Monthly Archives: April 2013

Planning for an effective social media strategy

The internet is filled with so many different social outlets that seem to rise and fall every day. So, as a business, where should you invest your time and money?

Obviously it’s impractical for a business to utilize every social media website out there and it’s usually unnecessary. Therefore, a business needs to make a decision and choose an appropriate tool.

One of the most important parts of having a successful social media campaign is drawing up and implementing a structured social media strategy. This model illustrates a 5-step process that is intended to help businesses develop and implement successful social media plans which continuously build and improve upon themselves. The components are: A Direction (Goal), A Target (Target Market), Uniqueness(Differentiator), Technology (Marketing Tools), and Assessment (Feedback). Each component within the model carries an equal amount of importance and is fully integrated with the other four components.

1. A Direction

At its core a goal is the desired outcome you want. To determine your goal you need to figure out exactly what you want to achieve with social media.

Spending adequate time properly choosing your goal is essential. Your goal will essentially end up writing the rest of your strategy for you. It will allow you to build a map leading to what you want to achieve.

If implemented in such a way social media can completely transform your organization and your industry. It can force a fundamentally different understanding of how your organization does business by giving the customer a voice. This can occur now or you can wait till your competitors do it. It’s really your choice.

2. A Target

In order for your strategy to be successful you need to determine exactly who would be interested in participating. When you understand who your target market is you will then be able to determine how to reach them and understand what exactly they value. Once you understand how your target market participates you should look into why they participate.

3. Uniqueness

Once you figure out your goal and who your target market is the question then becomes, Why should someone participate with you and not your competition?

Differentiate yourself. You need to give your customer a completely unique reason to participate with you in social media. There are hundreds of companies competing for your target market’s time. You need to give your target market a reason to pick you.

4. Technology

Finally the question becomes: what tool(s) am I going to use that aligns perfectly with the first three steps? These tools need to be carefully analyzed and selected. Remember, in most cases it is better to focus your efforts to be really good at one tool rather than average at three.

5. Assessment

This step ensures that you have sustained results.

You need to ask yourself: How am I doing? What can I do to improve? Am I fully meeting my customer’s needs? Am I exceeding my customer’s expectations?

You need to ask your customers: How are we doing? What do you like? What do you want more of? What do you dislike? What do you want us to change?

Have a website that’s great AND visible

To really take control of your SERPs, you are, of course, going to need more than just a well-designed, search-optimized website. You are probably going to need a ton of social mentions, quality links, citations and co-citations, etc. The problem with these ranking factors is that they are difficult to accomplish in volume and generally require a lot of work to achieve, and, subsequently, the vast majority of websites don’t have them. You can, however, still achieve great things with solid design and on-page optimization. What’s the problem?

The problem is simple: websites that look amazing typically offer little opportunity for on-page optimization and conversely pages that are well optimized will often compromise the design and user experience.

This creates a chicken and egg scenario – what is the point in having a website that looks great if it can’t be found? And is there any point of being easy to find if the website isn’t engaging? How can we build sites that look amazing and are engaging, yet still maintain SEO performance? That’s where the webfont comes into play.

Webfonts from the likes of Google, Font Deck, Typekit, and Fonts.com have been around for a couple of years and offer a great way to give a website style without compromising crawlability. They form the fundamental structure and underpinning of any well-designed, well-optimized site.

To add more of a visual appeal, designers will add graphical elements to websites such as banners and calls to action. These elements are usually created as images so the designer can use attractive fonts, add type effects such as drop shadows, gradients, and a whole host of other treatments that form part of the designer’s toolkit. Websites need these kinds of graphics, as they make websites engaging and they make the user much less likely to become uninterested and leave.

By using a combination of webfonts, HTML, and CSS, it is possible to retain the beauty and achieve good SEO by creating all of the text elements within a banner as “live text.”

Not only can a live text banner look great, but they can also be marked up with H1’s, body type, bold text, and updated dynamically. Search engines will just see this as standard HTML. Best of all, these banners or graphics can be even be marked up as rich text using schema or microdata.

The biggest hurdle in building a good looking website that also has great performing SEO attributes is uniting these two disciplines. Designers focus on sites that look great and create a good user experience whilst being engaging, whereas an SEO typically wants a site which is very search engine friendly and one that ranks well.

If the design and SEO teams gain an appreciation of each others’ requirements, the results can be innovative and outstanding.

Internet Marketing: Taking Control Of Your Search Engine Results Page

If you’re a business owner, you need to know the exact direction your business needs to go to take it to the next level. Now you need to translate that into Google results. Taking ownership of your SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is strongly encouraged, and there are more ways than ever to do just that.

