4 Ways Social Media Helps SEO

Imagine if your business appeared high up on the first page of Google’s search results whenever someone typed in a relevant search term — without your having to spend a single cent on ads. How amazing would that be? Are you drooling yet? Did you know that social media helps SEO, i.e. search engine optimisation?

With over 1 billion people on Facebook, and over 900 million combined on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest, you would be crazy to not have a presence on the social media networks where your customers hang out. But did you know that these networks are also giving smart businesses an edge over their competitors when it comes to search engine rankings and SEO? Raise your hands if you’d like some more love from Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and other search engines…and read on.

1. Social media helps SEO on Google — directly.

Google and Twitter have announced that Google’s search results will now include tweets and Twitter accounts that match the search term. People searching on mobile — which actually represents the majority of all Google searches done in the U.S. — will be the first to see this change. They’ll see it when they’re doing a Google search in their mobile browser, or in Google’s iOS or Android apps. But soon anyone using Google.com on a desktop or laptop will also see the change.

Now when the two companies first announced this change, they used a few popular, media-friendly, search terms like Taylor Swift and NASA to explain this new feature. But unless you’re a huge Taylor Swift fan (and who isn’t?) the most interesting question is, what will results look like for less glamorous searches, like “best real estate agent in Dallas” or “small business consultant in Kansas City”? And how can you get your Twitter account to the top of the heap?

As is usually the case when it comes to unpacking the mysterious, voodo-wrapped black box known as SEO, this calls for a bit of speculation.

 

Social media helps SEO -- the black box

 

How the major search engines build their algorithms. No, really.

If you were Google and Twitter, which Twitter accounts would you put at the top of those results? I’m willing to bet that the Twitter accounts that make it to the top of Google’s search results will have at least 4 things:

  • The right search terms in their Twitter bio
  • A sizable number of followers, providing social proof of their right to represent this search term
  • A sizable number of other people actively talking about this Twitter account, and
  • Having people who are not just talking about this Twitter account, but mentioning it in conjunction with that search term.

So are you going to wait until your competitors own this? Or would you rather start prepping now? Here are the steps you should start taking today to get ready for this brave new world.

  • First, use Google’s keyword planner to figure out the search terms with which you want to be associated and make sure these are in your Twitter bio. (And also the bios of all your other social media networks while you’re at it.) Ryan Cruz has a great post that explains how this planner works (and also shows you a few other nifty ways to use it.)
  • Then, make sure you are building up a steady stream of new followers by tweeting frequently and consistently. Don’t just broadcast, but engage with your followers and potential followers to get people talking to and about your Twitter account.
  • Finally, when you do talk about your brand on Twitter (which should only be about 20-25% of the time) make sure you’re using the key search terms you want to own. With luck and skill you’ll get followers echoing the sentiment, building a trail for Google to follow.

2. Your social media profiles are already appearing in search results.

As Chloe Mason Gray points out, the results of a search for your brand’s name are likely to include your social media profiles today, anyway. So, whether you are aware of it or not, your social media may be already helping to direct people to your business when they type in a certain search term. A look at your Google Analytics stats can tell you, particularly if you use a tracking URL to help detect this. (Here’s a free, easy-to-use tool from Google to create one.) If you’re General Electric you can worry less about your brand being misunderstood, but if you’re a lesser known entity who wants to stake its claim to fame it will definitely benefit you to put the keyword terms you want right upfront in your social media profiles to help your SEO and, more broadly, to help you establish the reputation you want.

3. Don’t forget: “search” is more than just Google….

Google may be the big kahuna, but don’t forget the concept of marginal utility: the smaller you are, the more mileage you will get from even the smallest incremental gains. As a small(er) business do you really want to neglect all the other search engines that have long been taking your social profiles into account?

Take Bing. It hosts one out every five searches done on the desktop in the U.S. and has explicitly told Search Engine Land that it looks at your social networks when compiling results:

We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results. It carries much more weight in Bing Social Search, where tweets from more authoritative people will flow to the top when best match relevancy is used.

This is backed up by a statement directly from Bing:

Social media plays a role in today’s effort to rank well in search results. The most obvious part it plays is via influence. If you are influential socially, this leads to your followers sharing your information widely, which in turn results in Bing seeing these positive signals. These positive signals can have an impact on how you rank organically in the long run.

