7th Annual Digital Dealer Conference Nashville TN 11/02/09

This week I had the opportunity to attend the 7th Annual Digital Dealer Conference in Nashville http://www.digitaldealerconference.com it was my first time attending.  Prior to my arrival I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  The domestic automotive industry has recently gone through a very public and painful restructuring.  And on the flight down to Nashville I was made aware of just how painful it really had been by reading Steven Rattner’s riveting first person recap on the take down of GM’s CEO: http://money.cnn.com/2009/10/21/autos/auto_bailout_rattner_excerpt.fortune/index.htm?postversion=2009102109  in the latest edition of Fortune Magazine.

I got off the plane determined to answer two primary questions while in attendance at the conference: 1. what is the current mood and overall perspective of the auto dealers in attendance on the future of the industry. 2. Determine if an industry in crisis is paralyzed its current state of affairs or if it is motivated by the challenges ahead and producing new and exciting technology.

When I entered the Nashville Convention Center there was no loud music or flashy big screen T.V’s welcoming my arrival.  However the space had something much more important, vendors and attendees, lots of them.  I was impressed by the number of people at the event and the presence of big name vendors.  Keep in mind this was a conference focused on the digital aspect s of the automotive space, an area that is still relatively new in a mature industry.  The second thing that caught my eye was the behavior of those in attendance. (I had a limited pass for the conference so I was unable to attend the individual breakout sessions, but they must have provided a spark).  Rather than milling around vendor booths filling up bags of free SWAG, these folks were actually getting business done.  Tables were full of people, one-on-one sales pitches, contracts, and handshakes.  I quickly determined that the dealers here were in search of solutions.  I was optimistic about the vibe and buzz in the room.

After surveying the general mood of the attendees it was time to discover what the vendors had to offer.  I had been told (although unconfirmed) that the sponsor vendors had shelled out $50K to participate.  There were many vendors to choose from: CRM providers, lead generators, and website providers. However two vendors in particular that struck me as fresh and inventive.  The first was ClickMotive http://www.clickmotive.com  based out of Plano, Texas.  These guys combine savvy web design with Search Engine Optimization.  They were pushing the envelope with mobile based solutions and clearly understand the growing value of optimizing dealer sites for the mobile search space.  I believe ClickMotive provides valuable solutions for dealers that understand the importance of top search engine page rank.

The second vendor, and in my opinion the finest at the show, was Response Logix http://www.responselogix.com/index.aspx based out of Sunnyvale, California. What struck me about this vendor was the number of dealers lined up at the booth to learn more about the product.  It was obvious that this young start-up was on to something.  Apparently I’m not the only one that sees potential; Response Logix just secured a second round of funding for 5.6M http://deals.venturebeat.com/2009/10/27/response-logix-captures-5-6m-for-car-dealer-lead-gen . Response Logix was a perfect fit for the digital dealer conference offering a software solution that delivers customized quotes to internet leads in less than 10 minutes.  The software integrates into the dealer’s CRM and reads real time new and used inventory for accurate quotes.  The secret in the Response Logix sauce is the “Smart Follow” technology that sends an automatic email to potential internet buyers after 72-hours of noncontact. Auto Dealers that are looking to maximize internet leads have just found the silver bullet.

The Digital Dealer Conference was an eye opening experience for me.  I entered skeptical about the industry and its ability to move forward in such challenging times. I left impressed by how its key players are embracing new technologies. For additional insight on the conference please follow this link: http://www.dealerrefresh.com/digital-dealer-7-nashville-review/

Please visit our website: www.searchengineconsultants.biz

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How to get the most out of your CMS transition…(and still stay sane)

Over the past two years I have had the unique opportunity of leading two seperate media companies through an online content managment system transition, or CMS for short.  Sparing you the details, because these projects tend to take months to impliment, this post will attempt to share a few of the most important lessons I have learned along the way.  Hopefully this post will help you and your organization navigate through a CMS transition. 

The first step in any CMS transition is fairly simple.  You need to ask yourself, “why”?  Why does your organization need a more efficient method of publishing online content?  In my particular case the answer was fairly simple.  Our readership trends were quickly shifting to the internet and as an organization we had concluded that our future strategies required an improved online presence.  As the leader of your organization, you must first answer why a CMS transition is important.  For example, maybe gaining the ability to publish online content in real time will give you a significant advantage over your competitors.  Or maybe you plan on producing content in new formats such as audio or video that will help you communicate with and attract new customers.  Both of these examples would be really good reasons to consider a content management system upgrade.  So once you have answered the “why” question, your next step is developing a communication plan. 