Branded AdWords Campaign

The first step for any small business to clearly own the SERP is to start a branded AdWords campaign. By tightly controlling keyword choice with exact and phrase match types, a marketer keeps costs low, avoids brand squatters without filing for a trademark, and strengthens the brand’s appearance on the Google SERP.

Furthermore, by using phrase and exact match in your keyword set, you limit your ad from showing on less-related keywords, keeping your cost-per-clicks low and manageable.

Branded Organic Results

Slightly more difficult than showing ads for your brand is to ensure your site shows prominently in organic rankings. While domain name plays a role, the stronger signals come from, as you might expect, links. The easiest way to do this without trying is to get links from news sources and local blogs by doing newsworthy things as a business.

Short of getting natural links, posting press releases about truly meaningful company news can be picked up by news sources.

Google+ & Local Optimization

Authorship has been mentioned before, but Google+ pages have become so much more than a Facebook competitor. By merging Google+ with Local results, it’s become imperative that a marketer set up a Google+ page.

But Google+ isn’t a cure-all. Expanding a consistent business profile to Yelp and other, more mundane business directories helps ensure that your Google Maps listing is strong in its own right. Keeping a strong and consistent local presence also helps with the real Holy Grail: non-branded SERP domination.

The Real Win: Owning The Non-Branded SERP

Convincingly showing up on Google for your own brand name is great, and honestly not too difficult, but there is yet one more major hurdle for the intrepid internet marketer: non-branded search. Getting all these things right is hard enough, but to have to compete with others who have a reasonable reason to show for a given keyword forces you to take all the lessons from brand-level marketing and push it to the limit.

Making your social and local efforts relevant to unbranded search queries is the final piece to break Google. Accurately categorizing your business on Google+ Local and Facebook provides on-page factors that make it more likely to show up in SERPs.

In turn, review sites such as Yelp are further strengthened by the natural location and keyword data provided in organic reviews; these, when strengthened by links from your site and others, have a high chance of showing up for “money” keywords. The trick for the non-branded ranking domination is to scale your content and linking in a way that focuses not on your business name, but on your business’s services — a logical move to pull in customers who don’t know of your business’s existence.

Making an Old-School Marketing Strategy New-Aged

Are trade shows and events a marketers best friend or have they become too-old fashioned? It could depend on your perspective, and how up-to-date (or out-of-date) your event marketing strategy is. The goal should be about finding ways to draw people in instead of interrupting them to get your message heard.

These are what are considered more “old school” event marketing approaches, such as event-hosting, with some ways to update them with a more inviting, helpful, inbound-oriented approach.

1. Use space at an event to promote your product.

In the past, the way to have a presence at an event would be to get a booth. You would put up your logo on a sign and you would stand at your booth willing to talk to anyone about your product or service who walked by.

Reconsider the actual space you use, and make it somewhere people want to hang out. You’re striving for an experience that’s comfortable, relaxed, and helpful. Then maybe you’ll have the time to do better qualification, too — like offering free demos or consultations customized to each attendee, instead of your quick elevator pitch.

2. Having a giant sign.

With most events comes an opportunity to have one thing — a giant sign promoting your company. Not to hate on brand visibility, but in the past, the sign may have just had your company name and possibly the booth where you could be found.

Take it a step further and have something that will really explain your company’s purpose for being at the event.

3. Sending direct mail to invite people to your event.

So you’re having an event. How do you get people there?

Leverage email as a channel. The reason one person wants to attend your event is going to be different than the next person. Using email marketing not only makes reaching out less expensive and invasive; it enables you to draw on your knowledge of recipients to personalize a message that’s most relevant to them.

4. Spamming registrants with updates.

Sometimes, event marketers get a little overzealous with the cheap and efficient nature of email and use it as a tool to effectively spam event registrants. Ease up on the email updates. You absolutely should remind attendees of important information. But there are two things you can do to communicate this information via email, without overflowing someone’s inbox: consider what information is most appropriate to send at what time, and consider what information you know a particular recipient has already consumed.

5. Not aligning content choices with audience.

Securing speakers and content for an event isn’t easy. You want to get speakers who are well known in the industry, but you also want to make sure they have experience presenting. Previously, event coordinators picked out of these two categories: 1) well known in the industry, or 2) produced quality content. It’s vital to make sure the content aligns with your target audience.

Before you choose your speakers, consider who you are trying to target, and think about your company’s buyer personas. Think about what your attendees are really looking for out of your event, and then choose your content accordingly. If your conference is an annual event, you can even survey your attendees to see what they want to learn about.

