What’s the deal with SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a marketing technique that is often misunderstood. Look at it like this: millions of people use Google or whatever search engine they prefer to search for things daily. Most people click on the first results that are returned, not the results on the 12th page. This means that only the websites that are in the first few positions get found.  SEO is simply a collection of tactics that help a website get to the first position for search terms that describe the business. It is the process of aligning your website to the standards and recommendations of search engines in order to get increased traffic and visibility from search engine results.

SEO is constantly changing. New updates are released, new trends are discussed and new strategies are developed. Before getting caught up in what is to come with SEO, businesses must first understand the basic components of SEO. This will keep a business relevant and searchable in this evolving strategy. The first step to a great SEO strategy is keyword research. Businesses need to understand what people are searching for when discovering their business in a search engine. These are the keywords used to drive targeted traffic to their products. Next to consider is content. Creating quality content is the best way to rank for keywords and to create positive user experiences. Businesses also need to establish a strong social media presence on sites like Facebook, Twitters, etc. These sites send search engines signals of influence and authority. These are just a few of the many SEO strategies that businesses need consider when optimizing their website to rank well in top search engines. The infographic below contains more information about top SEO strategies for every business to  master.

What are your thoughts on SEO and content marketing?

7 reasons why your business should invest in SEO

SEO: Where to begin

6 big  myths about SEO

Captivating Audiences with Social Storytelling

With the rise of social media and user-generated content businesses have the opportunity to create more meaningful content that truly speaks to consumers. They can more easily spark conversations and create the shared experiences that make for social media/viral success. Social networking gives people the power to not just share content but to tell it and narrate the brand. Marketers can use this to really tell the story of their brand and make more personal connections with consumers.

Storytelling works because it humanizes the brand. Consumers are more attracted to marketing that creates emotion rather than marketing that simply sells a product. Storytelling helps unites an idea with an emotion, allowing concepts and ideas to be retained in our mind. Many major brands are tapping into their storytelling skills to create compelling campaigns with social media. The most recent example I can think of Jet Blue’s “Fly It Forward” campaign. The campaign provides consumers worthy of admiration with a free flight and gives them a chance to do the same for others. Jet Blue launched the campaign with four profile of people with deserving stories. They then turned it over to Twitter asking people to nominate “Fly It Forward” candidates. This campaign is a genius way to not only connect to consumers but also to award humanitarian efforts to those who deserve it.

One of the Jet Blue stories that touched me the most features a high school teacher who asked his students to write letters to their future selves, held onto them for 20 years, and then mailed them back. The story shows how his efforts really touched the lives of his former students and how an act so small can be so inspiring.

Does anyone have any more examples of brand storytelling that really touched you?

Storytelling:What it is and why all social media managers must use it in 2014.

Story as Strategy: How Social Storytelling Leads to Business.

The Rise of Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is one of the many ways brands are generating buzz while leveraging emerging media. It refers to techniques that encourage people to pass along a marketing message and that produce increases in brand awareness. It is called viral marketing because the campaigns spread amongst people much like an infectious disease. It is a self replicating process that usually starts with a few people and multiplies over a short period time. Viral marketing can take the form of video clips, advergames, images, web pages, emails, etc. Most of us have experienced viral marketing with major brands like Pepsi, Budweiser, and Apple getting in on the action. Thanks to viral nature of social media, it is easier than ever for brands to start viral campaigns.

The most obvious example of viral marketing I can think of is the ALS ice bucket challenge. For weeks, social feeds across the country were filled with videos of you, your mom, co workers, the president, celebrities, and other people pouring buckets of ice over their heads and challenging their friends to do the same. Even if you did not participate (like me), you saw the videos everywhere and knew at least a handful of people personally who did it. The ALS challenge is a case of massive word of mouth. On top of that, the participatory and viral nature of it made is an extremely effective way to raise awareness and funds for ALS.  In a short period of time, the ALS Association went from a relatively unknown organization to a part of the mainstream thanks to a campaign that spread like wildfire.

