David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

Tips for better SEO (search engine optimization) and website marketing …

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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.

You can easily tweet this post by clicking reTWEET this

 


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Making Your Blog a Destination in Your Niche

Friday, July 18th, 2008

One of my clients wants to create a blog that will really stand out in her niche and become a destination.  She asked for a few tips, so here is what I suggested: 

1. Unique topic - anything that people have not heard before, surprises or even shocks, cuts through the clutter and gives practical advice (where people usually find a 20  minute speech), or is edgy or controversial. 

2. Participation via comments – invite participation and get people returning. Although my blog is almost a hobby (when pressed for time, client work comes first, so sometimes I go as much as a month between posts), I have done three things technically that have increased participation: 1) I made it a do-follow blog, so more people come to comment on it, making it a more happening place.  2) I am trying to respond to comments with follow-up comments, for the same result. 3) My WordPress sends me two notices, one when a comment is posted for me to moderate, and a second when the comment goes live.  To this second email, I respond with a note like this:

I approved your comment, so please don’t forget to social bookmark the post.  Because mine is a DoFollow blog, your website will benefit from the SEO-friendly link.  It is therefore to your advantage to give this page some link juice by social bookmarking it.  You will see at the bottom of the post some icons for one-click social bookmarking:
http://www.seo-writer.com/blog/2008/05/05/why-blogs-are-good-for-seo
 
Or it would be even better if you could share some of my ramblings with your readers by blogging about them and linking back to the original posts.  :-)

This has gotten me some social bookmarks and also has lead to a few other link exchanges. 

3. Social bookmarking – I have a free script for that at http://www.seo-writer.com/tools/bookmarker.php 

4. Building big communities at MyBlogLog.com, BlogCatalog.com, SpicyPage.com, and probably a few others.  There probably is a good way to promote it also through article directory communities such as EzineArticles.com .

5. Guest post exchanges can be good, bringing new perspectives to your blog and reaching out to the audiences of other blogs.

6. Posting really insightful comments on well-read blogs can also lead to others following your link — but you have to get there early, before the crowds have come and gone.

7. I have found that just visiting blogs listed at MyBlogLog has resulted in the bloggers visiting my blogs.  A lot of bloggers watch for a new face to show up on their widget, and they visit the blogs in return.  If you have great content, they’ll be back.

 


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SEO for Reputation Management: Part III

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Yikes! It’s been two weeks since I posted SEO for Reputation Management: Part II.  So your patience has earned you a good post.

In SEO for Reputation Management: Part I, we made the strategic decisions of what Amanda wanted people toi see when they Search Google or Yahoo for her name.  In Part II, we took inventory of what is already on the Information Highway that she can use to that end.

Now it’s time to put together the plan. Time has slipped through my fingers, and Amanda (not her real name, remember?) has already begun implementing some of the plan.  At the end of this post, I’ll share with you her interim results.

I won’t go through all the details, but some of the major recommendations were…

1. Her blog was being used very, very sporadically.  More frequent posts, occasionally speaking in the third person, would help (I probably should mention that this is David Leonhardt’s blog in every post and put my name in the Blog Title above as Amanda does, but I never put together a reputation management plan for myself!).  In fact, I recommended a post about herself, something I should do one of these days, too. This should secure a second listing in Google’s top 10 for her blog.

2. She owns the domain of her name, but it points to her blog.  I recommended developing her domain to include certain content that would help her get double listings Google’s top 10 for her name.

3. I suggested ways to make her two blogger profiles work to her advantage.

4. I suggested ways to boost the rankings also of a few of the various places where she has articles right now (or then) on the Internet.

5. I suggested a few places where she could build a good reputation directly, that could also rank highly in the search engines or support the rankings of her other pages.  For instance, I pointed out my pages at MySpace, Zaadz, Squidoo, MyBlogLog and TagWorld.  I haven’t done near enough with any of these, mind you, but I will.  Honest.

6. I also recommended a multi-faceted linking campaign, geared to the various types of pages Amanda was trying to boost in the rankings.

SEO Reputation Management Plan Progress report.

On Google’s top 10 right now…

1.  Amanda’s Blogger profile.  She has another Blogger profile, but it has not been worked on yet and it is not ranking.

2. Her blog.  She has been doing more posts, but not yet what is needed for a second page to rank.  I have offered some additional details.

3. One of the pages I mentioned in item #4 above.

4. and 5. A new appearance by another offensive blogger, posted two years ago. How these two postings got up in the rankings is anybody’s guess, but it is likely the result of something that happened sitewide (as opposed to something related to these two specific posts).  As the linking campaign kicks in, the two offensive posts should sink.

6. Amanda’s MySpace profile.  More can be done to make this a double listing.  Possibly.

7. Amanda’s under construction and 99% unoptimized site on her own-name domain.  When the site is finished, there should be two pages from this domain in the top 10.

8. and 9. Two more of the pages I mentioned in item #4 above.

10. Amanda’s MySpace page. More can be done to make this a double listing.  Definitely.  I’ve made some additional suggestions.

So there you have it.  Some promising interim results.  One can do much to manage one’s reputation using sound, responsible SEO techniques.

 

 

 

 

 


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MyBlogLog Face Ads

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

This blog has been featured at MyBlogLog Face Ads as of a few hours ago (just checked my emails).  I know fame is fleeting and that my mug will soon fade, pushed aside by fresh faces, but I thought I would let you know that the post that was good enough to convince the MyBlogLog folks to put up with my face on their Face Ads page is the SEO for Reputation Management: Part II post of yesterday.

Now that I think of it, it’s ironic that I get a face link for a post about reputation management!

 


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MyBlogLog

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Always on the lookout for cool and useful new social networks, I signed up for a MyBlogLog acount, recommended by several people at WebProWorld.  If you join up, please make me a contact of yours and we can follow each other around, share information and be successful together.

 


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