How To Use Google Plus Like A Marketing Pro

Google Plus. The very name evokes comments about “Google’s failed attempt at social media,” how the platform is “barren as the Sahara desert” and jokes, including “Only Google employees are using it.” Don’t fall for any of these ruses. Though Google Plus might not ring out as the social media platform of choice for the masses, it’s actually the most valuable platform for your business.

While Twitter is now largely overrun with marketers, and Facebook and Instagram slug it out as the platforms of choice for the narcissists, Google Plus is a data-rich vehicle teeming with information that can instantly help your business by allowing you to easily spy on competitors, join communities to uncover the language they’re using to find your products/services and discern what content types likely have the most value for your needs.

These are but a few of the uses that highlights Google Plus as the super platform for your business. The infographic below contains far more in-depth information of how you can immediately start using Google Plus like a pro, leaving the competition in the dirt in the process. Scroll to the bottom of the page for additional Google Plus resources.

(Click on infographic to expand)  Infographic PlusYourBusiness.com

useg+
Additional Resources:

Google Carousel Results Appear to Be Expanding

Love them or hate them, it appears that Google’s carousel results are starting to show up in more places. We’re seeing them show up more consistently on searches they weren’t on before.

Los Angeles Hiking

Some of the results are pretty horrible though. Most of these are not National Parks…or even parks at all for that matter.

Arizona National Parks

We’re keeping an eye on the results and if we see frequency increase some more, we’ll look into expanding our SERP reporting for those packs.

7 Small Things That Can Add Big Value To Your Daily Work Life

Simple-work

Let’s face it, chasing Google all day is exhausting. There’s blogs to write, keywords to track, web pages to design and edit, employees to manage, meetings to run, emails to check, social media platforms to manage and—well, you get the point. If you’re like most people, you find yourself wishing there was more time to do the little things that really mattered.

Well, now you can.

We surveyed our team to uncover a handful of quick and easy tips they use to add value, meaning to what can be an otherwise hectic work day.

Here’s 7 things that require less than five minutes each but can have a significant impact while bringing cheer to your day and/or someone else’s.

1). Be Nice

The next time you’re in line at your local Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, ask the person behind you what they are having, then buy it for them. They’ll thank you and likely ask your name. They’re also likely to ask what you do. Don’t put on your sales hat. Simply tell them, have a brief chat and walk away. Almost certainly they will look you up in LinkedIn or via a Google search query. The bonhomie could resonate when/if they ever need your services.

2). Send an Email

Before email was the bane of our existence, it was new, fun and exciting. Let’s go back in time: At least twice a week send a former co-worker or acquaintance a “catching-up” email. Maybe it’s to share a joke, an image of the two of you singing karaoke at the holiday party or to remind them of something funny that happened during your time together.

3). Send a Thank You Note

Everyone hates snail mail, but it does have it’s uses. Buy a box of blank thank you notes and some postage stamps. Then, at least once a week send a hand-written thank you note to someone who’s helped you or your business in a meaningful way. It could be the trainer at the gym, the accounts payable person at a vendor or a staff member in your office.

4). Phone a Friend

Busy work lives often mean we don’t connect often enough with family and friends. Fix that problem today by committing to, once a week at least, taking five minutes out of your day to reach out a close friend or family member you don’t do a good enough job of connecting with.

5). Answer a Question

While you’re checking Twitter, type a hashtag commonly used for your vertical into the search field and look for any questions you might be able to answer. The personal touch could go a long way.

6). Stand, for Something

You’ve heard all the talk about sitting all day is killing desk jockeys, and how everyone needs a standing desk. That’s a whole lot of hooey. What’s really ideal is to change your posture frequently. Every 20 to 30 minutes, stand up and take a short walk; reposition yourself in your chair, keeping your chest up and your head back with chin tucked; or do one of several stretches at your desk. You’ll feel better and move better as well.

7). Open Up

When time is a valued commodity, office conversations grow curt and infrequent. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. At least once a day, take a walk around the office and talk to someone new. Don’t worry if you’ll have anything in common or that they’ll be long-winded. Because you initiated the conversation, you can more easily cut it off.

