Facebook’s Timeline Cover Makes An Impression

The most visible change to Facebook’s Timeline is the new huge visual strip at the top of company pages. This sprawling 851 x 315 pixel space is great for creating a visceral experience, provided you pick the right image.

Before you run out and create a giant billboard, you should know that Facebook prohibits any kind of promotional message in Cover photos. You cannot reference anything with a rate, price or other purchase information, such as “Free” or “40% off.”

In fact, any call-to-action of any kind (real or implied) is expressly forbidden — e.g., “Download it at our website.” This includes inviting people to Like your page. You can’t even embed contact information, not even a web address.

The good news is that you’ll be able to have an eye-catching, branded image across the top of your page. The bad news is that you can no longer automatically redirect people to a landing page to solicit likes.

This will force a major change in how companies try and engage their audience and build their fan base.

What can you do to prepare for the changes?
Start by creating a compelling Cover Photo that helps tell your story.
It could be a product shot, or people using your service, or whatever makes sense for you.

First Impressions Make All The Difference
The visceral impact of a massive image dominating your Facebook page should not be underestimated. The image you select will play a large (if not the largest) role in people’s first impressions of your Facebook presence. Just keep it super simple, and don’t turn it into an ad.


Eight Ways To Improve Your Website

Blog Strategically
If you don’t have a blog attached to your website, now is the time to set one up.

Log on to WordPress and create a blog for free. Then, link the blog to your website or incorporate it by adding an extra page to your toolbar.

Why? The WordPress platform offers unique SEO advantages – right out of the box, automatically. No need for a pricey SEO expert. Save money!

Now that your blog is set up, what will you write about?

Write Q&As on influencers in your industry.  If you’re launching an accounting firm, reach out to accounting professors in your area and ask to interview them. Ask them about the latest accounting trend or related news, and transcribe the interviews into blog posts. Ask the professors to link their own Facebook pages or websites to your post to give you more exposure.

Try to blog at least three times a week, writing 500 to 750 words per post. You don’t have to interview influencers in each post. Write about current events through the lens of your business expertise. You might even attract journalists looking for a credible expert to comment on a news story.

You can also write up case studies. If you see someone in your industry doing something interesting, call and ask for an interview. Chances are they’ll be thrilled to get the publicity and the two of you can cross-promote.

Incorporate Video
Adding video to a website has never been easier. Just take a smartphone or Flip video camera (available for about $70) and start recording. Begin with a welcome video that explains what your business is about and introduces you as the owner. Put the video on YouTube or Vimeo and upload it to your homepage.

Consider posting a video blog every few weeks. Focus on a topic area you’re passionate about or ask a client to give an on-camera testimonial. Interview industry thought leaders and record how-to videos.

For The Video Challenged
Consider Animoto  (free & pro) … a slick video slideshow creation service that allows photographers, businesses, and consumers to make professional quality videos from their photos and video clips.

Offer Free Resources In Exchange For Emails
Post valuable information and you may snag a client for life. Create a box on your homepage called “Free Resources.” Write a list of useful information and save it in PDF format.

For example, if you are a home designer, make a checklist for people to run through before choosing a color palette. If you’re an accountant, create a checklist of documents needed to prepare taxes accurately.

Post the downloadable PDF in your Free Resources box, and allow downloads only if viewers subscribe to your e-mail newsletter.

The exchange is important. It allows a business owner to build a direct line to potential customers. Just make sure to change out resources often. You don’t want your website to look like a brochure where there is no reason to go back.

Register With Business-Listing Sites
Discoverability is vital to the success of a small business website. Entrepreneurs should register business sites on Yelp and Yahoo Local. Try Bing Local and Google Places. This will help your search engine optimization (SEO) and also validate your existence to customers searching for your services.

Add Social Media Sharing Tools
Have you noticed how every article on The New York Times website gives you the option to Tweet it and share it on your Facebook page? This helps to spread the word about articles and brands.

Every time you type a search term into Google, the first few links that appear are related items shared by people in your network. Adding sharing tools on your site broadens your reach to potential customers.

