connect with them on social media. Most companies have websites but have no idea how they should function as a marketing tool. This is rule #1 in Leslie’s big book of marketing do’s and don’ts! #1 Lead Generation DO NOT NOT have a contact form! Make it easy for your customers to connect with you on all levels.

Social Media is lead generation too!

How can 650 million Twitter users be wrong? Think about it, there are over 650 million Twitter users, over 1 billion Facebook Users and now over 380 million Google + users and growing. Still think Social Media isn’t prevalent in our marketing society and a lead generation? Think again, social media is a pure, definite and complete form of lead generation! Don’t underestimate the power of social media and how it can function as a complement to your contact form and lead generation efforts. Social media not only allows your customers to connect with you on a different and personal level but also allows them to find you and communicate with you immediately! 89% of the population is using the internet to do their research on businesses, as do most use social media in their day to day routines for personal and business purposes. Social Media allows customers to connect with you instantaneously whether it is directly through Twitter or Facebook messages or adding you to their Google Circles, this is an incredible way for potential new customers to understand what is not only dynamically going on with you a s business but also allows them to see what everyone else is saying.

Below are some simple guidelines for lead generation that will help you in understanding how and why to implement the perfect lead generation tools and modules.

Respond!

Make sure you are responding to leads! Leads are the key to the growth of your business and if you ignore your leads, word gets out! Trust me! One mistake I see my clients make all the time is pointing their leads to an email they do not use regularly or not at all. My suggestion is to create an email specifically for leads. Most companies use info@xxx.com for example. Make sure this inbox is directly linked to your outlook, firefox, apple mail, and/or iphone/droid mail application of choice. The biggest slap in the face to your customers and potentially new customers is not responding to their lead interest. Make sure you are checking these leads on a daily basis. I would suggest creating an email through your current domain name. For example lets say your domain is http://www.johniscool.com make sure to create an email that is info@johniscool.com. If you don’t know how to do this, then contact your web administrator and have them set you up, you can also usually do this through whomever hosts your domain or website such as GoDaddy, open pages etc…

Guidelines for lead generation

1. Contact From (any contact form will do, just make sure you have one!)
2. Make the contact form as accessible as possible (pop-up or on every page)
3. Make sure social media links are in the header above the fold
4. Follow up Immediately on all contacts
5. Make sure the contact form information is being sent to an email you use regularly

If you are not using a contact form on your website, you are missing out an incredible free marketing tool that is functional, essential and effective. It’s like owning a shoe store and you only stock size 8 shoes, if you want to reach a broader audience and connect you need to have it all, social media, contacts and emails!!! Don’t underestimate the power of leads, the power of social media and connectivity. Trust me when I say this, if you are not using contact form or social media to connect with your consumer base, you will be left in the dust very quickly. Stay current and connect!

Get Live, Make Your Website a Dynamic Online Tool!

live chatYour website is your most important online tool! Not to take away from social media and directory listings, but without your website, the other listings are rather pointless. Your website is like your online toolbox, within that toolbox is your content, social media links, contact information, reviews, maps. . . it’s total access to everything you are as a business and your online brand and authority! The biggest mistake most companies make is letting their website sit stagnant. BIG MISTAKE! Your website should be a dynamic tool, one that is constantly updated, new content, pictures and blog posts regarding your business, products, services, tools! This should all be constantly updated; otherwise, Google and Bing will disregard your website as worthy of a web crawl, and trust me, you want those web crawls! It should also be an active space where you can connect with potential clients through online chat and surveys. Here are a couple of tips to beef up your website and dynamic online presence.

Blogging

A great way to keep your website active and dynamic is by creating blog posts at least 2-3 times a month. Blogging is an excellent way to backlink to pages on your website and create some solid SEO. It also helps you craft your authority online and it keeps people interested in your website and what you have to say about your industry. Promote your blog posts through social media, by creating a post with a link to your blog page (copy and paste the URL of your blog post into a Facebook/Google+/Twitter post). This is a great way to drive traffic to your website while giving you a solid click through rate from your Social Media, and it also gives customers a chance to take a peek at some of your other web pages as well. Also, make sure your website has a post section or blog roll as well, keep it updated in addition to an off page blog site such as wordpress.com or blogger.