Your communication plan is extremely important to the success of the transition, and it is the one area that most organizations traditionally perform very poorly.  On the surface, a CMS transition in your organization might require very little communication.  However when it comes to change, communication is always a key ingredient in success.   Any change, regardless of how small a change, will cause your work force to bristle.  Change usually requires the work force to adopt a new method of thinking, so a skeptical response should be expected.  In a large organization, lack of proper communication can kill a CMS transition before it even begins.  A few ways to effectively calm the winds of change: Create a transition team that has representation from the critical departments of your organization; keep it to 2-3  people if possible.  Explain to this team that their first objective is to get “buy-in” from others expected to contribute to the project.  Communicate openly the reasons why your organization is transitioning to a new CMS.  For example, “We are switching our online content managment system because real time publishing of multiple content types will expose our organization to potenially thousands of more eyeballs increassing brand awareness, sale leads, and ultimately making the company more money.”

Once you have assembled your  transition team and communicated clearly to your organization, the next step is to set a goal(s) for the project.  What do you expect to gain from a CMS transition? It might be beneficial to have an internal goal such as:  in 12 months, 6 full-time employees will be producing 3 pieces of unique content per week.  The internal goal (in this case producing more orginal unique content) should tie directly to a business goal.  For example:  in 18 months our new customer database will increase by 20% and new sales leads will increase 15%.  The bottom line is always the bottom line and attaching a revenue goal to a CMS transition is not a bad idea.  Establishing an internal goal and a business goal will help keep the project on track.  Your CMS goals should focus on the future.  Make sure the goals you set for the project will benefit the organization 12-48 months down the road.  This project will consume time and energy so make sure it works for the long term.

So there you have it, the highlevel CMS transition guide starter kit.  For further reading please follow this link to Paul Boag’s insightful CMS post for Smashing Magazine:  http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/03/05/10-things-to-consider-when-choosing-the-perfect-cms/ . Or for a another persepective on CMS platforms try: http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/01/how-to-choose-the-right-cms/

My next post will be a deeper dive into details of choosing a CMS vendor.  Feel free to leave a comment or contact us directly through the following channels:

www.searchengineconsultants.biz

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Site Redesign…How often? How Much?

If you are a home owner then you can most likely relate to the following story.  I was sitting down eating my breakfast one morning when my wife walked into the room looked around and said with certainty, “It’s time to redo the kitchen.” Now we have lived in our current home for 5 years so why this particular morning suddenly became the day to wage war on floral patterned wall paper and peach colored cabinets, I will never understand.  So  I was even more surprised when I found my self surveying the room and getting on board with the idea.  She was right; our kitchen needed a make-over.

So what does the above story have to do with redesigning your website?  Well the story above is a cautionary tale. Everyone knows the amount of planning that goes into a kitchen remodel.  You don’t wake up one morning and decide to remodel your kitchen.  If you are not careful the project can consume valuable time and money.  A website redesign should be approached with the same precaution and planning.  This post will focus on some of the things you should think about once you have decided to rethink your business’s online identity.

First and most important, what is the goal of your new website?  Are you looking to increase sales or your brand awareness? Do you want people to submit information or sign up for a newsletter?  Are you trying to sway public opinion or educate the masses?  Whatever you determine your website’s goal to be, stick with it and make sure it can be measured.  It will help if the goals of your new website tie into the overall goals of the organization.  This will encourage other members of the team to become more engaged in the process. (see previous post:   http://secbiz1.wordpress.com/2009/06/25/10-easy-seosem-steps-for-the-small-to-mid-size-business-owner-step-6/

Once you have detemined that it is the right time for a website redesign, the next step is to figure out how much of a change is needed. Would your website benefit from a change in the navigation structure, or do you need to overhaul the color scheme and graphics?  STOP!  Before you make any changes to your site, make sure you evaluate the current site traffic patterens.  Understanding how your visitors are interacting with your content will be a critical factor in determining what changes need to be made.  If you are not currently tracking website traffic you might consider Google Analytics: http://www.google.com/analytics/ as a free and easy to install option.  TIP: evaluate the pages on your site that are currently getting the most traffic and redesign other pages to look and behave in a similar fashion.  There is a reason your customers gravitate to certain pages; try to duplicate that experience across your entire site.

When making the decision to redesign your site, approach each page design with a simple question, “What do I want my visitors to do?” and make sure the answer ties into the overall goals you have set for the site.  This approach will make the process much less overwhelming.

Last but not least, when redesigning a website be sure to evalute your staff capabilities.  The last thing you want to do is launch a site that your staff can’t manage.  Sounds crazy, but I have seen it happen.  Just make sure that your expectations match the staff’s know-how and all should go well.

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Facebook at the office a problem? Get over it!