And because Bing powers most of Yahoo search its reach is actually greater than its direct market share.

4. Finally, consider how many searches are now being done directly on the social media networks, themselves.

Neil Patel explained just how significant this has become:

  • Twitter: handles 19 billion search queries a month (based on 2010 data)
  • Facebook: one billion search queries per day (based on a statement it made in 2012)
  • YouTube: roughly 3.7 billion search queries a month (as of 2010)

So while you should certainly keep an eye on where your website ranks in Google, Bing and Yahoo results, remember that search is getting more social by the day. Social media helps SEO, so do optimise your profiles, post frequently, and talk to your followers to take advantage of it!

This article was written by Jeniece Primus from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


8 Ways to Effectively Communicate with Clients

It used to be (back before the Internet, smartphones and social media) that if you wanted or needed to speak to a client, you picked up the phone – or you sent her a letter. Today, however, there are many ways to communicate with clients. However, not every method is right for every situation or for every client. Indeed, choose the wrong communication strategy and you could wind up alienating valuable clients.

To help you navigate the various options, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular, and effective, communication methods (listed alphabetically) and included advice from client communication experts regarding when and how to use each one.

Top 8 client communication methods

1. Email

Email allows you to “communicate in a way that respects the client’s time and attention, as both are scarce resources,” says Anne Janzer, an author and marketing consultant. “That means sending short email messages, with the most important content in the first sentence and a clear subject line [as] some people never read past the first line of any email.”

Email is particularly good “where multiple parties need to be kept in the loop on something,” adds Adam Weissman, account supervisor, Max Borges Agency, a communications and digital strategy firm. “Plus, with email, there is always a record that is easily searchable.”

2. Newsletters

“It seems rather counterintuitive but we actually send a paper copy of a newsletter to our clients,” says Nick Espinosa, CIO, BSSi2, an IT services company. “I thought this was a bad move when we first tried it, but I was amazed at how many responded asking questions about articles. And I have actually spotted our newsletter on the desks of our clients!”

3. Phone

“When one needs to work with a client in detail and manage the nuances of the conversation, a phone call is still the best communication channel,” says John Kinskey, founder and president, AccessDirect, which provides virtual PBX phone systems. “At times a staff member will forward to me an email chain from a client and ask me how to respond. I say ‘pick up the phone!’”

Indeed, while good for certain types of communication, “email responses at certain points can become counterproductive,” he says, and can lead to misunderstandings. “With a phone call (using a VoIP desk phone) we have a chance to show that we care about solving a client issue quickly, along with apologising for any misunderstanding,” he explains.

“We use email to keep a recorded history of client requests, but all of our client follow-up and engagement is done by phone,” says Espinosa. “As an IT service corporation we are following up with clients roughly 24 to 48 hours after work is completed. Our phone communication is constant and we consistently receive excellent reviews from clients,” he reports. “I personally use between 3,000 to 4,000 minutes a month on the phone, and it really pays off.”

4. Skype (or Google Hangouts)

“For regular communications, we try to maintain a weekly or bi-weekly Skype call with clients, with or without video (based on need and bandwidth),” says Weissman. “These weekly ‘calls’ can typically last 30 to 45 minutes and offer a great way to connect multiple people in different locations.”

“Skype is great for conference calls and international clients, as it’s free,” says Michelle Garrett, owner, Garrett Public Relations. “It’s [particularly] useful when you have people in multiple countries coming together for a meeting.”

[Google Hangouts provides a similar free video chat and messaging service.]

5. Slack

Slack, one of my favorite team messaging applications, allows me to stay in touch with clients on a day-to-day basis when launching a new campaign, or updating [them] on current project developments,” says Nina Tomaro, a content strategist. “It takes away from the clutter of email and keeps all communications in one location, where the client can choose to check and respond at their convenience.”

“We use Slack to get clients out of email and into a chat room format,” says Kate Finley, CEO, Belle Communications. “We can make communication much more personal [using Slack] and decrease the need for lengthy meetings or the trap of multiple correspondence channels like text, email, phone and social media.”