Offer Daily Or Weekly Deals
As a consumer, nothing catches my eye more than a great deal. Try offering a daily or weekly deal that is exclusive for your online customers and publicize it on your homepage. Talk to your customers in person about these deals, too.

Do what you can to blur your offline and online business worlds. Consider doing merchandising that promotes your website, along with an incentive to go there.

Pay Attention To Keywords
The better your search-engine ranking, the better your potential to capture more page views and more customers.  How do you cement yourself on Google’s first page?

Pay attention to the Google Keywords Tool. Run a few searches for words that describe your business. The tool will tell you what keywords perform well in search and the ones that don’t. Incorporate popular words into your site to increase your ranking.”

Watch Your Analytics
Check out your website stats and you might be surprised by what you find. Register for Google Analytics and you’ll be able to see which blog posts are doing best on your site, what keywords are bringing up your homepage and which pages are getting the most clicks. These stats will help guide you in creating more content that is meaningful to your audience.


The Social Media Marketing Wheel

Social Media MarketingSocial media is impacting search engine results! Our wheel explains how:

Word Press Blog/Website
the center of your wheel

Blog/SEO article marketing is important for many reasons. Generating new content keeps people coming back and makes you look like an expert. Blog writing allows your site to be noticed by search engines. By constantly providing new content with specific keywords, it is more likely to move up the results list on Google.


YouTube

YouTube is the second most popular search engine on the planet. More than 100,000,000 different videos are viewed each day on YouTube. Engage your customers so they choose you over your competitors. You will need a customized YouTube Channel, your videos optimized for your key phrases.


Squidoo

Lesser hailed Squidoo provides a place where people can be experts in whatever interests them, and can integrate existing social media accounts and outside links to build up credibility. Pages, referred to as “lenses,” are comprised of different widgets allowing each user, or “lensmaster,” to add different functions and pages to his or her original topic, while increasing the amount of exposure of his or her expertise in more places online.

A great way for certain businesses to boost link popularity and relevancy. Combined with other social media, this is a powerful tool in boosting traffic to your main site.


Facebook

There is no easier way to connect with your future customers than Facebook. Facebook allows you to shop for your own customers by adding them as friends and inviting them to be yours.

Fan pages are a valuable asset because they are indexed by search engines, therefore having the ability to increase your search ranking and draw more people back to your home page.

The possibilities of Facebook increasing your bottom line are endless. Create a promotion to encourage more users to become a fan of your business. Receive feedback on your business through conversations generated through groups and discussions.


Twitter

Twitter has evolved from a small micro-blog website used to update friends and family on your life to an Internet marketing phenomenon. It is a great resource to post links back to your main site, or your site’s blog articles. By spreading your link across various social networks, your arms are constantly outstretched to draw your customers to you.

One of the clearest integrations between social media and the search engines is the Twitter Search Engine on Bing. This tool enables you to search tweets in real-time from within the Bing search engine. Tweets are now in the Bing News feed, as well as a preferred treatment for content “liked” by your Facebook and Twitter contacts.


LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a search engine and has a ton of authority on Google and other popular search engines. Likely if you Google your name and you have a LinkedIn profile, it will show up on the first page of Google. This demonstrates the ranking authority of LinkedIn on Google.

Import your WordPress blog feed to your profile, use Groups to connect with people, create an event and send invitations to your LinkedIn network, get recommendations to attract more clients.


Flickr

Flickr can also be used to generate traffic, build links and increase your visibility in the search results. Add descriptive hyperlinks that encourage people to click from the image to the blog post. Flickr images tend to rank well in the search results for a certain period of time.

Create a descriptive title for the image. This is one of the best places to post your primary keyword. Write a keyword rich description for each photo and use tags.


Yelp

Reputation Management
Yelp is experiencing phenomenal growth! Much like Google has the market on Google for reviews, Yelp now has the iPhone market thanks to Siri, the new Apple personal assistant.

If you own a restaurant or other type of business location, another important task to do after claiming your locations on Google Local Business is to claim them on Yelp. Yelp is important because it is emerging as the leading consumer review site for many types of businesses and it currently receives high priority from the Google Search Engine results.

