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The Biggest Advantages of Small Businesses SEO

Small businesses have two advantages larger competitors often can’t match with search engine optimization and those are creativity and agility.

Owners of small businesses can compose a marketing campaign that will allow them to compete with larger businesses if they incorporate the two philosophies as part of their digital marketing DNA.

Creativity is a search marketing advantage because large businesses have more risk management then small businesses. Most large businesses won’t create blogs that take sides on issues, create controversy or allow individuality. There are fewer stakeholders for a small business so it’s easier to sell creative, controversial or compelling ideas.

To use this benefit to its fullest, start by developing creative linkbait. Larger companies will mostly follow proven business models and methods and a small business can break out of that mold with clever ideas. It’s an opportunity to create the kind of linkbait social web influencers are looking for but larger competitors do not understand.

Success for small businesses often comes from employees who are passionate about their industry and want to do good work. They often have strong feelings about the industry they are in. A smart small business owner can help their employees share those feelings on the web to attract others who feel similar. Even those who disagree bring more traffic to your site by their responses. This is one way small businesses can direct and use controversy to their advantage.

A small business can also take advantage of cheap and free SEO-friendly online publishing tools such as WordPress. Web developers can make WordPress an entire CMS to power a site at a reasonable cost. A CMS like Expression Engine is more powerful but also affordable and search engine friendly. The agility of a small business can also be a search market advantage. Larger corporations have layers of approval processes, lawyers and committees.  Smaller businesses have an opportunity to exploit this by being first because they don’t have all these layers.

According to the recent TopRank Marketing survey on blogging and SEO, 94 percent of bloggers reported seeing measurable SEO benefits from blogging within one year. By having an agile content development process, smaller companies can and do outpace larger competitors who have more resources available to them.

If a small company encourages their employees to have personal brands, this will also provide a search marketing advantage. When an employee has their own blog and social media networks, the company and individual are often linked or mentioned together. Larger corporations use partners as an advantage for links but small businesses can encourage their dedicated employees to develop personal brands in their industry.

Every company is now a media company. By breaking news, a small business attracts links and referral traffic. As it does this, a company will start to become a trusted source as its own brand of media. The more small businesses take advantage of their ability to be more creative and agile than larger competitors, the more their online content marketing and SEO programs are likely to succeed.

Planning SEO for Local Startups and New Businesses

Customers search online for everything nowadays so it’s important for a small business to ensure that the content of their website is clear and attractive. That’s why search engine optimization is a necessary part of a successful small business website.

Getting started in SEO can be a challenging for small business owners who are just starting the process. How do they know what keywords or themes to use that will give them the most success? Should they hire someone to help with an SEO campaign? Where is the best place to start SEO?

Here are five steps to planning a successful SEO campaign:

  1. Get a plan of action: Decide what you want to achieve with an SEO campaign. Do you want to increase your brand visibility? Bring more traffic to your site? Deciding on a goal will help you decide which SEO tactics to deploy and how to measure results
  2. Inventory your resources: Most small businesses have limited marketing resources so it’s important to take inventory of what you have and what you may still need to drive a successful SEO campaign. Taking advantage of outside help to get started can advance a small business SEO program. You can decide whether you can or want to outsource work from copywriting to content building. After the business goals have been established, it’s time to look at your budget and figure out what you may be able to do yourself and what you can use some help with.
  3. Measure the success of your business: Many companies measure their SEO success by rankings for keywords in search results but these results vary by the location of the searcher and are not always relevant. You may want to consider changes in organic search traffic for optimized keywords over a given period of time as well as conversions. Take benchmark measurements so you have documentation for your success.
  4. Implementation and Promotion: Keywords, content, and links are fundamentals to any SEO program. The right keyword research should result in a Keyword Glossary that can be used for a content optimization audit and serve as a resource for future content creation, digital asset optimization and link building. Code and server side audits should handle any technical issues along with template and database optimization. Processes for content optimization on an ongoing basis will empower whoever adds and maintain content to the website in order to produce keyword optimized copy as part of regular website maintenance. After implementation, SEO efforts can be taken to the next level by finding the target audience online. If you know where your prospective customers are interacting with one another online you will know where to promote your content and increase the reach of your SEO program by encouraging direct traffic and inbound links.
  5. Maintain your SEO campaign: Changes to a website after the initial site optimization can affect all past SEO efforts. Remember an effective SEO campaign needs to adapt with changes. Ongoing SEO efforts can help a business continue to be successful. Keep website marketing goals in mind to establish a campaign that will be successful and pay off for your unique business.

