good will creation, integrated marketing, lead generation, sales, SEO, social media

A 10-Year Look-back: Observations on Social Media Use by Businesses

Social media is no longer a new and innovative marketing tactic. So, I thought it might benefit my readers to look back at the 10+ years this tactic has been used by organizations and share what I’ve observed and learned.

Roughly 10 years ago, as a contractor, who eventually assumed permanent marketing manager and director roles at a large New England health plan, I was a big champion of social media. At that time, social media use by organizations for business purposes vs. by individuals for social purposes was starting to gain momentum, but there were still a good number of business organizations who had yet to launch a social media presence. I worked diligently to educate senior leadership in the marketing and communications department where I worked, as well as across the entire organization, about why we needed to dip our toes in the social media pool. I’m sure my reasons at the time for pushing my employer to establish a social media presence on one or several social media platforms included several, if not all, of the following:

  • by not having a social media presence, our organization looked dated and irrelevant
  • our competitors were taking advantage of this new marketing tool known as “social media” and we were missing out on the opportunities they were having to connect and communicate with our mutual target audiences: 1) direct users of our services aka members (individuals who qualified for state-funded healthcare coverage programs); 2) healthcare providers who served our members, and 3) nonprofit organizations serving our members who could refer them to us
  • other than employee time to create and share posts, social media was “free” and could help us make the most of our marketing budget
  • through the sharing of thought-provoking and informational posts, my employer could establish itself as a subject matter expert
  • we could drive traffic to our website via posts that contained links to various website content
  • we could create goodwill with other organizations by sharing their posts
  • we could speak to our members and prospective members via one of their preferred vehicles of communications; therefore, not only could we market ourselves using social media, we could keep our members informed

I eventually got buy-in to launch a social media presence for my employer and how we used the platforms and which platforms we used evolved during my time at the health plan. And, five years post my departure, I’m sure the health plan’s use of social media to promote itself, create goodwill, and communicate with its members, providers and the community continues to evolve.

Based on my approximately 10 years’ experience overseeing the social media presence of corporate employers, clients, and my own organization, Results Communications and Research, here’s what I’ve learned about social media use by businesses to create awareness and generate leads and sales. I call out these last two objectives, because ultimately those are the biggest desired end results of organizations who develop and implement a social media strategy.