The economy slowdown has humbled many businesses over the last 6-12 months.  Chances are as a business owner you have experienced shrinking profit margins, and you find yourself stretched thin. Doing more with less is the new mantra. If sales growth in your organization has declined, chances are your marketing department or marketing efforts have also grinded to a halt.  It’s a natural cause and effect.  In fact it’s probably safe to assume these folks are not quite as busy now as the years you were showing 50% year over year sales growth. I would even go as far as to say someone in your marketing department right now is busy updating their status on Facebook.  Grounds for termination right? Well not really, having someone on your staff that is “in-the-know” about social networks can actually help build your business’ online brand and save you money.  Below are some steps you can take to turn this situation into a positive:

  • During your next marketing or sales meeeting try to gauge how many people are actively using social networking sites.  Ask them the benefits of using Facebook and Twitter.  You need to first understand how they are using the technology before you put it to work for your organization.
  • Tell your team you’d like to conduct a social networking experiment.  Invite them to contribute and encourage staff feedback.  You will be surprised at the level of excitment and the knowledge of your staff.  Chances are a “Facebook pro” will emerge and take a leadership role on this project. 
  • Establish clear set goals. For example, maybe you’d like to conduct an online contest run entirely on Facebook, with the goal being to establish 100 new Facebooks friends.  Your team can set up a Facebook account for your business and invite their friends to join or become a fan.  
  • Once you have established a base of “friends” on your business’ Facebook account, you can begin to re-engage with these folks on a frequent basis. Your Facebook account will soon become your platform for announcing new product launches and other important business announcements. 

 In prior years you may have placed ads in trade magazines or ran direct mail campaigns to communicate with your customer base. These efforts were considered a fixed cost of doing business.  But the ROI has always been difficult to pin down.  With social networking reaching an engaged niche group of people in a format that encourages dialouge and feedback is the entire purpose.  If managed correctly, social networking can help reduce the cost of traditional marketing efforts and increase customer interaction with your brand.

Residual benefits of starting a social networking marketing campiagn include:

  • The time your employees spend on Facebook will now be time spent building your organization’s online identity.
  • You can re-energize a department or individual that might otherwise feel lost in this ecomnomic downturn by giving them a new and exciting task. 
  • Social networking doesn’t have to cost you anything more than time, so if you fail…you fail cheap.

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Help! I want my customers back…

During the economic downturn, I have had the opportunity to speak with several small business owners about their current marketing strategies.  Almost every conversation hinges on one critical question:  How much of my business will come back after the economy begins to grow again?  This is a fundamental challenge facing every business owner today. Over-extending on marketing expenses can lead to limited results and a loss of valuable cash.  Sitting on the sideline doing your best to weather the storm can be as equally as damaging, resulting in lost market share and brand recognition. So what is the right move and when should you make it?  This post is designed to give small business owners some pointers on the right time to begin cost effective internet marketing techniques.

It is time to make a change to your marketing strategy when your core customers change their buying habits or spending patterns.

Assume that during any downward economic shift, a certain percentage of your core customers are going to change how they make purchasing decisions.  Is your customer base becoming more cost conscience?  Are your customers now waiting for sales or deals on items that were not previously discounted?  Is your customer base willing to change allegiance to your brand based on price point rather than service or quality?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are that your customers are spending more time online making valuable pre-purchase decisions. They are searching the internet for competitive pricing on products or services you offer.  Now instead of being the only choice, you are standing in a long line trying to win the buisness of customers that used to come to you directly.  If you are able to determine that your customer base is changing they way they interact with your brand, it might be time to re-evaluate how you reach those customers.

The first thing you need to do is ensure that your website is in good working order.  Check for broken links and outdated contact information (you would be surprised at the number of websites that have incorrect information).  If your website is the first impression you are going to make on a potential customer, it is imporant to make sure the information is up-to-date and correct.  Once you have determined your site is in good working order, it’s time to  create and distribute your business profile to a few important internet directories.  This is a simple step that won’t require much time or money.  Several of the best internet directories will allow you to submit a business profile for free.  (Some directories will charge for profile enhancements or paid placement.)  To get you started here is a list of directories that are really well-optimized for search and recieve lots of traffic:  http://www.citysearch.com/, http://www.yelp.com/philadelphia, http://www.superpages.com/, & http://local.yahoo.com/.  Take an hour or so and create a business profile for these directories.  Directory submission will accomplish a couple of important internet marketing goals.  First, it will ensure that your business has a presence online at a destination where many searchers begin their buying process.  Second, many of these directories are well-optimized for search, meaning that your business profile page has a very good chance of returning high in the search results when an online searcher performs a generic search query for your service or product.    

My customers are online, my business is online, what’s next?

