Measuring the ROI of Your Social Media Campaigns

Measuring the ROI of Your Social Media Campaigns

Social media marketing can be a great tool for promoting your brand and engaging directly with customers and potential buyers. But at the end of the day, you should be getting more from your marketing efforts than simply being a part of “the conversation.” If you want your actions on popular social platforms to translate into increased sales and profits, you need to learn how to measure the ROI of your social media campaigns.

So, without further ado, here’s a simple process that any business can implement, using the free Google Analytics program:

Step #1 – Set your social media campaign goals
The first step to measuring ROI in any situation is to determine the specific goals you’ll be tracking. In this case, let’s assume that your goal is to use social media marketing to drive additional buyers to your website. As a result, a sample goal might be to have 5% of the visitors your business receives from social media sites convert into paid product purchasers.

Now that you know what goal you’re measuring – in this case, sales – you’ll need to set up goal tracking within Google Analytics.

Begin by logging into the admin area of your account and clicking on the profile of the site for which you’ll be creating goals. From there, select the “Goals” tab and click the “+ Goal” link in one of your goal sets. This will pull up a screen that allows you to select between the four different types of goals that can be tracked within Google Analytics:

social media roi 1

If your website’s sales funnel results in visitors landing on a defined “thank you” page (for example, “http://www.yourdomain.com/thankyou.html”), select the “URL Destination” goal option and fill out the additional fields that this action triggers. If you use a more complicated ecommerce system, select the “Event” goal type and use the instructions found in Google Help’s “Conversion Overview” documentation to accurately set up your goals.

Step #2 – Measure goal conversions from social media traffic
Once your goal is set up and activated, it will immediately start generating data on the number of sales occurring on your website. However, setting up a conversion goal alone isn’t enough to provide meaningful information regarding the ROI of your social media campaigns, as this reporting feature will detail sales that occur from all sources – not just your social visitors.

To filter out the goal conversions that have occurred from social visitors from those triggered by other referral sources, you’ll need to set up an Advanced Traffic Segment within your Google Analytics account.

To do this, navigate to the “Traffic Sources Overview” screen within your reporting dashboard. Immediately under the page’s main header, you’ll see a button labeled “Advanced Segments.” Click this, and then click the “+ New Custom Segment” button that appears in the lower right-hand corner of the segmentation menu.

From the new screen that appears, add “OR” statements utilizing the “Source” metric to specify visitors that come from particular social media sources. As an example below, the custom segment “Facebook Traffic” captures all site visitors that arrive via both desktop and mobile Facebook platforms:

social media roi 2

Create a custom segment for every social media website your site receives traffic from, being sure to include desktop and mobile domains, as well as any platform-specific URL shortening services (for example, “t.co” from Twitter). Don’t group all social domains into one “Social Media Traffic” custom segment, as this will diminish the value of the data you generate.

Step #3 – Adjust your social media marketing strategy based on data
Once your custom social segments have been created, return to the “Goals Overview” reporting dashboard within the “Conversions” menu and apply the custom filters you’ve created to your data by clicking on the “Advanced Segments” button. This will allow you to determine how many of your website’s conversions your social media visitors are responsible for.

Finally, to fully capture your social media marketing ROI, compare the number of sales your social efforts have generated to the amount of time and money you’ve invested into these campaigns. Measure your ROI on a platform-specific basis, as it’s not uncommon for a site to see a positive ROI from one social site and a negative ROI from another.

Use this information to adjust your social media marketing strategy. If you’re seeing a negative ROI across all the social properties you’ve invested in, you need to either improve your social media marketing techniques or cut back on the amount of resources you commit to this promotional strategy.

But even if you’re seeing a positive ROI, use the platform-specific information you’ve generated to drill down further into your social media marketing strategies to see what’s working and what isn’t. By consistently evaluating the performance of your social media activities and adjusting your strategies accordingly, you’ll see an improvement in both your social network engagement levels and in your company’s bottom line.

Social Media Etiquette: how to respond to negative feedback

Social Media Etiquette: how to respond to negative feedback

Social media is a powerful tool for engaging your customers, but it can also be a double-edged sword. It has largely put the fate of businesses’ reputations in the hands of the consumers. Take some notes, so that you know what not to do in response to negative social media feedback.

What NOT to Do

Never reply in all caps

This is basic online etiquette and should go without saying, but on the internet, typing in all caps is considered shouting. Not only that, but readers don’t take you seriously when you do it. You don’t need to add extra emphasis to your message. Let the words carry themselves.

Do not reply to everyone

Not all negative comments warrant a response.

Do not name call

Don’t call your customers names. Even if they insult your product, insult your wife, and question your parenting abilities, just don’t do it.

