Archive for Online Marketing for Small Business

Using Twitter’s Keyboard Shortcuts

Have you tried Twitter’s keyboard shortcuts? Did you know they were there? We are getting so used to touch screens and voice control that it’s easy to forget about keyboard shortcuts. But when you know them, keyboard shortcuts can save you a lot of time.

Twitter refers to this first group of shortcuts as Timeline short cuts. I like to think of them as section or area shortcuts – they help me jump to the area of Twitter where I want to be. This set of shortcuts consist of two letters; the letter “g” followed by a letter indicating the Twitter section you want to jump to. I like to think of the “g” as being short for “go” so “g h” becomes “go home”, etc. Here is a list of Timeline shortcuts:

g h – home page
g p – your profile
g m – messagess
g c – connect
g a – activity
g r – mentions
g d – discover
g u – other “u”sers profile
g f – favorites
g l – lists
g s – settings

Once you jump to the section you want to work in, you can use the Navigation shortcuts to move through the list of messages in that section.

j – next tweet
k – previous
. – load more

Last, but not least, you have a set of shortcuts to help you work with the individual messages in Twitter:

n – new tweet
m – DM
t – retweet
f – favorite
r – reply

Pressing the question mark will bring up a menu of these shortcuts.

One quick note, you can use the shortcuts while this menu is open – you don’t have to close it first.

Twitter Filters Help You Find Info Faster

Twitter announce some new search filters last week. These filters will help sort through the enormous amount of information on Twitter and help you find the information you are looking for faster.

You access the new filters by first performing a search – the filters will appear in the left hand column of the search results.

Here’s a screenshot of my results when I search for “Estate Planning”. The red arrows point to the boxes containing the new search filters.

twitter-search-filters

The filters are pretty self explanatory, but here is a quick summary

  • Everything – all results. Clicking on “Everything” also resets the people and location filters to “All People” and “Everywhere”
  • People – profiles who have the search phrase in their profile description.
  • Photos – containing the search phrase in their description, hashtags, etc.
  • Videos – containing the search phrase in their description, hashtags, etc.
  • News – results related to your search
  • Advanced Search – this is not new, but is now much easier to find. Clicking on this filter brings up the Advanced Search page (https://twitter.com/search-advanced) where you can refine your search even further.

The next two boxes contain filters that can be used in combination with the ones above, allowing you to narrow you results to just people you follow and/or people located near you.

Here is a short video showing the filters in action:

Improve Your Marketing – Create a Better Offer

effective lead magnets for attracting prospects

In the last post I shared some general ideas for scoring quick marketing wins in 2014. In the next series of posts  I’d like to offer some specific things you can do to your marketing more effective so you can win more customers and increase your sales in the coming year.

Create a Compelling Lead Magnet

In order to get more customers, you need to attract more people to your business. Sounds simple, but how do you do that?

One of the more effective ways to attract people to your business and get them to enter your marketing hourglass is to provide the answers to the questions they are trying to answer. In order to do this effectively, you need a thorough understanding of your ideal customers buying process and the types of information they need to see and/or hear before they feel comfortable moving from one stage of their process to the next. While this is true for all businesses, it is particularly true for B2B companies.

As John Caples famously said, you need to enter the conversation going on in your prospect’s mind. When was the last time you think “I hope I can find a newsletter to subscribe to today!” was a conversation going on in the mind of your ideal prospect?

Unfortunately, “subscribe to our newsletter” is the strongest call to action on many small business websites. Offering a subscription to your newsletter probably isn’t going to be enough to entice someone to give you their contact information these days. Most buyers who haven’t come to Know, Like, and Trust you yet aren’t interested in your newsletter – they want answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.

You can create a compelling lead magnet by providing the information that answers the questions in their mind. Luckily, you already have a good idea of what your prospects want to know because you talk to prospects and strangers about your business almost every day. Think about your recent conversations (or look through the Sent folder in your email) – what are the topics or questions you answer over and over again. Use these questions to jog your memory:

  • What are some common mistakes you help people avoid?
  • When people work with your competitors, what frustrations do they experience?
  • What are your prospects trying to learn?

Packaging Your Offer

Once you decide upon the information you will share with your prospects, you need to decide how you will package that information. One common approach to delivering this information is in the form of a white paper or eBook. A word of caution, I’ve seen more than one business owner get so bogged down in creating the “perfect” eBook that they never get their lead magnet in place. If you find yourself continually pushing back the due date on your white paper or eBook, consider using a different medium to deliver your information. A simple email series or a series of short videos or audio recordings can be just as effective. Get something deployed quickly – you can always improve and repackage the information in the future.