  • Organizations should never put all of their marketing & communications $$ and efforts into their social media basket. Regardless of an organization’s nature and the nature of the products and services offered, some members of one or all of an organization’s target audiences may not be active on social media; therefore, you need to leave some $$ and time to reach those individuals who aren’t fans or users of social media via another form of communication that may be preferred by them, such as e-mail marketing, search engine advertising, or print advertising.
  • Even if it’s limited, organizations should maintain a social media presence to establish and maintain relevancy. Organizations don’t want potential clients or existing customers to make the assumption you won’t be up-to-speed on other issues because you’re viewed as “behind-the-times” by not having a social media presence.
  • More is not always more. Sure there’s a large # of social media networks/platforms out there: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and others. That doesn’t mean your organization should have a presence on all of them. It’s hard to maintain a strong, effective presence on one or several platforms if you dilute your social media energies too much across too large a range of social media networks.
  • Each platform has distinct audiences, benefits and limitations. Here’s our observations on the platforms we’ve used most to promote our own organization as well as others’:
    • LinkedIn – because it was built for business and professional networking purposes, each & every organization should have a profile page on LinkedIn; a lot of really great conversations happen on LinkedIn via post comments and LinkedIn’s messaging capability
    • Twitter — as with LinkedIn, this is where we see business conversations happening most, regardless of the nature of an organization, but particularly when it comes to business-to-business conversations and services
    • Facebook and Instagram – based on our experience, business Facebook and Instagram profiles work best for organizations offering business-to-consumer services or products vs. business-to-business services or products. A restaurant or hair salon may benefit from having a business Facebook or Instagram page, but a business offering services to another business, like insurance, likely won’t benefit as much. And, if you’re not an organization who wants to or can regularly take and post new photos, you shouldn’t bother with an Instagram account since Instagram is all about serving up a steady stream of interesting photos
    • Pinterest – consumer goods companies, such as food or other retailers will benefit from having a presence here, but there don’t seem to be any applications for organizations offering services. As with Instagram, if you’re going to maintain an effective presence on Pinterest, you need to be able to constantly take and post new photos or graphic images
    • YouTube – organizations need to think of YouTube as a search engine — since the YouTube search tool receives the second largest search volume after Google. Regardless of its nature, any organization should benefit from establishing a channel and sharing videos here
    • Google My Business – while some may not view this as a social media network/platform, I believe each and every organization should have such a profile, keep it current and regularly post to it, the way you would any other social media platform. This will greatly improve your SEO — where you fall in search engine results listings for search terms relevant to your products and services
  • In isolation, social media profiles and posts don’t often directly lead to sales or generate leads. In general, social media strategy and tactics need to be supported by other marketing tactics as part of a much larger, integrated marketing plan. We highlighted this in red to really call out the danger associated with believing that a social media presence will directly promote sales and leads, or suffice as a stand-alone marketing activity to create awareness of your organization and its products and services. In rare instances, social media posts may generate sales and leads, but those are the exceptions. For example, these types of social media behavior may generate a lead or a sale
    • Posts that promote sales or special offers for whatever consumer goods are currently most popular or the “it” thing
    • Posts that promote upcoming events, such as concerts by popular performers
    • Commenting on another organization’s or professional’s post, particularly on LinkedIn or Twitter
  • Organizations should use Google Analytics to determine where to put their social media $$ and energies. I always suggest giving equal attention — in the form of posting your own content and sharing, liking and commenting on others’ — to two or three social media platforms that make sense for your organization (for several months), based on what I shared about about the platforms’ benefits and limitations. Then, use Google Analytics to determine which of these social media platforms are referring the most traffic to your site. That will help inform where you’ll likely want to put most of your social media energies going forward.
  • Businesses shouldn’t “go dark” on certain social media platforms without acknowledging it or explaining why. Whenever I’m preparing for a meeting with a prospective client, I check out all their digital/online marketing activities, including their social media presence. I’m always surprised by the number of organizations that have social media icons on their websites that link to profiles on social media platforms that they don’t maintain, e.g., haven’t posted to in the last 3 to 6 months or longer. If you don’t have the capacity to maintain an effective social media presence on a particular platform, i.e., can’t post at least weekly to the platform, consider the following:
    • removing the social media icon link to the platform, in question, until you can give the social media network the attention it deserves
    •  posting to the “neglected” social media platform that you won’t be posting to the platform in the foreseeable future, but that you hope your followers will join you on x,y,z platform instead and include a link to your presence(s) there (assumes you are more effectively maintaining a presence on one or several other platforms)
  • If you’re going to put time & energy into social media, be sure to capitalize on it. Be sure to put social media icons on each page of your website that link to the various social media platforms on which you have a presence. Also, place such icon links in e-mail signatures, and e-newletters. I’ve seen so many organizations neglect to do the aforementioned, and therefore, miss out the opportunity to build stronger bonds and share additional information with customers and prospective clients.

To summarize our observations, in general, social media shouldn’t be used in isolation by organizations to generate leads and sales. It should be one tactic that is part of a much bigger integrated marketing plan. Organizations should maintain a social media presence to be seen as relevant and to create goodwill with customers, prospective customers, and organizations who might be good business referral sources, but it isn’t necessary to have a presence on each and every social media platform. If you’re going to have a presence on a certain form of social media, be sure to post, comment, like, share, etc. regularly, and don’t just “go dark.” Use Google Analytics data to determine which forms of social media drive the most traffic to your website and focus your energies there, and make sure your website and e-communications share links to and promote your social media presence.

Need help creating or evaluating your social media strategy? Contact us to learn about our social media “audit” and strategy development and “voice” services.

 

 

 

landing pages, Uncategorized, website

Three Key Benefits of Offering Visitors a Website “Contact” or “Inquiry” Form

I was recently asked by a prospective client if “contact” or “inquiry” smart forms — you know forms that an individual can complete and submit online — made a website look dated. I polled a couple of website developer/designer expert connections, and the answer was “no.” I was very pleased to hear that because I think such forms afford both the visitor to and the owner of a website the following three key benefits:

1. Website visitors can share and website owners can learn how a visitor found out about their organization or website via a question such as the following with drop-down-menu answer options like the ones shown below (and in our form at the bottom of this post):

Q:  How did you learn about us?

newspaper advertisement, link to your site from a social media post, search engine search, online advertisement, word-of-mouth, billboard, radio advertisement, TV ad, bus advertisement, train advertisement (note: when relevant, you should allow visitors to select more than one vs. forcing one answer)

Obviously, answer options should only include those marketing vehicles and tactics you are employing to drive traffic to your site. You can also gather more information about the effectiveness of certain marketing activities by including additional questions that would only be presented if a particular response was selected (known as skip patterns). For example, let’s suppose you were running several types of online ads or ads with several different messages, you could pose questions to gather more detail about the messaging or form of online advertising a visitor saw.