5 Search Engine Marketing Trends That Impact Startups

Many startups use a variety of online marketing efforts to attract new customers and increase their overall sales. As a $16 billion industry, Search Engine Marketing represents an opportunity to connect with customers when they are looking to buy. A fundamental knowledge about the basics of Search Engine Optimization and Pay Per Click is not enough to remain competitive in the online marketing world. Here are five search marketing trends for every local startup to be aware of:

  1. Customer search online influences purchases offline. As reported on TechCrunch, Forrester Research estimates that $917 billion worth of retail sales in 2009 were “Web-influenced.” A total of $155 billion worth of consumer goods were sold online during the same year.
  2. Beyond Google: Startups should diversify their paid search. Google attracts the majority of paid search advertising, but Microsoft Bing advertising has had notable gains. A recent report from WebVisible showed that Bing click-through-rates for startups grew 109 percent and Yahoo 123 percent, compared to Google at 32 percent between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the fourth quarter of 2009.
  3. Local and mobile searches: With the explosion of smart phones, the web experience has moved beyond the personal computer to mobile devices such as iPhones, Blackberries and iPads. For companies that serve customers in specific regions, it’s essential those businesses are present in local search results.
  4. Social media advertising: With over 400 million registered users, Facebook offers an audience that shouldn’t be ignored. Social networks like Facebook provide online marketers advertising opportunities that can tap into new customer segments and complement other paid search programs.
  5. Paid search and SEO boost overall SEM performance : According to Vanessa Fox, creator of Google’s Webmaster Central and author of “Marketing in the Age of Google, there have been several studies that show click-through rates, conversion rates and revenue are all higher when both organic and paid listings appear for a search.

PPC: A Review of 2010 and Resolutions for 2011

There were several changes in PPC in 2010 that have had big impacts. For example, Twitter started reaching out to companies who want to advertise on their social media platform via through promoted tweets. A company or advertising agency can pay on a cost per impression model to have their Tweets appear at the top of the Twitter search page. The Tweet can stay in this top spot as long as it is considered relevant and interesting by Twitter.

The way Facebook handles advertising changed in 2010. Now we can give advertising dollars directly to Facebook through the use of Facebook Ads. You still only pay when you receive clicks and you can serve image ads to people who you know are interested in your topic of choice.

If you have an eCommerce company the new ad extensions in Google can help you reach more customers. Product extensions and Product Listing Ads allow you to link your Google Merchant Center data feed, and show images, prices, and product names along with, or in addition to ads. Sitelink extensions allow you to show up to ten links along with your ads.

One of the biggest changes in PPC was the Yahoo and Bing merger. Since the merger on October 27, 2010, all Yahoo paid traffic has been delivered through Bing’s interface. Of course, with all the change that 2010 brought, we also have several expectations for PPC in 2011.

One expectation is mobile marketing. With the continued expansion of mobile search volume and mobile device and tablet sales, it will be important to develop a strategy to both leverage and measure the value of mobile searchers, as their capabilities, behavioral patterns, and lead generation paths, become more divergent from those of traditional computer-based search.

This is also the year social media marketing will be included more in small businesses’ online marketing strategies. Watch for social network mobile advertising to improve and for your Facebook keywords to rise in price. If you want to take part in exciting changes in 2011, this is the time you should resolve to get your PPC account in the best possible shape. Start by looking at what you are already doing and then set a reasonable goal that should be achieved by next year. Or you might want to have quarterly goals that build up to the overall annual goal.

Write your goals down.

Here are several other resolutions for your PPC account in 2011:

  • Tighten Up Broad Match Keywords -Tighten up broad match keywords by adding modified broad match keywords to your account. Broad match keywords will trigger an ad if the search query contains even just a part of the keyword. Modified broad match keywords trigger ads only if all marked keywords are contained in the ad. To mark a keyword, put a + in front of it.
  • Cut Out the Junk – Detox your account by weeding out any keywords or ads that are not helping. Utilize Analytics and use data to back your decision. If the keyword has not brought you any leads in a significant amount of time, then get rid of it. If your account is not lead based, look at things like time on site, bounce rate, click through rate and quality score to make your decision.
  • Exercise Judgment – Account maintenance is crucial to the ongoing health of a pay per click account. Run ad performance reports to determine which ads are not performing. Do bid changes in order to maximize spend and leads. Download the search terms that triggered your keywords in order to determine any negatives that you might need to add and find additional keywords that might be beneficial to the account.