Leave out your personal views

Your goal should be to resolve the problem, not to have a rousing debate or convince others of your beliefs. Even if the customer is the one trying to engage you in discussions about religion or politics, stick to the issue at hand.

Do not engage in public arguments

You don’t want your customers to see you as unprofessional and combative. Avoid hashing out disagreements for all of your followers to see.

Do not blame the customer

Don’t blame the customer. You don’t want to come off as a business owner who responds to criticism by avoiding responsibility.

 

 

What to Do Instead

Reply with empathy

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and try to understand why they’re upset. Try to imagine how you would want a business owner to respond in that situation.

Ask questions

Instead of being defensive, try to clarify on the situation and why the customer is unhappy. This also shows that you’re serious about getting the issue resolved.

Stay professional

Avoid injecting your personal opinions and beliefs into the conversation. Make the goal to resolve the conflict at hand, not to win an argument.

Hold conversations privately

Instead of handling the negative mention in the comments section, invite the customer to call or email your customer support department. If necessary, encourage them to contact you directly.

Moderate your social media

Trolls do exist. Just because someone is dissatisfied with your business doesn’t give them permission to post spam and flame your Facebook page. Create a social media policy, make it available to the public, and boot those who violate it.

Take advantage of constructive criticism

Sometimes a customer’s negative social mention can help you to improve your products and services for the future. Use feedback to your advantage when it is constructive instead of dismissing it.

Apologize when needed

Never act too big to apologize if the problem was on your end. A simple apology can do a lot to diffuse the situation.

 

For the most part, social media is meant to yield positive results for businesses. However, as in the real world, businesses should be prepared to deal with unhappy customers from time to time. This isn’t always a bad thing. Constructive feedback can help you improve your business in the future. As for destructive feedback, you can always hit the block button.

Branding Strategies for Freelancers

Branding Strategies for Freelancers

As a freelancer, your success depends on your personal brand.

You may very well have the skills to get the job done. But without effective branding, clients won’t trust you.

Develop a personal brand that stands out. Become familiar with the client’s needs. And set yourself apart from the competition.

Deliver on your promises
Above all else, deliver on your promises.

You can’t build brand credibility based on words—only actions. Clients have high expectations. And when you commit to certain standards, they will hold you accountable.

Completing your commitments is a sign of professionalism. It shows people you can be trusted.

Be mindful of quality when fulfilling your clients’ promises. Subpar work will only diminish your brand’s value. Create a quality control checklist to ensure you’re producing excellent work.

Consistency is the ultimate brand-builder. Clients don’t want freelancers who deliver good work sometimes. They desire individuals who will provide quality every single time.

To remain consistent, never stop improving. Invest time in learning new skills, as well as honing your old ones.

Differentiate yourself from the competition by understanding your clients’ goals. Learn the reasoning behind their projects. This will help you provide a better work product.

Personal branding hinges on you delivering quality work in a consistent manner. Be prepared to make the commitment.

Build a website or portfolio
Show clients who you are and what you do. Create a website or portfolio to promote your brand.

A personal website is an effective tool to give clients an inside perspective. It provides a visual representation of your brand’s values and your work experience.

Develop a website that will showcase your talents. Add case studies about previous clients. Mention notable awards and recognitions. And highlight how your work makes a difference.

Moreover, focus your website on how you can solve your client’s problems: Don’t use your website to tell people what YOU do, use it to tell people what you can do for THEM.

Create a website that exudes professionalism and makes a good first impression. Based on eye-tracking research conducted at Missouri University of Science and Technology, “when viewing a website, it takes [visitors] less than two-tenths of a second to form a first impression.”

So, avoid adding a multitude of colors, splashed with various stock photos. Clients will leave and go to your competitors.

Develop a website worth visiting. Give prospective clients a reason to contact you.

Maintain a social media presence
We live in a tech-savvy society. And social media is helping individuals connect with people all over the world.

Expand your reach. Use social media to gain more exposure for your freelance services. A big part of being recognized as a distinctive, successful brand is the ability to reach consumers through multiple channels.

Research where your clients hang out online. Is it Facebook? Twitter? Or, maybe Instagram?

Then, start creating content on those social networks. Follow your clients’ profiles. Comment on their posts. And curate helpful information under your account.

Your online presence matters. Start building connections on social media.

Get Noticed

Every freelancer needs a personal brand that works for them. It will attract clients to your business, in return increasing your revenue.

Create quality work. Build an amazing website (Hostaculous can help with this part). Interact with clients on social media. Network with leaders in your industry. And develop a brand personality.

Be seen. Be heard. Build your personal brand.

Why Small Businesses Should Budget For Social Media Marketing

Why Small Businesses Should Budget For Social Media Marketing

It’s never been a secret that in order to run a successful business, you need to invest in marketing to ensure your brand is visible among the noise. While SEO and content creation are huge aspects to focus on, ignoring social media is no longer an option. People have come to expect finding all sorts of brands online, and your business is no exception.