So try this: Engage in conversation for a three to four minutes, then when you’re ready for it to end, politely say, “I’m glad we had the chance to talk/catch up, let’s do it again soon,” then shake hands and walk away.

Final Thoughts

Work doesn’t have to be synonymous with drudgery. You can make each day worthwhile, for yourself and others, and do so without much of a time commitment.

What are some simple tips you apply to add meaning, value to your day?

The 3 Questions You Must Ask Before Outsourcing Content

Outsourcing

You have a digital marketing firm handling search, social and analytics, and you’re happy with the work they’re doing so far. The design agency you hired is producing fabulous creative for the website and ancillary materials. And, the conversion-rate optimiization outfit the CMO reluctantly gave you budget for is working out nicely, helping you put insight to analysis, an area that had been woefully missing in painting the holistic picture you desire.

But what about content? Should outsourcing content be next on the list?

The answer is “it depends.”

It depends on…

  • The outfit you choose to handle the task
  • Who’ll actually be writing the content
  • Your willingness to ensure the content meets your needs
  • The goals of the content (e.g. quality? quantity? both?)
  • The bandwidth of your staff to create content

Proceed Cautiously When Outsourcing Content, The Lifeblood Of Your Business

The “who-should-we-trust-to-handle-our-content” question comes up often. Unfortunately there is no easy answer.

  • Go in one direction, and you loose an element of control
  • Go in another direction, and you saddle your staff with additional responsibility they might be ill-equipped to handle

In the ideal situation, your company should produce its own content. That should be the long-term goal.

Those words come from someone who gets paid to write and provide content strategy, but who also sees far too often that the quality of content being added to most websites ranks somewhere between a “C-minus” and a “F.”

Those words are not meant as a knock against agencies providing content. Those words are born of having spent hundreds of days looking at millions of words of copy on thousands of websites, many of which had entrusted agencies to create the content posted online. It’s not that agencies can’t produce quality content; it’s that outsourcing content is a big deal, one that requires proper safeguards be established to get the information you need.

So how do you ensure the content being created for your site makes the grade when you must outsource it?

By asking any agency following three questions:

Do you have a team of content writers on staff? Contrary to popular belief, many (likely most) digital marketing agencies don’t have a team of writers on staff to handle your content needs. They’re outsourcing the work to freelancers and, most often, “content mills,” who can work fast and are cheap. Problem is, fast and cheap aren’t often synonymous with quality. Your website could be left holding the bag for thin content, which Google, as we know, frowns upon.

How do you protect yourself? Ask your agency contact who’ll be producing the content, what experience they have in your vertical and what quality control measures are in place. If you sense any apprehension at these questions, run. Also, make the agency aware that you’ll be keeping a close eye on the content being added to the site; any decline in quality will be met with an immediate phone call. Better yet, apprise them that you’ll have someone evaluating content on a week-to-week basis, and you’ll have a member of your staff go over that report with your agency contact via Skype or Google Hangout bi-weekly.

How are you planning to measure the performance of the content, and at what intervals will it be measured? Everyone is hooked on the shareability of content—content worthy of being shared. But what you really care about is content that gets shared and that’s worthy of being linked to. No, not all content created for your website will be link-worthy, but some of it absolutely should be. Don’t fall for the “social signals is the new links” B.S., which many agencies are selling. “We’ll make sure the social sharing buttons are prominently placed on every blog, so you get social signals/links when folks share it.” Really?

How do you protect yourself? Ask about the overall strategy for producing content; their keyword strategy; how they plan to cater to semantic search queries; the process for outlining a plan to create linkable content. Every piece of content created for your website should be a part of a larger content plan. For example, blogs should highlight your main products and services, with links to one from the former to the latter, in addition to links to related FAQs. What’s more, those blogs should be linked to similar blogs, providing a trail for readers to follow, whereby they gain more comfort with the brand as they easily access information related to their needs.

Some of these blogs should be meatier, long-form pieces worthy of links, too.

Also, there should be benchmarks in place to measure your content against on a month-to-month basis. Ask how often content campaigns will be measured for effectiveness. Anything longer than 90 days is unacceptable.