Before launching any kind of advertising campaign, it’s a best and critical practice to make sure you always have means, such as the above, to track which of the marketing tactics you employed as part of the campaign are most effective.

2. Visitors won’t abandon the process of reaching out to you because they get the message below when they click on a link to e-mail or contact you. Already having an Outlook program on my computer or that I access via an online e-mail service, I never know what to do when this message which encourages me to configure an Outlook e-mail account appears as a pop-up when I click on someone’s e-mail address. I’m guessing most website visitors don’t either, and likely just end up “cancelling out” of the process.

email link message

To make matters worse, some e-mail links don’t even contain the e-mail address that you can snag and then type into your mail service yourself after you initiate creating/ sending a new e-mail. Instead of a link that’s hyperlinked and labeled with an e-mail address, such as gail.moraski@allintheresults.com, the link may be labeled “contact us” or “e-mail us” and take one directly to the Outlook message above. The average site visitor is unlikely to know that they may be able to “right click” on that link to see what the e-mail address is behind the link.

Why wonder if your site visitors are going to be patient enough to figure out how to e-mail you or figure out your e-mail address? Eliminate that concern with an online form.

3. Avoid Phone Calls That Can Be Awkward For Both Parties. Some people aren’t phone people. Instead of gathering information from you via a phone call — which may seem like it requires or indicates some kind of commitment to buy your product or use your services, or may simply feel awkward or cumbersome — some members of your target audience may prefer getting feedback from you via an online inquiry about your product or service. The ability to submit an online inquiry simplifies the process of their conducting initial research before they invest in a product or service — allowing for answers to questions they might have about the product or service itself and figuring out whether your product or service is the right fit for them.

Having an online contact/inquiry form doesn’t mean you still can’t include a link to an e-mail address, it just means your making it easier for prospective customers to communicate with you in a way that might be more comfortable and/or less mentally or technically cumbersome — a win-win because you’re able to gather beneficial data from your visitors to help optimize future marketing budgets and activities.

Need help setting up an online inquiry form? Use our form to reach out for help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

Nonprofit 411: Achieving Fundraising Success

I was honored to have the privilege of co-authoring a three-part series with two fellow MA Nonprofit Network affiliate members related to nonprofit fundraising leading and best practices.

Enjoy the series and please reach out if we can help. And, nonprofits, as you finalize marketing and development/fundraising plans and strategies for 2019, don’t forget about the great opportunity that a Google Nonprofit Ad Grant may afford you.

Part I:  http://massnonprofitnet.org/blog/nonprofit-411-special-series-achieving-fundraising-gold-part-laying-groundwork-successful-campaign/

Part II:  http://massnonprofitnet.org/blog/nonprofit-411-achieving-fundraising-gold-part-ii-building-momentum/

Part III:  http://massnonprofitnet.org/blog/nonprofit-411-achieving-fundraising-success-part-iii-concluding-campaign/

SEO, website

All Backlinks Aren’t Created Equal: Some Hurt, Some Help SEO

Through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Google Analytics work I recently completed for a client, I was reminded, and prompted to share via this blog post, that all backlinks (links to your website from another website or blog) aren’t created equal when it comes to SEO. For years, I and most fellow marketers, have known that having links to one’s website on the websites of other creditable, highly regarded websites was a good thing as far as Google’s SEO algorithm goes. Such backlinks cause Google to view your site as also being creditable and trustworthy, and therefore, improves where your website appears in Google search engine results for search terms relevant to your organization’s products and services. But, many marketers lose sight of or are not aware of the fact that all backlinks are not “good.”

