6 Tips for Building a Brand-Focused Community

Everyone has heard that Field of Dreams quote being tossed around the marketing world.  You know the one “If you build it, they will come.”  That might work for ghostly baseball players, but for websites and online brands, we know that is most certainly NOT the case.

6 Tips for Building a Strong Brand-focused Community

You may be able to achieve some nice rankings through basic SEO, drive some decent traffic with a PPC budget, but what if that’s just not enough?  More and more Continue reading

Philanthropy and Online Business – Tips for Success

There’s that little piece of all of us that strives to be a better human being.  Some act on that piece, some don’t.  No judgement here, I have a lot of thoughts that I don’t act on – arguably those thoughts shouldn’t be acted upon, but when it comes to philanthropy and online business, getting started and finding the right fit can be tough.

The idea of a business donating proceeds to a charity has been around since marketing began.  There has always been motive behind these donations – the word Continue reading

Online Strategies to Survive a Man-Made or Natural Disaster

My online marketing background started in the travel industry.  Now at KeyRelevance I deal with clients with a wide range of interests.  The one thread that is constant is the reality of what a crisis or disaster can do to your online and offline business.  Hurricanes, Oil Spills, Fires, and other disasters happen all the time.  Sometimes we have a business that can thrive in these environs, sometimes Continue reading

Making Your Brand Attractive by Using a Consistent Message

I received an email in my in box recently that made me cringe.  Then it made me think.

 

As an agency that concentrates on SEO and PPC – seeing an email like this makes us scoff.  It’s a bit scary –  Then we had a discussion around the flip side of discounting that went something like, “You know, if that email had said ’80% off shoes’ you’d have had a very different reaction.”

When does a discount SUPPORT a brand, and when does it hinder it?  Certain things in life many of us strive to get at a discount.  There are many other things that seem inferior if we’ve purchased them at a discount.  Why does the saying, Continue reading

12 Steps to Great Press Release SEO & Usability

Are you writing regular press releases?  Are you hustling enough to have reason to write regular press releases?  Not only does a press release act as a great brand advocacy tool, if done correctly it can help you create some great SEO results as well.

Press Release Tips and Tricks

Optimizing your press release as you create it is an important step you cannot leave out.  Make sure your PR department is  talking with your online marketing department and either implemeting your Press Release SEO rules, or letting you touch the press release before it’s sent out.

Here are some rules for creating great SEO within your press releases Continue reading

8 Tips for Getting Online News Reporters To Promote You & Your Site

As a brief follow-up piece to the article I wrote this week on Search Engine Land, Three Ways To Optimize Business For Local Search Via Online Newspapers, I thought I’d list a few tips on how to pitch stories to local newspaper reporters in order to get coverage of your business along with the almighty links and reference citations which can help your site and listing rank higher than competitors.


