I spoke at Women’s Web’s Breaking Barriers event last Saturday, on how small business entrepreneurs can effectively use content marketing. Here’s my presentation.
The U.S. legal system’s attempts aside, businesses aren’t actually people. Yet we often speak of brand personalities – and in fact, many of our purchasing decisions are influenced by not just how good the product or service is, but whether we like the brand and if it aligns with our values.
For a startup or small business, creating and managing a brand identity is both more difficult – a tiny marketing budget! – and easier. It’s easier because as a small business owner, you can keep your communications more consistent and effectively showcase your brand personality.
Here’s a five step guide to doing this.
1. Decide on a persona that works with your values and strengths.
In other words, get your strategy in place. What do you envision your brand to be? Are you pedantic or casual? Experienced or youthful? Staid or vibrant?
And if you haven’t figured out your values yet, start now: are you for innovation or efficiency? People or results? Individuality or conformance? Artisan or mainstream? (Not that each pair is mutually exclusive, but you might want to decide what you care about most.)
Continue reading Showcasing Your Brand Personality
It seems all I write about here anymore is about our failure. I hope this will be the last time, for a while at least!
I’m quoted in this book–Undeterred, by Rania Anderson–on my experience on starting and failing at a business.
I’m quoted a few more times, but if you want to read that–and the stories of a bunch of other interesting women from all over the world–buy the book!
I agree with a lot of this article that says typos don’t matter. Getting overly fussed over typos is silly: it’s the message that matters. And typos don’t have much to do with intelligence and maybe with how good a writer you are (at least, it’s not proportionate – you could be a great proof-reader and an indifferent writer.) (Case in point – I just wrote ‘indiffirent’ in that last sentence and took half a minute figuring out why the word had that red squiggly line under it.) (Though my being a better-than-indifferent writer is up for debate, of course.) And yes, pointing out typos is just a way for other people to mock you and feel superior.
Wait. Back up. Read that last sentence in the last paragraph again.
Continue reading Why Typos Matter
How do you create a content marketing plan? Over at Search Engine People, I list 25 questions that will help you get started.
The new year has been here for a while already, but for some of us, the beginning of the Indian financial year in April is when new plans get in place. So if you’re still working on your content marketing plan for the year, these questions might help!
Why 25 questions? I didn’t start out to make 25. My brief was to write about how to create a content marketing plan. My approach to these things is always to start with the information I need, the questions that need to be answered before you can even start planning. I thought about the blog post for two weeks, but once I started writing down the list of questions, it came together very quickly.
I have also found this, in the past, a useful exercise in figuring out what I want to achieve:
Make a ‘dream plan’. What would you accomplish in an ideal world where you have all the resources you want, including an unlimited budget?
Read the post here.
Are you still wondering why everyone is talking about Hummingbird suddenly? Read on and these links will answer all your questions.
What is Hummingbird?
Hummingbird is the name of Google’s new search algorithm. Google claims it will provide better search results. Hummingbird is one of the biggest updates ever to how Google interprets user’s search queries and how it evaluates indexed webpages for a better match. Search Engine Land has a nice FAQ post that will give you more details. If you prefer a more visual approach, try this infographic.
Why is this important?
Wired has a good explanation on the impact and importance of Hummingbird, and to give you a glimpse:
“The biggest improvements involve longer search queries. Rather than just examining each individual word in a search, Google is now examining the searcher’s query as a whole and processing the meaning behind it.”
What will be the impact of Hummingbird on my site’s SEO?
Exact details are yet unclear and Google likes to keep people guessing when it comes to search algorithams. But Don Dodds has given a good summary of what is known as of now.
“Site owners that rely on the provision of high-quality content, that steer clear of black hat techniques, and that look to build multiple traffic streams using a universal marketing approach are those that will enjoy better long term results.”
Not much has really changed if you are a small business and are relying on good content, social referrals and customer feedback. HubSpot summarizes important factors nicely in their post.
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Everyone seems to be talking about video marketing these days. And the rise of apps like Vine and Instagram video means that very short videos are back in the marketing mix.
Do you want to use videos to market your business but think it’s too difficult or are short on ideas? Well, here are some useful resources to help you get started.
If you are not sure if videos are the right tool for you or wondering what kind of videos to create, start with this recent post by SpinSucks:
“More and more companies are producing PR and marketing videos, and thanks to the web and social media, they have become easily shared pieces of content.”
Continue reading Monday Marketing Mashup: Video Marketing Ideas and Tools
It’s bad news.