Like Anyone Else, Google Judges You By the Company You Keep

The bad backlink news is that if your website is receiving a lot of referral traffic from non-creditable and “spammy” websites, i,e., “bad” sites, it can really harm how Google treats your site from an SEO standpoint. As it should, Google has never been one to reward websites and their owners for trying to “play” or “game” them. They recognize spammy backlinks for what they often are, an attempt to improve SEO by purchasing or placing links to one’s website on low-quality sites, and Google will be less likely vs. more likely to present listings with a link to your website in its search engine results for your desired search terms. (A quick, but relevant digression: A past blog post called out how Google is more likely to reward authentic sites, and that includes sites that have “mutual admiration” relationships with organizations who respect their work, products, and services, and are willing to share links to their website.)

Based on my review of many clients’ Google Analytics data, it’s not uncommon to have a few “spammy” sites referring traffic to your website, and it’s unlikely that having a half dozen or less such sites driving traffic will cause Google to ding you significantly related to where you appear in search engine results. Of course, the aforementioned assumes that your website is reputable and relevant and meets other SEO best practices and standards, not just backlink ones.

While the purpose of this post is really to alert readers of this potential SEO danger and to explain how you can identify if your backlinks may be hurting vs. helping you, at the end of my post, I will share some experts’ thoughts on how to fix this bad SEO equation. If your site has close to 10, or many more than 10, “bad” sites referring traffic, you should take immediate steps to remedy this.

A Google Analytics data review allows you to see how visitors are finding your website. Once logged into your Google Analytics account, you can view this data by accessing the “Channels” report under the “Acquisition” left-hand menu tab as shown below.

Website Acquisition Channels - Google Analytics.png

  • direct = someone entered your website’s domain/URL directly into their browser or they had your website bookmarked
  • organic search = someone entered relevant terms in a search engine and then clicked on a link included in a search results listing
  • paid search = someone clicked on an online ad as part of a online advertising campaign you ran on a search engine advertising platform, like Google Ads
  • social = someone clicked on a link to a page on your website included in a social media post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
  • referral = someone clicked on a link to your site found on a website or blog

An immediate red flag — one I saw with the client that I referenced at the top of this post — is, in most cases, when too large of a percentage of your website traffic is “referral” traffic. Ideally, your two largest traffic channels would be “direct” and “organic search.” If the percentage of traffic associated with these two latter channels, individually, is lower than the % of traffic from “referrals”, that’s an indication that you could be driving a lot of traffic to your website from “spammy” sites. Let’s face it, the folks you most want visiting your site are quality visitors, i.e., current/returning customers and individuals who have found your site because of a relevant search engine search.

Your next step in assessing whether your SEO is likely being negatively impacted by “bad” backlinks is to click on “Referral” where it is listed under the “Default Channel Grouping” in Google Analytics, as shown in the image above. A list will immediately be generated showing you the various websites and blogs that are referring traffic to your site. It should be pretty obvious to you by the names of the referral sources which ones aren’t reputable blogs and websites with which you want your own website and your organization to be associated.

Bottom line is this — whether you intentionally had an organization who claimed they could improve your SEO purchase/provide/set up such backlinks on your behalf, or such backlinks were established by someone your organization did not engage for SEO help or who is not affiliated with your organization and who was/is looking to negatively impact your organization and SEO results, you’ll want to eliminate spammy backlinks since they’ll harm you in the long run.

Learn more from experts, including Google themselves, about backlinks and get advice on how to resolve “bad” backlink scenarios, or reach out to us for assistance.

https://prowly.com/magazine/stop-spam-backlinks-ruining-google-reputation/

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/2648487?hl=en

 

 

 

 

lead generation, sales, Uncategorized, website

Two Tools To Identify What Businesses Are Visiting Your Website

If your organization is offering business-to-business (B2B) services, you’d be thrilled to know what businesses are visiting your website, even though you likely believe that there’s no way of obtaining such data. But, particularly if you are an organization that serves larger businesses — think ones with 100+ employees — there’s ways to get at that data, and we think you’ll likely benefit from using both of the two distinct tools discussed in this blog post. And, the great news is that your organization is likely already using one of these tools on a regular basis!

GOOGLE ANALYTICS:

It’s a digital marketing best practice and no-brainer to have your website linked to a Google Analytics account. That way, you can take advantage of all the rich website visitor demographics and behavior data tracked there, including data related to which businesses are visiting your website. If you don’t have a Google Analytics account set up, you can set one up for free and it only takes about 15 minutes (if you need help, e-mail us).