6. Keeping event content an exclusive secret.

It used to be that in order to draw people to your event, you had to promise exclusive content for attendees only.

The thing is, drawing people to an event shouldn’t be approached any differently than generating leads. Great content will usually do it, but those that aren’t ready to take the leap shouldn’t be “punished,” either.

Steps to Effective Real-Time Marketing

How to Do Effective Real-Time Marketing

1) Determine Relevant Streams

Before you can even consider implementing real-time marketing, you have to identify where conversations relevant to your brand are taking place. Is your audience using Twitter? Pinterest? Instagram? Reddit? Maybe they roll over in the morning and fire up Facebook even before wiping the sleepers out of their eyes.
Understand your audience. Understand their social media habits and tendencies. Know which social media platforms they frequent.

2) Organize the Stream

You can’t understand or paint a clear picture of a conversation unless you have all the pieces in one place. From a more strategic standpoint, that means having all decision-makers in the same room or, at least, connected in a way that allows you to make quick decisions based on the flow of the conversation. This is exactly what made Oreo’s Dunk in the Dark ad possible.

3) Understand the “Stream”

Once you’ve identified your audience’s neighborhood, you have to familiarize yourself with “the stream.” And by stream, I mean the flow of content related to a particular area of interest for your brand. This can be as broad as the aforementioned Super Bowl, or it can be a much smaller content stream that focuses on an event or particular focus for your brand.

4) Determine Influence and Relevance

While it’s crucial to determine when, where, and with whom the conversation takes place, the relative importance of the conversation should be of greater interest to you. Is it relevant to your brand? Just how “big” is the conversation? Does the conversation allow for the placement of contextual content your audience would deem useful, informative, or pointedly amusing?

5) Set up Alerts

The most important takeaway is that these alerts must happen in real time so your real-time marketing can be implemented properly. Had Oreo published its Dunk in the Dark ad the next day, it would not have had anywhere near the effectiveness it did during the game.

For popular, annual events such as the Super Bowl, “war room” scenarios make sense to monitor conversation and determine relevance. For smaller events they may not be necessary.

6) Frame the Conversation

Whether you’re managing a real-time marketing campaign for your own brand or for another, the conversation must be summarized and framed in a manner that is easily understood by your team, your client, or for that matter, yourself. Framing the conversation brings clarity and helps identify whether or not the conversation is one that lends itself to brand engagement.

7) Engage

Once everything is ready to go, it’s time to engage. It’s time to act on all of the information you have acquired and for you to implement some informative, insightful, or perhaps even witty real-time marketing.

If you’ve determined the relevant streams, pulled them together into a single dashboard, identified relevant conversations, informed everyone on the team, and framed the conversation in context of the brand, you’re ready to act.

Real-Time Marketing Is the Future of All Marketing

For real-time marketing to work, a different marketing mindset is required. As tools and techniques improve, just about all forms of marketing will, in essence, be real-time marketing.

To survive, you have to move at the speed of social conversation. You don’t have to join — or even acknowledge — every single conversation, but you do have to have a clear handle on what’s being said and have a plan in place to act quickly if need be.

More Features of Google AdWords Revealed

Paul Fend, the product management director of Google AdWords, shared a couple of new features of Google AdWord’s enhanced platform. Google originally planned to launch the updated platform mid-June, but has been pushed back to July 22, 2013, making PPC marketers excited to test out the new features. Fend revealed to the audiences at HeroConf, a conference devoted solely to PPC, the following features on the highly anticipated Enhanced Platform on Google AdWords:

Keyword Planner: This tool will help your firm decide what keywords to bid on. It helps research a combination of keywords and estimates the amount of traffic each keyword will get. The keyword planner will smoothen the two-tool system the PPC marketers had to fumble with previously.

Flexible Bid Strategies: This feature will allow you to adjust bids at the campaign, ad group, or keyword level. Flexible bidding will allow PPC marketers to bid by page position.

As a certified Google Partner, Windy City Strategies has had the opportunity to utilize the new platform before its release. We can attest to Google’s many improvements and their increased efficiency.

Enhance Your AdWords Campaign With Google Ad Extensions

Google Ad Extensions are great way to attract more attention through your online PPC advertising campaigns. These Google Ad Extensions allow business to show additional information through links on your Google AdWords ads and can be a powerful tools for a variety of effects, including increasing CTR, boosting conversion rate and decreasing CPA.

