04.22.12

SEO: How to Make Your Website “Google-friendly”

Almost 75% of all search engine traffic comes from Google. It’s important that you play by their SEO rules to get your website ranked and indexed properly. Google looks for two important things to qualify a site: content and relevance.

We’d all be richer than Bill Gates if we could figure out how to make a website appear number one in Google, but there are several basic SEO rules that that give your website a fighting chance.

Searchable and Unique Page Titles

The page title is the first thing Google reads. Make sure each of your pages has a different title that begins with a keyword related to your business. For example, a website for a home staging consultant with a homepage title of “Susan’s Designs in Tampa” tells Google nothing about what the business does. A good title would read, “Real estate staging in Tampa with Susan’s Interior Designs.”

HINT: Put yourself in the mind of a customer that might be looking for you. What words would they type into Google to find the services you provide? Write down 5 or 10 of these search terms or phrases and use them throughout different titles and pages in your site. They are your KEYWORDS.

Keyword-Rich Headings

After the page title, the next bit of web page text Google typically reads is the heading of the first paragraph. Most inexperienced web writers would write something like “About Susan’s Designs” as the first paragraph or topic heading. The more Google Friendly text should read “Real estate staging in Tampa for more than 15 years.” This way Google is beginning to understand that this page must be all about real-estate staging in Tampa (after reading the page title and first paragraph).

Good Keywords in the Copy

Google reads your page looking for validation of the first two instances of your keywords (Page Title and Heading). Make sure you include the same keyword or key phrase a couple of more times in the page especially in the first paragraph. Try, “I have been doing real estate staging in Tampa since 1995.” Bingo… Now Google correctly assumes what this page is about and is more likely to index it properly.

Be sure to create a different page title on every page. The easiest way is to pull from your list of keywords and use a different one to start the title of each page. If you can’t control your page title, be sure to ask your Webmaster to do it for you.

Links

Equally important as titles and keywords are the relevant “inbound links” (other websites that link to yours). The more relevant inbound links that point to your site, the better your site will get indexed by Google. For example, you can create a separate blog that talks about trends in your industry and links to your website. Another good source of an inbound link can come from a listing in a directory or through membership in a professional association.

So that’s a basic overview on how to make your site Google-compliant. Keep in mind that Organic SEO takes some work, and more importantly, some time to work. If you want to pay your way to the top, you might think about Paid Search Advertising.


For a free SEO review of your website, contact Tom Casale or Bill Kamper at info@simplifiedsolutions.biz or call 312-886-7669.

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04.21.11

Email Marketing: How to Add Value for Customers & Clients

Email MarketingEmail marketing is an extremely effective CRM strategy to communicate and build relationships with a diverse database of contacts. It is the most efficient way to push out targeted, timely and impactful messages to your customers and consumers on a regular basis.

Here’s how your business can derive benefits from developing permission-based and measurable email campaigns:

  • Increase top-of-mind brand awareness with consistent  targeted email campaigns
  • Promote new services,  products, news
  • Drive traffic with  and and encourage trial sales with coupons or special seasonal offers
  • Promote your next meeting or sales event
  • Promote social media channels
  • Promote thought leadership with added value content and trends
  • Remind your customers, members, and clients of the value your business provides
  • Measure ROI with strong metrics

Some SimpleAdvantages of email marketing in your marketing mix include:

  • A refined mailing list distributes information to a wide range of specific, potential customers at a relatively low cost.
  • Compared to other media investments such as direct mail or printed newsletters, it is less expensive.
  • An exact ROI can be tracked (“track to basket”) and has proven to be high when done properly.
  • Email marketing is often reported as second only to Search Marketing as the most effective online marketing tactic.
  • It’s instant. As opposed to a mailed advertisement, an email arrives in a few seconds or minutes.
  • It “pushes” the message to its audience, as opposed to a website that waits for customers to come in.
  • These can be used to measure open rates, positive or negative responses, correlate sales with marketing.
  • Generate repeat business affordably and automatically.
  • Over half of Internet users check or send email on a typical day.
  • Specific types of interaction with messages can trigger subsequent messages to be automatically delivered.
  • Specific types of interaction with messages can trigger other events such as updating the profile of the recipient to indicate a specific interest

To learn more about effective email marketing campaigns contact Tom Casale or Bill Kamper at info@simplifiedsolutions.biz or call 312-886-7669.

