A Google+ Business Resource for Agencies and Consultants

I am a firm believer in educating clients, but I am also aware that there are often skeptical clients that can be difficult when a consultant is trying to explain the reasons behind doing one thing or another. Every once in awhile a resource will come along that I think could be helpful for agencies and consultants because they are simple enough for the non-online marketing folks to understand.  Today I want you to look at this infographic by Milestone Insights on Google+ Best Practices for Businesses.

There are some great suggestions, but more importantly it will show businesses what has to happen to handle this social network correctly. I think it is a good way to show that the business will need the right person in place or will need to hire someone that can handle the job correctly for them. I think it is also an indicator that time and effort will be required for success.

Also, check out How to Build Your Brand with Google+ Hangouts On Air. I think it is a great resource as well.

Click to expand infographic.

HowtoUseGoogleforBusiness

 

 

Unleash The Power Of Gmail On Your Business In 10 Easy Steps

Power

Let’s face it, each time you hear “You need a blog,” “All your competitors are on social media,” or “Google’s latest algorithm…,” your eyes glaze over and you wonder, under your breath, “When will I have the time to worry about any of this stuff?”

We feel your pain. As a small business owner with too much to do, squeezing more tasks onto a to-do list that already looks like Lindsay Lohan’s rap sheet is not going to happen.

But, what if we gave you a simple way to more effectively use a tool you already have at your disposal? What if we told you the tactic would take less than 10 minutes a week, but has been shown to be one of the most effective content marketing ideas and applications? Interested?

We thought so.

Using Email the Way It Was Meant To Be Used

The tool is email. (Stop rolling your eyes!) But the tactic we’re referring to is using it as a relationship-building growth engine for your company.

Everyone uses email, but not everyone uses it to its full potential. Most use it out of necessity: to correspond with co-workers, employees or vendors; to touch base with friends or family members; or to contact a prospect for potential work.

What few of us do, however, is use email to grow the business with our existing client base, by using the medium as a touch point to enhance rapport and build top-of-mind awareness.

Gmail’s “Canned Response” function allows you to create and save common messages that can be shared later to different parties, averting the need for separate emails for the same or similar audiences.

For example, say you always send a personalized note to your main vendors at the first of each month, but you’d rather not have to blind copy everyone. Using canned responses, you can save messages for each group and then send them at your leisure, only needing to change the name and the email address each time.

There are numerous benefits to using Canned Responses

  1. Saves time from having to send separate emails.
  2. More personal than blind copying everyone on an email.
  3. Makes it possible to stay connected with important parties without a huge investment of time.
  4. Is one of the most effective but underutilized methods of marketing for businesses.
  5. You can save messages for any and all audiences.

The Nuts And Bolts Of Canned Responses

All you need to get started is a Gmail account. Follow these simple steps:

1. Log in to your Gmail account and click on the sprocket on the right side of the screen. (This is the Default Inbox view.)

 Gmail Canned Response

 2. You’ll then get a drop down menu. Click the “Settings” button.

Gmail Canned Response

3. You’ll then be taken to the “Setting” page, where you’ll find and click on “Labs” at the top of the page.

  Gmail Canned Response

 4. Click to “Enable” Canned Responses.

 Gmail Canned Response

 5. Save your changes at the bottom of the page, and you’re almost done.

Gmail Canned Response

6. Hit “Compose” and you’re cooking with grease.

 Gmail Canned Response

7. Type up your message, leaving the “To” “Subject line” and “name” blank in the email. Again, the purpose of using a canned response as opposed to a “Blind Copy” email is to create personalized messages for people without having to create each one separately. So once the message is created, all you have to do before sending it is adding name, “To” and a subject.

I created the message below for retailers I worked with, but you can create one for each group of vendors you work with frequently and want to build a rapport with. Such emails take 5 to 10 minutes to craft but are worth their weight in gold.

 Once the message is complete, click on the upside-down triangle at the bottom of the message.

  Gmail Canned Response

 8. Click Canned Response on the bottom right, then you’ll see a new dropdown menu open above it. Click “New Canned Response.”

  Gmail Canned Response

9. You’ll get a prompt to name the message. Click “OK,” and you’ve just created your first Canned Response.

 Gmail Canned Response

10. The next time you compose a message and click on the upside down triangle, you’ll see your message along with options to insert, delete or save it. To create a message using a saved response, simply click “Insert.”

Gmail Canned Response

Using Email Smartly to Grow Worthwhile Connections

Now that I’ve bored you to tears with the setup—which, honestly, takes less that 45 seconds—l want to share how you can use such messages to set your business apart.