Now that your buisness has a presence online in multiple locations, you will need to keep tabs on where your website traffic is coming from.  First, go to Google and sign up for Google Analytics.  Google provides this free online website analytic software and it is a great tracking tool.  In addition to many other features, Google Analytics will allow you to see where, when, how your customers are interacting with your website.  Google Analytic set-up and training is part of the searchengineconsultants.biz SEO Check-up package.  Please follow this link for more details: http://www.searchengineconsultants.biz/seo_pricing.html

So remember, if your customers are changing and they are spending more time online, follow them.  The worst thing you can do is wait and assume your customers will find their way back to you.  Times are changing, and you need to work harder to capture and retain new business.  Let us help you plot your Internet strategy.  It’s our passion and our business:  www.searchengineconsultants.biz

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Learning Internet Marketing & SEO as a small business owner

A sewing machine, a type writer, and a telephone booth. What do all of these things have in common?  They are all almost extinct.  I say almost because there is still a large number of people in this country that can remember a time when these devices were used everyday.  They were part of the everyday lives of millions of Americans for a very long time.  However, there is a also a large portion of the population that doesn’t know what a sewing machine looks like, let alone how it works.  This changing of the guard happens with every generation; it is part of growing up and part of growing older. 

This natural evolution process can be applied to almost any area of our lives; ideas and products grow old and new ones take their place. Col0r TV replaced black and white,  casette tapes replaced 8-tracks, and CDs replaced tapes. Now digital downloads have completely redefined the music industry.   It is the natural order of things.  The same phenomena is happening in how we  are able to market our business, and recently I have become very interested in how defined the line is between “new marketing”  and “old marketing”.  For the sake of argument (and for this post) assume that “old marketing” is pre-Internet and “new marketing” is post-Internet.  This post will not attempt to make a case that one form of marketing is stronger than the other, that would be the easy way out.  Rather this post will attempt to speak to the millions of small business owners that are trying to understand this complicated “new marketing” landscape and how to sucessfully transition into it.

The approach:  All transition takes time.  But you need to make the commitment to start understanding the potential internet marketing can have on your business.  Don’t expect to jump into Internet marketing and have over night success, in fact, finding the right mix of Internet marketing strategies is going to be down right time consuming.  There are lots of options and it will take time and patience to find the ones that are right for your business. 

Learn From the Past:  You know what traditional forms of marketing drive people to your business (print, radio, outdoor, broadcast).  Use the lessons you have learned and apply them to your new marketing strategies.  For example, if direct mail has worked for you in the past then you might consider an email marketing campaign.  Build an email database by asking in-store customers to sign-up for your newsletter.  Before long you will have a database of customers that you can target on a weekly or monthly basis at a very affordable rate.  This is a very effective way to transition into new media without paying a high cost of entry.

Ask for Help: If the word Twitter sounds like a foreign language or some sort of slang insult, you are not alone.  The newest fads in social networking and Internet marketing are quickly evolving and sometimes difficult to understand.  But as strange a landscape the Internet can appear, it can also serve as a great resource for help.  There are tutorials and on-line videos that can help explain how to approach Internet marketing.  The worst possible thing you can do is believe that the Internet doesn’t attract your potential customers.  Don’t be intimidated by Internet marketing.  Learning now may take time but will almost certainly pay off down the road.

To learn more please visit our website: http://www.searchengineconsultants.biz/

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#8: How will Mobile Search Effect Your Business

During its first week of sales, Apple sold over 1 million units of its new IPhone 3G S. In fact, when I researched this little tidbit of knowledge there was an online ad above the article telling me to go the I Tunes store and download the latest and greatest IPhone application.  http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20090622-710455.html 1 million units sold in one weekend is impressive in any economy.  In fact, over 6 million phones have been sold to date.  As an IPhone owner, I am impressed with the device and its seemingly endless supply of useful applications. However, the one feature that I find myself using more than any other is not something new.  I am using my IPhone most for its mobile search capabilities. 

The IPhone has made mobile search functionality quick and relevant.  Websites download quickly and the search engine interface is similar to desktop search.  So why is mobile search important to you as a small or mid-size busienss owner? 

Mobile search will become an everyday habit for millions…

 The IPhone is a game changer, it now puts the power of a search engine in your pocket at street level. Desktop search on your personal computer is no longer the only way to access a search engine’s endless wealth of knowledge.  Mobile search gives people access to internet information without limits.  Right now most people don’t conduct a search on a mobile phone on a daily basis, but that number will almost certainly increase in  year from now (remember 1 million units in 1 weekend).  More phones will come equipped with fast, clean, search interfaces and the number of mobile searches will increase.  It is important that your business’ website is ahead of the curve.  Understand that millions of these devices are in the hands of your potential customers, and where your site ranks when they conduct a mobile search will become more and more important to your business’  long term success.  As people become more comfortable with smarter phones, search queries will also become more advanced.  Location based zip code search queries will increase, for example “taxi cabs 19102″ or “seafood restaurants 08010.”  Getting your web site optimized for the search engines is more important than ever.  In fact I can think of 1 million good reasons to start today. 

Search Engine Consultants is ready to help you understand mobile search.  Please follow this link to contact us today:

 http://www.searchengineconsultants.biz/contact_us.php

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Step 7: Why should you care about Universal Search?

As a search marketing firm, it is our job to understand how search engines are constantly evoloving and how the search industry is changing.  My concern is that these important changes in the world of search are not being communicated clearly to the small and mid-sized business owner in a language they can understand.  This blog post will highlight an important change that is happening right now in the world of search.  And explain why it could have a big impact on your business’ search engine marketing strategy.