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04.20.11

Online Advertising: Paid Search is the Sugar Buzz of Online Marketing

Target MarketingEvery business wants to grow their business and become more successful.

Online marketing offers many new channels for finding and growing potential new customers or clients—from 2.0 websites, email marketing, and video to social networks, micro-blogging, RSS channels and applications. Any and all of these may be part of your online marketing plan. But if you rely on a company website to showcase your services, an e-commerce site to sell your products, or you just want to be found, period, search engines are still king.

So… if you want to drive some quality traffic – FAST – you should consider focusing on folks who are searching for you.

We are big believers in having a fully optimized, or Google-friendly website. Another approach that works much faster involves Pay-Per-Click advertising. We like to call it the sugar buzz of online marketing tactics.

Pay-Per-Click, or PPC, is an advertising model used on search engines, advertising networks, and content website/blogs, where advertisers only pay when a user actually clicks on an ad to visit a specific landing page on an advertiser’s website

This form of search engine marketing requires advertisers to bid on keywords they expect a target market will use as search terms when looking for a product or service. You are bidding to have your ad appear in the “sponsored listings” section of search engines like Google or Yahoo. You’ll pay for each click on these ads to your site.

Here’s our over-SimplifiedSolutions process:

The Search Engines

Yes, Google has 75% of the traffic. That is hard to ignore. But there are many others like Yahoo, Bing (Microsoft’s latest), and Ask.com, plus several specialized and local engines as well. Because there may be less advertiser competition for keywords, some of these engines can actually cost less and be quite efficient. Using a combination of search engine and PPC programs can help you achieve your goals in a more cost effective manner and deliver better ROI.

Ad campaigns

When we develop PPC campaigns, we start by looking at the specific products or services our clients want to promote. You may be offering multiple products. If this is the case, we suggest multiple campaigns or groups. For example, you would have one campaign for your video production services and another for website development. The more focused the ad campaign the better.

Converting on Your Website

Instead of a PPC ad linking to your home page, it should link to a “landing” page that best fits the searcher’s description . For example, if you are selling tax services, make sure they land on the tax service page versus a page that lists all your accounting services. Make it simple for them to make the connection. You also might want to include an offer to incent purchase or a strong call to action. Always include your phone number and email contact link on EVERY page. Google Analytics code should be added to each page and order confirmation to track results.

Keywords are Key

It’s not about how you want to be found, it about how the searcher finds you. If you want to be successful in PPC, you must let the keyword research and analysis tell you which terms are most relevant and produce effective searches for your services or products. The words you may think represent your business may not be the same terms searchers use. And guess what? Everyone wants the main terms so they cost more and in some categories like “insurance,” a lot more. Maybe niche phases will suit you better. Or choose longer tailed phrases. Here’s a cheesy example: Instead of cheese, you are selling cheese platters… or gourmet cheese platters… or European gourmet cheese platters… with delivery … in Chicago… South Loop. You might actually be surprised what word combinations and phrases people use to search when they are browsing versus buying.

Bidding for Placement

This is pretty simple. The most popular words and phrases cost the most. And the higher you want your ad to appear, the higher the bid price. Bids can change on daily basis. The key is to find a mix of popular and niche words to keep your cost-per-click at a reasonable rate. Bids on Google are higher than some of the other search engines, so we recommend a mix of ad platforms to average out your bid prices.

Text Ad Copy

To create campaigns, we start by going wide. It is best to create multiple text ads per group to see which will perform best before we narrow it down. We are always experimenting. PPC text ads limit your characters (25 for the headline and 35 each for the next two lines), so think about using keywords liberally in the copy that match specific searches. PPC copy techniques are not the same as traditional print. One golden rule: Do not think of PPC as a branding tool; it’s not. It’s all about the searcher’s needs.