6. Snail Mail

“Don’t dismiss ‘snail mail,’” cautions Deborah Dumaine, CEO, Better Communications Writing Workshops. “Today almost all of our communication is delivered through our phones or computers. To stand out to new prospects [and even existing clients], a mailed letter can make a far bigger impression than yet another email in an overflowing inbox,” she says. “Letters are so rare that people can be intrigued and will open them. Try it.”

7. Social Media (LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter Messaging)

One of the most significant upsides of staying in touch with clients over social media is that you’re meeting consumers where they’re already spending their time,” says Bruce Milne, executive vice president, Socialware, which helps clients manage social media across the enterprise. “Use social media networks to regularly share content, updates and your own tips with clients, thus establishing yourself as a credible expert in your field and a top-of-mind choice when your type of services are required. In situations where discretion is necessary, [use] Facebook Messenger, Twitter direct messages (DMs) [or] LinkedIn InMail.”

Another advantage to using social media is “communications can be attended to at a client’s leisure,” he adds. “That means you [don’t have to worry about] interrupting [an important meeting or] dinner [or messages] getting buried in their email inbox.”

8. Texting

“I always give my clients my cell number and let them know it’s OK to text me about urgent matters,” says Tomaro. “This not only helps me stay on top of things that need my immediate attention, but shows my clients I truly care about their business.”

“Some of my service providers (doctors, salons) have moved to text messaging, which is really effective as a way to remind clients of their appointments and of special deals they may have going on,” notes Garrett. “It gets my attention much more so than an email that just sits in the inbox with dozens of other messages.”

“As businesses look to woo the critical millennial market and break through today’s cluttered communication channels, SMS/text-based messaging is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to accomplish this goal,” explains Tim Fujita-Yuhas, director Product Management & New Product Strategy, OpenMarket, a mobile engagement solution provider. “Businesses should also look to text-enable customer service phone numbers to streamline requests internally and to allow clientele to reach out and interact when it’s convenient for them.”

How to choose the client communication strategy that’s right for your clients

“The best way for businesses to stay in contact with clients is to discuss with them the best means of communication,” says Kyle Brigham, director of Accounts, Marcel Digital, a boutique digital marketing and web development agency. “Give them the opportunity to tell you how to reach them best. [And] never assume one [method] of communication works for everyone.”

“Once you have [ascertained] their communication preferences, record that information in a customer relationship management program,” says Zach Schaefer, president, Spark the Discussion. “Then follow the preferences that they [have] given you. The worst thing a service provider can do is ask their clients about their communication preferences and then ignore that information.”

Remember to be respectful of clients’ time (and patience)

Whichever method of communication you use, “make sure you are delivering value in your communications and ensure the method and frequency of communications is welcome,” says Erika Goldwater, vice president of Marketing, ANNUITAS, a demand generation company. “Contact or notify customers with useless information or a few too many promotional emails and you may lose them as customers.”

This article was written by Jennifer Lonoff Schiff from CIO and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

The Gamification of Social Media

Robert Nissenbaum (follow him on Twitter at @RNissenbaum) of Tactical Social Media recently wrote a post about fun being the ROI of social media, which made me think. We’re all intrigued by fun, but can it lead to more business? If you read the statistics on how many hours people spend playing games, with every subsequent generation spending more time and money, then you’d say it makes a lot of sense. For instance, Millennials spend 1.47 hours a day playing games, according to the Wall Street Journal. 1.47 hours!

Anything Can Be Gamified

Gamification is the practice of adding gamelike elements to reward behavior in a non-game setting. Think: getting points every time you brush your teeth. Or an award for doing the laundry. Or washing the car. I’d like a prize for doing the dishes! Also: can someone please make music come out of the soap dispenser? Please and thank you.

Foursquare

Foursquare is one of the first social media platforms that made social more fun. With its location-based check-ins, badges, mayorships, and points, Foursquare gave users a way to measure excitement during outings. Foursquare’s explosive success has led to its morphing into a company that rewards its users in different ways now, without the intense competition that led to its early success. Still, the idea of play and social became intertwined with Foursquare.

Are Fun and Serious Work at War?

Fun and serious work can coexist peacefully. Playing games at work or playing games for work is possible when the purpose is to get work done. Many people experience a “flow experience” from playing music. And a game player achieves that same “flow” while playing a game. So why not play games at work? In fact, as Mario Herger explains “with new times there are new tools. And “Sales gamification platforms are one new set of tools that you can use.”

