David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

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Archive for February, 2009

Twitter Success for SOHO Small Business

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

A lot of small business owners are thinking about social media marketing, but are not sure if or how to do it.  A lot of them have heard about how Twitter tipped the balance in the last US election.  But many business owners still are not sure.

Yesterday I was meeting with a group of SOHO entrepreneurs.  To give you an idea of the crowd, there was…

  • A local real estate agent
  • A local gift catalogue agent (who can sell across Canada)
  • A virtual assistant (Drop me a line if you want her contact info)
  • A local mortgage broker
  • A local home decorator/renovator

Notice the word “local” appears a fair amount?  Can a local business, such as these SOHO folks effectively do social media marketing.

Yes.  I advised them all to sign up for Twitter.

So, without further ado, here is David Leonhardt’s crash course in Twitter for SOHO business.

Pick a smiling avatar.  At networking meetings, you need a firm handshake, a smile and eye connection.  On Twitter and other social networking sites, your smile does all the heavy lifting.

Find people to follow who broadcast good information in you niche, such as links to articles, blog posts, other experts to follow, tools, etc. These people will do almost all the research you’ll need to keep up on new tools, new developments, new resources and more in your field.  Congratulations! You have just hired a research department that won’t even ask to be paid.

If your business is local, follow as many people as possible in your area.  Go to Twellow and search for a location.  Some people will show by country, some by state, some by town, so you’ll want to do multiple searches.  Follow these people, at least long enough to see which ones follow you back.  If your business is not local, you can search by pretty much any criteria.

Remember that anything you type into Twitter will be read by just about anybody.  It’s like a worldwide networking meeting with a microphone over your head, so be tactful and be professional.  On the other hand, Twitter is a medium where people like to know you as a human being, so polite informalities are a plus.

Make sure you are tweeting the right things, things that will advance your reputation and your business. Things that will build credibility. Things that will create opportunities. Things that will attract more people toward you. Sooooo many people tweet the music they are listening to, the food they are eating or preparing, the trouble they have getting out of bed – I suppose they are trying to get intimate and help followers feel like they are right there with them. But so many tweets on those topics make one’s eyes gloss over and reduce your value to the majority of followers (my opinion). Here are a few things you can tweet:

  • Tweet your successes.  That reinforces both what you do and your competence.  This builds your credibility as someone who is effective at what you do. Don’t brag, but do brag just a little.
    Just sold another home.  It was a tough one.  Required extra effort.  Feels good. 
  •  Tweet profound or quick facts that your followers might find interesting.  That also makes people want to keep following you and builds your credibility as a knowledgeable person in your field. 
    56% of Americans never read a nutrition label.  How often do you?
  • Tweet useful resources related to what you do.  That also makes people want to keep following you and pay attention to what you are doing.  It also makes you the person they come to when they need advice, which might lead to business for you.
    Helpful guide to pre-workout stretching here: [URL] 
  • Occasionally – very occasionally – ask for clients.  Why not?  A little self-promotion is accepted by most people.  And if you lose three followers and gain one client, it’s worth it.
    Booked until end of March.  Know anyone needing party planning  in April or May?
  • Ask questions.  This is a great way to do research and make yourself more knowledgeable about the market. This tends to work best when you have a large number of followers.
    Trade-in of keep it running – what are your car plans for the next few months?


Use Twitter to network, but if you start an in-depth conversation (which is good), take it off-tweet.  Phone, email or even Twitters DM (direct message) feature are preferable.  Your other followers don’t want to be bombarded by one side of a conversation they are not party to.

Remember that in all social situations, it helps if you give first.  People give to helpful people, so send ideas, referrals and pats on the back to people following you.

There are also tools that can make Twitter more effective, but not really useful for a newbie.  If you start getting really into Twitter and find you are following too many people, download TweetDeck and set up groups of people you wish to follow.  For instance, you can set up a group of most important prospects that will appear in one column (so that you never miss the chance to respond to their tweets) and a group of your industry idols whose information you don’t want to miss.

Should a local SOHO business be on Twitter?  Yes.  You can do a year’s worth of networking in a week.  You can find leads, referrals and clients.  You get an instant research team.  Go for it!

P.S.  You can follow David Leonhardt on Twitter or retweet this post to your Twitter followers.

 


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10 Ways to Make Your Avatar Sell

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

If you include social media marketing as part of your online marketing strategy, give a little thought to your avatar. Actually, give a lot of thought. Overlooked as they are, they can be crucial to your branding strategy.