Understanding Universal Search:

The standard 10 blue links that you see on a Google search result page are going the way of the dinosaur.  Universal, or blended search, will replace the 10 blue links and open the door to more variety on the search results page. Images, maps, and video are just some of the new items sprinkled into the search results pages.  As the public’s comfort level and usage with search engines has increased, so has their trust that the engine will return exactly the information they are seeking.  As a result, search queries become more advanced and grow in length and detail. The engines are tracking this progression of user behavior and are now presenting new content types (such as video) to satisfy the searcher’s query.  This is important to the small buisness owner becuase if your website content becomes outdated or remains 100% text based, you run the risk of being out-ranked by a competitor in the search engine results pages. 

For example, assume you own a hardware store and someone conducts a search online for “how to patch drywall.”  Let’s also assume that your website has a page titled, “how to patch dry wall.”  Putting aside some other important factors for the moment, it’s safe to say your page would rank high for that particular search.  What if you knew that in a year’s time that people would be searching for that same information, only this time they would be searching, “video on how to patch dry wall?”  What if your website remained the same in that year’s time?  Worse even still, what if another website was launched and posted a video on their site that showed people how to patch dry wall holes?  Do you still think the search engine and the user would select your static website first?  Most likely the answer is no.  It is important to understand how search engines are treating different online content types.  Make sure your website offers content in various formats. 

Contact www.searchengineconsultants.biz to learn more about optimizing your website’s content so search engines recognize your site as a leader in your field. 

Please follow this link to learn more about universal search:    http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/21726.asp

Please follow this link to learn more about online video viewership: http://www.podcastingnews.com/2009/06/05/online-video-viewing-reaches-peak-april/

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10 Easy SEO/SEM steps for the small to mid-size business owner (Step 6)

Step 6 is selling your SEO strategy to others in your organization.  This not a step that will apply to everyone, and it is not a quick fix that can be initiated and then abandoned.  Getting various members of your organization to see the value of SEO and commit time and resources to the various tasks may end up being the hardest piece of your strategy.  As I’m sure you are aware by now, getting “buy-in” to a new marketing concept can be an uphill battle.  For this post I will assume that the reader is the leader of the organization and the person solely responsible for your company’s SEO efforts.  This post will focus on tips and general guidelines to follow when rolling out your SEO strategy to the rest of your team.

But before we dive into the details, remember that any successful SEO plan requires two main ingredients: clear communication and empowering those around you to take ownership over a particular SEO task.  SEO planning takes work and it’s important to set clear expectations upfront with your team.  Explain how SEO will impact and benefit the most fundamental core goals of the department or individual you are working with. 

Selling Your SEO Plan to Your Sales Team

Tapping into the key motivating factor of a sales person is easy (or atleast it should be).  Sales people are motivated by money.  Explain the benefits of SEO in a language all sales people can understand: dollars and new leads.  Illustrate how the internet can be a huge pool of new leads both through organic and paid search campaigns.  Explain to the sales team that these leads are different than those generated through traditional media.  Internet leads require immediate contact because most likely they were generated at the moment a prospective customer was interested in your product or service.  If implemented properly your SEO plan should be producing “hot” leads.  Hot leads translate into a higher close ratio for your sales team.  Illustrate how sales people can contribute to the SEO strategy by recommending new keywords.  New industry buzz words or specific product names may be the perfect addition to a productive paid search campaign.

 Selling Your SEO Plan to Your IT Department

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume your IT department is comprised of technical thinking individuals.  These are the folks who like to understand how and why things work they way they do.  These guys are your problem solvers and analytical thinkers.  The motivating factors of this group are harder to nail down than the sales department.  There are going to be technical challenges to your SEO plan and this is the area that can motivate an IT team.  Alllow your IT team to be involved in the goal setting and analytic tracking of your SEO plan.  This will require you to involve your IT team from the start.  Give them a seat at the table early on in the process and let them demonstrate just how valuable they are to your company’s behind-the -scenes success.  Too often we deliver a “job to be done” to the IT department after the planning process and decision making has already taken place.  Recognition might be just the right motivating tactic to rally your IT team around your SEO plan.

Selling Your SEO Plan to Your Marketing Department

I’m going to make another broad assumption and say that your marketing department is the creative hub of your organization.  The marketing team is usually an interesting mix of artists and analytical thinkers.  This is the team that is responsible for developing creative ways to educate the masses about your product, message, or service,  They are also the group responsible for tracking how the public responds to these creative campaigns. The marekting team is always looking for a new way to capture or increase market share.  Your SEO plan can be a dream come true for any marketing manager.  It will allow them to flex their creative muscles through copywriting and keyword planning, while providing up to the minute tracking and analytics. Explain to your marketing department that SEO is just one more method to reach and pursude potential customers.  The opportunity to learn a new marketing tactic will certainly spark interest in this group.  Getting buy-in at this level should be a slam dunk.  However, if your SEO plan is met with resistence try incorporating an exisiting promotion or contest that has worked well in the past. Putting a new SEO twist on an old familiar idea is sure to break down resistance and ensure a smooth start to your plan.