8 Tips for Getting Reporters to Promote Your Business:

  • Issue a press release or “media alert”. Prepare when you pitch a story idea to local news editors and reporters. Reporters and editors are not at all lazy, but they are pulled in many different directions and are presented with multiple story options every day. So, if you want to increase your chances of having your story idea get taken by them, prepare it a bit. Do a brief write-up of the concept and prepare it like a written news release. Write it up in clear, “Who, What, Where, Why, When” format. For the “What” part, explain exactly what your concept is and why it should be considered compelling.
  • Hop on a media feeding-frenzy! Watch the current news and see what’s hot in public perception, and when some bursty bit of news is emerging into public consciousness as The Next Big Thing, be prepared to exploit it for your own advantage. Formulate a story idea linking your business/product to the current hot news item, and issue your media alert so that your local reporters will have a hot story item handed to them on a platter, ready to run with!
  • Be unusual! Run-of-the-mill story ideas are yawners and will cause your story idea to get ignored. Think in terms of attention-grabbing headlines. Can you state in one sentence why a story about your company or product would attract the attention of an average man-on-the-street? Make this your press release headline. Even just a clever turn of phrase about a moderately run-of-mill story concept could be the differentiating factor that gets your story some media coverage.
  • Do your homework. If your story idea involves making some sort of significant claims or is founded on some sort of facts external to your company, help the reporter by finding the information they’d need to check out your claims and verify facts. Provide them with links to independent reports, phone numbers of experts who back you up, and other supportive documentation.
  • Provide free photos. I’ve written previously about how free photos is good for SEO. In this same vein, providing photos that illustrate your press release or story idea for a reporter helps save them time and makes the story that much more compelling if it’s done right. Furthermore, provide an easy-to-use Press Kit on your website with a number of images that help the press and bloggers illustrate stories about you. Press kits should include a few sizes of your company logo, for both print and online, pictures of your company, employees performing typical services, customers having fun at your place of business, and pictures of prominent employees who may be frequently quoted. Be sure to have signed image releases of any recognizable people appearing in these photos, though!
  • Offer to be an expert commentator. Whenever stories come up about your industry, businesses type, or area of expertise, it’d be great if reporters would think of you as an expert they can quote. There are a number of places on the internet where you could register yourself as an expert commentator for particular subject matter, and you can also provide your credentials in advance to various TV news channels, local newspaper offices, radio station, and to local reporters and bloggers.
  • Build rapport with your reporters! Be friendly, accommodating and easy to work with for any reporter who calls you up! Let’s face it – they’re doing you a big favor, and you should be thankful. If you’re fun to work with, they may think of you much more frequently as a person to go to for stories. Send a thank you note after a story about your airs, and even send them a freebie or discount coupon from your business.
  • Manufacture a PR stunt! It may be cheap and, frankly, very blatantly engineered as a self-serving effort to get attention, but if you can arrange it for a “slow news” period, it can work just as well as any meatier news idea. Just be restrained about doing such a thing too often. Use this for slow business seasons and when you may’ve had a long dry spell from any media attention. Do it too often and you’re risk audience fatigue and it will not be as effective.

These tips owe quite a bit to Emmy Award-winning reporter, Jeff Crilley’s book, “Free Publicity.” You can read his book for even more ideas.

Your Audience & Customers Define the Value

When it comes to traditional marketing, companies are so entrenched in having to define their value statements, and defining them in their marketing messages they don’t even realize that with today’s new technologies and mediums to communicate in, it’s really the customers who are defining what the value is of their products. While company executives are so focused on “features” providing what they perceive is value, they never stop and think about what the person who is plunking down their hard earned dollars to buy the product or service truly perceives as value.

The same can be said of any type of content you are producing for consumption on the internet. In the end it is the audience who is going to decide the value. While you are thinking these are great tips on how to change a light bulb and that’s the value, the audience perceives something else as more valuable about your content. It could be that the tips save them valuable time and money, something you likely hadn’t considered. While you might be thinking certain points of a video you produced about how your product works is the value, the audience viewing it find more value in how it saved them a ton of time figuring out how to integrate your product in with something they are already using, making both products exceptionally useful to them.

value-of-goldOnce your audience finds value in the content you are providing, when they truly believe this content is worth its weight in gold, that’s when it has the potential to spread like wildfire. It may not hit the front page of Digg, but if one loyal audience member finds true value in your content they are going to spread it out to their friends by sharing their experience with it. People love to relate the experiences and those experiences, if valuable, are powerful marketing agents all on their own. The notion of “look what it did for my friend Suzie” after Suzie has explained the value she found is a very persuasive tool, and then all of Suzie’s friends relate it to their friends. If these friends are in social networks like Facebook, MySpace, or an Ning network out there, the potential for the content going from reaching just a few people to instead touching thousands is great.

This is why marketers both online and offline need to stop thinking of themselves as the “be all end all” decider of what is of value in marketing messages. Instead of consistently trying to push messages on an audience or customer base, they need to start sitting back and listening to the current conversations going on about what they are marketing and how those current messages are being received and interpreted. By listening to the conversations marketers can learn a lot more about their demographics and how they think, instead of just assuming because they are a certain age bracket and sex or race they act a certain way. Things change in the real world and the internet and the social media platforms that have been created offer marketers access to a huge , unself-conscious and very brutally honest, focus group.