Could Gamification Work with Social Media?

Among your co-workers, how about running contests for the post with the biggest reach, or the most comments? You might consider giving away movie tickets, a night out, or a board game as a gift for the tweet or post that creates the most “likes” on a company account. Of course, the playing field would need to be level for each instance. You could also give away a prize for the best tweet during a tweetchat. Here’s a post about Twitter Chats: 101 tips for success.

Gamification Makes Us Smarter

Gabe Zichermann, in his excellent TED talk on gamification, explains how kids, given a game-based curriculum, improved in math and science from a third-grade level to a mid-fourth grade level. And the kids, when interviewed, say that “learning is fun.” He underlines that for Gen G (Millennials and those growing up on games), their primary form of entertainment is games or a game-like environment. And he recommends that we all get in the game so that we can understand kids. You might also like this article about how the San Francisco Giants can improve your game.

This article was written by Carol Stephen from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Search vs Social: Where Should You Be Spending Your Online Advertising Budget?

It’s a battle that is heating up (but has been going on for years).

Everyone seems to have a different opinion or way of looking at it.

So what’s the best way to spend your marketing budget; search engines or social media?

Paid ad spend has been strong in 2015, with the US market seeing 26% growth year on year, whilst growth in PPC budgets from existing users continues to grow at around 70% year on year (as way of contrast only 6% of businesses actually report using search advertising to drive website traffic).

Ad spend graph for search vs social

Social spend in comparison has also been rising consistently, hitting 27% last year and is expected to hit 29% in 2015 ($26.74 billion).

In mobile, search still dominates, with Google receiving over 3.5 billion searches each day, and continuing to dominate mobile ad revenues, collecting 35% in the U.S, compared to Facebook’s 17%.

Ad revenue for mobiles - search vs social

Digital ad spend on the whole across search, social and mobile has never been greater, and it is only going to grow as web usage worldwide, especially mobile, continues to grow. In fact, advertising revenues are expected to grow 10.7% annually to reach $266.68 billion by 2018 (just $27.42 billion behind predicted TV advertising growth).

Internet advertising PWC - search vs social

Statistics aside for a moment, it pays to take some time to think about which is the superior marketing strategy for you; search vs social?

To really answer that question will depend a lot on the nature of your business, your customers and what you are trying to achieve.

Social Networks

There’s no escaping the huge growth of social media and the ability for it to get your ads or content in front of a lot of people.

Its power to influence consumer decisions and generate leads for B2C and B2B is certainly in evidence as well (54% of B2B respondents in a CMO study said they’d generated leads via social media). But proponents of search ads will point to a lack of ‘intent’ in social media users and less reliable conversions as a result.

Pros

  • You don’t have to guess at your audience. Their gender, age, location, interests, work, friends and so much more is provided for you. Discovering your target demographic has never been easier.
  • Peer endorsements can mean an instant conversion. 75% of individuals aged 18 – 26 use recommendations on social networks when deciding on a product.
  • Your reputation is in your hands. With social networks, your positive response to a negative review is not merely instantaneous, but how you handle the situation is witnessed by a broad web audience.
  • It nurtures brand loyalty. 71% of consumers are more likely to make purchasing decisions based on what they discover about brands on social media. Making social media a great opportunity for create life-long customers.

Cons

  • A large number of consumers don’t have a social profile. Unless you know that your target audience is on social media, you could be throwing advertising money down the drain.
  • Most users of a social network are there to ‘socialise’, not to shop. As a result, your conversion rates on social networks are going to be a lot lower than search where ‘intent’ is more implicit.
  • It can be time consuming, with up to 64% of digital marketers spending six hours or more on social media each day.
  • It is incredibly difficult to set metrics and define your return-on-investment (ROI). Social media can be great for business, but with few direct conversions it is difficult to determine exactly how it is profiting your brand.

Search Engines

Search is, and remains, the most powerful and trackable medium for digital advertisers with tried and tested methods for generating traffic and measuring conversions and ROI.