How to Create Effective Ads in Facebook

Here are a few ways to get started using Facebook to create an ad to market your product. Whether you are a startup or a major tech company, following these steps will help get your Facebook advertising campaign launch today.

1. Dashboard: This shows the impressions, clicks and other data including the Social Percent function. This function tracks the percentage of impressions where the viewer of an ad saw that friends
liked your page.

2. Design your ad: Copy an ad by selecting the name of an existing campaign ad in the drop down box.

3. Choose your destination URL: This directs customers to a page where they are able to find additional information about the topic they were interested in when they clicked on your ad.

4. Suggest an ad: Facebook has the ability to suggest a title and content for your ad based on the destination URL that you enter.

5. Create your own ad: You are allowed 25 characters in the title, and 135 in the body text. Facebook ads require an image that should be clearly visible when it’s small.

6. Target your audience: Targeting within Facebook allows you to select users by country, state or province or by city. When choosing a city, you can also choose to include cities in a 10, 25 or 50-mile radius. You can also target an age range or exact age or target based on Facebook users’ likes and interests, connections, birthdays, relationship statuses, education levels, and work type.

7. Budgeting: Set a budget after you create your ad. The minimum starting budget is $1 per day.

8. Scheduling: Tell the system when you want your ads to run and end.

9. Cost per clicking: The CPC acts as a max bid. Facebook gives you an estimated CPC based on your targeting options.

10. Look for extras: Facebook Deals allows businesses to reward their customers with deal offers when they use Facebook. The Facebook Places function encourages people to “check in” and tell their friends when they visit local businesses.

Don’t Exhaust Your Budget with Google and Bing Content Networks

If you are looking for more pay-per-click (PPC) traffic, the Google and Bing Content Networks can be great places to start. However, if not properly managed, the content networks can leave you spending a lot of money without giving you the results you want.

You can exclude domains and subdomains from your network in both Google and Bing. Use at least a 30-day date range when reviewing your performance. You may wish to use a 60 or 90-day range depending on your account.

To review and exclude sites from the content network in Google, go to the Networks tab and select show details next to Automatic Placements. From here you can see the sites Google places your ads on based on keywords in your ad groups. Then you can sort the data to find the sites that are converting at a high cost per conversion rate or that are spending without converting.

When you find these sites and want to exclude them, click on the box to the left of the website and select the Exclude Placements button. Confirm if you want to exclude the Campaign or Ad Group level, hit OK and you will see a red Excluded box with the site listed. When you scroll down to the bottom of the Networks page and expand the exclusions section you can see all the exclusions on the account.

In Bing, go to the reports tab and select an Ad Delivery Report from the reports listed on the left. You can review the domains and subdomains in a spreadsheet if you export the data.

When you are ready to add exclusions into your Bing account, click on the Administration tab at the top. In the Account General Information box on the left, there is a section called Blocked Domains. Click on edit and you will be able to add your excluded sites. You only get 500 exclusions, so make sure the sites you exclude are really not performing to your standards.

Adding exclusions into your Google and Bing accounts can help control your overall spend, cost per click and cost per conversion, so it’s important that you regularly review and update your exclusions list.

Tips for Startups Marketing: Optimize Your AdWords Content

The Content Network is different from Google’s search so it’s important to know how it works and how to use it to optimize your AdWords for the best results.

First, understand that the network is driven by keywords. AdWords reviews every keyword in an ad group and makes a keyword theme that can be matched to websites within the network that have similar content.

There are two reasons to optimize AdWords for the Content Network. If you’re having success on Google’s Content Network the action can help strengthen your campaign.  If you’re not having success on the content network, you might want to optimize in order to get better results.

When you request a content optimization from your AdWords Rep, it will start a new campaign and create new ad groups within that campaign. Every keyword in your account can be regrouped into these new ad groups. The new content bids can be set for the ad groups, new ads can be written for each group and current content efforts and bids can be paused while a new content optimized campaign is uploaded and launched.

To make your optimization better, remember to revise or completely re-write your ad texts, make sure your destination URLs are correct and adjust your bids accordingly.

Managing the Content Network in Bing and Google

The Content Network can increase leads but it also has the potential for a user to end up spending money quickly on irrelevant clicks.