Everyone talks about texting, social media and whatever app they use as a business hack. But you know what? Your customers and clients crave a human touch more than anything. They don’t have time to read lengthy emails or to field 20-minute phone calls.

However, they do have time to read three lines of text. Also, they want to do business with people who take the time to form a connection with them, who reach out to them at times other than when there’s a sale to be made. What’s more, you owe it to yourself and your business to make the time to craft such messages, even if it’s only one a month.

Greasing the Skids

When I worked as a B2B magazine editor, 60 percent of my job was “sales”, which included staying in touch with clients, greasing the skids for my sales team. So each day, without fail, I’d send a minimum of two personal notes to vendors, clients and sundry people in the industry. Many of these folks were never going to do business with my company, but that didn’t matter. My goal was to ensure that no matter what company my salespeople called on, the person on the other end of the phone already knew they had an ally looking out for them and their business. It worked.

I once had the executive vice president for a client representing $2 million in business say to me, “I want you to know that the only reason I do business with your company is you. You go out of your way to help the people of this industry, and we want to support you.”

And it’s not just me that’s had success using this technique. I’ve interviewed some of the most successful sales people on the planet. Their secret? They never have to “sell” their existing client base. They spend the bulk of the year relationship building, so when it comes down to do business any impediments have long since dissolved.

Give Canned Responses a try in this way. I’m convinced they can work for you as well.

Why You Should Break Out of Your Niche

USPI used to love the word “niche.” It was so obvious to me that if you wanted to succeed with limited resources, you needed to find a sector of the market with few competitors. You needed to find a unique topic that you could be better than anybody else at. That way, you would be fighting a downhill battle.

Over time, I’ve learned that that’s not quite the case. It’s not exactly wrong, but it’s more of a “meh, yes and no” kind of thing.

The real issue is that the word “niche” can put us in the wrong frame of mind. It takes a good idea and pushes it to the extreme.

Worse, it puts the focus in the wrong place.

Why “Unique Selling Proposition” is Better than “Niche”

Alright. “Unique selling proposition” is a bit of a mouthful, and even “USP” takes longer to say than “niche.” But “niche” emphasizes the wrong thing.

When you think “niche,” you think about:

  • A specific subject matter
  • A specific corner of the web
  • A specific group of influencers

And those are too limiting. When you think “USP,” you think about:

  • A specific problem that people need solved
  • A specific mindset or subculture that would motivate people to solve the problem your way
  • A specific set of values

You might think that the word “niche” isn’t interfering with your ability to keep those things in mind, and might be right, to some extent.

But I’m willing to bet it’s having at least some influence on the way you approach building linkable assets and performing outreach.

Here’s why.

Most “Niche” Content isn’t Very Useful

Ouch.

It’s true though. A niche is, by definition, a limited subject. There’s only so much you can say about it. On occasion, maybe you’ll actually be able to say something entirely new about the subject. When you do, you’ll be able to get some attention.

But, usually, most of what you say has been said before in that niche. Sure, you can repackage it, recombine it, give it a different flavor, infuse it with a different emotion, and make it more fun to consume. Still, at the end of the day, what you’re saying isn’t new.

It’s Dumb to Pitch to Your Niche

The argument that “everything’s been done before” isn’t entirely off base. It’s okay to say things that have been said before, as long as you’re saying it in a new and interesting way, or combining it with other ideas to form intriguing connections.

The issue, though, is that if all of the ideas are coming from your niche, and then you’re pitching those ideas to your niche, you’re not going to get a whole lot of traction.

It’s easy to see why, too. You’re saying the same thing to the same people.

This is making your outreach very hard, and much harder than it needs to be. You are reaching out to experts who know almost everything there is to know about your niche. You are trying to convince them to take a look at a piece of content that probably doesn’t say anything they don’t already know. Something that is probably going to make them bored, and roll their eyes.

Granted, if you truly have something new to say in your niche, that’s different. But, again, that’s hard to do.

Why USP Content is More Useful than Niche Content

When you start thinking about your USP instead of your niche, you stop thinking about what subject you need to be writing about, and you start thinking about what audience you are writing for.

This audience doesn’t need to be united by a common interest in a specific subject. They only need to be united by a common type of problem, a common mindset, a common set of values, or some mixture of those three elements.

This gives you the freedom to explore a wide variety of subjects. With a virtually unlimited body of knowledge to work with, you’re free to find information that will actually surprise and delight your audience.

You won’t bore them by saying the same thing as all the other people in your niche, because you will have no niche.