Avatars are those little images that go beside each post you author at websites like Digg, Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace and even beside comments in this blog. In some places, they are called profile pictures or something like that. But look at all the variety of choices you have…

Twitter @SteveatLFPressTwitter @ForwardStepsTwitter @johnchowTwitter @foodtvdotcaTwitter @PublicityHoundTwitter @thegypsyTwitter @feydakin
Twitter @PRsarahevansTwitter @bwelfordTwitter @cnnTwitter @MrJavoTwitter @XurxoVidalTwitter @zoomitTwitter @MarketingProfs

Why avatars are so crucial is because they are like your online logo on every social media website you participate in. If you Tweet or connect for fun and recreation, who cares? But if marketing and business is important to you, below are 10 guidelines on how to optimize your avatars for maximum affect.

Note that these are “guidelines”, not rules. It might not make sense for you, in your particular situation, to follow all of them, but if you follow none of them, you are probably blowing it big time. Not all the avatars above follow all the guidelines, but they all follow most of them. As you read the list below, let your cursor slide over the images; I have added some notes in the alt and title attributes.

    Default avatar at MyBlogLog...boring

  1. Let’s start with the basics. Don’t leave your avatar blank or go with a default avatar. The image it will leave people with is that you don’t know what you are doing, that you might just be a spammer, that you have something to hide or, perhaps worst of all, no impression – you’ve wasted a chance to brand yourself.
  2. Daiv Rawks' face at Twitter2. Your face is the ideal logo. In social media, people don’t want to interact with a company; they want to interact with a real person. Remember that social media is like a fusion of all the occasions when you might be speaking informally with people – around the water cooler, at trade show receptions, at the pub down the street, at networking meetings. In the real world, nobody wants to speak with a faceless company; they want to speak with a human being. Online people are still people; they want to speak with real people. See what people think of face avatars here.
  3. The previous guideline is one that you might want to break in one very specific situation. If your social media strategy is strictly to broadcast information, you might want your avatar to be your company logo. Very few organizations can get away with this strategy, but some information-rich companies, such as newspapers or radio stations, do this very effectively. Here are avatars from two different media outlets, reflecting very different apporoaches to social media marketing:
  4. CNN broadcasts on Twitter The London Free Press participates at Twitter

    John Chow is easy and pleasant to see on Twitter

  5. 4. Make your face pleasant and easy to view. Some people try to get attention with avatars where their face is half showing, on some kind of angle, or contorted. Others pick a cute photo where some object is partially obscuring their faces. Nice pictures for friendship; not ideal for networking.
  6. Even in tiny form at Digg, you can see mklopez's avatar

  7. Remember that your avatar will show very, very small. That means your face really needs to fill the avatar. If it looks like you are far away, people won’t be able to recognize you when the avatar appears in tiny format (like on a Digg submission or even on a tweet). I can think of one Twitter avatar that I always assumed included a baby’s head…until I saw the photo at larger size in another program and I realized it was just the way her hair falls. (Bet she doesn’t know she has a baby!)
  8. Oops. Seems like this face is hard to make out even in a large avatar format

  9. 6. Also, because avatars show up small, it is ill advised to have too much cluttering up your avatar. Is that a photo of your arms behind your head, or are you picking your nose. Is that a pet, or an oxygen mask or a mutant mushroom in front of your face? Is that a person way back there in the middle of that 20-pixel-wide landscape?
  10. All these guidelines makes for a possibly very dull photo. If everyone follows all these rules, then everyone will look the same and nobody gets branded, right? It does make it more challenging. You can create a distinct background, perhaps a bright color. You can change the color of your face…or post in black-and-white (rare on the Internet) as two of the examples above do. You can become a caricature of yourself or of your expertise (think Statue-of-Liberty for a freedom blogger, thinkBob-the-Builder for a home renovator) – I did say people like to deal with real people, not faceless corporations, but I also said these are guidelines, not rules. You can add a letter to the avatar to represent your username, but be careful that when shrunk it does not look like something strange. Here are examples of three strategies to make avatars stand out:
  11. Mr. Javo's cartoon self actually looks like him, but it stands out as a cartoon Search Engine Guy used cropping to make his image memorable Look how Steve 'Feydakin' Gerencser uses color to stand out from the crowd.

    Who can resist Jill Whelan's smiling avatar at MyBlogLog?