Not just for online marketing

Although lead magnets are typically thought of as an internet play, a compelling lead magnet can be used for offline lead generation as well. This has been the essence of two step or direct response marketing for decades – provide something of value in exchange for the prospects contact information so you can continue to nurture the relationship until they are ready to buy.

Even if you don’t buy traditional advertising for your lead magnet, pretending you will can be a helpful exercise to determine how compelling your offer is to your target audience. Assuming you were thinking about buying your first home, would you be more likely to respond to an ad for a real estate agent’s newsletter or a free report about the “3 Mistakes First Time Homeowners Make and How to Avoid Them.”?

Once you have a compelling lead magnet you can use it in all of your lead generation activities. Here are a few examples:

  • Advertising – change your existing advertising to offer your valuable information
  • Networking – “give before you get” by offering your information to those who indicate interest
  • Referrals – encourage your referral partners to share your lead magnet with their networks

Your First Step to Measuring Success

Having a lead magnet and incorporating it into your lead generation activities provides another, important benefit – it makes your marketing measurable. Now that your lead generation activities ask prospects to take a specific action, you can measure how many of them actually do. Set things up correctly and you can even measure where your prospects come from so you can start to make better decisions about where to spend your marketing budget.

Start Today

Take a look at the lead magnets you have today from your prospects’ point of view. Are they compelling? Could they be better if you tweaked them a little?

If you don’t have any lead magnets yet, take out your calendar and set a deadline for creating one. Don’t get bogged down by making it a bigger project than it needs to be – get something in place so you can start testing and improving upon it on a regular basis.

Need a second pair of eyes to take a look at what you have? Feel free to contact me.

A Website is Not a Marketing Plan

piece of the puzzle

Unfortunately, many business owners and online marketers alike assume that if they have a great website they’re good to go.  An effective website is essential for companies to remain competitive today given the number of consumers who shop online, but it isn’t a solution all on its own.  The fact is, deciding on a new website with the hopes of providing a boost for your business before you determine the most effective marketing strategy is like putting the cart before the horse, so to speak.

Who is your target audience, what key terms and phrases are they using in search, and what goals do you hope to accomplish with your website and marketing efforts?  These are the types of questions that need answers in order for your website designer to create a website that is effective and accomplishes its goals.  A website should be the cornerstone of your online marketing plan, however it is not a marketing plan.

Weaving your overall marketing objectives into the design, layout and structure of the site is essential; your website designer should be able to create a site that is not only SEO friendly, but that meets the needs and expectations of your target client from the very first word and the very first line of website code.  Here are a few factors that should be considered:

A clear purpose.  A website should be one component of a measurable and integrated initiative to create a solid link between your clients and your company, products, and brand.  Have no doubts about your purpose, who your audience is, your message, and call to action.  Ultimately the goals of your website should be compatible with the urgent or immediate needs of those who visit your site.

Performance over appearance.  Sure, you want a website that is visually appealing to your target audience, but performance should be your top priority.

Effective communication.  Design elements absolutely help business owners communicate more effectively with customers.  In fact, nearly every element of design is communicating a message or making a statement.  From page content and layout to colors, images, page titles, headers, social media sharing, a blog, etc., your website should be a powerful communication tool.

Thorough, effective keyword research.  By knowing precisely who your target audience is and what you want your website to accomplish, your web designer can perform in-depth keyword research, essential for both SEO and attracting the right audience via search.  Content that is informative, valuable, and engaging is key to online success today – and keyword optimization is important both in terms of the content your visitors see, and the “background” coding throughout your site.

Your web designer should be “in the loop” in regards to any and all marketing ideas.  What first impression do you want your pages to make?  What message should your site communicate?   All of the essential questions should be answered before the design of your website ever begins.  Many companies get it all wrong by building a website first, then trying to determine how to develop leads or customers.  Choose a web designer who is skilled in both design and online marketing – and it’s also a good idea to learn how and why the strategies you use to market your business on the Internet impact your website’s design, architecture and capability requirements.