Critics will point to the increasing cost of PPC on platforms like Google Adwords, as a result of fierce competition over competitive keywords. This aside though, search advertising remains one of the most popular options for advertisers.

Pros

  • Most consumers who discover your brand through a search engine are there with the intent to buy, resulting in increased traffic and higher conversions.
  • Search allows for targeted marketing. You don’t have to go out looking for your target audience; the keywords they use direct them to you.
  • Using analytics you can find out exactly what words and phrases consumers are searching for and alter your keywords accordingly. There may, for instance, be 50,000 consumers searching for ‘dog restraints’, but over two million users looking for ‘dog leashes’.
  • If you don’t have the time, or expertise, to raise your site’s profile in organic listings, paid ads allow you a practical way to get your brand and products in the SERPs.

Cons

  • Competition is fierce. It requires a substantial investment of resources and time, especially in a world where SEO algorithms are continuously changing.
  • No guarantees. It’s been shown that 75% of searchers are unlikely to scroll past the first page so if your brand isn’t able to compete at the top, either in organic or paid, then some of those competitive keywords you really wanted to rank for may be out of reach indefinitely.
  • It pays to rank well for organic search as well as for ads, but with link building and other SEO tactics, ROI isn’t instantaneous. SEO is an investment and it can take a long time before you see the results of your efforts.

So where should you invest your marketing budget: Search vs Social?

Well the get out of jail free answer is surely; why not both? Your customers are probably using both and the existing infrastructures of search and social are already beginning to merge.

Good social media habits can help to boost your organic rankings, while new social network advertising options can reveal a lot of information on keywords, target audiences and competitor activity, which in turn can feed back into your paid search campaign.

Social networking, after all, is terrific at building brand awareness and establishing credibility, whereas search is better at creating conversions.

A consumer is going to be much more likely to click your ad if they recognise your brand name from social media.

Used together, social and search can quickly become greater than the sum of their parts.

 

This article was written by Thomas Coppen from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


Twitter Pet Peeves: 5 Frustrating Twitter Behaviors and How to Avoid Them

Many of us have a love/ hate relationship with Twitter. While Twitter is an outstanding communication platform, the communication skills displayed by its users don’t always measure up. Here are some of the most annoying Twitter habits that we should all be trying to avoid.

1. Random Favorites

We sign into Twitter and get excited when we see 20+ notifications waiting for us. But the excitement quickly fades into disappointment when we realise that at least 50 percent of them are “favorites” harvested from foreign accounts, who probably have no idea what we’re talking about! These kinds of people have no intention to read or share our content; they only want to draw our attention to gain subscribers when in reality there’s a fat chance of them getting a follow from us.

How to avoid: Block them when you see them. Unfortunately, there always seem to be more on the way.

2. Compulsive Lists

The list phenomenon seems to be accelerating. Most of us are added to a list after using a particular hashtag. Being added to such lists can be an honor if the reason for it our expert advice and timely insight, but it’s also quite possible we were added automatically, we can also be automatically added, and this kind of list behavior is useless to both parties.

How to avoid: Block the creator of the list. Follow these instructions.

3. Every Breath You Take, Every Tweet You Make

Twitter’s main page displays a continuos flow to posts from the people we follow, except of course when all of that real estate gets hogged by that one single follower who seems to tweet as much as he breathes. Talking about EVERYTHING and nothing gets irritating fast. Twitter is a platform for regular updates but please make them insightful for everybody’s sake.

How to avoid: Choose you followers, as you do your friends, wisely.

4. “Thanks for Following”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with saying thank you to a new follower when you’re being genuine, but automatic private messages promoting your website or LinkedIn page are anything but. So how do you deal with the volume? Tools like Metlwater Engage enable you to view new followers and rank them by influence, so you can prioritise your most valuable new contacts and show them love with personal thank yous.

How to avoid: By all means reach out, but be sure to customise the message and speak like a human and not a robot.

5. #Stop#Speaking#Like#This

Hashtags are iconic to Twitter and, when used correctly, they’re a great way for readers to discover new content and for posters to align themselves with larger discussions. To all those people out there that #talk#like#this, please stop. You’re giving hashtags a bad name.

How to avoid: The general rule of thumb is to use no more than 3 hashtags per tweet. Any more than this makes the copy hard to read and the poster look desperate.