So where do you go to access business visitor data? Once you’ve signed into your Google Analytics account, access “Audience” from the left-hand menu bar, then “Overview”, and then scroll down the Overview page to the “System” section, and click on the “Service Provider” link. This will call up a list such as the one below Google Analytics generated for our own website.

ISP listing from Google Analytics.png

The service providers referenced are also known as ISPs or “Internet Service Providers.” Wikipedia does a great job of explaining the roles of ISPs and who can operate one: “An Internet service provider (ISP) is an organization that provides services for accessing, using, or participating in the Internet. Internet service providers may be organized in various forms, such as commercial, community-ownednon-profit, or otherwise privately owned.”

When organizations are large enough, such as colleges or universities, they often create their own ISP to meet their internet needs — so voila, searching through your full report of ISPs for the names of businesses that aren’t your standard ISPs (AT & T, Comcast, Verizon, local electric companies, etc.) providing internet services to consumers or smaller businesses — might give you a bunch of new leads to add to your sales pipeline.

If you check this Service Provider/ISP list regularly, you’ll be discovering on a timely basis which large organizations have been visiting your site, and can reach out to them while they are still a “warm” or “hot” lead, and therefore, likely still in research and procurement mode for the particular services you offer.

LEAD FORENSICS:  

Similar tools to Lead Forensics may exist, but since we’ve held phone and e-mail discussions with Lead Forensics, and believe their tool and customer service to be good, we will speak to their capabilities related to tracking which businesses visit your website. Their solution allows you to add tracking code to your website that ultimately will allow you to learn the names of business organizations associated with individual device IP addresses that visit your website. In keeping with GRPR data privacy guidelines, no business organizations should be attempting to capture and share the full IP address of an individual/individual’s device who visits their website, but the code that Lead Forensics will provide you with, when you sign up for their services, does not track or reveal a distinct individual’s IP address. Instead, it provides the name of the business and the office location associated with that IP address.

In sum, by using a tool like Lead Forensics, you’ll have access to a new source of business leads — organizations who have demonstrated at least some level of interest in your services. You can follow up with them in whatever fashion feels most comfortable — whether it be calling that business organization’s office and saying that someone at their organization had expressed interest in learning more about your services, or saying that you are able to track what business organizations visit your website and you saw that someone from their organization had visited your site. Hopefully, whomever you phone chat or e-chat with at a particular prospective client organization will be willing to connect you with the right individual with whom you should discuss your services.

Let us know how we can help you take advantage of the two lead-generating tools discussed above. We can’t wait to hear if and how you used them to grow both your sales pipeline and actual sales.

 

integrated marketing, landing pages, Memorability, online advertising, remarketing, Uncategorized, website

Reminding with Remarketing

If you’ve ever visited a website, particularly a consumer goods/retail one, and then, had ads presented to you on another website or web property related to the products you  looked at on that original site, you’ve been remarketed to or retargeted. Last Friday, I was looking at some home furnishing stores’ websites for some new bar stools. I spent a fair amount of time on Wayfair’s site, looking at various stool options, and now the below ads are regularly being served up to me. This is as I go about my various day-to-day work activities on my computer, not because I revisited the Wayfair site.

Like many savvy marketers, Wayfair knows that remarketing advertising is an easy, and quite effective way, to remind individuals who have already shown an interest in certain products and services you offer about those particular products and services. And, Wayfair surely knows that click-thrus rates and sales generated through remarketing display ads are higher than for non-remarketing/general display advertising.

bar stools

Remarketing isn’t just for large retailers and consumer goods companies, though, and you don’t need to have the ample marketing budget they likely have to take advantage of remarketing. Whether you sell services vs. products, or whether your target audience is businesses vs. consumers, what I consider to be reasonably priced and fairly easy-to-set-up display advertising (think an ad with an image that appears on a variety of websites, including YouTube) is available through Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) and their associated Google Display Network (GDN).