Social media can provide benefits the best advertisements and email lists cannot compete with on their own. While it’s entirely possible to use your own time to run a commanding social media campaign, it’s often easier and a better investment to budget for social media opposed to using your valuable hours of the day.

What are some effective ways to spend on social media?

Spending money on social media marketing boils down to a few different strategies, all or one of which may work best for your small business:

  • Use your budget to boost and purchase advertisements.
  • Hire an additional employee(s) to be your official social media marketer.
  • Pay someone to create photo/written/video content for your brand.

Here are six reasons why creating a budget for social media is an excellent decision.

1. High ROI Potential

Over the last two decades the world of advertisements and marketing strategies have rapidly shifted towards focusing on the Internet.

And where do people spend most of their time online? Social Media.

Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram know this better than anyone and have provided incentives for businesses to purchase advertisements for less than you would pay for most other advertisements based on potential reach. Due to social media’s targeted approach, you’re much more likely to have the right potential customers viewing your ads.

2. It Gives Your Business Direction

The best businesses take the needs of people, however large, and fulfill them on a regular basis. The best advertisements figure out who these people are, and send them directly to your business. As previously mentioned, social media excels in targeting by seeking out audiences based on data patterns, or as we call it in the tech world, analytics.

As your business ages, you can use analytics to determine which products, services, and advertising strategies are (and aren’t) working for you. Paying for ads or hiring a social media analyst will be key in being able to use the data beneficially.

3. Unlimited Reach

The thing about social media ads is they don’t have a specified limit for how many people can view them. Since ads are integrated right into the social platform there’s an unlimited potential for people to share, tag, and re-post your content all over the Internet.

This is why companies create advertisements that often have nothing to do with their product until the last few seconds. If you can engage people for 15-30 seconds with something memorable, no matter how ridiculous, the amount of people who will see it can be endless, and for years after the time it’s released. If your business doesn’t have any team members capable of creating dynamic content, this might be an area where you should focus spending your budget: hiring creative content creators.

4. One Click Away

Printed advertisements have been on the decline for a number of reasons:

  • Tracking ROI is difficult and usually comes down to word of mouth.
  • The expected reach for print ads is more finite, and can be capped at how many copies are printed.
  • Print ads lack in-depth analytics about who is seeing them, and where viewers are coming from.

Internet ads, however, don’t have to deal with any of those pitfalls. Best of all, if someone feels the need to take action on your advertisement they’re only a single click away.

5. Developing A Customer Relationship

Have you ever left a comment on an advertisement you saw in a magazine? Me neither, an artfully-drawn mustache perhaps, but never a comment I would expect someone might reply to.

With social media you have the unique opportunity of creating advertisements that also develop a personal relationship with your customers. If anyone has a question, or something to compliment you on, you can answer it on the spot and thank them personally for using your service.

6. Looking Towards Permission

Even though this whole article has been discussing the benefits of ads, I have to talk about advertising as a whole. People are sick of ads.

With things like Netflix, subscription music services like Pandora, and the option to skip ads on YouTube it’s very apparent people are over having sales pitches thrown at them, and will even pay to have ads turned off. Nowadays we want to define ourselves through the brands we spend money on, and that means looking at choice.

On social media people choose to like your page. People choose to say “I find this ad annoying.” Instead of paying to have it crammed down peoples’ throats, pay to have your ads put where people are actually looking, their social networks.

5 online marketing strategies for small businesses that work

5 online marketing strategies for small businesses that work

Online marketing strategies are no different from traditional marketing strategies when it comes to goals and purpose. Both types aim to increase brand awareness and find more customers for the particular company.

Online marketing or digital marketing as it is more widely known, has a number of components that cover every aspect of online promotion from content creation to delivery and sales. These components can be combined together and form 5 basic strategies that can be used by any type of online business to get more traffic and customers online.

1. Search engine marketing

Search engine marketing (SEM) is the first online marketing strategy you can use and it has two major components. First is SEO (Search engine optimization) and second is PSA (Paid Search Advertising). In simple words SEO will help you get more organic visits from search engines for free while PSA can get you visits from search traffic but you will have to pay for them.

What is your goal with SEM? Your goal with SEM is clear: get more visits from search engines either from organic search or through carefully designed and targeted PPC campaigns

How: To get more visits from search engines you need to make sure that your website is optimized for search. Things like your page titles, descriptions, web page speed, Google authorship, design and structure, incoming links, content freshness, ALT text for images and many more are important.

Tools: There are many SEO guidelines you can follow and although each rule is important on its own, if you apply a number of rules together, that would produce better results. You can use these 2 articles (5 on page SEO techniques and SEO tips for beginners) to guide you through the process and once you are done, you can perform an SEO Audit of your website to ensure that it is in good shape before continuing with the rest of the online marketing strategies.