When it’s all said and done, a website cannot overcome inferior products and services or a lack of a marketing strategy.  To put it in its most simple terms, a website is only as effective as the planning and preparation behind its execution.  Business owners and marketers who believe simply having a website will lead to success have unrealistic expectations.  Make sure your web designer is “in the know” in regards to your marketing plan, and you will get a website that not only looks great, but has the best chance to become the online lead machine that you need it to be.

 

About the author: Phil Singleton is the owner of Kansas City Web Design®, a web development firm specializing in SEO-friendly WordPress websites and custom website applications; and Kansas City SEO®, a full-service Internet marketing services company that provides organic search engine optimization and other online marketing services.  Contact Phil on his Google+ page.

WordPress 3.8 Brings Modern Design To Dashboard

Wordpress 3.8 screenshot

Last week WordPress 3.8, dubbed “Parker” in honor of Charlie Parker, was released.

Sometimes the updates to WordPress are all in the code and as a user, you don’t see much of a change after makin an update. Not so with this version. WordPress 3.8 sports a fresh, new design in the admin (or “backend”) area, the area where you do all of your work. After updating you will notice the darker menu area and an overall cleaner look, including simpler, easy to read text. Here is a “before and after” comparison:

Version 3.7.1

Wordpress 3.7 dashboard

 

Version 3.8

wp-admin-after

 

WordPress 3.8 is also mobile responsive throughout, making the experience of updating your website via your smartphone or tablet much more enjoyable. More than once I’ve had to make a quick update to my blog from the baseball stadium – with this new design I’ll do a lot less scrolling and be able to make my change and get back to watching the game much more quickly.

The new version includes eight new color schemes for the admin area. If you want to change things up just go to your profile in the Users section and select one of the new themes shown below:

wp-admin-themes

Twenty Fourteen in the name of the new default theme and allows you to create a blog with a “magazine” look and feel.

This latest update also includes a number of bug fixes and performance enhancements. You can find a complete list of changes on the WordPress codex page.

What is a Landing Page?

landing page

Landing pages are an important, powerful, and often underutilized component of a small business marketing system. They are so important that, as Oli Gardner of UnBounce says, you should “Never start a marketing campaign without a dedicated landing page”.

The term “landing page” has different meanings depending on context. In general, a landing page is the first page someone lands on when visiting your website. This is how the term in used in Google Analytics.

Landing pages are also special types of web pages designed for specifically for one of your marketing campaigns. Landing pages are designed around a single goal – the goal of your campaign. One of the reasons landing pages are so powerful is the provide a feedback loop for your campaign – giving you the ability to measure, test, and optimize your marketing efforts. These are the types of pages I’ll be focusing on in this psot.

Types of Landing Pages

While the possible uses for landing pages are limited only by your imagination, in B2B marketing we typically think of landing pages in two broad categories – lead generation and “click-through” pages.

Lead Generation Landing Pages

Lead generation pages (sometimes call “squeeze pages”) are probably the most common type of landing pages. The goal of these pages is to get someone to share their contact information with us and give us permission to have a [marketing] conversation with them. This is done by offering something the prospect will find valuable enough to “purchase” with their contact information. These offers can take many forms; here are some examples you have probably seen (or used):

  • E-books, Reports, and Whitepapers – containing anything from industry facts to comprehensive “how to” guides.
  • Newsletters and/or Blog subscriptions – providing news, tips, and advice related to your expertise.
  • Webinar Registrations – for live and/or recorded online events.
  • A free e-course – lessons delivered over a period of time
  • Resources – Checklists, ROI calculators, scorecards, and forms
  • Free consultations

Once you have interest and permission, you then try to continue the conversation. This conversation often includes directing prospects to other landing pages where they can find additional useful information. These additional landing pages also provide you with the opportunity to continue collecting information that you can use to tailor your message and qualify your prospects.

Click-Through Landing Pages

As mentioned above, lead generation pages are used to collect information and start a conversation in order to nurture a lead until they are ready to buy.

Click-through pages (sometimes called a “jump pages”) are often used in cases where don’t need a long nurturing sequence, but we do need to  “warm-up” the visitor, or provide them additional information before we try to make the sale.

For example, many business use pay per click ads, magazine classified ads, or postcards to help drive traffic to their website. The “short form” ads may not provide all of the information your prospects need to make a purchasing decision. Rather than directing them from the ad to shopping cart, you can direct them first to a click-through page. The click-through page provides them with the information they need to make their decision and then directs them to the shopping cart where they can complete their purchase.