Using your Google Analytics account (this is also very easy to set up if you don’t already have such an account), you can create very targeted remarketing lists to whom you want your Google Ads display ad presented.  At the broadest, more general levels, you can remind individuals who visited your site of your product and service offerings by having your ads presented to all site visitors, new site visitors (visitors who came to your site for the first time), or returning site visitors (visitors who came to your site for the second time or more).  You can also target your remarketing advertising based on:

  • the page(s) individuals visited on your site
  • actions individuals did or did not take on your site, such as completing and submitting an inquiry form or making a purchase

While this post’s focus is about display advertising remarketing, since that is most well-known, most-used, and best-understood, advertisers can also remarket to individuals using what’s known as Remarketing Lists for Search Advertising (RLSA) in conjunction with Google Ads search advertising.  This latter form of advertising allows for ads to be shown to individuals who enter search terms (keywords) into a search engine. Google Ads search remarketing allows an advertiser to only have their ads presented to individuals who both type appropriate search terms into their browser AND who have visited the advertiser’s website in the past. It also allows you to set up your search advertising to indicate to Google Ads your willingness to pay (bid) more to have your search ad shown to individuals searching on appropriate terms who have visited your site before vs. to individuals who haven’t.

Whether you are already running Google Ads display and/or search advertising, or you are in the planning process for launching your very first Google campaign, you should consider adding one or both of the above-mentioned forms of remarketing to your online advertising campaigns. You’ll be reminding visitors who land on your site because of display or search advertising, as well as individuals who visit your site from non-advertising sources/channels, about how the outstanding products and services you offer are just what they are looking for!

 

keywords, SEO, target audiences, Target Marketing, Uncategorized, Understanding Your Environment, User experience, website

Are You Hurting Your Organization By Using “Internal Speak” With External Audiences?

During the past couple of months, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to discuss and help prospective and existing clients with their SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is a must for any organization that hangs a shingle. Unless your business is strictly a referral-based organization, and that’s the only way you tend to generate sales, you need to do all you can to make sure listings with links to various pages of your website appear at the top of search engine results for terms you deem relevant and desirable. That way, online “searchers” for your particular product or service can easily find you, and find you before your competitors.

Are You or Your Marketing & Sales Team Wearing Blinders?

blinders on related to seo

A critical SEO error I’ve been seeing organizations make is this — they don’t walk in the shoes of one or several of their target audiences. Sometimes, individuals responsible for sales and awareness-generation get so caught up in their organization’s inner/internal world (and in the case of this blog post, “internal” can mean internal to both your organization and your industry), they get blinders on, and are guilty of the following SEO blunders:

  • Overuse of Acronyms and Industry Terms — using acronyms or industry terms on their website that some or all of their external audiences likely won’t understand. Regardless of whether acronyms or terms you are considering using are used in a particularly industry vs. only used within your organization, before you use them, give great thought to whether any of your target audiences widely uses or would understand them, and be sure to explain what they mean to audiences who don’t — as I did with the acronym “SEO” in my first paragraph. You can do this by adding a brief explanation in parentheses after the acronym or industry term in-question, or linking to a definition or explanation elsewhere on your site or on another credible external site.
  • Creative Phrase/Name For Common Product or Service — to differentiate themselves from a competitor, coming up with a creative phrase to replace the normal or common term used for that same product or service. Organizations must keep in mind that just because they want to be known for/by this differentiating phrase, that doesn’t mean target audiences will be searching on that term, which could have a very negative impact on driving traffic to your site. Let’s say a firm offers financial planning services, but wants to refer to those services via a catchy, memorable phrase like “milestone money maximization”. If they only use the “milestone…” phrase throughout their website, searchers looking for “financial planning services” aren’t going to learn of them via a search engine search, as the search engine won’t find and index that phrase on their website.
  • Ignoring Needs of Certain Audiences — not addressing all of their audiences. As discussed above, while “internal speak”, such as acronyms and industry terms, may work for one audience, they may not work for all. For example, an organization may get client referrals from professionals such as healthcare providers, CPAs, lawyers, etc., but individuals may also come directly to the organization vs. being referred by a professional. That organization needs to make sure they use language that is understood by and resonates with both professionals and direct users of the service aka “lay people.”

One of the SEO services we offer, and with 30 years of marketing experience we’re experts in doing so, is review of websites with an objective, external eye, while wearing the shoes of each of a client’s audiences. We can fairly quickly identify where and how you might be negatively impacting your organic SEO, and ultimately, limiting sales and awareness among desired external populations, through “internal speak.”

LinkedIn, Networking, social media, Uncategorized

Identify the “Link” Before You Send a LinkedIn Invite to Connect

Because I’m a digital marketing expert, and advise clients on social media strategy and/or serve as their social media voice, I felt I owed it to the many individuals who use LinkedIn — both the right way and the wrong way — to call out a major user “faux pas” and how to fix it.