Tip: When you make changes to your website to improve SEO, these changes will not be immediately taken into account by Google or other search engines. You have to be patient and monitor your pages for improvements in their ranking through google webmaster tools (search queries report).

2. Mobile Marketing

Normally after search engine marketing you can expect to find social media marketing or content marketing as the next online marketing strategy for small businesses but the increase in the number of mobile searches raises the importance of mobile marketing. As stated by Google, mobile marketing isn’t an option but it’s an imperative for every business. Some recent statistics about mobile usage re-enforce this statement:

What is your goal with mobile marketing? To provide your users with the best possible experience when browsing your website using their mobile devices.

How: How can you achieve the ‘best possible experience’? First you need to make sure that your website looks good and usable when viewed through a mobile browser i.e. you need to have a mobile friendly version of your website. Second, you can also offer your users native apps to download (from the itunes store, Google play, amazon store, windows store) and install on their devices.

Tools: If you are using wordpress you can easily create a mobile friendly version by either changing to a responsive theme or by using a plugin.

If you are not using wordpress you can use services like conduit to create mobile friendly versions of your website.

Make sure that you understand the difference between a mobile friendly version of your website and a native app. A native app is different than a mobile website and you need to hire a mobile developer to build an application for the specific platform. For example if you want to create an application for your website and have this application published on the Apple Store then you need to hire an apple developer to code the application and prepare it for submission to iTunes.

3. Content marketing

Content marketing is the heart of every digital marketing campaign. Once you have a good foundation (that’s search engine marketing) and a good delivery platform that can cover all your user needs (that’s mobile marketing) then the next step is to take all actions needed to create content that rocks!

Content is what will create loyal visitors, comments, social media shares and most important of all sales.

What is your goal with content marketing? To put it simply, your goal is to create high quality content that your readers want to read and try to convince readers to become customers or execute a call-to-action process (register to a newsletter, follow on social media, vote for a poll etc.).

How: Before even creating content, whether it is an article, a video, a table or image, try to think how that particular content will benefit your readers or customers. Don’t just create and publish content for the sake of keeping a publishing schedule or to satisfy your desire to have something to publish.

In the past this technique of publishing mass amounts of content to trick search engines used to work but not anymore. It is more important to have less published pages but with good content rather than lots of published pages with low quality content.

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4. Social Media marketing

Social media marketing is naturally the next marketing strategy for your business. You managed to have in your hands great content (from the previous strategy) so now it’s time to spread the word out and the best way to do that is through a well-designed social media marketing strategy.

What is your goal with social media marketing? Your social media campaigns should serve two purposes. First is to gain as many targeted followers so that your content and brand gets as much attention possible and second to get visits from social networks that will eventually convert into customers.

How: You need to establish a good presence in all major social networks (Facebook, google+, twitter, Pinterest) by sharing useful related content on a regular basis and by engaging with people interested in your website, products or brand. Have a look at these 3 articles to get started: 10 social media marketing tips for beginners, social media mistakes to avoid, how to get more followers on facebook.

I know that it’s not an easy process to follow and it is rather time consuming to run campaigns on many networks at the same time but this is how online marketing works for small businesses these days and you have to do it too.

The good news is that social media traffic does convert (despite the initial believes a few years back that visitors from social media don’t become customers) and if you don’t have the time or knowledge to manage your social media presence, there are professionals that can do it for you.

5. Local SEO strategy

Since we are talking about small businesses, I thought that it is more appropriate to have local SEO listed as a separate strategy because it is very important for them. Local SEO is a must for every company that has a physical address. Whether you are a doctor or florist, a mechanic or retailer, local seo can help you find more customers online.

What is your goal from local seo?      The goal from local seo is more than clear: to get high rankings for searches related to your area. When people search for long tail keywords with the addition of location in the query (for example: “Web hosting companies in Uganda”) you want your website to be listed in the top positions.

How: There is no straightforward answer for that, as with any other SEO related question. What you can do is follow Google SEO best practices to ensure that Google will not penalize you for trying to cheat on their algorithm and optimize your website for local SEO.

Think outside the box

While the 5 online marketing strategies explained above are great and can generate fantastic results, you need to also think outside of the box for even better results. For example besides search engines, mobiles and social media what are some other ways to increase traffic coming to your small business website? To be more precise here are some ideas that worked for some of my clients:

Chrome web store: Registering your website as a web app in the chrome store can generate an additional flow of quality traffic coming to your site.

Direct Advertising on other websites: Besides running PPC campaigns on Adwords and Facebook you can also try to ‘rent’ advertising space per month on other related websites. You can easily find related websites in your niche that offer advertising and contact the webmasters directly and ask for their rates. It will cost you less than PPC and with proper tracking you can evaluate the results and ROI.