What’s the objective with regard to the content you produce for our business? Peruse enough websites, and you start to wonder “What’s the purpose here?” or, worse, “Was there ever any purpose here?” Your business cannot afford to fall into either camp. To many agencies your content needs are far down on the list of priorities, owing to SEO being their main offering. And when you ask “What’s your goal for our content?” you’ll likely hear “To help your business get found by the search engines.” If you hear this, sprint, don’t walk or jog, away. That is a goal, but not the goal. The goal of any content created for your website must be to help drive conversions.

How do you protect yourself?  Make your contact aware that the work they do for your company does not exist in a silo. It has an important role just like finance, HR, sales and all of the other departments. Just like those other departments, there are objectives the content is expected to meet, and when those goals are not met, you’ll expect answers. Additionally, be very wary of any agency that handles your content but does not take the time to really get to know your business inside and out. They should commit to a twice-yearly visit, whereby they meet and interact with your staff, and ask questions about problems you face, who your main competitors are, what they can do better to nudge you toward your goals, etc.

As you can see, outsourcing content is not a task to be taken lightly. Any agency or individual assisting with these efforts should be looked at as a partner helping move your business forward. That’s a level of responsibility all parties must comprehend.

What are your thoughts on going outside the company for content? Any experiences you care to share?

Your Days Of Struggling With Content Creation Are Over

overcome-struggleI hate keywords. Yes, I just wrote the words that could very well get me kicked out of content marketing. You know what? Your prospects hate keywords, too. If you doubt those words, visit Google Analytics and look at your main product/service pages, then look for pages with the highest bounce rates.

Now visit the top three pages on this list.

You likely see something that reads like this: “Looking for cupcakes in Las Vegas? ABC cupcakes has the best cupcakes in Nevada.” Plug your products in for cupcakes, and you get the idea. I’ve audited websites with pages stuffed with 85 exact match keywords in 800 words of text.

This isn’t the “olden days” of SEO, so why are you still writing pages that read like they were written for the monster from The Odyssesy, not for humans? Please don’t say you’re writing to appease the Google robots. You think a company with a market capitalizing of nearly $400 billion doesn’t have sufficient technology to see through such crap?

They do, and so does your prospects, who likely never return after encountering such pages. There’s a better, easier path to successful content creation.

You Say Keywords, I Say Hummingbird

HummingbirdI don’t hate keywords because they are wholly ineffective; I hate keywords because of how they are often used:

  • As if they are the be-all and end-all for organic search and
  • To an extent that ignores the needs of potential customers

To create content that moves the needle for our businesses, we must move beyond keywords and cater to the language prospects are using in organic search when looking for similar products and services.

When Google dropped in a supercharged new engine, Hummingbird, late last year, they gave content marketers a huge leg up with regard to content creation for their businesses.

With Hummingbird, conversational speech is now a biggest part of search queries, which should serve to make the searches more accurate.

Whereas in the past, a search for “The closest bakery that sells cupcakes on my house?” might have singled out only “sells” and “cupcakes,” now such a search is expected to take into account the likely intent of the user and return a result that ties in the location of your residence, a physical bakery and one that carries cupcakes.

This is good news for you and your business, for you can now get to the meat of delivering the information prospects and existing customers are searching for.

A Simple Content Creation Plan That Yields Big Results

This is a plan I’ve seen be effective for businesses large and small.

  • Create a Google Spreadsheet that lists the main product/service categories of your business
  • Share the document with everyone in the company, asking that they list questions they’ve been asked by prospects and customers under one or more of the product/service category headings
  • When you’ve amassed a handful of questions under one or more of the  headings, you’re ready to start creating content

Let’s say one of the questions reads like this: “How long will a mattress last?”

You could create a blog post: “How Long Should My Mattress Last?”

That turns into a blog series:

  • “How Long Should My Mattress Last?”
  • “What Can I Do To Extend The Life Of My Mattress?”
  • “Does Turning My Mattress Help It Last Longer?”
  • “Should I Expect A More Expensive Mattress To Last Longer?”
  • “What’s The Best Way To Safeguard My New Mattress From Spills?”