Given the fact no job or business is ever 100% secure — times and interest in products and services by current customers change rapidly, management comes and goes, new technology makes certain products or services obsolete, etc. — if you are of employment age, then you should be maintaining an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn and actively using it to connect with both individuals you do know, and individuals you don’t. This will ensure you are adequately connected when you find yourself in need of identifying your next permanent or contract gig.

So, now to the “faux pas”. If you’re going to reach out to someone via LinkedIn whom you don’t know well or don’t know at all, and it’s not totally obvious why you want to connect with them (for example, they are not a close friend, or former co-worker or manager), you should never, ever send an invite to connect without 1) devising a note of some sort  that goes beyond the standard one of “I’d like to connect on LinkedIn.”; and 2) including in your note some context around why you want to connect.

LinkedInInvite

As a marketer who understands “best practices” and the proper use of various forms of social media, for some time now, I haven’t accepted requests to connect from individuals I don’t know who haven’t taken the time to explain why we should “connect.” However, I’m kind enough to reach out to these “inviters” and ask them why they want to connect before I completely write them off as a possible LinkedIn connection. I hope by doing so, I’m teaching them how to better make connections going forward, so they they and all LinkedIn users will benefit.

A good salesperson knows you have to explain the value-add associated with any product or service you sell. In the case of LinkedIn, you are selling yourself, and you need to explain to your “invitee” why and how they would benefit from connecting with you. As the inviter, you have the responsibility to identify the “link” for your “invitee”. Hey you wouldn’t invite someone to a party or event without explaining what it’s all about, right? The “link” could be having careers in the same field, volunteering at the same organization or ones with similar interests, having attended the same college or graduate school, having a lot of mutual connections, having the same passions/interests, etc. The explanation you provide with your invite doesn’t have to be long. In fact, ideally it shouldn’t be (you can and should wait until your target “invitee” accepts before providing too much detail; you can use the LinkedIn “message” function later on to provide that greater detail). Sample explanations include:

  • “I’d love to connect with you because of our similar interests in healthcare technology”
  • I’d love to connect because I see we have quite a few mutual connections from our careers in community banking”
  • “I think we’d enjoy being connected because I see we are equally passionate about digital marketing”
  • “I’d welcome connecting because I really enjoyed your article, blog post, presentation, etc. about x,y, and z, and I’d love to keep the conversation going.”

So, the next time you go to send a LinkedIn invite to connect, give some good thought as to why you want to connect with the individual in-question, and why they’d want to connect with you. If all LinkedIn users employ this protocol, we can improve on the great tool that LinkedIn already is and make it an even more effective environment for ensuring interesting conversations and beneficial connections happen between the right people.

Uncategorized

Capitalizing on Now-Even-More-Effective Free Advertising From Google

I considered titling this piece, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Recent Google Nonprofit Ad Grant Changes”, but ultimately, I believe the revisions will cause non-profit Grant recipients to achieve better ad campaign results. So, really, it’s all good.

If you’re not familiar with the Grant Program, whether you’re responsible for creating awareness or causing service use among populations you serve – or for growing donations or volunteers – you may be missing out on a free, extremely-effective means of accomplishing these objectives. Incredibly, Google awards non-profit organizations world-wide, who meet its eligibility requirements, with $120,000 in FREE annual Google Adwords “search” advertising. And, the advertising Grant is indefinite and simply requires recipients to complete an annual survey.

Based on my own and other marketing experts’ experiences, Grants ARE being regularly awarded to eligible non-profits who follow the slightly complex application procedures – Grants aren’t unicorns or pipedreams! You can learn more about minimum eligibility requirements at https://www.google.com/grants/.

The type of advertising awarded is “text” vs. “image.”  Ads appear at the top or bottom of Google search engine results pages when an individual enters terms relevant to a non-profit’s services and mission in the search engine. In the case below, ads are being presented to searchers entering terms such as “help coping with sudden illness.”

Ad Grants sample ad

HOW YOU’LL BENEFIT FROM 2018 PROGRAM CHANGES

While the $ amount associated with the annual advertising budget awarded remains the same, Google made a significant policy change to make 2018 Grants more valuable. With Google AdWords, advertisers bid against each other to have their text ads shown for terms they believe their audiences will be searching on, known as “keywords.” Grant recipients used to be restricted by how much they could bid to have their ads shown for desirable keywords, which often meant that for-profit or non-profit organizations with deeper financial pockets had their ads shown far more frequently than Grant recipients’. The great news is that the cap has been removed related to how much a non-profit can bid, using their free advertising $ pool.