Guest posting on high traffic websites: Guest posting for traffic (and not for links) is a good way to increase your online reputation but also gain traffic from other websites. If the website you are guest posting on has a good social media presence then the benefits are even more.

Conclusion

Small businesses can succeed online if they follow proven techniques and practices. When you build your website the first thing that you should look at is search engine optimization. Once you get this right then you need to enhance your delivery channels by going mobile. After that you need to revisit your content strategy and ensure that you have content that matters and makes sense. Next in line is social media marketing that will help you to push your content to the world.

 

Why and how to use customer reviews to grow your businees

Why and how to use customer reviews to grow your businees

When you shop online, how do you narrow down your choices? And how do you get reassurance that you will receive what you pay for? Do you read customer reviews before deciding where to buy your laptop from or which plumber to hire to fix your drippy kitchen tap?

Chances are you do, which means that your potential customers are also looking at your business’s reviews before spending their money on your products or services. They’re looking at the testimonials on your website, on Yelp, Facebook, Google and on any other sites or forums they stumble upon in their research online.

In this post we’ll take a closer look at the importance of customer reviews and their influence on your target audience’s opinions and purchases and how you can use them to build trust and drive more sales. Already got reviews? Then checkout this guide to combining web design and customer reviews to help overcome customer objections.

Why customer reviews matter

Studies show that nine in ten people read reviews and that these are becoming more important in the purchasing decision, so important that customers say they trust them as much as personal recommendations.

According to BrightLocal’s annual Local Consumer Review Survey:

88% of consumers read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business
39% read reviews on a regular basis
85% of consumers said that they read up to 10 reviews
72% said that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
88% said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
Plus, according to Reevoo, a ratings and reviews solutions provider, by simply adding a reviews section to your site sales can rise as much as 18%.

These stats show how important it is for businesses to attract more reviews as well as to manage their online reputation. I have no doubt that these numbers will continue to increase in the coming years so make sure you read on to learn how to use customer reviews to your advantage.

Why do you need them?
Simple: more positive reviews = more customers.

  • Reviews can help you generate more sales. While users can learn the basics about your products or services by reading the description on your site or in an advertisement, good reviews can compel users to actually consider buying from you.
  • They can eliminate any doubts potential customers may have about a product, or can help them choose between products.

Aside from increasing conversions, reviews can also:

  • Provide credibility to your business and help build trust with potential customers online.
  • Increase loyalty among existing customers as it makes them feel like they are part of your brand and that their opinions and feedback matter.
  • Help with your products’ search engine optimization (SEO) efforts as reviews are indexed and used for search results. Think about it – people write reviews using natural language, which targets long-tail keywords and helps to give you an SEO boost. So they’re doing the hard work for you.

What about bad reviews?

Worried that not all of your customer reviews are positive? Don’t be. Nobody’s perfect. What matters is how you respond to a complaint or a negative review. Be friendly and polite when dealing with negative comments and show that you care about resolving the customer’s issue.

In fact, a mix of positive and negative reviews can help to improve customer trust. Stats from Reevoo suggest that the presence of bad reviews actually improves conversions by 67%.

Here’s what they discovered:

68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores
30% suspect censorship or fake reviews when they don’t see any negative opinions on the page
So, don’t freak out if you receive a few bad reviews as these will legitimise the rest of the good reviews and reassure users that the feedback is genuine and written by real customers.

Just make sure there aren’t too many bad reviews because that means your biggest problem is not the negative feedback, but your product or service.

Oh, and don’t think about writing fake reviews. It’s already difficult to build trust online and this trust is dependent on the reviews being authentic. If you get caught by your customers or Google, be prepared to pay up, and not just through the fine you might face, but also with your online reputation which will be destroyed.

Tips to attract more reviews from customers

Want to know what’s the best way to get more reviews for your business? Just ask your customers to leave a comment with their feedback.Here are some simple tips to help you gather more reviews:

  • Make it nice and easy for them to share their feedback directly on your website.
  • Create a separate reviews section on your site or one on every product page and offer customers the option to leave a quick rating out of five and a short summary of their experience purchasing with you.
  • Email customers post-purchase and ask them if they would like to leave feedback.
  • Either create a survey or link to your site or other sites where they can review your business.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, follow up with a second email.
  • Set up profiles on multiple review sites. This obviously includes social media platforms like Google+, Facebook, Twitter plus the sites devoted solely to rating and reviewing businesses such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Yahoo! Local, Angie’s List and more.
  • Educate people on your social networks about where they can review your company.
  • Provide links directly to review websites or to the reviews section on your site.
  • Train your staff to ask for reviews. Make your customer service and sales employees understand the importance of asking for feedback from the customers they work with.
  • Create incentives to motivate them to gather as many reviews as possible.
  • Offer incentives to your customers to encourage them to leave a review. This can be a discount on a future purchase. Just don’t pay people to write positive reviews.
  • Offer free samples or trial versions to get more people to try and test your product. This will increase the number of voices talking about your product.