Kicking Off the Campaign

We start by putting some conversion goals in place for the type of behavior we want to measure, i.e. contact by email, sign-ups for your newsletters, virtual tours taken, pages visited, products sold via e-commerce, etc. As the campaign kicks off we set base performance measurements and bids for each campaign. Then several times a week we monitor how the ads, keywords and bids are performing against each other. By comparing effectiveness and efficiency of each of these key factors we can make adjustments to optimize performance. It’s an on-going process. Our goal is to have a reasonable cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-impression (CPI) measured against a reasonable cost-per-acquisition (CPA). This is all based on your particular business model.

Budgeting for Success

One tool we use to set budgets is “spying” on how much your competition is spending. We usually set daily budgets, not to be exceeded. So if you budget $500 for month for your ads to run Monday though Friday, and the cost per click is $2 to be in the fourth position, we would set a daily budget of $30 per day. Over a month that can drive 250 high quality clicks. Leads or sales can vary by product group and how successful your “landing” pages are in converting. Budgets can ranges from $500 to $10,000 per month. Start slow and build upon success.

The Bottom Line

PPC is not the only way to drive traffic to your website, but it is one of the most measurable forms of online marketing. And if you need some action fast, PPC can be extremely effective for driving traffic, leads, and sales for growing your business online. It’s more of a science than an art so consider hiring an agency that has paid search experience to deliver better results.


For more information on paid search advertising, contact Tom Casale or Bill Kamper at info@simplifiedsolutions.biz or call 312-886-7669.

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04.18.11

How to Optimize Your Business Online

Simplified SEO MarketingMaybe your key business objectives read something like this…

  • Increase new business traffic, inquiries, or sales by X%
  • Reinforce position as the premier provider of (put your service or product here)
  • Introduce new products or services

Maybe your web marketing strategy should be this simple…

  • Create a comprehensive Online Business Optimization Program to increase higher traffic and awareness via searches, links and target engagement.

So where do you start?

Create an Online Marketing Plan

Most companies have a website. It’s table stakes. But in today’s competitive business climate, you have to ask yourself, is that enough? Are you getting all the traffic your need? What about the abundance of new web channels and media that are now part of everyone’s everyday experience? Should you pay for website clicks or attract them naturally? Is something missing or are you spending too much in one area? What works with your clients and customers? What makes sense for your business?

These are the questions a sound online strategic plan will answer and help you decide which online marketing tactics make sense for your business.

Here are just few ideas for you to consider.

Organic Optimization

Good SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, starts organically with your own website. This means you have to correctly align your page titles, headlines and copy on each page using relevant keywords. Understanding keywords relevant to your business in searches and how to use them correctly is table stakes to online marketing. We call it “Getting Google-friendly.”

If done right, organic optimization will help increase the number of times your site appears via search engines like Google and Yahoo.

Organic SEO is an ongoing process that can take more than six months to yield increased traffic to your site, but in the long run it can be the most effective.

Online PR Program

How do you fill the pipeline with great news about your company or brands? Maybe it’s time to supplement your traditional PR efforts with digital or online PR strategies. With online PR you can shape public perception of your company with potential customers. It’s just the beginning of managing your company’s reputation online. We distribute keyword-targeted news articles and information, including images and video, through syndication channels for many of our clients. These appear on relevant media websites, industry blogs/newsletters, and other content sources, to help increase links to your website and find good news surrounding your good name.

Here are a couple of Online PR examples we created for a clients that got picked up.

Linking Strategies

Linking your website via directories, blogs or other relevant websites is key to driving your organic search rankings. It takes a bit of work. Search for directories or business listings within your industry. Some are free. Some are fee-based. Some are junk. Join them all if you can. Google favors links on external sites back to your site. Just make sure it’s relevant.