WHY YOU’LL NEED AN IN-HOUSE OR EXTERNAL ADWORDS EXPERT

While Google has made it easier for non-profits to have their ads shown more often to appropriate “searchers”, to take advantage of this opportunity, Grant recipients now must:

  • Achieve a minimum of a 5% click-thru rate on their ads, i.e., at least 5% of the individuals to whom a Grant recipient presents ads must click on the ad to land on the recipient’s website.
  • Use more advanced AdWords features and results tracking, such as “site links” (links that appear below ad copy that reference and point to unique Grant recipient website pages) and conversion tracking that tallies when desired outcomes, such as clicking on a certain link within a page, occurs.
  • Complete additional Grant application steps, such as registering with TechSoup.

Awardees must have a staff member or engage a marketing consultant who:

  • knows the “ins and outs” of Google AdWords and how to employ and optimize advanced features and tracking
  • can both interpret the Grant application process and has the capacity to deal with some of the hiccups that will likely occur

As alluded to in my intro, despite recent Grant changes, I believe using expert staff or consultant time to apply for and maintain a Grant will still render a very positive ROI. Given that ad click-thru costs often range from $0.30 – $5.00, a $120,000 budget goes a long way toward creating awareness or causing other desired outcomes such as service use, and event ticket sales. Thus, ongoing, annual financial benefits should far outweigh the costs associated with obtaining and effectively employing a Grant.

integrated marketing, landing pages, online advertising, User experience, website

Ensuring a Smooth Landing for Ad and Link Clickers

aircraft-holiday-sun-tourism-104826.jpeg

A “landing page” is simply the Web site page that ad and link viewers arrive at when they they click on an ad or link presented to them. A leader at a former corporate marketing job of mine used to say, “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.” This provides a good framework for thinking about the content and/or images that should reside on your landing page. Clickers expect to land on a page that is relevant to the content and/or images found in the ad on which they clicked or to the content that introduced a link you shared.

In keeping with the above, whether the advertiser’s objective for sharing a link or presenting an ad is to cause a sale or other desired action, or to simply create awareness of their organization or products and services among prospective customers/target audiences, it’s critical that the advertiser provide a cohesive, effective, thoughtful experience to link and ad clickers by:

  • ensuring that the Web site page on which a clicker lands contains information about the specific product, service, or topic promoted in an ad or link
  • repeating on the landing page verbiage used in an ad or in introducing a link
  • if images and branding elements such as specific colors, designs, and logos are included in an ad or link introduction, including them on the landing page as well
  • if clickers land on a Web site page from what’s known as a “search” ad, i.e., an ad that was presented to them because they entered search terms relevant to the advertiser’s product or service in a search engine, such as Google or Bing, employing those identical search terms or synonymous ones in landing page content
  • not “bait and switching” or surprising ad or link clickers. There’s no easier or better way to create ill will among prospective customers/your target audience than promoting “red wool coats” and then presenting them with information on “green rubber boots.” It’s deceptive marketing and, even if search engine advertising vehicles will approve such a misleading, non-cohesive set up with your ads and landing pages, the advertising platforms will surely ding you by charging you more to have your ads presented and by presenting your ads far less frequently than your competitors for relevant search terms. Search engines who offer advertising want to present searchers with the best possible match for their search terms. They don’t want to tarnish their own reputation.
  • creating landing pages that are clean, concise and not too busy. Ideally, landing pages would be dedicated to the product, service, or topic promoted in the ad or link and not contain information on other products, services, or topics. However, if an advertiser has time and budget constraints related to creating a focused landing page for a promotion, at a minimum, the landing page should be uncluttered enough for the ad or link clicker to easily identify the information promised via the ad or link-accompanying content — therefore, readily find what he is she was looking for.
  • making “calls-to-action” highly visible and obvious. If an advertiser’s objective behind an ad or link promotion is to cause the clicker to take a desired action on their site, whether it be purchasing a product, signing up for an e-newsletter, or completing an inquiry form, then buttons or text that call out how and where to take those desired actions should contain clear direction and be prominent.

We loved to hear what else you think makes for a smooth landing for clickers, so please do share! And, we always welcome a discussion with you about your Web site landing page challenges and opportunities.