Embedding Posts

Embedding your Facebook posts into your website is another great way to keep things dynamic. It’s an easy thing to do and something Facebook and now Google+ implemented several months ago to help businesses highlight certain posts. After you have created your timeline post and posted it, in the upper right hand corner (Image A below) there is a small pull down arrow, click on this and a menu will popup, at the bottom (Image B below) of the menu you will see embed post, click on that and it will give you an html code (Image C below) that you can place in your website to highlight that particular post. If you are a novice at WordPress but know your way around the backend of your website, it’s worth just trying out. It is a great way to drive traffic to your social media brands as well and get interaction on them, likes, comments etc..all worthy forms of interaction and Google likes it! Note: you can also embed Pinterest posts and pictures as well.

Embed Post

Image A

Embed Post

Image B

Image C

Image C














Live Chat
http://www.livechatinc.com/

One of the newest and most inexpensive ways to promote your website and help potential clients immediately is by installing Live Chat. If you are using a WordPress driven website, LiveChat is simple to install (using a plugin) and easy to setup. Live chat not only gives you an enormous amount of inside demographic information on the people frequenting your site but also gives you the opportunity to solicit these individuals based on the pages they are looking at real time. And you would be surprised the amount of people that will use the chat option especially if they know it is live and will have their questions answered immediately without having to email or call. Actually, a recent surveyed showed that 7 out of 10 consumers prefer chat because 90% of consumers do their research online, so why not? My recommendation is LiveChat, they are pretty inexpensive, you are looking at around $80 for two operators, and if you get one client, patient, customer then it pays for the entire show! You don’t have to be techno savvy to appreciate or use these tools, but it will definitely help boost your traffic; the longer customers stays on your site the better your Google ranking. There are other live chat tools to use such as: ClickDesk Live Support http://wordpress.org/plugins/clickdesk-live-support-chat-plugin/but I really like LiveChat because it works beautifully with WordPress and it is easy to install and integrate! TECH TIP: send a post chat survey with a link to your social media and website. Live Chat allows you to customize this part of the post chat session and survey.

Product Reviews Widget

Creating a review option on any or all your web pages is also a helpful way to create more traffic on your website. Tell your customers to go to your website to write a review about a product or service you sell. If you are using WordPress there is an awesome plugin called WP Review http://www.gowebsolutions.com/wp-customer-reviews/ that works like a charm. It also gives you the opportunity to filter your reviews and creates some great Google Snippets online as well. For instance if you sell boxes online and someone writes a review about how awesome your boxes are, Google tags that as genuine unsolicited content, which in turn boosts your SEO and authority about that particular product online.

When it comes to your website and keeping yourself dynamic, it really takes little to no effort to make this happen. Businesses hire website maintenance managers all of the time to change and make updates to their website. Your website is a great way to keep your customers informed as to what is happening with your company, whether it’s new hours, new products, services, it doesn’t matter, it is your link to the outside world and the world’s link to you! People want to be connected to products and services they use and believe in and by keeping your customers up to date is an inexpensive way to keep them engaged and interested, otherwise you’ll just get buried by the 6 million other people trying to outdo you! So engage, be dynamic and keep things interesting!

To LinkedIn Or Not To LinkedIn

linkedin LogoSocial media is king among Marketing guru’s large and small. It is an endless marketing tool that serves almost every marketing need for all distinctive types of businesses. Nowadays, there are so many social media platforms to choose from, one has to wonder, how do we choose? To start with, you have to determine your purpose, however, the universal purpose for all of entrepreneurs, professionals, and us business owners is to be found. And the best way to begin this process is to start with your own personal LinkedIn account.

For beginners, or newbies, LinkedIn is THE professional social networking platform. If you are not using LinkedIn then you are missing out an incredible prospect. Why? Let me tell you… Even though social media has been around for over a decade now, business owners and entrepreneurs are still trying to figure out how to implement this into their everyday business model. From a professional standpoint the best way to break into the social media scene is with LinkedIn. LinkedIn is basically an online resume – coupled with a social media punch. It’s effective because well, we all work, well most people and we work with people, have worked for people and these are the connections we can maintain, discover and develop through LinkedIn. Not only can you publish your resume but you can promote yourself professionally, look for jobs, ask for recommendations, add skills, courses, certifications etc… You can add more to your LinkedIn account than you could ever add to a written resume and companies will find you through their searches. Consider LinkedIn an extension of your resume, but with the potential of 100 x’s more opportunity of being seen by big professionals, startups, entrepreneurs, and independent contractors worldwide.