Let’s face it the way traditional marketing, that of continually pushing the message that’s been carefully crafted, has changed. Audiences become banner blind, they fast forward through commercials on their Tivos, they channel hop on the radio because they do not find these messages or this type of content of any value. Marketers in today’s world of instant soapboxes (blogs) and the world’s fastest telephone chain (Twitter, Facebook & even email) have to now understand what the customers are deeming as value and create content focused on that value, not the values they crafted in a sterile office space to make CEO’s and senior management feel better about themselves. Whether companies like it or not, customers are now defining a lot of what a brand, product or service means.

You Need a Hook to Get Your Press Release Noticed

fish_and_hookThere was a time where announcing that you’ve hired a new employee was enough to get a mention in the newspaper. Announce that you launched a new website, it could get the local news station to your office for an interview. Back in the day, those were hooks that could catch a reporter’s attention enough to bring them in and have them talk to you more about you and your company or organization. “Back in the day” was 2003 when I’d do public relations for my clients and getting the press interested with them was part of what I did with my web design firm. Still I always need a hook, not just “We Launched a New Website”, but something more.

Today, it’s not just the press you need to bring in, its your audience. Clients, fans, evangelists and even detractors are all online all craving for reasons to care (or not care) about what’s going on in your company that matters to them. Just sending out announcements that you’ll be appearing here or there, that your are adding a new product line or you’ve changed the name of something really isn’t enough to get your audience to care ….. unless they were involved or responsible for your actions.

As with creating valuable content for social media, with press releases PR people have to start thinking well beyond “I need to get Buzz”, to “why will our company’s audience care about this information”. It isn’t about that its new, or its got great features, it’s about how the audience finds value in the information you are trying to disseminate. Your audience isn’t just the media or industry “experts” anymore, it’s now your consumer audiences. No longer does your audience see the TV reporter or the newspaper journalist as the preeminent authority. The authorities now are bloggers, forum members, photographers posting their work on Flickr, it’s the people holding a conversation about you & using your brand with a hash tag in front of it on Twitter, and its those people active in a fan group on Facebook. These are the people you need get to care about what your press release is about and they really don’t care if your CEO is a keynote somewhere at an industry conference – unless you are Apple and it’s Steve Jobs at MacWorld.

The hook now becomes “how does this affect my life” or “why should I care”. If you’ve changed something about your company, products or brands after listening to the conversations in social media circles – that’s something your audience will care about. So rather than announces a product launch to the entire media like CNN and the NY Times, look to your audience first. Take the approach “We Listened, We Responded, What Do You Think?” with the bloggers or “community elders”. Give them the scoop first and fashion it in a way that it’s not the “normal spin”, that this is truly about your customers and audience.

At the end of the day, it takes a lot to change the mindset of entrenched PR Agencies, PR Specialists and marketers that there’s been a dramatic change in who people view as authorities. There’s also been a dramatic change in how audiences and consumers consume information and what they care about. Understanding both of those can dramatically increase the exposure of your press release and its success to the right targeted market.

So the next time your PR Agency suggests writing a press release about an internship, a keynote speaking event, or a new website redesign, maybe you should stop and think about your audience. Are they REALLY going to care? Then after you do that, maybe you should rethink who your PR Agency is.

Google Profiles & Online Reputation Management

A few weeks ago Google launched “Google Profiles“. Looking at how Google Profiles works, its reminiscent of an online dating site ad minus the creepy old guy that could be my grandfather sending me winks. With that said, Google Profiles can be a powerful tool in online marketing, especially when it comes to online reputation management. Already, Google profiles are showing up in the search engine results. They may not be showing up number 1 for all vanity searches, but they definitely have the power to rank in the top 20 and the potential to rank even higher. Why? Well, Google I guess must really trust itself.

I created a Google profile early last week. This morning I decided to test and see how it was affecting searches for “Liana Evans”. While not in the top spot for my name, the Google profile is now ranking in the top ten, along with several other profiles and videos from social media sites. So keep that in mind, its not just your profile on Google that has the potential to rank and usurp static websites, its profiles on just about any social site. Take a look at the screen shot below:

The social media profiles and videos I’ve got highlighted in red boxes are all ranking for “Liana Evans” near the bottom of the rankings on the first page of the search engine results for my name. Accept for the power of Google, the other profiles don’t rank “just because”. They rank because they are my more “social” profiles. What that means, is that it’s not just because it’s “Twitter” or it’s “FriendFeed”, I’m actually social in those platforms – I hold conversations, I have “friends”, I comment, I share, I watch other videos than my own, etc., that’s what gives these profiles their ability to rank. They also rank because I make sure they are properly optimized, for “Liana Li Evans”, incorporating both my real and my nick name. While being social is the primary key, you also need to remember how you want people to relate to you in these social settings, and make sure your profiles reflect that.