Click-through pages aren’t limited to companies that sell their products and services online. In the lead generation examples listed above, your prospects are “buying” your offer using the currency of their contact information. Using click-through pages to provide additional information and/or examples can be a great way to improve your opt-in (sales) rate.

Wrapping Up

Landing pages are a vital component to a successful small business marketing system. They help you identify people who are interested in your products and services, allow you to begin a conversation with your prospects, help you learn more about your prospects and customers, and help you measure and optimize your marketing campaigns.

Twitter Adds Tweet Scheduling–Sort Of

tweet-schedule.jpg

Twitter recently added a new feature that allows you to schedule your Tweets in advance. I probably won’t use it – here’s why.

The scheduling feature is embedded inside of the Twitter Ads interface. You can use it to schedule unpaid tweets, but you have to navigate to your Twitter Ads account first. You can create a Twitter Ad account for free (learn more here).

1. Go to https://ads.twitter.com or from your Twitter account, click on the gear and Select Twitter Ads:

access-twitter-ads

 

2. From the Ads dashboard, click on the blue compose button at the top, right of the page.

ads-tweet-compose

3. This will bring up the familiar dialog box for composing a tweet, but you will see three tabs at the bottom of the window. By clicking on the Scheduling tab, you can access controls to set the date and time you wish to publish your post.

tweet-schedule

The Delivery tab allows you to choose Standard (tweet to all of your followers) or Promoted-Only (tweet to users targeted in your campaign). The Promotion tab allows you select the campaign this tweet belongs.

So why did I say I probably won’t use this new feature to schedule organic (unpaid) tweets? Mostly because it is too cumbersome to access. Most of the tweets I create or share happen during the flow of my regular work. If I’m doing my morning reading and I find something I want to share, I want to compose my tweet right then and there and get it over with. Even though I have a Twitter ad account, I can’t schedule directly from within Twitter; I have to follow the steps above. It may not seem like that much extra effort, but it really interrupts my whole workflow.

That’s why I still love using Buffer, as it allows me to simply click a button on my browser toolbar, compose a post to share on Twitter or a number of other social media accounts, schedule it, and keep on moving.

I do see how the new scheduling feature inside of Twitter could be useful for those who like to sit down and schedule all of their tweets for the day, week, or month at one time.

LinkedIn’s Showcase Pages Help You Be More Relevant

LinkedIn_Showcase-Pages

LinkedIn continues to add features to help you promote your business online. Not too long ago,  LinkedIn updated the design of company profile pages to make it easier for members to access information the companies they care about it. They also added features to help businesses build relationships with their target audience.

The recently addition of Showcase Pages provides companies with another tool to connect with their target audience. Showcase Pages highlight the different areas of your business and help build communities around your different segments, brands, business units, etc.

According to the LinkedIn blog post announcement, Showcase Pages “are dedicated pages that allow companies to highlight different aspects of their business and build relationships with the right community.”

We often talk about effective marketing as being able to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Small business owners and marketers can use Showcase pages to speak specifically with a target audience about the information, products, and services that are of interest to them. Here are just a few examples of how companies may want to use Showcase Pages:

  • An accounting firm that offers services to both small businesses and Fortune 1000 companies may want to create Showcase Pages for each of these audiences.
  • Software resellers who represent several vendors may want to Showcase each vendor separately.
  • Companies specialize in more than one vertical market may want to Showcase their solutions for each vertical.

Creating a Showcase Page is pretty straight forward. If you’re a Company Page administrator, navigate to your to the “Edit” dropdown menu and select “Create a Showcase Page.”

Add-Showcase-Page

Once created, you can start sharing content on your page.

Users can follow a Showcase Page just like they can a company page, but now they can just follow the company news and content that is most relevant to them.

LinkedIn has always had a great set of tools for individual networking online. Lately, they have been beefing up their company tools as well. If you haven’t taken a look at LinkedIn’s company pages in a while, you should give it another look.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions about using Showcase pages (or any other aspect of LinkedIn) for your business.

Tips for Protecting Your WordPress Website

secure vault

WordPress is a great tool for building your small business website and maintaining your blog. It is the most widely used content management system in the world. Some experts estimate that WordPress powers over 20% of all websites.

Unfortunately, that popularity also makes it a target for hackers malicious software programs (malware).

While no website it ever completely secure, you can take some precautions that will make your WordPress much more secure than it comes “out of the box”.