Think about it. Shopify doesn’t promote their cloud-based POS software by writing a bunch of blog posts about cloud-based POS software. They blog about absolutely anything that is helpful for an ecommerce business owner. That’s not a “niche,” because it includes marketing, distribution, software, hardware, production, manufacturing, inventory, and on and on.

When you focus on a USP, your content is almost always also going to be more useful, creative, and novel than anything from a specific niche. New ideas almost always originate when you combine two or more ideas to arrive at something completely novel. There’s only so many ideas to combine within a niche. There’s an unlimited number of ideas to combine when your focusing on a USP.

Why a USP Makes Outreach Ten Times Easier

When you focus on a niche during outreach, you limit yourself to contacting experts on a specific subject, making it very difficult to reach out to them with anything useful that they don’t already know.

When you focus on a USP during outreach, you open yourself up to a much wider body of influencers.

Put another way, when you focus on niche, you end up contacting influencers who are probably your competitors. When you focus on your USP, you contact influencers who could become your customers.

Needless to say, it’s much easier to surprise and delight influencers who resemble your customers, as opposed to your competitors. It’s also not at all damaging for them to mention you on their site.

Stop looking for subject matter experts, and start looking for people who would actually find your content personally useful. There are far more influencers who will find your content useful than there are influencers in any specific niche.

All it takes is changing your mindset.

It’s that easy.

6 Ways You Should Be Using Ranking Data in AuthorityLabs

So you’re tracking keywords using AuthorityLabs and loving the reporting capabilities that we give you, but just aren’t quite sure of all the different ways you can leverage the interface. We’ve thrown together a quick list of ideas to help improve your rank tracking efforts. Take advantage of these tips and you will end up with better, more actionable data while also saving yourself countless hours of time.

Break Up Keyword Lists for Easier, More Focused Tracking

In AuthorityLabs, you can add the same domain or URL to track more than once. We actually recommend that you do because it allows breaking down of keyword lists into smaller, more manageable sets.

Let’s say you have a team of people working on the same site. Each team member has a topic they are focused on and those topics each have a set of keywords that are being targeted. You don’t want to mix all of those keywords into the same list because it potentially hides issues with some of the topics and you’ll waste time digging through long keyword lists trying to figure out what’s going on. Even worse, long keyword lists become unmanageable and are more likely to be ignored.

Split keyword lists

Another good reason for breaking down your keywords would be if your focus changes from week to week or month to month. Did you focus time on one section of your site in January? Add a new copy of your domain or URL with the different set of keywords you focused on and now you can see how January’s efforts progress. Do this for every week, month, or custom time period that you’re breaking efforts into. Tag the domains in our interface with the name of that time period and now you can quickly gather insights on how your work is paying off or where improvements can be made.

Monitor Different Cities or Zip Codes

As SERPs become more personalized based on location, it’s becoming increasingly important track results at the city or zip code level. When adding a domain, you have the option to search and choose a city or zip code that will be set when pulling data.

Make sure to track the most important locations, at a minimum. Add the domain once for each location and then group the domains. If you want to share the same keyword set for all locations, sync the domains and then add your keyword list to one of them. The system will automatically populate each domain in the group with the same set of keywords.

zip-code-tracking

We will automatically tag each domain or URL with the tracked city or zip code. This allows filtering by location and faster scanning of the dashboard to find the location you’re looking for.

Compare Rankings With Competitors

Competitive intelligence is an important aspect of any SEO campaign. If you’re not keeping an eye on at least the major players in your market, you’re missing out on some great insights. Maybe you’re dealing with something that’s seasonal and want to see when competing sites start their push, usually months ahead of time.

Competitors

You can easily track competitor rankings in AuthorityLabs by simply adding their domain just like you would add your own domain or URL. You can even get side by side comparisons for up to 5 domains by setting up a group and syncing the domains. Once the syncing is complete, just click on the name of the group to bring up a comparison page.

One thing to keep in mind is that we only count a keyword once per location. This means that if you want to track the same keyword for 10 different domains within the same city, we only count that as a single keyword. This is different from most other rank tracking tools and is a huge benefit for users of AuthorityLabs; especially for those who are tracking competitors or multiple sites on the same topic.

Share Reports Without A Login

Have you ever wanted to quickly share the current rankings of a site with someone? Maybe you have a client that you’d like to give access to ranking data but don’t feel like setting up a login for them. We have the perfect solution. Our “Public URL” feature is a secret, extremely secure way to share a report without needing a login. The combination of your account URL and a couple of hashed IDs is actually more secure and more difficult to guess than a standard username and password authentication. These URLs are not indexed or crawlable and can be reset at any time if you only want to share a report temporarily.