Finally make your SEO plan offical. Call a meeting and invite all of the key members of your management team.  This step alone will ensure your plan is taken seriously.  Provide documentation, nothing too formal, but an outline of how you see the plan unfolding for each department.  Remember to make it fun.  For example announce that when the company’s website achieves page 1 Google ranking for an important keyword, its party time!  Maybe have a company party to mark the occasion.

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Search Engine Consultants can help you plan and sell your SEO plan to your organization. 

We can be reached at (215)-317-5101 call today & have a conversation about moving your SEO plan forward… nothing more nothing less.

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10 Easy SEO/SEM steps for the small to mid-size business owner (Step 5)

Step 5 is creating new online content.  If you are reading this blog, chances are you own or manage a website.  The chances are also pretty good that your website content is way overdue for an update.  It’s okay, most website owners face the same difficult challenge. Creating new content is a time consuming process, and it doesn’t come easy for everyone.  A website content building strategy is one of the things that can fall through the cracks or get bumped down the priority list into the “I’ll get to it next week” category.  Don’t worry, this blog post will help shed some light on how you can create a plan to continuously update your site’s content, without breaking the bank. 

But first why is creating and updating your websites content important?  There are many reasons but let’s focus on two of the most pressing.

1. First, online readers are fickle; they are quick to dismiss content they don’t feel is relevant.  By creating a steady stream of new content you will be giving your online audience what the crave the most: new information.  Visitors will see more value in your site because it provides them with new and relavent content they can’t get from your competitors.  If you are lucky enough to get an online visitor to return to your site for a second time, but fail to change the message or offering, chances are that a third visit is out of the question.  Frequent content changes will lead to repeat visits and links.

2.  Fresh website content will encourgage your visitor’s to link to your site.  Links to your site are good and are viewed favorably by search engines.  Essentially every outside link to your site is viewed as a vote.  The more votes your site accumulates, the better your site will be viewed by the major search engines. 

So how do you create new website content?

You, yourself, & nobody else…

Start by looking in the mirror. Chances are you are the best resource for creating new content.  The first step is to sit down and bullet point 3 or 5 reasons why your service or product if different than your competitors.  What makes you stand out in your industry? Why are you unique?  This will get your competitive juices flowing and provide some really good content items.  Think about the industry trends you have experienced, apply that to a personal business experience, and you have the beginning of a unique piece of content your audience is sure to value.

Trusted friends & co-workers…

If sharing your personal business experiences is not your style, consider using some of your most valuable resources to create unique website content.  Consider allowing one of your best employees to start a monthly column on your website.  This column should turned over to an expert that speaks for the overall benefit of the organization. Someone who really know their stuff.   And don’t worry if the person you have in mind is “not a computer person” just focus on getting a unique personality to create engaging content, getting it on your website is the easy part.

Give the people a voice….

A third option for new website content is user generated content or UGC.  The ability to allow your vistors to interact and contribute to your website content is almost an after-thought these days.  Web visitors should have the opportunity to comment on a story, post photos, or create a product review.  Give your web visitors the abilty to sound off.  Chances are if you provide a community of like-minded individuals the opportunity to interact with one another, they will.  And that interaction will increase the likelyhood of return visits to your site. 

None of these content strategies is bullet proof and some may be better than others, but keep in mind all of them should keep your audience’s best interest at heart.  Your content should also try to integrate your best performing keywords (see step 4 in this blog series:  10 Easy SEO/SEM steps for the small to mid-size business owner (Step 4) ). Each page of new content you create should also be titled correctly (see step 2 in this blog series: 10 Easy SEO/SEM steps for the small to mid-size business owner (steps 1 & 2) .

If you are interested in learning more about how Search Engine Consultants approaches website content development please follow this link: http://www.searchengineconsultants.biz/index.html

Please follow this link to see additonal information about developing online content: http://falkow.blogsite.com/public/item/81789

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10 Easy SEO/SEM steps for the small to mid-size business owner (Step 4)

Step 4 is choosing your target keywords.  Keyword selection is the foundation of any search marketing campaign.  Both organic and paid search marketing campaigns begin with the keyword selection process.  Once you have determined the goals of your SEO strategy (which happens to be step #3 in this current blog series )    http://secbiz1.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/10-easy-seosem-steps-for-the-small-to-mid-size-business-owner-step-3/ you must turn your attention to the words your customers are using to find your product or service on the internet.  For organic search campaigns, finding the right keywords is critical because these words will be  the heart of your page content.  These keywords will be prominently and strategically placed on your website pages to inform your visitors and the search engines what your website is all about.  For paid search campaigns, keywords will be the words you place bids on.  There are a few things to consider when sitting down to start your keyword planning.  First, keyword planning is an importnat step that should not be underestimated or taken too lightly.  Second, effective keyword planning can save you time and money later on down the road.  Below are a few keyword planning tips that might help you get started.

