5 Common SMB Online Marketing Optimization Issues Solved: Q&A with Lee Odden

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Small and medium businesses face a number of challenges inherent to their size; many simply don’t have the budget, manpower, or in-house expertise to pull off the online marketing campaigns bigger companies can manage.

Selling online has this wonderful equalizing factor, making it possible for even the sole entrepreneur working from home to connect with markets they otherwise may never have accessed. However, as search engines continue to evolve, placing more and more emphasis on content and user experience, many SMBs are finding it difficult to compete with competitors that may have the capacity to churn out content, win in social, and outrank them at every turn.

Lee Odden, author of “Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing,” offered to help us solve five common SMB online marketing problems. We receive a lot of questions and feedback at Search Engine Watch through comments, emails, social media contacts, and at events like SES. A number of problematic issues have cropped up in conversation with SMB owners and entrepreneurs:

  1. They know their website needs major work but don’t know where to start.
  2. Content creation is daunting and time consuming.
  3. They’re trying different things in social but don’t know what to do if one channel doesn’t pan out or they have to choose to focus on just one.
  4. They have too much social data to digest and aren’t sure which metrics matter, or if it’s worth the effort.
  5. They know they should be more active online but need time to actually run their business.

So what is a marketer with limited resources to do? Though there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, Odden’s recommendations can help get your SMB web presence optimized and on the right track.

1. Website Needs Work? Start With an Audit and Prioritize to Make a Site Overhaul Manageable

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This seems to be one of the bigger issues plaguing SMBs. Often, many small changes and updates are made over the years, without much thought as to how these constant tweaks affect the site as a whole. When a website no longer lives up to what users or search engines expect of it, where do you even begin?

“A site evaluation through audits can help determine how much of an asset the website is currently and can be in the future,” said Odden. As to what that should entail, he recommends, “An SEO audit will cover keywords, technical/code, SEO copywriting, the linking footprint and social presence. Through the audit, a sort of GAP analysis can be conducted to identify where the site needs attention for most impact.”

Odden shared the example of a medium-sized business site with thousands of pages, with a simple SEO error of duplicate title tags. This might be updated using basic programming to extract content off the page (like product names) to dynamically populate title tags, he said. If the site has many, many articles that are frequently found through search and have a good number of social referrals, then embedding social share functionality can increase social distribution of those articles just by making it easy.

“In most cases, the low hanging fruit identification comes from having an evaluation of the website and expertise to determine where to apply resources in order to reach business goals,” Odden explains. Use an audit to identify problems and opportunities, then prioritize and take action.

2. Uninspired? Ongoing Engagement Means You’ll Never Run Out of Things to Talk (or Write) About

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We asked Odden what advice he has for entrepreneurs who have shied away from blogging and/or social because they don’t feel they can produce enough contenton a regular basis to keep things interesting.

“I often say, ‘If a company doesn’t have anything interesting to say, they have bigger problems to solve than where their next blog post is coming from,’ Odden responded. He knows it’s a bit of a jibe, but it does reflect the need for a change in perspective. He notes that, “Many companies see themselves as a vessel, with a finite number of ideas and pieces of information. In other words, their view of content is fairly static and self-centered. Once they’ve said all there is to say about their own products and services, the well goes dry.”

Instead, marketers need to look at blogging as a byproduct of the ongoing listening and engagement between a brand and its customers, he advises. “A change in perspective that allows the brand to see things from their customer’s perspective with empathy can reveal many opportunities for making observations, answering questions and interacting with the community through blog content,” said Odden. “Just checking for commonly asked questions that customer service and sales people hear can be a rich source of blogging ideas.”

A few other tips and tools Odden recommends for ongoing information to inspire content creation:

  • Social media analytics data.
  • Social media monitoring tools with suggested topics related to areas of interest around products and services being tracked.
  • Web analytics can reveal questions people most often use on Google that send them to the company website. Blog posts can be planned to answer those questions.

Odden has been blogging as a business owner for more than eight years and he understands the challenges in regular content creation.

The key to persistent, productive blogging, he said, is to “have a plan, be adaptable and use blogging as a platform to share useful information that provides value to readers but also reinforces sales, referrals and social shares. Ongoing engagement will mean a never ending source of things to blog about.”