Follow WordPress’ Tips

WordPress provides advice for making your website more secure on their Hardening WordPress page. This page contains quite a bit of useful information. I won’t repeat it all here, but let me point out a few things you will want to do

Rename the “admin” user account.

Since most people leave the default admin user account, one of the first things hackers will do is use the admin user name and try to guess the password by “brute force”. Changing the user name gives them two things they have to figure out rather than just one.

Restrict File Permissions.

Make sure permissions are set to 644 for all files and 755 for all directories. You can check and change your file permissions by using the file manager in the cpanel (or equivalent) in your hosting account or with an FTP client like FileZilla

Use strong passwords.

Strong passwords contain a mix of numbers, letters and symbols. Many sites, including WordPress,  will measure the strength of your password when you are creating it, so make sure you see the green bar that indicates you have a strong password.

One way to generate strong passwords is to use a phrase (longer than 1 word), capitalize each word in the phrase, and replace certain letters (i.e. vowels) with numbers and or symbols. For example, using the phrase “My password is strong”, my password might be “MyP@ssw0rdIsStr0ng”.

Another great way to generate, store, and remember strong passwords is by using a tool like LastPass. LastPass stores all of your password in a “vault” – all you have to do is remember one password to get into the vault and LastPass will remember all of your other passwords (and store them securely).

Once last tip on user accounts and passwords – don’t share user accounts. Each user should have their own account and password

Server Configuration

The Hardening WordPress article referenced above contains several recommendations that you may feel more comfortable discussing with your technical team rather than performing them yourself. These include such things as:

  • Configuring and protecting your wp-config.php file
  • Editing your .htaccess file
  • Hiding and/or renaming key WordPress files and directories
  • Using and maintaining plugins

(p.s. – if you don’t have a technical team, feel free to contact us)

Perform Regularly Scheduled Maintenance

Keeping your system up to date – WordPress issues updates on a regular basis – usually monthly, but more often if they discover a serious issues that needs to be corrected quickly. Many of these updates address security vulnerabilities, so it is important to keep up to date. Many website hosting companies are starting to automatically apply the latest WordPress updates if you haven’t applied them with a certain deadline.

In addition to WordPress, your plugins and your theme may also require periodic updates.

Last, but not least, make sure you are performing regular backups of your website. The biggest sources of loss from website problems are 1) lost data and 2) lost time spent fixing the problem. With a proper backup solution you can minimize your losses in both categories.

With a WordPress website, you need to make sure you backup all of the files that go with your website as well as the database that WordPress uses to store the content of your webpages, posts, and other information.

I use a plugin called BackupBuddy to manage backups. BackupBuddy gives you the ability to schedule backups, send them to a different locations (helping protect against hardware failure), and if you ever need to restore a site, it handles that as well.

Wrapping Up

This post is by no means a comprehensive list of procedures for securing a WordPress site. If you have any questions or need help securing your WordPress based website, feel free to contact me.

Please note: this list is not intended to be fully comprehensive, and there are other security procedures that we implement as well, however this is a great starting place and will help make any WordPress installation more secure.

Google’s Databoard for Research Insights

Google recently announced Datatboard for Research Insights, a new tool that allows you to view a research conducted by Google. It also allows you to easily select data from their research and use it to build your own custom infographics that you can share with your customers and audience (i.e. in a presentation).

Right now the tool includes four studies, all related to the use of mobile devices, each containing a number of topics. Your can download the entire study or explore individual topics online.

Here is a screenshot of a topic (click on the image to enlarge)

databoard-topic

Each topic consists of a set of stats in panels. Click on a panel brings up what I’ll call a “mini-infographic”. Here’s what it looks like when I click on the first panel from the screenshot above:

databoard-mini-info

When one of these panels are “open”, you will see a “Add to Infographic” button that allows you to add the image to a queue. Once you have added all of the images you would like to use, you simply click on “Build Your Infographic”. Doing so will assemble your selected images into an infographic. Editing the infographic allows you to rearranges your selections, change titles, etc. Here is a partial screenshot of an infographic in edit mode:

databoard-edit-info

Once your infographic is complete you can share it to Google+, Facebook, Twitter, or by email. You can also share each of the “mini-infograhics” individually.

Right now the available studies are all related to mobile device usagae. It will be interesting to see what other research studies Google makes available via the databoard.

You can learn more and try out the databoard for yourself here.