So my question to you is, why not?

LinkedIn brings professional communities together across the country and around the globe. It gives you a voice, and a giant one at that. You can create your own communities, business pages, link your twitter feed directly to your LinkedIn account and vice versa. And LinkedIn does all the work for you basically. You link up your email accounts and LinkedIn scans your email addresses for individuals that already have LinkedIn accounts, send and invite to these individuals, state how you know them and you’re done! You can also send invites out to individuals that do not have LinkedIn accounts to join and link up.

In addition to the exposure LinkedIn gives you, it also gives you the prospect to construct a business page with custom banners, search for job opportunities and connect to a spider web of contacts you never the tangible reality to contact with before. For example, when you make 1 connection, you are now connected to that connection’s connections. So let’s say I have 20 contacts, and you and I connect, you now have access to my contacts and so on and so forth.

Here’s the deal, you don’t have to be a social media guru to master LinkedIn or even have a LinkedIn account. You just have to know yourself and be willing to sit down and write your professional biography. If you are still poo pooing the idea of social media, get over it because whether you like it or not, social media is a part of our lives, professionally and/or personally. This is the wave of the future and this is your chance to truly connect to the world of professional social networking. Not only does this legitimize who you are and what you do but also gives you greater opportunity of being found. So my question still remains, why not? What are you waiting for?? Google also loves LinkedIn and the more places you are on the internet the quicker you are found, whether you are a dentist, lawyer, consultant, etc.. you can and will be found, you just have to put the effort forward to make it happen!

Why Google+ Is Important

google+You’ve seen Google transform the way we do things on the Internet. Sometimes Google takes things to an excessive extreme and has a complicated time releasing their products prematurely, but come what may Google always manages to come out on top. Google is THE #1 search engine on the Internet. And if you are not using Google+ and Google products for your business, blog, website and social media, then you are missing out on one of the most significantly effectual Internet platform/tools on the planet!

Google+

First of all let’s talk about what has changed. Being #1 on Google is always on the forefront of all business owners’ minds; significantly for lead generations and searchability. Now, there are so many Google products it’s hard to understand what does what and how.

In the beginning, Google Places was how you were found, you set up your free Google Places account, verify yoru business, made sure your business information was correct and identifiable and voila, you are officially registered on Google. Since the introduction of Google+, Google has made Google Local the new Google Places a one stop shopping if you will, one account for everything. I know it sounds very bewildering but it’s easier than you think. At first, Google was the bane of my existence when it came to SEO and web presence because you had to have a separate login and account for each Google product; this is has all changed. Google has revolutionized their product line and combined everything by allowing you one login for all your Google products. There’s a rhyme to their reason and it’s smart.

When Google+ first came out, it was clunky, confusing and wasn’t all that they promised for a stalwart competition to Facebook. For the most part it functions about the same but this is just a very small part in the scheme of things. When you have a Gmail account as a business you can create your Google+ account, and from that Google+ account you can create a Google+ Page, similar to Facebook right? Right! However, with all of this, you can create a Google Local credential as well, which is where you can create a verified business. Verifying you business is indispensable because it makes you more searchable. For example, if you are searching for a Dentist in Austin, TX, guess what, the verified business in that zip code for that specific industry show up first. By not verifying your business you are missing out on a key link to your SEO chain. Once verified, you will have access to your Google Analytics, Google Places and Google Maps. Even though Google Places doesn’t exactly exist any more you can still login and check on your impressions which you can also do in Analytics. It is important to also, check your Google Maps placement for critical information such as a duplicate location, lack of suite/unit #’s, incorrect address, and pin marker. I had a client whose pin marker was two blocks off from their location. Customers were having a thorny time locating them using GPS. Google can fix all of this for you by requesting a change they will communicate with you via email – there’s no calling Google.