3. Social Not Panning Out? How to Cut Your Losses Without Killing the Channel

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This is a unique challenge that happens more often than you might suspect. We asked Odden how SMBs should handle social channels that just haven’t worked out enough to justify ongoing management. Once you’ve given Facebook or Twitter an honest shot, is it better to delete the account if it’s not meeting your goals, continue without much of a presence, or is there another alternative?

Odden had some creative recommendations for SMBs, noting that he would approach it differently, depending to what the goal was and what social platform was being used.

“On Twitter, I might just discontinue manually posting to the account and determine it to be a source of news information,” he said. In order to accomplish this, Odden told us he would do a relevant query on Google News, take the RSS feed of the search results for that query and run it through Twitter feed and populate the account with news stories once or twice a day.

“I’d still check the account once a day for engagement opportunities, but I’d probably not kill it if it can continue to provide some value,” he offered. He would only consider deleting the account if it could not provide value and there is no chance of it being used again.

He would approach a struggling blog differently, Odden notes.

“Then I might absorb the past posts into a resource center format without comments, but still organized by category. It would not look like a blog but more like a collection of articles on topics that would be useful to prospects and customers,” he said.

In this case, he would discontinue daily or weekly blogging but new articles could be added from time to time, possibly incorporated into a company newsletter or as bylined articles in industry media.

4. Drowning in Social Data? Learn to Track & Measure What Helps You Achieve Your Goals

Big companies have teams analyzing trends in their social data, measuring goals, making recommendations… where should a smaller business even begin?

“Optimize” offers insight into identifying goals that work in tandem with measurement.

“The first step in understanding social KPIs (key performance indicators) and business objectives is to establish what the goals are,” Odden said. “In many cases, goals might emphasize customer acquisition or revenue. There are other revenue oriented goals that can be affected by integrated SEO, social media and content marketing like the length of sales cycle, order volume, order frequency, per transaction profitability and referrals.”

Other goals covered in the book deal with increasing the effectiveness of PR objectives like awareness and building thought leadership. Yet other goals may augment content reach and effectiveness, for customer service or talent acquisition.

“The social KPIs worth measuring should help you track progress towards your goal,” Odden recommends. “For example, if you think better search ranking of optimized content will result in more qualified visitors and sales, then the things that affect ranking are KPIs worth tracking, such as inbound links, social shares and other SEO metrics.”

In another example Odden shared, he uses the premise that the number of unsolicited media pickups will increase if the brand can become present in the social streams and news feeds of key journalists and bloggers that cover the industry. In that case, he advises, you would work social engagement and content into your social media tactics. Social KPIs might be the number of retweets and shares of your targeted stories, the direct interactions with bloggers and media through comments, shared content and direct messages.

5. Stretched Too Thin? Try Working With Online Marketing Consultants

SMBs, in particular, may not be able to justify the overhead to hire online marketing talent to work in-house. What should they be looking for if they decide to outsource?

“The industry is mature enough that outside consultants should be able to show that they have experience implementing solutions and solving difficult problems using an intentional approach vs. social or SEO guesswork,” Odden said. “In many cases, it makes sense for a SMB to engage a consultant at a strategic level who can provide assistance with overall approach and oversight of implementation. For others, the need for niche expertise is what’s needed.”

Either way, he said, marketing professionals should be able to listen and understand the nature of the SMBs business problem and offer a thoughtful approach and tactics to solve it. Some things can be done by the SMB and some by the consultant.

For more of Odden’s tips and advice on integrating SEO, social media and content marketing, get “Optimize” online from Barnes & Noble or Amazon, or grab your copy in-store. If you have more SMB online marketing questions, let us know in the comments!

Source: http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2178858/5-Common-SMB-Online-Marketing-Optimization-Issues-Solved-QA-with-Lee-Odden

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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Online Marketers

New Year’s resolutions. Love ‘em, hate ‘em, you can’t hardly live without them. Even if you don’t write them down or announce them to the world, they’re there. We can’t help ourselves. There’s something about the start of a new year that makes us all decide it’s time to be better, smarter, richer, thinner or happier.

