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Fresh Thinking

All posts by Amy Kramer

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Small business owners: Give search engines and your customers what they want

By | News | No Comments

The search engine optimization landscape is always evolving. Google and Bing are constantly updating their algorithms to help people get the information they want.

The search engines are getting smarter and smarter. Gaming the system is not a long-term option and is getting less and less possible: online press releases have been devalued, guest blogging has gotten sites penalized, and content sharing services have been blacklisted.

Who wants to risk get delisted by Google? Not you.

Where does that leave your small business and search engine optimization?

In the position to set yourself apart from your competition by becoming an authority in your niche. Here are a few ways you can do that:

1. Create and share valuable content:
Write content that’s specific and relevant to YOUR customer. Make the content useful and not sales-oriented. Share it on social media, via email, shout it from the rooftops.

2. Grow links to your site:
Take advantage of the associations and organizations that you’re a member of. Many associations will let you add your link to an online profile, write an article for their email newsletters or websites, or share news online. Create a starter outreach list with your professional organizations, your alma mater, and local Chamber of Commerce.

3. Own your user review profiles:
Yelp and Google Places are just two of the sites where customers can review businesses. Be sure you have ownership of your listings on these two platforms and fill them out completely – images, business description, website address, hours of operation, everything. Find the review sites that are right for your niche. For example, AngiesList.com is terrific for services and TripAdvisor is important for hospitality. Once you have your account, you have the ability to respond to reviews and control (and correct) the information being shared.

These three steps can take to help grow the authority of your small business website and help your search engine optimization. Questions? Ask them in the comments.

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SMX West – Search Marketing Takeaways

By | News | No Comments

Last week, I went to the Search Marketing Expo and Conference in San Jose. This is probably the most important SEO conference in the nation, and one attended by important leaders in search marketing from Google, Bing, and other companies.

A few key takeaways:

1. Link building is shifting to link earning
Google has publicly said that most link-building tactics will not help your search rankings. Gone are the days of blog comment linking, empty press release linking and guest blogging. These tactics can harm your search rankings rather than help. Your links now need to be earned. If you create and share valuable content, others will share it and link to it. You can guest blog – if you are blogging on a credible site that has relevancy to your blog topic.

GET THIS: Google tested their algorithm not including links and the results weren’t very good. So links will continue to matter for the foreseeable future but reputation needs to be earned.

2. Exact phrase matching for SEO is a thing of the past
Now that Google no longer provides search keyword data for non-paid search and Yahoo is starting not to provide this data, you don’t have enough info to see what searches are driving your traffic. Now you need to look at your landing page – a page that is optimized for a specific service, product, or keyword. You can see when traffic directly arrives on that page – where that visitor goes and what they do.

You can make some assumptions as to what they searched for in order to arrive on that page. If a landing page is getting the results you want, create and share more content about that product, service or keyword.

3. Invest in strategy, not tactics
Think about Google’s intent. Does your strategy match Google’s intent of providing relevant searches? Be the brand that people come to for information. Share relevant, shareable experiences. A content marketing strategy is key.

Rather than focusing on keywords, focus on your audience: who they are, and what they want.

4. Google+ is important
You and your brand must be on Google+ and all of your Google products need to be connected. Although Google says +1s don’t currently affect public Google search rankings, they do if it’s with someone you are connected with on Google+.

Google is committed to Google+ . You should get involved in strong social circles on Google+ and grow your bio there.

HINT: Add links in your bio on your blog and website to your Google+ profile.

The SEO landscape is evolving. Google and Bing want to provide results that help their searchers. If your brand and content provide value, then you will rank well. If you try to game the system, there are consequences. Need help? Have questions? Ask me.

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The end of guest blogging, keyword articles and link building

By | Change, Content Marketing, SEO | No Comments

Sounds rather ominous, doesn’t it?

Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, has declared that if you’re using guest blogging for link building, you should “stick a fork in it.” Matt also slammed article directories as a link-building tactic.

Google and Matt’s reasoning is that something that started as an authentic way to increase a website and author’s reach and authority has become spammy. Too many have taken advantage of the guest blogging and article directory link benefits and ruined it for everyone.

Believe it or not, now there are guest post and keyword article generators, websites you can pay to play, and even folks who will pay you to put their post on your blog.

Matt shared, “There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future.”