Now before anyone screams “Google Conspiracy” about Google having all your information from your profile, there’s one thing to remember. You do not have to fill it out completely. In other words, you choose what you want to provide to share in your profile. I don’t share all my contact information, just general information about myself and what I do, and my Flickr photos which are already visible through my public Flickr stream.

If you or your company is actively pursuing reputation management, establishing a Google profile might be a wise step in that campaign effort. If you are monitoring your CEO, CMO or any other prominent names that matter to your company, you should be encouraging them to fill out a Google profile with the information related to your business. There are some sacrifices, you are giving Google a little bit more information about yourself, however, again you choose what information to give. The individual is the primary owner of that Google profile, and can choose what information to share, but as an online marketer you can guide the person how to make sure they are presenting the information in a manner that positively affects the reputation management efforts you are undertaking.

Are You an Online Marketer or Just an SEO?

At SES London, Mike Grehan headed up an Orion Panel with Jill Whalen, Brett Tabke, Chris Sherman, Kevin Ryan and Rand Fishkin. The panel was taking a look at “SEO Where To Next”. I’m not going to rehash what went on at the panel, if you’d like a run down Paul Madden did a good summation of it. What I am looking to discuss is our roles, are we just SEO’s, PPC practitioners or affiliate marketers, or, are we online marketers?

What prompts me in asking this, is how in the past 2 years the rise of “Web 2.0″ (I really hate that term) has begun to affect how people consume content, media or anything on the web. Focusing on just SEO, PCC or even Affiliate Marketing, we tend to rely very heavily on the search engines. Heck, we live, die and cry by what Google does. Take a look at the announcement by Matt Cutts about the canonical tag, the search marketing world went nutz!

But what happens when more and more surfers on the internet stop using the typical search engines to find what they need? Confused? Let me explain.

With the advent of the iPhone and its open application system, you no longer need to go to Google to find a nearby restaurant. That’s right, iPhone users have a bevvy of applications that connect them to the internet without a browser and without going to Google and getting a map with a list of restaurants. OpenTable will tell you which restaurants near you have available seating, Urban Spoon does just about the same thing.

It’s not just the iPhone either, AccuWeather just launched a nice little widget much better than than the dreaded desktop “WeatherBug” app(that adds those dreaded tracking cookies that Norton catches). Through the slick Adobe Air backend, AccuWeather tells me my weather without opening a browser and typing in “Weather 19468″. There’s also a nice AdobeAir Application called Tweetdeck to help you manage Twitter, never having to connect to a browser to hold a relevant conversation.

Facebook and Myspace both have phone applications for iPhone, Blackberry or just about any smart phone out there. It’s becoming easier and easier to connect to the internet and the sites you want, and to find the things you want without using a browser or even a search engine.

So with that in mind, I posed this question to the panel. With the ability to connect to the internet w/o a browser, is it the SEO’s job to still work with these types of applications? Only one panel member answered, bravely, Rand Fishkin said he didn’t believe this was the SEO’s job.

I agree, to a point. If you define yourself as an SEO who just optimizes web pages or websites, then yes, he’s right.

But if you have an eye on the future of marketing and are seeing what new technologies are emerging and being embraced in our world, I have to disagree with Rand, in that, that view is really limiting. Businesses are going to have to embrace moving even beyond just the typical web page for an online presence. Search Engines aren’t just browser based anymore, the OpenTable application demonstrates that to a “T”. As responsible online marketers, we have to look beyond just websites and Google, we have to look at the entire online presence, and move beyond the thought that SEO means web based search engines because it doesn’t. So are we SEO’s or Online Marketers, or perhaps both? I guess in the end its how you define “SEO”.

That leads me to wonder this question, is the holy grail of search – the “Google Killer”, just going to be the inevitable change of end user habits? Interesting thought isn’t it? :)