I can’t help you with the thinner or happier part, but here are 5 New Year’s resolutions that could make you a better, smarter, richer marketer.

1. I will listen to what my customers have to say.

The one great thing about social media is that it gives us instant feedback from customers. It’s not always what we want to hear, but it’s all valuable information. This year, make a vow to pay attention to what others are saying about you. Scan Twitter and Google for comments about your company and reply to folks where appropriate. Sure, you’ll find some whiners in the bunch, but if more people complain about slow shipping than praise your products, you need to look into it.

2. I will reward customer loyalty.

If you run a small business, you can’t compete with Amazon or Wal-mart in volume or price. What you can do is keep the customers you have by rewarding them for their loyalty. For brick and mortar businesses, use a check-in service to give discounts to returning customers. Online? Send out a bonus discount code to your regular shoppers. Or better yet, pop a free item into their next order. Doesn’t matter what it is, a sticker, candy, shoelaces — they’ll appreciate it.

3. I will allow my personality to show through.

It’s all well and good to represent your company online, but people want to do business with people, not corporations. Use social media accounts to converse, not just inform. Where appropriate, mention your favorite TV show, sports team win, or what you had for lunch. And don’t be afraid to let your sense of humor show through.

4. I will admit my mistakes without going overboard.

Part of showing your human side, is opening yourself up to criticism when you make a misstep. Chances are, it won’t even be your mistake. Maybe the CEO of your company let loose on Twitter with some unkind words. Perhaps a marketing stunt backfired? What ever happened, it happened. Use social media to apologize, make amends where you can them move on. It’ll blow over. I promise.

5. I will try something new.

This is both the simplest and the hardest resolution to keep. There are so many new ideas and options, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. What happens then? You fall back on the same routine because it’s comfortable and familiar.

So pick one idea and give it a shot. Maybe it’s designing a mobile app for your brand. Or creating a weekly YouTube video that highlights what you do. Maybe it’s starting a Google+ page or using Hangout to create a focus group.

Your idea might fail. It might be too expensive or too difficult to manage. Or it could be a whole new source of revenue, an enlightening experience or the inspiration you need to take your company to the next level. You won’t know until you try.

What’s on your marketing To Do list for the new year? We’d love to hear about it.

Ocean Marketing Gets the YouTube Treatment

Ocean Marketing is the talk of the Internet at the moment, thanks to some really, really poor customer service techniques. The story was documented by WebProNews earlier today, and as the fallout continues from Ocean Marketing’s actions, the company is getting lampooned again and again on a number of sites.

You know a topic has hit the critical mass when its parodied on YouTube, much in the manner Ocean Marketing is in the following video (warning, NSFW language):


Now, if you missed the story, the video may not make as much sense as it would to those familiar with the meme, but rest assured, while it is in parody form, the video captures the mood — and Ocean Marketing’s actions — quite well. You can read about how the incident started over at Penny Arcade. An example of how the company in question corresponds to its customers, which led directly to the incredible amount of ridicule Ocean Marketing and/or Ocean Strategies is receiving (emphasis is ours):

LOL Thanks for the Free PR I know the Editor N Chief of Kotaku , IGN , Engadget I’ll be meeting them at CES .The noise complaint was for people high up on the food chain in a corporate world of real estate you have no clue about. Thanks for the Rice Rocket Compliment too love me some motorcycle . Send that over to Engadget you look like a complete moron swearing and sending your customer service complaints to a magazine as if they will post it or even pay attention do you think you’re the first or the last what are they going to do demand us to tell you were your shipment is or ask for a refund on your behalf … Really … Welcome to the Internet ? Son Im 38 I wwebsite as on the internet when you were a sperm in your daddys balls and before it was the internet, thanks for the welcome to message wurd up. Grow up you look like a complete child bro. I Don’t have my controller so im gonna cry to the world … Really ?? Hey take that free time and do something more productive. All you had to do was check the like everyone else , people have inquired but you’re the douchiest of them all…

One wonders if this is the same strategy WalMart used when they were taking over the department store world. I mean, did the now infamous Paul Christoforo actually think a customer this committed to tracking down a product they paid for would remain silent after such a response? If so, it’s amazing Ocean Marketing or whatever they’re called now succeeded enough to get one client, let alone one good enough to catapult them to Internet infamy.