But he also said, “So there you have it: the decay of a once-authentic way to reach people. Given how spammy it’s become, I’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward.”

What does this mean? It means that Google will devalue these types of links and, in the future, these types of links might even hurt your search rankings.

What’s the solution? Fabulous content and earned links.

How do you do that? Create terrific, relevant, valuable content and put it on your blog or website regularly. Share that content everywhere – Facebook, LinkedIn, your email newsletter. If your content is good, people will read it, share it, link to it and talk about it. This is how you earn the links and engagement that can help your search engine rankings.

There’s also the benefit of having greater keyword density on your website. This means using keywords that people would use when searching for a business or service like yours.

Plus you’ll be regularly adding relevant content to your website that will make it website and your blog a destination, giving people a reason to visit regularly and stay longer – which is also a search engine ranking booster.

The truth is, it’s not easy to create good content. Search engine optimization and content creation require art, not just science. Blog posts and website content that get search engine rankings now need to be longer and juicier. You need substance, not just style.

To help with search, you need to write pieces that set you apart from your competitors and position you as a thought leader and authority. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Some posts need to be long – like 750-1000 words long
  • Write a mix of types of posts – opinion, how-tos, and news
  • Include the keywords people will use when searching for a company like yours
  • Look at your list of keywords for inspiration if you don’t know what to write about
  • Do it
  • Do it again next week

Not everyone is equipped with the ability to do all of this writing and sharing. Need a content strategy or help? Let me know.

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Social media cannot replace your website

By | News | No Comments

You are incredibly excited by social media. I get it. I am too. Social media provides new opportunities for you to reach out to new audiences and connect on a deeper level with your clients, customers and prospects.

On Facebook or Twitter, you are capturing a “like” or “follower.”

Is that money in the bank? Not completely. There are Facebook apps that allow for eCommerce and data capture but you might need to invest a small fortune on development.

social media

Don’t get me wrong, there is serious value to your like and follower base. These folks have opted in to hear from you on a regular basis. You have the chance to prove your mettle and show your stuff on a daily basis. Earn your follower’s trust and make them like you even more. You can have full conversations and exchanges that weren’t previously possible.

But your Facebook fans and Twitter followers will click to your website when they want to take the next step. Your website must be the most comprehensive place for content about your business.

140 characters might not be enough to make the sale but it can be what it takes to get the click.

Social media drives traffic to your website. Your website needs to close the deal.

Keep it current and make it action-oriented (sign up, call us, buy now). Keep using social media but don’t neglect your website.

Social media cannot replace your website.

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Is it time for a change?

By | News | No Comments

I was talking with a client who had a marketing concept she’d been using on her blog for almost 6 months with tremendous success. Recently, it stopped working. Comments dried up. Traffic slowed down.

I asked her what changed? The answer was,

“Nothing. Nothing changed.”

Aha! In six months, nothing had changed. We figured out the problem pretty quickly.

With internet marketing, you need to keep things fresh, keep your audience on their toes and wanting more. If they know what’s coming week after week, they are probably going to get bored. And a bored audience is not an engaged audience.

Shake up your marketing

photography by Azoome

Even the best marketing campaigns have a life span. Recognize when you need to shake it up.

Have you been marketing the same way for months, years, decades? Change it up.

If you are mostly doing search engine marketing, add social media to the mix. If you are doing ads in local papers, add email marketing.

Take a close look at your marketing. Could you use a change?

How you are shaking up your marketing?

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Some Flickr tools

By | Design | No Comments

Flickr is a great way to keep your website photo gallery current as well as a bevy of other social marketing benefits:

  • Search engine optimization. Tag your images with keywords and fill in your profile with your website or blog address.
  • Share images. People want to see what they’re getting, and you want them to see (and get) you.
  • Provide free images. You can find free images (for use on your blog or other marketing) under Creative Commons by Attribution license.
  • Promotions. You can hold photo or image contests, and use the system to collect submissions.
  • Drive traffic to your site. When people search for images, your images will come up on Google, Yahoo, and other search platforms.

Recently, a number of friends and clients have asked how they can embed their Flickr photo sets on their website or blog. Following is a handful of tools to help you get a slideshow on your website or blog:

And here’s how you can embed the slideshow directly from Flickr.

Please share any additional suggestions in the comments below. We’d love to know about more options!