1. The keyword planning process should be tied directly to your website goals.  If you have not established a clear set of goals for your website, keyword planning may prove to be an overly time consuming and difficult task.  Step 3 in this series of blog entires deals with setting goals for your website : http://secbiz1.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/10-easy-seosem-steps-for-the-small-to-mid-size-business-owner-step-3/ The words you select should first be designed to attract website visitors or traffic.  The second purpose of your keyword list is getting your visitors to perform a predetermined desired action.  This desired action is also called a conversion.  Tracking your website’s success can be tied directly to your conversion rate, which is simply how many people who visited your site did what you wanted them to do.

2. Your customers won’t search for your products or services the same way you would. Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer: how would they identfy with your product if they were searching for the first time?  Many first time buyers are in a reasearch or learning phase, so try a specific product name followed by a geographic location.

3. Don’t take the easy road by selecting the most common keywords that relate to your product or service.  Chances are that your competitors have also selected these words, and you won’t be gaining a competitive advantage through keyword duplication.  It will take time, but finding the true value keywords will payoff in the long run.  It will result in qualified website traffic that will be more likely to convert because you presented exactly what they were looking for at the moment of greatest interest.

4. Consider creating more than one keyword list, because after all not all searchers are created equal.  Some searchers may be in the market for your product or service for the first time. What words would you use to attract this segment of the market?  Other searchers may be more savvy and familar with your product or service. What words would you use to upsell or further educate this segment of the market?

5. Remember, the internet is a fully trackable environment so all keywords will show their true value over time.  Almost immediately you will be able to identify the keywords that are performing better than others.  Once these words are established, you can sprinkle them into your website content or begin to refine your bid strategy for paid search purposes.

The biggest concern for the small to mid-sized business owner is keeping your keyword lists up to date and relevant.  Internet based keyword tools exist to make this process easier.  

Please visit this link to learn more: www.wordtracker.com 

Google has also developed a tool that makes keyword planning more efficent. Please visit this link to learn more: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

It might save time to work with a consultant on this process; please follow this link to learn more about how we approach keyword planning and internet marketing http://www.searchengineconsultants.biz/learnmore.html

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10 Easy SEO/SEM steps for the small to mid-size business owner (Step 3)

Step 3 is setting goals for your search engine marketing strategy.  SEO in its purest form is all about driving traffic to your website. But in order to determine if your SEO strategy is effective, you must first establish goals for your website.  It is imperative that a predetermined set of goals is established before entering into any SEO agreement.  Website goals can come in many different shapes and sizes.  The good thing for business owners is that the internet is a fully trackable environment.  At almost any moment, you can track the performance of your internet marketing strategies and determine if those practices are worth continuing.  I will dig into internet tracking and analytics in a future post, but for now back to your website’s goals.

Every web site owner should have a paticular goal in mind for the traffic you attract. Your website should be designed to work like a funnel; that is every visitor to your site (regardless of how they got there) should be directed or pursuaded to perform the same action. That action should represent your websites overall reason for existence. 

Here are some website goals to keep in mind:

Sales: if you sell a product or service from your online store front, then the goal is to convert online traffic into paying customers.

Information: if your website is designed to generate interest in a product or service, then your website’s goal is to give enough information to turn online traffic into in-store transactions.

Leads: if you are interested in generating new business leads from your website, then the goal should be to direct online traffic to a page that captures a visitor’s contact information. 

Public Opinon: if your website is designed to create interest around a particular subject or cause, then the goal for your website should be to encourage online visitors to engage in deeper involvement in that cause.   A donation or commitment of time might be the appropriate goal.

These are just a few ideas of website goals.  The thing to remember is that your SEO efforts are designed to attract website visitors; what those visitors do once they get to your site will be determined by goals you set.

Here is another link about website goals we found helpful: http://www.rightclickwebs.com/seo/website-goals.php

To learn more about how we approach SEO and internet marketing please follow this link: http://www.searchengineconsultants.biz/learnmore.html

or follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/secbiz1

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10 Easy SEO/SEM steps for the small to mid-size business owner (steps 1 & 2)

Everyone loves lists.  Top 10 quarterbacks of all-time or 10 worst family vacation destinations…they are fun and easy to read.  Lists provide an instant benchmark for measurement; assuming of course, you trust the author.  Lists can spark a debate capable of producing useful feedback on a particular subject.  In many cases, the feedback from readers will spawn entire new subjects to be explored.  So it is in the tradition of great lists that I give to you, dear reader, the www.Searchengineconsultants.biz Top 10 SEO practices for the small to mid-sized business owner

Note: this list was created with the small to mid-sized business owner in mind.  The top 10 will be posted in separate blog posts, so please stay tuned. Hopefully you will pick up some useful information along the way.   