There are so many products that you as business owner can utilize that are provided for FREE by Google. Here’s a list:

Google+ – Social Networking for individuals (you will need this in order to create a Google+ page)
Google+ Pages – Social Networking specifically for your Businesses, Organization, Charity, Special Interests etc.. must have a Google+ personal account)
Google+ Local (verify your business) – Simply put, Google Local highlights your business for everyone to see when they search in your area or zip code if you verify your business and have a Google+ Page this will combine these two acounts into one and show a check mark that you are a Google verified business.
Google Places/Google Maps– This is where people find you, make sure your address and pin location are correct in addition to all of your pertinent busienss information. (Google+ Local will hopefully take the place of this at some point)
Google Analytics – “Google Analytics lets you measure your advertising ROI as well as track your Flash, video, and social networking sites and applications.”
Google Webmaster Tools – “Google Webmaster Tools provides you with detailed reports about your web pages’ visibility on Google. To get started, simply add and verify your site and you’ll start to see information right away.”
Gmail – Google’s Free email service and where you need to start, in order to use any Google product
How to verify on Google Local/Google+

My advice is to start out small. Start with a business related Gmail account—-Google+—Google+ Business page. From here create your content and business information, follow, add people to your circles and build your network and community. From there locate yourself on Google Local by doing a search for your business and create a Google Local page and verify your business which will in turn integrate your Google+ Page with Google Local. Make sure to check your listing on Google Places which is now Google Maps, make sure your address, phone number, and pin location are correct. You can always report to Google if there is a duplicate listing or incorrect street name on Google Maps click here for a screenshot. You can manually change the pin location as well, Google will need to approve this on their end, which can sometimes take a week for the change to occur, but be patient, Google will communicate everything to you via e-mail. You can email Google with any questions or concerns about any or all of your Google products. As far as Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, wait until you have familiarized yourself with the other Google product lines. There are several tutorials and blogs that elucidate the diverse things you can do with these web tools and apply to your bigger picture.

The thing with the new Google product lines is the fact that Google might have introduced them to the general population too soon and too close together. Because of this, people have been skeptical to use them because at fist glance they appear very puzzling. However, since the all in integration things are better now, Google has made great strides to keep their products united and have managed to seamlessly integrated their product line. Like I said start our small and go from there, sink or swim, it’s worth the jump!

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!

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!

5 Simple SEO Tips for the Beginner

If you own a business and have a half idea or understanding of marketing, you probably know or have heard of that lovely acronym called SEO. If you are new to the game of business ownership, and the world of online marketing, I’m guessing your first burning question is what the hell does SEO stand for? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. What does this mean? Well if you have a couple of hours I could go on and on about the importance of SEO and why it is essential to the development of your business and how it relates to original and organic leads, from your website to your inbox. Basically SEO is this: a method of increasing the discernibility of a website, web page’s “organic” search result opportunities through search engine leads. In simple terms, it’s way to develop original content and relevant keywords on your website to help push you onto to page 1 in Google searches without having to pay for pay p/ click advertising.

In today’s modern world, and the World Wide Web, where we go to find everything these days, SEO is essential to any business, no matter how small or big you are, it is your link to the outside world. The first question new business owner clients always ask when wanting to develop an online presence is this, “why do I need a website right now?” The answer to this question is simple, a website is indispensable to all businesses because it is your way of presenting to the world, not just your community who you are, what you are, and why you are doing what you are doing, oh and why they should prefer you. Presently, a website is almost as essential as e-mail or texting, it is our silent link to a very big electronically driven world. As consumers, we don’t pick up the phone anymore and 8 out of 10 consumers will email and surf on the web for business information before even attempting a phone call. They will judge you and draw any conclusion they desire based on what they see from your website and/or online presence or lack thereof. Now you can appreciate the magnitude of having a well thought out website/online presence and now you can understand why SEO is imperative.

As a business owner driving traffic to your website is fundamental not only because it means new business for you but it also means exposure. In addition to this, it means you are expectantly seeing ROI (return on investment). This means you are making money, hopefully. With the right SEO website framework, even if it is small at first, you can drive traffic to your site with little effort in the beginning. Google web crawlers love newly indexed websites, they will crawl all over your website searching for unique content, things that define this website as original so make it count!

To start with, here are some basic SEO framework guidelines when initially setting up your online presence and website.