Reviews are not great just at convincing potential customers to choose you over your competitors but also at helping you understand the needs of your customers and how you can improve your offering to meet their needs. This feedback also helps create a direct line of communication that allows you to monitor customer service and the perception of your brand.

It’s hard to find a reason not to want to gather reviews. So if you want to drive your business to success now’s the time to give reviews some attention. Once you’ve built up a bank of reviews, learn how to use them to build trust and boost sales in an effective manner with this guide.

Seven(7) Ways To Promote Your Business Online For Free

Seven(7) Ways To Promote Your Business Online For Free

The Internet is teeming with marketing platforms that don’t cost a dime—you just need to know where to look.

You may not have wads of cash to spend on marketing in the early stages of your startup, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t effective ways to get your brand out there.
Before the Internet, small businesses only had a few ways to market their products cheaply, through methods like printing out fliers or sponsoring little local events. Now there are all kinds of opportunities out there on the Web—you just need to know where to look.
Here are seven ways to promote your business online that won’t cost you a dime:

1. Use the three big local listing services
Registering your business with Google Places allows it to be found more easily on Google searches and it shows up on Google Maps. All you have to do is fill out the form and register, then get your business verified through their confirmation process, which can be done either with a phone call or snail mail. Yahoo! also has a big database of businesses called Yahoo! Local. It’s free, and is certainly worth the few minutes it takes to set up. Microsoft’s Bing has a similar service that’s easy to sign up for.

2. Embrace social media
Social media isn’t just a tool to gain exposure—it has now become a necessary time investment for every business to make. You can tie in ads and offers on your Facebook page and have a direct channel with your customers on Twitter. Networking on LinkedIn—both at the personal and company level—can be another way to help your startup.

3. Start a blog
A blog not only helps your company get its name out through followers, but is a way to connect with your consumers more directly. But remember that one of the major keys of blogging is to keep your stream updated as frequently as you can. A dormant, abandoned blog is worth nothing.

4. Put up multimedia on YouTube and Flickr
YouTube provides a free way to distribute creative promotional videos, but in order to succeed you must put up content that people want to view and are relevant to your business—a simple ad will not work. A Flickr profile can also help by giving you one place to compile all the photos for your business, and allows you to link back to your website.

5. SEO your company website
Search engine optimization cannot be underestimated in the world of constant Googling. Pick up a book or head over to an online how-to-guide on SEO and make sure your site is primed for performance on search engines.

6. Press releases
Every time your business does something newsworthy, don’t hesitate to shoot off a press release—maybe folks will pick up on it. They’re a powerful media tool to use to help generate publicity, and having free distribution of them is a bonus. There are dozens of websites out there that you can use for your press releases.

7. Join a relevant online community and contribute
Every niche has communities online that you can get involved in. But just signing up for a forum and posting every once in a while about your business isn’t beneficial for anyone, and will likely just annoy people. Actively contribute and build a rapport with the community, while keeping your business out of it. Passively promote your business by putting a link in your signature or mentioning it only when the context is appropriate.

Why Your Website Marketing Relies On The Right Web Host

Why Your Website Marketing Relies On The Right Web Host

There are many reasons to create a website for your business, but one of the main ones is for marketing purposes. A website can quickly increase brand awareness, help new customers find you, showcase what the business can do for them, why they should choose you, and often even help to draw the attention of the press or potential investors.

When it’s time for you to create your first, or next, website, there are many decisions to make, from the design and functionality, to the content provided and the search engine optimization work involved. However, one area that marketing managers shouldn’t forget to concentrate on is the actual hosting of the site.

Luckily though, if you ask some smart questions up front, do your research, and find out the pertinent information from each company, and you can avoid getting stuck with horrific hosting that has high fees and poor service. Before you sign on the dotted line for any website hosting plan, make sure you ask the following questions.

The right Web hosting plan is important when it comes to getting good traffic and lots of conversions. You don’t want to end up with a provider that slows down your site, constantly drops out, and that doesn’t provide scalability as the website gains popularity. It can be tricky deciding who to go with though. There are so many business Web hosting options to choose from, and it can be hard to know how to properly compare apples with apples.
What Is the Uptime And Security Guarantee?

One of the most important things when it comes to choosing a website host is finding out what their uptime guarantee is. The last thing you ever want is customers experiencing an error message or a blank screen when they come to visit your site, so make sure you only ever choose a provider with an uptime guarantee of at least 99 percent.