Source: http://www.webpronews.com/ocean-marketing-gets-the-youtube-treatment-2011-12

Optimize: 5 Essential Customer Touchpoints for Online Marketers

Source: http://www.toprankblog.com/2011/08/optimize/

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A lot of self-centered corporate marketing is giving way to customer-centric ways of communicating the value of doing business.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot in terms of online marketing and have been sharing these ideas through client content marketing strategy. At the same time, more companies are actively seeking expertise with a customer-centric approach to content.

One area of change is search engine optimization and going after the most popular keywords (relevant to products & services) and optimizing to attract customers. The assumption is that the search result will compel users to click and the destination page visit results in a conversion.

Before search, there are many other behaviors to consider that influence the consumer’s confidence in what they find. It’s a lot more complex than needing something, searching, finding & buying with no other influences.  I believe you can optimize for those influences.

To that end, here’s an approach to better understanding how consumers/buyers move about the web and opportunities for marketers to connect, engage and inspire commerce.

1. Discovering

(Searching, Asking, “Social Surfing”) – How do consumers, especially the audience or customer segments you’re after, find new content? How do they seek information?  To what extent do they search for resources in combination or instead of tapping into knowledge within their social networks?

Getting a handle on your customer’s discovery behaviors is an important step in meeting their information needs. This is a fluid thing, it’s not static and marketers need to maintain their knowledge of these customer preferences.

2. Consuming

(Reading, Watching, Listening) – To what extent do your customers use computers vs tablets or mobile to consume content?  What formats of information do they prefer?  Are there media or content types in favor such as long form text vs. nuggets, or video vs. images or audio?  Which content formats do they respond best to at the varying stages of their relationship with your brand?

The value of knowing information formats and consumption goes far beyond lead generation, since brands and customers communicate for a variety of reasons throughout the life cycle.

3. Creating

(Authoring, Developing, Any Kind of Media) – Are your customers part of the elite minority that create media and content online? How can the brand recognize that effort? How can they empower it and facilitate it towards a mutual end benefit?

Creation of content is also an important consideration for the brand marketer of course, since content marketing provides a solid base for SEO and blends well with social media marketing efforts. Creating content of relevance by understanding consumer interests, pain points and needs is essential. Co-creation with a brands social community can reveal tremendous mutual value.

4. Curating

(Aggregating, Collecting, Mash-up, Repurposing) – If your target audience curates information, where do they collect content? What tools to they use? What topics are they curating and how can your brand become a favorite? What formats are they prone to save, share and mashup?

As with creation, content curation is an opportunity for brands as well. Thought leadership efforts through news curation can be very effective and the sheer volume of new content being published online (5 exabytes of data every 2 days) means there’s opportunity to be a lighthouse of useful signal amongst a growing sea of noise.

5. Engaging

(Commenting, Rating, Reviewing, Promoting, Asking/Answering, Connecting) – How do your customers engage with the content they discover and consume?  Do they interact with it and how? Do they share?  Which social sharing services, buttons and bookmarking services to they prefer?

Understanding consumer engagement preferences will help brand marketers plan and promote content in ways that will inspire interaction and sharing. Engagement is also an invaluable source of feedback for ongoing social content management as well as ideas for content.

Conclusion

I’m a firm believer that Discovery, Consumption, Creation, Curation and Engagement are essential components for effective Online Marketing programs. I think you’ll see a lot more strategic discussion about these concepts as they related to online marketing channels like SEO, Social Media Marketing and Content Marketing. Thinking of things more in terms of the varied ways consumers interact with and are inspired to act by online content also best reflects our current point of view at TopRank Marketing.

I’ll be digging deep into strategies and tactics associated with these 5 concepts in an upcoming book I’m writing called “Optimize”, that will be published by Wiley early next year. Once the Amazon and BN pages are up and online, I’ll be sure to share them here.

I’d love your thoughts on this model of approaching Content, Social Media and SEO.

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