Number 1 is really, really easy.  It has nothing to do with computers, SEO consultants, or search engine ranking algorithms.  It’s simple…as a business owner you need to take an active interest in your internet marketing strategy. Your prospective clients are making important pre-purchase buying decisions based on search engine results every day.  This is serious business and it requires your attention and time.  Your internet marketing strategy can dramatically change your business, but it will only be a success if you make SEO/SEM a priority.

Number 2 is a bit more technical.  But don’t worry, it’s not rocket science.  Actually it’s just plain common sense.  Say for example, you own and operate a garden supply center and your business has a website.  Every page of your website should have a unique title.  Your website might provide information on gardening tools, landscape services, and various outdoor plants.  You might consider changing a page title like “ABC Discount Gardening Center” to “Affordable landscape services, paver patios, and backyard ponds.”  The new title is more informative and descriptive of the services you provide. When search engines visit your site and determine how to categorize the content found on your pages, one of the first things they look at are titles of each page.    If every page of your site has the same title or if your page titles are not descriptive, it can negatively effect how your site is ranked in the search engine result pages (SERPS).  To learn more about how to change your page titles please visit this link:  http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/11/googles-seo-starter-guide.html 

If you’d like to contact www.searchengineconsultants.biz to discuss how we approach page title changes please follow this link:  http://www.searchengineconsultants.biz/contact_us.php

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Organic Search Results

Organic Search results, or natural search results, is the technique used by search engines to find the most relevant matches for a searcher’s query in all the pages indexed on the web. Ranking high in the organic search results is not achieved through a bidding process, like paid search.  Getting a high ranking in the organic search results will generally require a more significant investment of time and resources than paid placement. The ranking factors that determine the placement of the organic results are controlled by the search engines; this is commonly referred to as the ranking algorithm. The search engine’s main function is to match relevant websites to a searcher’s query. So just what factors go into a search engines decision to list your website above your competition or vise versa? At this point you don’t really need to dig into all the science behind the search, just know that there are 2 main factors search engines use to rank pages: query factors and page factors.

First off the algorithm is a complicated, evolving process. Secondly, how it works it is a closely guarded secret by the search engines themselves. And to make matters even more complicated, not all search engines use the same algorithm to rank search results. I bet you’re thinking, “Okay so how do I achieve a higher ranking in the organic search results pages on the major search engines?” The short and simple answer is that you need to write well-organized content using well-researched keywords or keyword phrases. If this sounds time consuming and complicated, you’re right; but that’s where Search Engine Consultants come in. Please visit this link to learn more:http://www.searchengineconsultants.biz/learnmore.html

Search Engine Consultants will evaluate your website’s current organic ranking on major search engines, report the findings, and then go to work to improve those rankings. We will look at your pages and recommend structural changes. We will run a content evaluation and make recommendations based on keyword research. We will then recommend strategically placed key words and key word phrases on your site that search engines value when ranking pages. To learn more about pricing for organic search please visit this link: http://www.searchengineconsultants.biz/seo_pricing.html

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Internet Marketing: Obama’s Silver Bullet

I’ve been thinking about the role effective internet marketing played in the last presidential campaign.  Obama was clearly looking to enter and dominate a space that was foreign to his competitors. The internet provided this space in the form of fund raising & social media tactics that were relatively unclaimed territory to traditional heavy weights Clinton and McCain.  Clinton had essentially locked up every known major donor in the Democratic circle the day the primary had begun (maybe even sooner). Clinton stood a puncher’s chance. However, McCain was near bankrupt during his party’s primary and by the time he climbed into the ring for the main event, he was steam-rolled by the weight of a million five dollar bills.  When the presidential election started, Obama had raised more money than any other presidential candidate in history.  So how did this happen right under the nose of the most seasoned political strategist? There was one stone left unturned… and that stone was in Silicon Valley.  Obama saw what Silicon Valley was doing with software, essentially building a subscription-based model where millions of people would pay very small amounts– $5, $10, $15 per month to use software (think SalesForce.com).  He applied this same model to his campaign.  I give credit to Obama for seeing the opportunity, organizing a strategy, and building the most impressive grassroots fund raising effort known to man.  Like Kennedy used TV to captivate and mobilize an entire generation of followers, Obama has done it with the Internet.

I believe the next crop of elected political officials in this country, from the Senate to local school board officials, will be the ones that understand how the internet works.  They will understand the value of achieving page 1 placement on Google for hot button voter issues.  And above all else, they will see that internet campaign fund raising has changed the game.  Visibility on major search engines was a big part of Obama’s strategy.  

To learn more about search engine strategies and internet marketing please follow this link: www.searchengineconsultants.biz

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