Did you do the ALS ice bucket challenge? What are your experiences with viral marketing?

Viral Marketing

Viral Marketing for the Real World

6 Viral Marketing Lessons to Learn from the Ice Bucket Challenge

The Marketing Genius of Advergaming

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With the increase in smartphone and tablet usage over the years, more and more people are spending their time playing games. Who hasn’t spent hours playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush on their mobile device? I remember obsessing for months over Words With Friends, finding random time throughout the day to play. Mobile games have changed that way people look at gaming and gamers. The stereotype of a “typical gamer” is out the window because anyone can fall into the mobile gamer category. 4 out of 5 smartphone users have played a game on their device and 46% play games on a daily basis.

Gaming is the future of advertising. Because of their popularity and accessibility, mobile games have become one of the best ways for marketers to reach consumers. In-game ads and ad sponsored titles have become popular marketing tools for many major brands to reach consumers through existing mobile games. There is also a large market for advergames or games built around a particular brand. Many company websites or apps feature some sort of specialized advergame including McDonald’s, Domino’s Pizza, and Coca-Cola. Whether it is in-game advertising or an advergame, gaming provides marketers with the unique opportunity to tap into a consumer obsession and deliver highly target ads.

What are your experiences with advergaming?

The Secrets of Advergaming

Why Mobile Games Are Shaking Up The Advertising Business

The Future of Mobile Game Advertising

My love/hate relationship with email marketing

As a consumer, I often find myself frustrated at the number of emails that fill up my promotions tab on Gmail. In the past 48 hours I have accumulated 160 promotional emails that include newsletters from companies like Starbucks, Groupon, Urban Outfitters, Toys R Us, and StubHub just to name a few. While some of them I clearly remember signing up for, many of them I am confused about how exactly I ended up on their list. Out of the 160 emails I may open up 2-3 based on what headlines grab my attention. Although many of the emails may include content or coupons that I could be interested in, it is exhausting and highly annoying for me to sort through that many emails on a daily basis. Rather than going through an unsubscribing to emails, I usually select all in my promotions tab and delete.

As a marketer, I believe email marketing is an excellent way to contact and maintain relationships with customers. It is a cost effective, versatile medium that has been used for years and is increasing with the use of smartphones. The problem with email marketing, however, is that it only works if people open the emails. In order to reach consumers like me and avoid getting dumped in the virtual wastebasket, marketers must consider ways to improve your email open rates. The infographic below, lists the 10 ways to improve email open rates. Of all the ways to improve open rates, giving recipients control over what they receive is the most important. All consumers should have the option of opting in, opting out, the frequency of the emails, and even what content they receive. Additionally, these options should be clearly defined and easy to access. When customers are given control, they will only receive the content they want to receive. This kind of power will increase the chances of the customer actually opening up the email and receiving your marketing message.

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Pushing the e-Envelope: Integrating email into your multichannel marketing plan

Email Irritation [Infographic]

What marketers need to know: Email marketing is changing [Infographic]

Why Gmail’s Unsubscribe Button Is Good For Email Marketers

Emerging Media & the Web

It is an exciting time for marketing with, what seems like, the emergence of new media platforms everyday. In today’s interactive world, conversations about brands and media strategies have become much broader. Digital identities have expanded beyond just a corporate website to include social networks, blogs, and mobiles apps. Thanks to the rising use of computers, smartphones, and tablets, the web remains the fastest growing electronic medium in history.

https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRF3V896_GaTnWhUIkv3i09bgiKyqh6b3Ko3_JZqrwWXwk-R2ViDesigning for the web is an evolutionary process that adapts with emerging media. In order to work efficiently and reach the people you’re intending to reach, the design process should start with a detailed plan.  You should understand your purpose and the key brand messages you are trying to send in addition to who the target audience is. It is the audience that will ultimately determine  your ever-changing content and many other design aspects. As the planning goes on much consideration should be given to the content, navigation, design, and most importantly– user experience of the website.  It is after all of this, that the website can be launched for consumers to enjoy. Once launched, it is important to keep in mind that as technology evolves, updates should be made to the content and structure to make the web page better. Whether its adding media like videos or changing the design to respond to smartphones, websites should be updated frequently to stay fresh and relevant to consumers. With so many new ways for people to consume information, companies must adapt their strategies to reach their audiences where they are and where they are going.