WordPress

WordPress is a great place to begin your original content, such as blogging. Blogging is the best way to invent yourself on the web and anything you originally write is yours to keep and attach to your website. WordPress website templates are an excellent and easy platform to build your website. WordPress template sites are great for uncomplicated products or businesses. They have built in SEO, and they have some nifty SEO plug-ins you can add as well. One of my favorite plug-ins is the All-In-One-SEO pack. No worries of crashing your site with this one, but its always good to do your research before adding a plug-in (they can crash your site) however, AIOSEO is solid and I’ve used it for almost all of my WP websites with great success. AIOSEO plug-in is a great way to manually add in your meta-tags, titles and descriptions, it supports Google Analytics code and it automatically optimizes your titles for search engines, just to name a few of features.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a great way to measure your audience, right down to the what devices they are using to what zip code they are searching you from. The best part of Google Analytics is it is no charge to you. Once you’ve built your website and it is live you can create a Google Analytics account for free. GA will give you a code that you have to install in the footer of your website (backend) and oila, you have the keys to the inside world of your audience’s surfing habits. From GA you can create a Webmaster tools account, a Google Adwords campaign etc. Google analytics is one of the most important things we have access to, because it shows who, what, when, where and who’s coming back to see our site. This is vital information when creating an online presence and measuring your audience’s frequency.

Social Media

I cannot express enough to my clients the validity of social media, a solid social media campaign and how vital these are to their web presence. Do NOT underestimate social media; it is your weapon of mass destruction and it is free advertising! It also gives you an opportunity to link any or all of your web pages to increase clicks to your website (offsite link building). Social media is your quick voice, and it gives consumers an opportunity to see what others are saying about you and to you. The seven main sites I encourage my clients to create are, YouTube Channel (YouTube is owned by Google), LinkedIn, Facebook (business page), Google Local/Google+ (business page), Twitter, Yelp and Foursquare (if you have a storefront). You can still set up a Foursquare account to increase your online visibility, but its intended purpose is mainly for businesses that have their own address/storefront. Make sure to keep up with your content weekly and in some cases daily depending on your industry. Your probably wondering what social media has to do with SEO, it’s simple. You own the content on your website and you want to expose that content and drive traffic to your site right? It’s easy to do this through linking pages from your site to your Facebook page for instance so people can click on that thumbnail and go directly to your site. You can promote your website through simple posts on your social media. Create YouTube videos and post them on your site, Google owns YouTube and the Googlebots love YouTube on your website!

Keyword Research

When building your website and keeping SEO in mind, make sure you are doing your keyword research. You can easily do this through Google Trends and Keywords Search for free. Go to http://www.google.com/trends type in your industry, for instance say you are a dentist, and want to know the top 10 keywords people use to search for a dentist on Google in your area. Type in Dentist, and on the map you can break it down by State, city, and locale. GT will give you a list of 10 top keyword searches for dentist in your area. Keywords are vital when creating your website, writing your Meta titles and descriptions and they will also help when indexing your site – Googlebots love relevant keywords.

Indexing

When developing your site and keeping SEO in mind, you want to make sure that your website is indexed. What this means is you want to make sure that your website is found on all the major search engines. If you are working with a developer make sure that they are indexing your site once it is ready to go live. If your site is not indexed then it’s as if it doesn’t exist. In order to do this make sure you have relevant keywords in your site, in your tags, titles and descriptions as well as your content, and always, always make sure that your content is original. The Googlebots will crawl your page looking for original contents and relevant keywords etc… “Googlebot processes each of the pages it crawls in order to compile a massive index of all the words it sees and their location on each page. In addition, we process information included in key content tags and attributes, such as Title tags and ALT attributes. Googlebot can process many, but not all, content types. For example, we cannot process the content of some rich media files or dynamic pages.” If you are developing your own site, you of course with the help of Google Webmaster Tools can do this yourself click here for a great step by step explanation on how to get your site indexed.

When building a website there are so many things to contemplate, especially when you are implementing preliminary SEO. SEO is factually the dynamic strength of your website. The more you know and the more pertinent and original your content is, the stronger your online presence will be. These 5 tips are just one small aspect of how SEO works. You can pay exorbitant amounts of money for SEO campaigns and pay per click advertising but just like any other small business starting up, cost effectiveness and budget are always the first thing we take into account. By starting with these 5 simple tasks mentioned above, you can start the basic SEO process for your site without little effort or financial investment. It’s a great way to get your feet wet and to understand basic SEO, how the back end of WordPress website functions and how you can make it work to your advantage.

Sidenote: UpCity is an inexpensive and great way to start basic SEO for your business. YEXT is also a great site to get your company listed on all the major directories on the web. Consistency is king when it comes to an online presence.