To find out the public URL for one of your domains, click on the “Options” button in the left sidebar while on a domain page. You will see a box at the top with the Public URL in it along with a refresh button to reset the URL. Click here see an example public URL.

Prioritize SEO Efforts

We recently added AdWords volume data to the interface. This allows easier prioritization of SEO efforts. If you see high traffic volume keywords that aren’t ranking or could be improved, those should probably take priority over lower traffic terms.

volume-data

With “not provided” being the norm these days, it can be difficult (or impossible) to figure out which terms are actually driving revenue. Use volume and ranking data along with comparisons of the ranked URL and entry page data from your favorite traffic analytics tool to gather insights on which pages are performing well and which keywords are likely traffic drivers for those pages. From there, determine the entry pages that result in the most goals, conversions, or revenue and focus efforts on the keywords the best performers should be ranking for.

Use Wildcards In Tracked URLs

Wildcards are a feature that’s been in our interface for a while now and some people have been making great use of them. They allow you to track a URL or group of URLs that have a common pattern within them without having to track a more broad URL than is necessary. For example, let’s say you have the following URLs that you want to track for a section of a site that is dedicated to finding plumbers in various cities:

domain.com/plumbers-in-phoenix.html
domain.com/plumbers-in-miami.html
domain.com/plumbers-in-new-york.html

You’ll want to separate out plumbing related keywords on the site and only track the URLs in your plumbing section. Rather than adding each and every page of that section as a separate URL, you can use a wildcard to cover all versions of the URL. In order to use a wildcard, you simply replace the section of the URL that varies with ((!wild!)). The above URLs would be all be tracked by adding the following as your domain in the interface:

domain.com/plumbers-in-((!wild!)).html

You can use the wildcard in place of subdomains, subfolders, and filenames.

If you’re already using AuthorityLabs, we hope that these tips will help you to organize your ranking data and save time using our interface. If you don’t have an account yet, get signed up for a free trial and start gaining valuable insights while saving time monitoring your site’s rankings.

Search Industry News Recap – Mar 28 2014

One thing our industry never stops doing is changing. A lot has gone in the last few weeks. So if you have been on vacation or hiding from the world here are some major headlines you might want to know about. We hope you have a great weekend.

Klout Sells for almost $200 Million – no joke!

Yes, that Klout was bought by Lithium Technologies, a provider of social customer experience solutions for the enterprise for nearly $200 million according to CNN Money. There has been a lot of different opinions on Klout in the past and they have recently made several changes in what appears to be an attempt to bring keep users more active. Lithium Technologies offers a variety of social-based products for businesses, so it will be interesting to see how they utilize Klout.

Google Goes all MMA on MyBlogGuest

Last week Google’s had of web spam made an announcement:

You can learn about what initially happened on Search Engine Land, but this wasn’t the end of it! Suddenly sites that had been a part of the network started getting penalized and the entire community chimed in (and not in good way). Here are some links you should check out.

At Pubcon NOLA we heard nothing but support for Ann Smarty and MyBlogGuest, but there are others that feel differently. Tell us what you think!

The IRS Says Bitcoin is Taxable

There for awhile all I heard was how great Bitcoin was, but as we have seen there have been several problems over the last couple of months. Now we are learning that many folks thought Bitcoin would help them avoid paying taxes (amongst other things. See more on CNN.

Facebook Buys Oculus, For $2 Billion

Yep, $2 Billion. There has been a lot of speculation about how this will change this massive social network and what it means for those using Facebook for marketing purposes. Marketers should keep an eye on stories relate to Oculus. We have all seen Facebook making lots of changes that, in my opinion, make the network less fun to use and more targeted to make money. I think the changes that are coming could potentially be the network’s downfall because they have somehow forgotten why people liked it in the first place.

Google’s Panda Granted a Patent on Ranking Search Results

Bill Slawski explains the latest about the new patent Google was granted.

Onstage at TED2014, Charlie Rose interviews Google CEO Larry Page

This is a very interesting interview. Where is Google going? Do you think they are going in the right direction?

Barry Schwartz’s News Recap

I don’t think you can stay notified about news in our industry if you don’t read Search Engine Roundtable. Barry Schwartz does a great video recap each week and he pretty much sums everything up quickly. I could link to all of his articles or you could just watch the recap (I think watching is easier, so here you go).