These 7 Extensions are:

1. Google Map Extension– Display Your Google Places / Google + page

2. Sitelink Extension- Add up to 4 additional links within your ad to specific pages on your website

3. Click-To Call Extension- A great mobile extension allowing searches to click your phone number in the ad

4. Offer Extension- Give your customers a coupon/deal/special promotion

5. Product Extension- Highlight specific products from your Google Merchant Center in your ad

6. Social Media Extension- Include your Google + page in your ad

7. App Extension- Allow searches to click the link in your ad & directly download your app

If your business is not utilizing the ad extensions provided by Google AdWords, contact Windy City Strategies today. As a certified Google AdWords company, our advanced knowledge and training has allowed us to use these extensions to their fullest potential.

By Alisha Lowans

Google’s New Remarketing Campaign

Remarketing as defined by Google is a powerful way to broaden your reach and bring customers one step closer to buying. With Google’s new Analytics Remarketing, targeting customers has never been simpler. Analytics Remarketing allows businesses to remarketing to every person that visits your website, user who have visited a specific web page, potential customers who have abandoned their shopping cart and much more. By identifying these people groups you can target the specific audience type by running ads in the Google Display Network tailored to that audience.

Google Analytics Remarketing works by changing the Google Analytics code on your website. By changing out the analytics code and enabling a remarketing list, your display ads will being running to your website visitors within 24hrs after approved by Google. Windy City Strategies has implemented Google Analytics Remarketing for hundreds of clients and has seen a dramatic increase in conversions while still keeping client PPC budgets on track and CTR (click through rates) low.

If your business is interested in setting up Google Analytics Remarketing, contact the Internet marketing experts at Windy City Strategies today.

By Alisha Lowans

How to Catch Consumers’ Eyes with Quality Content

Want to see your company at the top of Google’s search list? With the growth of search engine optimization and Internet marketing, companies can find that their website caught in the clutter. Social media, online listings, and content all contribute to a company’s web presence. Quality content create quality websites, and the variety is endless. Windy City Strategies suggest to the the following to get your business noticed by customers and businesses.

  1. Conduct an Interview: Interviews can help provide interesting information on your industry. Customers will take interest and your interviewee can attract followers that might have overlooked your business.
  2. Publish a Survey: Showing results of a survey can help build customers’ trust in your business. Essentially you’re publishing your customer service.
  3. Report the Latest Industry News: Being in tune with the news shows that your business is aware of the market you’re working in.
  4. Share Presentations
  5. Host a webinar
  6. Share Reports
  7. Create an Infographic
  8. Newletters

Let Windy City Strategies help take your business to the next level with quality, professional and persuasive content to your website, presentation, newsletter and more. Contact us today.

 

Google Sends Three Representatives To Visit With Windy City Strategies

Google Inc. recently sent three Google representatives to visit the Windy City Strategies team to talk about our strategic partnership and exciting new marketing opportunities being launched that would be beneficial to our clients.

Windy City Strategies is a certified pay per click management company. This certification allows for a close working relationship with Windy City Strategies and Google. Our dedicated Google representatives consist of two agency strategists and a business development manager. The business development manager is Windy City Strategies ambassador within Google that identifies sales and business development opportunities in which Windy City Strategies is introduced to new Google products and Beta programs. Our agency strategists support Windy City Strategies by suggesting new optimization opportunities for existing accounts, Beta enrollments, new product tutorials, and technical support with Google.

During the visit, the Google representatives spent much of the time training the Windy City Strategies team on the new Beta programs along with new changes upcoming to the Google AdWords platform. Google also spent a great deal of time with Bjorn Torling, President of Windy City Strategies, on how Google could support Windy City Strategies better for 2013. “Hosting Google in our office and learning about our company is a great asset for our current clients and potential clients. It is really a win-win for everybody,” states Bjorn Torling.

Another way Google has helped Windy City Strategies take its marketing to the next level is by partnering with our subsidiary company, Windy City Web Designs, which builds custom and content management system websites. Windy City Web Designs creates websites that are search engine friendly and most importantly, Google friendly. Since Windy City Strategies is able to get all the latest Google news from our dedicated representatives, we have been able to implement the latest search engine optimization techniques provided by our Google reps to all of our website clients.

Torling says, “This visit to Windy City Strategies has been a great opportunity for our whole team to learn, ask questions and get a one on one approach with Google that is not available to many companies.”

About Windy City Strategies Windy City Strategies is a full service Internet marketing firm that helps businesses of all sizes with pay per click campaign management, search engine optimization, website design and development, and Internet marketing consulting.

For more information about available benchmarking resources, visit Windy City Strategies.

By Alisha Lowans