You can also trade links with business partners, share blogs you like, or provide a link from your blog to your web site. Send them an email and ask for a trade in kind. Just make sure it’s not competitive or irrelevant.

Warning: Be careful of site-paid links or companies that try to sell you a linking list. You may get blacklisted if you don’t do it the old fashioned way.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is the most cost-effective way of engaging and activating your existing customers and clients. Read more about Email Marketing for Brand and Customer Loyalty here.

Blog Marketing

Blog Marketing can reinforce your position as an expert in your field while increasing links and raising your visibility in organic searches. You can create a blog for maximum exposure and impact, adding features like RSS channel news feeds, email sign-ups, links to your business website or social networking communities.

Keywords and interesting topics are the key to any successful blog. All you have to do is write about what you know on a regular basis and promote it a little.

Read our blog on why your business should do blog marketing.

Social Networks

Are social networking sites the business tools of the future? Yes, if you know how to work them. If you run a small business in these changing times, ignore them at your own risk. Your competitors may already be networking and micro blogging their way to a stronger Web presence, enhanced credibility, and more customers.

The most popular sites for business are LinkedIn, Plaxo and Xing. Everyone knows about Twitter by now. StartUpSpace.com is for new and growing businesses. Small businesses are finding value on Facebook’s Visa Business Network, a small business-only social network. The whole concept of social media is a lot like birds of a feather flocking together — in other words, people with a common interest or objective interacting online. Social networks enable that interaction, in professional but also fun and interesting ways.

While there aren’t many strict rules about using social networks, there are do’s and don’ts, as well as strategies to employ to get ahead.

To start, read our blog on How to Engage on Social Networks

Here’ a handy guide for How to “Tweet” for Business

Pay-Per-Click Programs

Need a sugar buzz for your business? During key sales periods, or for breaking news events, a PPC program can drive substantial qualified traffic using specific search terms. Pay Per Click requires you to bid on keywords you anticipate a target market would use when searching for a product or service. Basically, you pay to have your site appear in the “sponsored listings” section of search engines like Google or Yahoo. You’ll pay for each click that you get through these ads.

PPC programs can also target other relevant content sites and social networks. This offers you several micro opportunities to target customers with specific niche interests. We recently implemented a Facebook PPC program targeting students at the top small universities around the county, with school-specific messages. It was a huge success!

So if your small business is looking to grow by stealing market share or protecting what you have, optimize your business online. It may just be the answer you are looking for as you think about your marketing plan this year.

Bookmark this blog now or sign up for our RSS feed, as we will be doing deeper dives on each subject later this month.

Learn more about how web marketing can help optimize your business online.


For more information on website optimization, contact Tom Casale or Bill Kamper at info@simplifiedsolutions.biz or call 312-886-7669.

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04.18.11

Why People Use Twitter

Twitter MarketingUpdating status = self-promotion?

What drives people to tweet?

According to the “Consumer Internet Barometer” from TNS and The Conference Board, 41.6% percent of Internet users who used Twitter did so to keep in touch with their friends.

In addition, 29.1% used it to update their status, 25.8% to find news and stay updated, 21.7% for work purposes and 9.4% for research.

Men and women both used Twitter primarily to keep in touch with friends. Secondarily, men were interested in finding news and women in updating their status.

Users under age 35 were more interested in broadcasting their status than their senior counterparts. Older users were more likely to use the service for work-related purposes.

The average Twitter user interacted primarily with friends and family

The next most popular tweeters were celebrities, bloggers, TV shows, co-workers, brands and journalists.

More women interacted with friends, family and celebrities than men, but men were more likely to follow bloggers.

Older users trailed younger ones in interaction with every Twitter user type except journalists and brands.

Who can Twitter users blame for their addiction? One-half of tweeters said a friend or family member introduced them to the site and 33% were hooked by a co-worker.


For more information on online marketing, contact Tom Casale or Bill Kamper at info@simplifiedsolutions.biz or call 312-886-7669.

This article was posted on e-marketer.

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