Similarly, you also want a host that is reliable in the area of security. With cybercrime a huge issue for businesses around the world, it’s important to make sure that your website is secure from all angles. Not only your company data, but also that of your customers (such as credit card numbers, passwords, email addresses, and the like) needs to be protected from hackers, as does the actual site so that it doesn’t easily crash and end up offline.

Look for a Web host that has things such as Sitelock (which detects and fixes malware and other system vulnerabilities) and domain privacy, which helps to prevent phishing attacks as well as identity theft.

Will Site Content Automatically Be Backed Up?

It always pays to have your site automatically backed up by your web hosting service, but this isn’t something that every company provides, so make sure you check with a provider before you sign up. You might accidently delete a bunch of information on your website at some stage, or face a hacking issue, so you need to know that all of your important data is backed up somewhere.

While this is something you can do yourself, it is much easier if the process is automatically handled, on a daily basis by your Web host instead. Find out what your potential host’s disaster recovery plan is so that you know you’re covered.

Is The Plan Scalable?

Another element to consider when shopping for a hosting service is whether the company can scale with you as your business grows. You should only ever choose a hosting provider that has different levels of service on offer so that you can upgrade over time if you need to.

As well, it pays to find a host that lets you change plans without charging exit fees or contract cancellation costs. Many good Web hosting companies have a variety of tiers that you can choose from on a month-to-month basis, and which let you change up or down according to your needs. This helps if you have a sudden spike in traffic and need more bandwidth, as you don’t want to have to pay an arm and a leg for additional usage costs on your current plan.

What Support Do They Provide?

Another question you should always ask a hosting provider is if they provide free support, 24 hours a day, and if so, would you get to speak to a local expert? There’s nothing worse than having an issue with your site when you’re just sent out an email newsletter, had an ad run, or some other big sales or marketing tactic that is driving people to your site, only to have it crash. You need to be able to talk to someone in a hurry to get any problems sorted out, no matter the time of day or night.

How to generate and close social leads on Twitter

How to generate and close social leads on Twitter

If social media is not delivering the return on investment (ROI) you expect, the problem isn’t the social networks. Just as a blog won’t make money if it isn’t monetized, you can’t expect social media to generate income for you unless you are using it to drive leads and sales.

Following many people or tweeting great content can get you followers, but what you need is to turn those followers into leads. This can be done manually, but only if you are wise about whom you followed in the first place.

Why You Should Choose Your Followers Carefully

Don’t fall into the trap of just wanting tens of thousands of followers. While this is useful for influencers, even they focus on followers interested in their particular topic or niche. If you operate a local business, you want to follow people in your geo-targeted area.

For your business, you want to follow almost exclusively only the people who are interested in the products or services you offer. This is done by searching for people by their location, titles, what hashtags they use, what Twitter chats they participate in, and what they share.

But that is only the first step. To turn a follower into a customer or client requires building a relationship by interacting with them. Most small businesses fail to do this because they don’t want to invest that much time in social media not knowing for certain there will be a pay-off.

Failure to build a relationship with their followers is where most fail at using social media.

Reaching out to and connecting with your followers is simple. Keeping track of your interactions with each follower is the challenge. If you have only a few followers and a great memory you might do fine for a while.

But as the number of followers grows, remembering them all becomes difficult. You can use something like Commun.it to keep track of interactions and manage multiple Twitter accounts. It suggests new followers, but it wasn’t really built for lead generation.

There are many excellent marketing systems for tracking leads, but they do not typically integrate with social networks. Fortunately, there are now solutions that capture your social media activities for standalone use, or to feed them into your marketing system.

How to Get Social Media Followers Into Your Sales Funnel

The key is to identify who your target audience is, seek them out, and interact with them. This can be done manually, but using a social media solution built specifically to do this is a lot easier – and it can track your results.

Socedo is a new automated lead generation platform specifically designed to identify potential leads based on their Twitter activities. It automatically favorites one of their tweets, waits an hour and then follows them.

When they follow back, it sends them a personalized tweet to either start a conversation or suggest they visit your landing page. Socedo adds them as potential leads for sales and tracks whether your sales team decides to approve (follow-up), decline (not worth following up with) or select later (lower priority potential leads).

Based on your actual results, Socedo can modify your targeting to better qualify your leads.

Google AdWords vs. Facebook Ads

Google AdWords vs. Facebook Ads

As the battle of Facebook vs Google rages on, it can often be difficult for advertisers to decide where they should focus their attention.

Advertising and creating a brand presence on Facebook has different advantages and requires a different approach than advertising on Google AdWords.

Google AdWords vs. Facebook Ads: Which is Better for your Business?

Ideally, you’ll want to implement both Facebook advertising and Google advertising. While there are a number of similarities between advertising on Facebook and advertising on Google, there are some major differences as well.