Bing has added a few tools and reports to help advertisers along the way. One thing they’ve addressed is the amount of control advertisers have when deciding where ads will be displayed. Advertisers in the United States or Canada will be able to choose from: All Bing and Yahoo! search networks and syndicated search partners; only Bing and Yahoo! search syndicated partners; or only Bing and Yahoo! sites.

To update settings for your existing campaigns, set the distribution on the ad group level in Bing. This is different from Google where you set the distribution on the campaign level. Click on the campaign then ad group that you want to modify using the interface. Then under the Settings link you will be able to edit your ad distribution selection.

Bing has also created two new reports that will help advertisers manage their accounts. When logged into your account in the interface, under the reports tab you can choose Website Placement Performance and Publisher Performance.

The Website Placement report is similar to Google’s old Placement Performance report. You are given Campaign and Ad Group names along with the metrics for each URL where your ads were shown. Once you have run the report, go into the interface, and add website exclusions to help keep your ads from popping up on irrelevant sites.

The Publisher Performance report is also similar to the Placement Performance report in Google, because it also shows you the sites where your ads appear. This report also gives you data for both Search and Content ad groups.

In Google, it’s a good idea to stay organized by keeping your search and content campaigns separate. By doing this, you will have a better idea of the actual results of each campaign or ad group, and be able to optimize more efficiently.

Remember, you know your account better than anyone else. Listen to advice from your AdWords representative but always do what you think will work best for you.

How to Choose the Right SEO Company for Startups

Search engine optimization plays an important role for businesses, especially startups, hoping to be successful online. With SEO, a website can be ranked at the top of search engine results pages and be visited by more people.

Negative listings or incorrect information online can hurt the reputation of a business and lead to lost revenue. This is something that most startups can’t afford to have. While no one except Google employees know the algorithm for their search engine, it is possible to learn the best known strategies to push your business listing higher.

SEO is a process and your website won’t be on the first page of search engine results overnight. You can do SEO or hire a SEO company to do it for you. If you decide to leave it to the experts, remember that
you are ultimately the boss and you make the final decision about the company you choose to hire. Salespeople who are convincing may not actually represent the product their company is selling so it’s
important to do some research before you speak with a company you may hire.

Before speaking with someone, you should know the basics of what Internet marketing is about and have an idea of what you want your website to become. Always prioritize your goals, don’t settle with generalizations such as “I want more traffic” or “I want to rank higher”. Your goals should have a clear business purpose so that you can effectively measure the return on your marketing investment. Some of our client’s well defined goals:

  • “I want more traffic to turn into leads for my sales team to follow up with.”
  • “We want our visitors to sign up for the 30-day trial of our web application. Our site is currently converting 2 percent of visitors into trial members. Success if having that conversion rate at 5 percent. “
  • “In order to justify my SEO marketing investment, I need to have organic search engine referrals go from 21 percent to 40 percent.”

Some SEO companies specialize in specific niches so look closely for the best match for your business. Check reviews and references for the companies you are interested in hiring and try to avoid SEO companies that use risky practices. If they promise immediate top rankings within days, you might want to reconsider that company. Ask for case studies so you can learn about the successful outcomes of their work.

Remember that the SEO process can take time so finding a SEO company that you can work well with is important. You’ll be glad you found a SEO company that works best for you.

Common Mistakes Startups and Businesses Make in AdWords Campaigns

There are four main things to know if you’re interested in lowering your advertising costs on Google AdWords.

First, everyone wants to pay as little as they can for a click but be careful not to set up your first cost-per-click (CPC) too low. By overpaying at the beginning or starting with a high bid, you can expect a high position among other advertisers and that will let you get a better click-through-rate (CTR) as your ad is in a much more noticeable position. Once you have a good CTR and a good Quality Score you can start lowering your bids until you reach your desired CPC.

Another mistake is having too many keywords in a single ad group. This can lead to a poor Quality Score because you cannot create an ad that would be congruent with each and every keyword. Try creating ad groups with only one keyword.

Using AdWord’s broad match or phase match can mean chances are good that people who aren’t searching an exact match won’t click on your ad and this will lower your CTR. Using the exact match instead can help your ad be displayed only when someone is searching exactly for your keyword.

One final mistake to avoid is not having your ads match your keywords. An ad matching a keyword is important to the success of your ad. Using your keyword in the ad copy can help improve the efficiency of your ads.

Are you aware of other common mistakes that people make in their Google Adwords Campaign? If you do, please share them in the comments below.

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