The MyBlogGuest Penalty: What It Means for You

Matt Cutts, the head of the Webspam Team at Google, has spent a lot of time the past couple years gunning for link networks, sites that exist solely to manipulate search engine rankings. But Cutts’ crusade isn’t stopping with penalizing the link networks, which are considered a seedy practice by most search engine optimization companies. Cutts recently struck at a different sort of network: the leading guest blogging platform, called MyBlogGuest.

myblogguest-logo-large

The community had been a haven for SEO specialists and bloggers where they could upload content they had written and field offers from bloggers to publish those posts. While participants were required to pay a fee to upload content, it was by no means a textbook link network or even a paid link scheme, in the traditional sense. It served to connect content providers with bloggers.

Google’s decision to penalize MyBlogGuest appears to have hurt many legitimate sites that accepted or benefitted from the site’s links. The search giant’s action is yet another reminder that there are no shortcuts in search engine optimization. Links must be high quality, and any outbound links should be carefully considered. Here’s what the takedown of MyBlogGuest means for business owners and webmasters.

Expanding Their Target Zone

Google has been going after link networks for some time, with Cutts leading that charge. For years, what mattered to Google in determining its search rankings was the quantity of links that a business received on the web. But the past several years, Google has become more focused on the quality of those links, and it’s begun punishing sites that essentially serve as an artificial ranking inflation service, putting up nothing but low-quality posts full of links to shady SEO company’s clients.

Google even reconfigured its search algorithm last year to value high-quality links over low ones, and every minute it’s working toward rooting out the link networks that, it argues, devalue legitimate mentions of businesses that should be determining which sites come up first in a search. For instance, if you’re looking for a plumber, the listings that comes up first should be those with good reviews and a great track record of success, not the one that paid the most for its SEO program. In essence it boils down to this: Google doesn’t want to run a popularity contest; it wants to run a talent contest.

Real Problem or PR Scheme?

Many businesses have employed these SEO tactics simply because it was the only way to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. With other companies employing link networks and seeing their search rankings soar, their competitors had little choice but to do the same. Once Google decided this was no longer a legitimate approach, these companies had to look for a new way to get their business out there, and MyBlogGuest seemed to be a happy compromise: A more straightforward approach to guest blogging.

After Cutts teased the penalty against the site, MyBlogGuest’s Ann Smarty took an interesting approach. She accused Google of targeting the site not because it poses any real threat to Google’s preferred way of search optimizing but rather to put fear into other sites. As she told Search Engine Journal: “Matt Cutts is using us for the PR game: To get more people scared. We are the hugest guest blogging brand out there: He could not have got more publicity by hitting anyone else.” Others agreed:

It’s an intriguing accusation. Certainly Google did get a ton of attention for going after MyBlogGuest, because it was a departure from the link networks it’s been targeting of late. It could be that, after months of laying out the same types of sites, Google wanted to generate headlines by going after a site considered more “legitimate.” And if that was its aim, it seems to have worked. People are now questioning what is and what isn’t considered a Google-acceptable form of search engine optimization, and they are worried about ticking off the powerful company by using even white-hat tactics that have become commonplace.

Learning Google’s Lessons

Confusing as the MyBlogGuest penalty may seem, there are some lessons to be gleaned from it, and here’s the most important one: Don’t try to cut corners. The smartest SEOs know that in the end, the only thing that will fuel a sustained traffic supply and ultimately, conversions, for their clients is using proven, Google-approved tactics that don’t put your client in any danger of penalty.

Here are a few things you can pursue without worry:

  • Focus on a human audience. Don’t worry about search engines and search engine optimization all the time. Think about how your copy reads and whether it will resonate with real people, rather than trying to get it picked up by the search bots. It’s still possible in this day and age to build strong traffic based on word of mouth.
  • Value quality over quantity. Invest in content marketing, secure in the belief that smart, useful information will help your business more than tossing a few keywords onto a site that may or may not be run by a legitimate blogger. For instance, a motorcycle lawyer might start a blog with news of interest to bikers, not simply promoting his business but providing a real service to riders.
  • Target smart keywords. Ethical SEO does not mean abandoning all search tricks; it simply means targeting the right ones. Have a few keywords that you target throughout your site for consistency’s sake, and use them in all your branded content. But make sure you’re not speaking “search-ese” (i.e., talking like a human Google search). That doesn’t read well on the page.
  • Pursue legitimate guest posts. There’s a reason why link networks thrived. The idea behind them, pumping up the number of links to your page, worked. But don’t use a link network to distribute your guest posts. Be selective and hook up with high-quality blogs that you’re proud to see your name associated with. Always be straightforward and honest in all your dealings.

As Google seems intent on teaching us, your mother was right. Honesty is the best policy, whether you’re in kindergarten or trying to generate more page views on the web.