The day many SEO professionals hoped would never come, but feared eventually would, apparently has arrived today. It appears that Google has cut off keyword data altogether.
Nearly two years after making one of the biggest changes to secure search that resulted in a steady rise in “(not provided)” data, Google has switched all searches over to encrypted searches using HTTPS. This means no more keyword data will be passed to site owners.
What does this mean? Search Engine Land explains:
When searches are encrypted, search terms that are normally passed along to publishers after someone clicks on their links at Google get withheld. In Google Analytics, the actual term is replaced with a “Not Provided” notation.
Why does this matter? Search terms are a great measure of user intent, and we won’t have that anymore. We’ll still see how many visits we’re getting through Google search, but not what those visitors were searching for. So it’s going to be difficult, to put it mildly, to optimize your pages for search if you don’t know what terms you’re ranking for. We’ll all be left shooting in the dark.
So what do we do? Ruud Hein explains five ways to get around this, including keyword data from other search engines and using Google Webmaster Tools.
Edited to add this excellent post that went up after I published this: Neil Patel explains how this move by Google might actually make you a better marketer. He also provides some great tips for managing the change.
Ultimately, none of these other tools will make up for the visibility we’re losing with this change, but we’ve got to work with what we have. The silver lining I see is maybe we’ll stop obsessing over keyword rankings and search results and algorithm changes and focus instead on delivering the best content for our audience.
A colleague asked me last week about advice for promotional products companies on blogging. Let’s look at how promotional products businesses use their blogs.
A Google search on [promotional products blog] gets us this. Good job, Inkhead! Especially as two of the other top search results are from ASI (a promo products industry association whose page with links to industry blogs shows up) and an industry magazine.
I do another quick search for recently updated blogs and we’re good to go.
Continue reading How Promotional Products Companies Blog
If you have spent much time on the internet lately, especially on social media, you’re aware that the noise is increasing. It’s more and more difficult to find relevant messages because of all the content that is created. (And I know, we’re part of the problem.)
Rich Becker muses over where automation will take social media:
The platform shift from conversation to broadcast is a symptom of what marketers measure.
They measure actions (tweets, retweets, link clicks), which discourages dialogue. It discourages it because conversations are not valued on the action scale. It discourages it because the more organic conversations take place, the more marketers have to drown them out with frequency. And it discourages it because scalable actions require automation, which means the marketer isn’t participating.
Continue reading Monday Marketing Mash-up: Forget Automation and Algorithms; Focus on People
Brian Dean, as he says himself, is “living the dream”: his SEO expertise enables him to “work as a digital nomad and travel in countries like Thailand, Japan, Spain, and Turkey” (and currently, Germany). He is also a popular blogger: his SEO blog, Backlinko, has fantastic resources and advice about SEO.
We ask him about how he got to where he is, and get him to share tips about SEO and blogging.
My questions and comments are italicized.
1. Your profile is intriguing: tell us how you got here. You make the shift from freelance writer to SEO sound so easy: was it actually as easy as that?
Continue reading Create A Few Great Pieces of Content: Advice from Brian Dean, SEO Expert and Blogger
One industry that I think is fertile ground for marketing content is Bed and Breakfast inns. These inns provide a more picturesque, intimate experience than bigger hotels, and as far as I know, most of them seem to be run by the owners. So it seems to make perfect sense that innkeepers would blog about their inns. But do they?
I searched for [bed and breakfast blog] on Google.
What surprised me is that most of these blogs haven’t been updated recently. If you look at this screenshot, one of these blogs was last updated in April! The blog with the most recent post (not in the screenshot) was on August 24.
I changed the search to pages updated in the last week, and got a wholly different set of results. Even so, one blog listed in the first page was updated 2 days ago; everything else was between 5-7 days.
The Blue Door on Baltimore, for example, has a charming blog with photos and behind-the-scenes info about the running of the inn, as well as tips on what to do in Baltimore. But the blog hasn’t been updated for over a year: there were three posts in the first week of June 2012, and nothing since. Is the inn still running?
Continue reading Bed and Breakfast Blogs: Innkeepers Boost Marketing by Sharing Stories
What’s link-building? It’s the term used in SEO for getting good links to your site, so that your search visibility goes up.
But is link-building a good term to use?
Earning links is about creating things that people want to link to, so rather than asking people for a link, you’re just placing excellent quality content in front of influencers, and letting them do the rest.