That becomes an eBook: “The Five Things Everyone Asks After Buying A New Mattress?”

As you can see, this goes well beyond keywords, and the content you’re able to create extends well past blogs.

What I’ve seen is that once the Google Spreadsheet is created, team members continue to add questions daily or weekly, ensuring you never run out of ideas.

In addition to relying on the questions of team members, a few other places you should look include:

  • Social media – (e.g., plug in your main keywords into the search function of the platform of your choice)
  • Forums – (e.g., become an active participant on the forums in your vertical)
  • Review and discussion boards – (e.g., these are full of nuggets from community members hungry for information)
  • In-person conversations – (e.g., use a notepad or Evernote to jot down questions and comments you hear from friends and acquaintances)

Two quick points…

I’m in no way suggesting you turn away from keywords entirely. The plan of attack I outline is meant as an addendum to an overarching keyword strategy. Also, I’d would highly recommend you look into the Keyword Eye Tool, a new tool with a cool feature, Question Finder, that gathers informational queries from organic search. Matthew Barby has thoroughly covered the tool (see below), and I’ll be taking a closer look at it in the near future.

After reading this blog, I hope it’s a little more clear that you and your staff can create the content that compels customers to seek out your business.

I’d love to hear similar strategies you’re using successfully.

Data Visualization Guide for Marketers

My goal for this guide is to show Internet marketers how they can use all of the various types of charts and graphs at their disposal to visualize their data and find actionable insights. I used Annie Cushing’s MozCon 2014 presentation and her Comprehensive Guide to Excel Charts for Marketers video, along with Microsoft’s guide for available charts in Excel to compile this manual.

Column & Bar Charts

Column charts are best for data that is not continuous and is better shown separate.

“For the most part, the column chart is my go-to chart.” – Annie Cushing

column chart

Bar charts work for the same situations as column charts, but should really only be used if axis labels are long.

bar chart

Line & Area Charts

Line charts can show continuous data over time, so they’re ideal for showing trends in data at equal intervals, like months, or years.

line chart

Stacked area charts are great for showing how different groups comprise a whole over time.

area chart

Pro Tip: Stacked line charts are hard to decipher, and are better as stacked area charts. Likewise, area charts can be misleading if they aren’t stacked.

Pie & Donut Charts

Pie charts are used for displaying data that adds up to 100%. The chart uses angles to show the relative size of each value.

pie chart

Donut charts use the length of an arc to indicate the size of the value. Donut charts are essentially the same as pie charts but they have a hole in the middle and categories can be shown separately to focus on their values.

—-donut chart

Radar & Scatter Charts

Radar charts can work well when comparing multiple data sets. Category labels are at the tip of each spine, with the incremental line values indicated.

radar chart

Scatter charts are great for comparing data series and seeing if they have a positive or negative correlation between their data points.

scatter chart

Pro Tip: Add a trendline to scatter charts to see the general correlation of data points.

Check out Annie Cushing’s Guide to Excel Charts for Marketers video to learn how to make all of the charts pictured above.

Crazy Cool Charts

These charts show unique ways to visualize data using some of the chart styles shown above.

  • Speedometer charts are nice for showing whether a data value is where your company wants it to be, or if it’s lagging in the danger zone.
  • Bullet column and bullet bar charts show progress against a goal with a target value and the actual value displayed.
  • Thermometer charts are another way to show progress against a goal. You would have the top value of the chart be your goal value and show the actual value represented by the mercury.
  • Two-sided bar charts allow you to compare two different data series side-by-side.
  • Scrolling charts are a cool solution for when you have a huge data set but don’t want an excessively wide chart. Horizontal scroll bars can work for line, area, and column charts while vertical scroll bars are great for long tables on dashboards.

That’s my basic overview of charts and some of the fun things you can do with them. If you’d like to delve deeper into data visualization, I highly recommend checking out Tori Cushing’s tutorials on pivot tables and pivot charts! You can also have visualizations made for you by the free data visualization tools listed in my previous blog post.