  12. Smile. Yes, a smile is inviting. People are more likely to add you as a fan or follow you or befriend you if you appear pleasant and inviting. Yes, I know you are above that; basic psychology applies to the other 99.99999% of humanity.
  13. You'll see Marko's StumbleUpon avatar at Sphinn, Digg, Twitter, etc.

  14. 9. Now that you have chosen an avatar, use the same one across all social media platforms where you hold an account. Many people flit from one social media platform to another, and you want to be instantly recognized. I have recognized Twitter friends on Digg, and Digg friends on Sphinn, and Sphinn friends on…exactly. And thanks to Gravatar, I have seen many of my online friends and acquaintances in numerous blog comments. Each time I see a familiar face, that face – and by extension, that person – becomes more familiar. You can see my same avatar on Digg, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Mixx, Sphinn, Zoomit, etc. Interestingly, Lee Oden did a quick Twitter survey just when I was first contemplating this post, so I thought I would share it with you.
  15. I'd know that face anywhere.  Barry Welford's avatar is a constant.

  16. Once you pick your avatar, stick with it. I know several folks I really respect who break this rule, so hopefully they won’t hate me (and if they hate me, hopefully they don’t have any voodoo dolls of me kicking around). But every time you change your avatar, you break your branding momentum. From a psychological perspective, your avatar is your logo, and people relate it to you. Imagine if Amazon.com or Toyota or Apple Computers or Target Stores changed their logos several times a year. Exactly. Many people who follow you in social media don’t necessarily remember your name (Yes, I know, your friends do, but many of the people you are trying to reach for marketing purposes don’t) or even your username, but they will know your image, because that is your most powerful representation. They will relate your image to your style/topic of posts; your target market pays attention when it sees your avatar because it’s on their radar. From a more practical perspective, as people flit quickly through recent posts, they will tend to gloss over an unfamiliar avatar. Each time you change your avatar, you lose also their attention.

Let me stress once more that these are just guidelines. If you have good reason to do otherwise, be my guest. When it comes to social media, or any other social situation, there are no hard and fast rules…and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Don’t Trust SEOs Bearing Pretty Packages

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

gift-boxesMany SEO companies advertise specific packages, such as a gold, silver and bronze SEO package costing so much per month and including so many links of so much PageRank and focusing on so many search terms.

We don’t.

SEO is not a science, it is a sport. It involves strategy. It involves balancing various aspects. It involves flexibility and responding to what others do. It involves competing against others….and each game is different.  One size does not fit all, and the size and shape has to be able to change sometimes on a dime.

Good SEO does not come in pretty packages.

Here are some of the limitations that packages create:

  1. Building so-many links each month. Come the end of the month, there would need to be a counting of links, and if the links have fallen short, a flurry of activity to create links, even if the quality of those links is poor. Don’t get me wrong, you need sucky links. But the fact is that those links might actually be negative for your site .
  2. Building links based on PageRank. Plenty of good links of low quality would be rejected. Why create links you are not being paid for?
  3. Monitoring the number or PageRank of link-building. What should be monitored is the ranking for those search phrases that are being pursued. Over time, changes in strategy are required .
  4. Client knows what to purchase. How is the client to know what package to buy? Even the SEO consultant can only guess at what is required, a sin any sport. As the SEO moves down the field, he is constantly re-evaluating the game and what is needed .
  5. Automation. Let’s face it, if your website attracts the exact same number of links every month, that’s a red flag sign of automation, even if the links were built manually .
  6. Best links will be missed. The best links are those that can’t be predicted, the ones using link-bait and social networking. Anyone offering a package cannot afford to invest the time in these high-quality links .
  7. Limiting the number of search terms. I see the search phrases my clients have to target change all the time. Sometimes they change their product offering or target a new demographic. Sometimes the language that searchers use changes. Sometimes we see that we are getting a surprising amount of traffic from a keyword we were not targeting…and we go after it .
  8. A package is a product. Do you want to sell a product, or do you want to be part of the team. If I was to hire an SEO consultant, I would want him to be part of the team .

Whether in basketball, baseball, hockey or any other competitive sport, a custom package that is flexible and responsive to changes is the only way to go. SEO is no different. Hire an SEO consultant that can outline a custom program and who is not shy to make changes on the run. Make sure your SEO is as flexible as you are; your market is dynamic and the search engines are even more so.