According to a Forbes article about the top web trends in 2014, there are three significant styles that design pros agree are the most significant for the year:

1) Responsive Design: the most critical for small business. Why? Because it is quickly becoming the standard, and if you don’t comply, it will negatively affect your Google ranking. Responsive design means a set website is a thing of the past. Instead, we must not feel like all elements that fit on a desktop must be present on the screen of a smartphone. That’s where the design comes in, finding a pro who knows what will work best on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop-size screen, and including the elements that make for the most seamless and enjoyable format.

2) Simple Design: Simplicity refers to the integration of best practices so site visitors get what they need seamlessly and without complication. What simplicity does not imply is generic. Yes, to powerful images. Yes, to meaningful content. Yes, to sleek and purposeful navigation. So how do you decide what is and what is not important? The right designer, of course. See, instead of random guessing, a qualified designer or team will do split testing to gauge response – taking out much of the guesswork. Plus, an experienced design team will have worked with similar companies/formats and should have a pretty good idea what is working, and what is working well. They will also be able to use pragmatism and remove your own personal bias and emotion.

3) Storytelling Design: this methodology suggests that users are told a story through concise, compelling copy coupled with strong imagery as they scroll down the page. Another way to say it? MAKE. IT. FUN. Let them discover who you/your company are by letting it unfold before their eyes, so to speak. Let them start where you did and fast-track them to how you arrived at a solution. Gone are the days of “I am so great” over and over again – in every nook and cranny of your site. (At least we hope it will be after reading this.) Imagine scrolling down to the bottom of a website page, where the process unfolds like a fairy tale, or an evolution of sorts. Set a goal/challenge your designer, with something like this: “I want new visitors to be able to move down from the top of the page to the bottom in 30 seconds and have a crystal clear idea of who we are and what we do. And for repeat visitors, I want them to easily identify where to go to make a purchase, or visit our blog, virtually without having to look.” Sure, an effective “storytelling” website is easier said than done. But it’s a worthwhile challenge – and if it’s done well, you’re pretty much assured of a website that will be the belle of the ball.

Responsive Web Design Infographic

Periodic Table of Web Design Process

Why Your Business Needs A Responsive Website Before 2014

Top Web Design Trends In 2014

Digital Marketing: It’s a Kid’s World

There is one group of consumers that is more connected than any other group and that has the potential to make any message go viral. Children are the next super consumer and now have a powerful market influence because they are the future of advertising. Campaigns targeted at kids can be seen everywhere, from a product placement in a tv show, to toy/movie ties ins, to social media pages to product packaging. Today kids marketing comes in many new, sneaky forms such as social media celebrity endorsements, text updates/mobile alerts, YouTube videos, and ads disguised as games. With the targeting advertising getting more creative as new media emerges, it is very important that marketers keep in mind the rising the concerns and limitations of youth marketing.

Studies have shown that children younger than 8 are cognitively and psychologically defenseless against advertising.  While children can tell the difference between marketing and other forms of communication, they are more vulnerable to manipulation and prone to accepting messages as truthful. Kids give advertisers lots of information just by downloading an app or signing up for a website. Privacy vulnerabilities are a big concern because it is easy for kids to be exploited and preyed upon by advertisers. Numerous industry groups have taken action and developed self-regulatory codes of conduct that specifically address the issue of marketing to children. This move towards new standards is to ensure that communications and marketing do not have adverse effects on children but instead promotes children’s rights, positive self-esteem, healthy lifestyles and non-violent values.

CSRinfographic.

A Global Agenda for Children’s Rights in the Digital Age

How Advertising Targets Our Children (blog)