Facebook vs. Google Advertising: Similarities

Both Google and Facebook have a massive potential audience, and they both are primarily PPC advertising channels.

Facebook and Google each offer paid advertising models in addition to free online marketing tools like Facebook Fan Pages and Google+ Business Pages. These pages don’t require the marketer to pay, but are still great venues for promoting your brand and products.

The key difference for advertisers to understand between Facebook and Google lies in your purpose—are you trying to promote knowledge of your brand, or sell a specific product?

Facebook vs. Google Advertising: Differences

Facebook sessions usually tend to last much longer than a normal Google search session, which would make Facebook preferred for building brand awareness or sending a specific message.

Facebook also allows advertisers some unique targeting options such as creating a message specifically crafted for fans of Arrested Development, or for college alumni groups.

Research shows that Google is the better choice for display advertising because it has superior CPC performance, improved ad targeting options, and an enormous array of ad formats that Facebook lacks. Ideally, it’s best to try both and discover which fits best with your brand.

Facebook vs. Google Plus: Why Google+ Grows in Value

While Facebook still has the advantage in terms of intimate data concerning favorite movies, books, TV shows, etc for advertisers to use, Google plans on giving Facebook a run for its money with Google+. Google+ allows Google to also collect more personal user data, and with users staying logged in to their Google account as they check email, use Google+, and surf the web, it can be expected that Google’s user data will soon surmount Facebook in terms of value.

Google also has the advantage when it comes to web searches, which the search engine giant is known for. Google AdWords is the ideal venue for business looking to drive clicks and conversions for specific products; Google searchers often have a specific intent in mind, while users often go to Facebook simply to hang out and chat with friends.

Facebook gives businesses a way to connect with users on a social, personal level in and intimate and friendly space, whereas Google is what people use when they are looking for something specific, and often looking to make a purchase.

Facebook’s click-through-rates can be as much as 1,000 times lower than Google campaigns with the same intent.

While Facebook offers traditional ad displays, Google ads offer a number of different advertising options such as the Google Display Network. Google AdWords offers geo-targeting and other additional features and functions.

One powerful advertising option that Google offers that Facebook does not is remarketing. Google remarketing, also known as retargeting, involves showing ads to users based on their past web activity on your site. Remarketing allows advertisers to follow users and show ads to them across Google’s large network of partner sites on the Google Display Network. This pales in comparison to Facebook, whose ads only show up on its own site.

Bottom line: While businesses will definitely want to take advantage of Facebook for developing brand awareness and developing messages for specific niche interests, Google is the venue to focus on for advertising because of its wide array of advertising features and numerous options.

Google+ integration has also enabled Google to begin collecting the same kind of personal data that Facebook has long been coveted for.

WordStream Makes Advertising on Google Easy

The only problem with advertising on Google is that small businesses are often overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available to Google advertisers. WordStream was created to fulfill that need; specifically, to help small businesses manage their Google AdWords account in an efficient and easy manner.

Discover how the WordStream Advisor software can help optimize your PPC campaigns and boost your business—try it free today!

Facebook vs. Google Traffic

While Facebook tends to get more traffic than Google+, Google plus is the site to focus on when it comes to driving traffic to your business.

WordStream conducted a Facebook vs. Google Plus research project in which we measured which social media site drove the most traffic to our site. We then illustrated our results in the Social Media Showdown: Facebook vs. Google+ Infographic.

The results of the Social Media Showdown are as follows:

1st Place: Facebook with 47.26% of visitors
2nd Place: Twitter with 27.51% of visitors
3rd Place: Google+ with 15.42% of visitors
4th Place: LinkedIn with 9.81% of visitors
While Facebook took 1st place for driving traffic to our site, this study was conducted when Google+ was only one month old. With Google+ at this point driving more traffic than LinkedIn, it was clear even then that Google plus was an important social media network to focus on. This was happening when we did not even have a WordStream Google+ page or Google+ buttons on our site!

Facebook vs. Google+ Privacy

Privacy online continues to be a growing issue for internet users. How do Facebook and Google compared in terms of privacy? Check out our Internet Privacy Infographic, which compares Facebook vs. Google Plus privacy policies and settings.

Facebook has long been demonized for altering users’ default privacy setting, resulting in users sharing more private information than they initially realized. Google hasn’t fared much better, receiving heavy criticism for combining the separate privacy policies for each of Google’s services into one, all encompassing new Google privacy policy.

While Google’s new privacy policy doesn’t allow Google to collect more information about users than before, Google is now allowed to do more with that private information collected across different Google services. While many users are less than thrilled with these developments, the new uses of data are exciting for advertisers, who will be able to use this personal data to create more targeted ads for specific user audiences.