 


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Memes for linkbuilding

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

I’ve been tagged in a meme.  I think I was tagged sometime a ago in one, but this time I’m paying attention for a few reasons:

  1. It’s a good chance to tell you about the linking benefits of participating in memes.
  2. I was tagged by SEOAly (Alysson Fergusson), the Sunshine of Twitter
  3. SEOAly might get to go free to the IM Spring Break conference (and surely bring back some great notes for me, since I don’t have time to attend)

The concept of a meme is quite simple.  At heart it’s a tag-you’re-it game, where one blogger “tags” several others by linking to them.  Their role then is to link back to the person who tagged them, and then tag additional bloggers.  If you can visualize the linking diagram, you can see the benefits this brings to your blog and to the blogs of your friends and associates. 

If a large part of SEO is making your website well-connected across the Internet, a meme helps establish the community of like websites.

So to participate in this meme, I am supposed to link back to SEOAly, link to the IM Spring Break meme page, list 7 things you expect to happen at IM Spring Break, then tag as many people as possible.  (I will cheat on that last one; I’ll tag just a few people who have been readers of this blog whom I think might not yet have been tagged by someone else.)

What will happen at IM Spring Break.

  1. I will miss 100% of the sessions, because I’ll be back home working for my clients.
  2. I will miss Chris Winfield’s insightful presentation, but I will get to contribute to it when he seeks input via Twitter as he did for his Lawyers on Twitter presentation last month.
  3. Several words that I can’t repeat here, in case my kids ever read this, will punctuate an equally insightful presentation by Sugarrae Hoffman.
  4. Jordan Kasteler aka Utah SEO Pro will get even with the IM Spring Break organizers by going 100% dry all conference.
  5. SEOAly will attend, thanks in part to this blog post.
  6. SEOAly will bring back notes for everyone she tagged.
  7. I will run out of ideas before I get to #7.

So, let’s tag Wilson Raynopss, Peter Lee, Mr Javo, Communibus and Barry Welford just for fun.

Is a meme a good way for you to spread the word, too?

 


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Free SEO Book For Twitter Followers

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

ANNOUNCEMENT: I am offering a free copy of Don’t Get Banned By The Search Engines to new Twitter followers. All you have to do is follow me and you will receive a special URL to download the book without having to pay the $40.

Why am I doing this? It is a good question, and one that I have wrestled with. I have been critical of the “look how many followers I have” syndrome, where people are fixated on the size of their audience. It’s almost a self-esteem issue in some cases.

Yet I watch some people with several thousand followers ask questions and get a flood of great answers in no time flat. Meanwhile, with just a few hundred followers, I get much fewer responses. I also see how there are times when I would like people to know about something interesting on Digg or Sphinn or Mixx, that this would be a great way to let more people know — not just about my stuff, but about all sorts of great items.

For instance, on Sphinn recently, I posted:

Awesome 404 Error Pages by Smashing Magazine
DoFollow versus NoFollow links by The Minority Report
Why You Should Trade Links With PR0 Pages (OK, that one was by me)

I would love you to Sphinn these, too. With more Twitter followers, I know I can share these gems with more people.

So for a limited time, I am offering all my new followers a free copy of Don’t Get Banned By The Search Engines as an incentive and a thank you for taking the time to add me to your follow list. I am looking forward to meeting you at Twitter.

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Trade Links With PR0 Pages

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Do you trade links with PR0 pages?  Once upon a time I avoided PR0 pages.  It was usually a sign that a web page was being penalized or suffering from some contagious tropical disease.

But times have changed, and my approach has changed with the times.  In recent months I have seen a lot of “links” pages with PR0 value on the Google Toolbar.  This includes pages that are linked to from every page of otherwise PR4-PR5 websites.  PR0 in the Google Toolbar is n o longer, in my opinion, a kiss of death.

If I am offered a link from a PR0 page, the first thing I do is give it the old eyeball test.  If it has a lot of the wrong kind of links and the wrong kind of spammy words all over it, that ends it there.  But if the page looks good (on topic, manually-maintained, etc.)  apart from the lack of a green bar, I take a look at the home page of the site to see if it has a green bar and to see what the path is to the link page.  Is it linked to from the home page, from the template, from a second level page?  

In other words, I’ll make my own call at roughly what the value of the page is.  And given the error-prone toolbar that is at best an approximation anyway, I am sure my calculation isn’t that far off.  

Is this process more work than just looking at the toolbar?  Yes.  But when the toolbar is blank, the only alternative to this process is to just ignore what could be a good link.  Given how hard we work to find good, on-topic links, I think the work is worth it.

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