I especially like this part of the post, since so many people ignore offline activities as a factor in online marketing:
Think offline. Sometimes online marketing has to start offline. Just think about how many websites must review, write about, and link to events and news. Well marketers, it’s time to create that news, and plan those events. Get out there and get involved with your target market, create a flash mob, launch a publicity stunt, and do what it takes to make people talk about your brand. What happens online is often reactive to what happens offline, so maybe it’s even more effective to be the creator, not the commentator.
Continue reading Monday Marketing Mash-up: Link-Building Tips
It’s “back to school” season in the U.S. and some other parts of the world, and many businesses have special promotions during this time. Let’s see how small businesses are using the #backtoschool hashtag on Facebook.
This hashtag isn’t important for you? You should still know how to use similar seasonal hashtags for your Facebook page.
1: Offer a discount or deal
The most obvious way to cash in on a seasonal trend is to offer a special deal or promotion.
Continue reading How Small Businesses Are Using the #backtoschool Hashtag on Facebook
Likes and retweets are all very well, but what you really want is conversions: someone signing up to your newsletter, filling up your lead form, or buying your product. This week, let’s work on improving conversions.
First, are you tracking conversions on your website? You can do this easily by setting up goals in Google Analytics.
Neil Patel offers copywriting tips that will increase your conversions. The first few are great copywriting tips for any piece of writing: focus on benefits (i.e., the reader, not you), format your text, use images, and so on. But there are some less obvious tips in there too.
The Leaky Bathtub offers an easy way to get your prospects to take action: treat them like dogs. What does this mean? Tell your prospects what you want them to do, not what you want them to not do.
Search Engine Land explains how to optimize all your pages, not just your “landing pages.”
The Visual Website Optimizer blog explains five conversion best practices.
Now let’s get to work! Use some of these tips to improve your website’s conversions and get more money pouring in.
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How many views does your About Us page get?
For us, it’s in the top ten, if you include blog pages. If you don’t, it’s consistently in the top two, with the home page. That’s a pretty important page. And most businesses spend a lot of time and effort getting the home page right and don’t bother to optimize the About Us page.
When was the last time you updated your About Us page?
I rewrote our About Us page last week, to make it more user-centric and less self-indulgent. What we had earlier told our story: who the team is, how we built Markitty. But why should you care about that?
Continue reading Monday Marketing Mash-up: Improve Your “About Us” Page
Facebook has been recently making efforts to serve its business users, by dramatically improving Page Insights and adding other new features. Now it has started a Facebook for Business site with more resources for page owners and advertisers.
From the announcement:
Whether you’re just getting started or looking to amplify existing efforts, Facebook for Business can help you understand your options and choose the appropriate strategies. In the Getting Started section, you’ll find tips for meeting specific business goals, like increasing online sales or launching a new product. The Solutions section organizes our advertising tools and strategies by both product and industry.
This seems to be more geared towards advertisers rather than people looking for organic growth, but if you are spending on advertising, the extra resources to help you make more effective use of your money don’t hurt!
Continue reading Facebook Finally Explains Why All Your Fans Don’t See All Your Posts
We haven’t done an interview in a while, and I’m especially pleased with this one because it focuses on an interesting industry: book publishing.
Maegan Chadwick-Dobson manages social media for Tara Books, an independent publisher based in India. Tara Books has an awesome Facebook page with lots of lovely photos of their books, events, and “the Book Building.” The Twitter account shares interesting info as well, and Maegan is behind it all! We asked her about social media, marketing to an international audience, and more.
My questions and comments are in bold.
You share a lot of interesting updates on Facebook. Do you keep a publishing calendar or just decide at the moment what you’re going to post today?
Continue reading Marketing for a Publisher: Interview with Maegan Chadwick-Dobson of Tara Books
I recently got a question about how to learn SEO, and thought that is a great topic for a weekly round-up! Here are some of my favorite blogs and resources.
Moz (previously SEOmoz) is where I go to most often when I need an answer. They have great explanatory guides on anything from title tags to canonicalization. Their blog also has in-depth articles on a range of SEO topics, including this recent one on redirects and their effect on your website.
And if you’re new to SEO, their beginners’ guide might be a good place to start.
The KISSmetrics blog is another great source of SEO and analytics advice. The blog posts are usually easy to understand for us non-tech people, and have a lot of advice you can try out. I like this recent post about being penalized by Google, or just go to the SEO category and start reading.
Another old go-to for SEO news and advice is Search Engine Land. To start, check out the links on this page, or go here directly and dive in.
And don’t forget Google Analytics help pages.
Is there any favorite resource you turn to for SEO advice?
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