Business owners greatly benefit when their location is claimed on Yelp. Claiming a location allows the business to personalize their Yelp page in a number of ways.


Google Plus

Add +1 to your pages to help your site stand out. Let visitors recommend your content on Google Search and share it on Google+

You can now set up your own Business Page on Google+. There are lots of ways to promote your site and your Google+ page, from promoting it yourself with Google+ Direct Connect and the Google+ badge, to helping others recommend you with the +1 button. Google’s measurement tools helps understand Google+ activity: what people are saying about your business, how many +1’s your business receives and how these affect your traffic.


See How Social Media Can Replace Pricey Adwords!

Infographic: The Authority Building Machine
Internet Marketing Infographic by Vertical Measures


Blogging Benefits SEO

You  Need A Blog Now More Than Ever! Here’s Why …

Despite the popularity of Twitter and Facebook , people continue to post to blogs. Blogging platforms provide users with a simple way of instantly publishing material. Content continues to drive visitors. Blogging raises awareness of your brand and increases your authority.

Blogging is a good way to boost your main site’s search engine optimization as well.  Here is how that works.

The best way to draw visitors regularly to a site is to offer something new upon every visit. Your core audience is more likely to share your URL and information if you have something to give, and blogging provides a good way to get content live and distributed easily. In the process, you are likely to gain high positions in relevant search by having updated content on hand.

Bloggers Can Shine!
Yahoo and Google are now pulling results from more than static sites – videos, Tweets, and social links. Search engines place special emphasis on blogs as reliable sources for updated content. So as you continue to post and link back to your main site, you increase the authority of your presence under your given expertise.

Links, Relevance and High Search Results
New content drives people to a site. If your static main site is constructed to present your products and services, the supplementary blog keeps visitors returning. Social media may change the way people promote online, but blogging is a tried and true strategy you need so you can promote via social media.

Other ways blogs benefit SEO:

Crawlable URLs
Most blog software offers uncomplicated URL structure, making it fairly easy for search engine spiders to find and crawl blog content.

Incoming Links Magnet
Blogs link freely to each other  … more than web sites do. Blogs are a significant source of many posts to social news and social media web sites. Text, audio and video are all easily supported for syndication by blogs. The more media available, the more likely it will attract incoming links.

Active Community
Comments and trackback features in blog software encourage interaction. An active blog community creates the kinds of citations or signals from other sites that search engines tend to reward in the rankings. Loyal blog readers can boost a site’s visibility through advocacy on other blogs, in forums offline at conferences as well as on their own blogs and within the comments of your blog.


Have A Better Website in 30 Minutes

Don’t have much time and need to update your website?

No worries. Here are three things you can do to add valuable information to your website in 30 minutes, or less:

1. Add a link to cool information.
Did you just read an interesting article in the newspaper, a news item on an industry site or even a “fun” story that has nothing to do with your business?

Well, if you thought it provided value, your customers probably will too. Add a quick link to the information on your blog, newsroom or social media page. After all, customers like to hear about things happening outside of your business too.

2. Answer a Question.

Have you received a lot of questions from your customers lately? Try to figure out the most popular question in the last month. Then, take a few minutes to write the answer in a quick, Q and A column.

You can add this information to your home page, blog and other, social media sites.

3. Write an Update.

How long has it been since you told your customers what the business has been up to? Write a quick letter to your customers and bullet point all of the new things happening. You can write about upcoming events, new partnerships and fresh benefits that you are providing to help fulfill customer needs.

And to keep it fun, include something personal. This can be something like how your staff is feeding a stray cat that arrives at the office each morning, how you tried surfing over the summer and are glad to be back in the office on dry land, or a tip on how to prepare for the upcoming holidays.

Keep It Simple.

By sharing information with your customers, you provide value and a personal touch. And this doesn’t need to be complicated. Simply prepare a few sentences, write some bullet points or provide a link to the full story on another site.

In just a few minutes, you can update your site with new information and keep your customers happy.

– by Melanie Rembrandt, www.rembrandwrites.com
Melanie is a superb public relations consultant, an SEO copywriter and a published writer with over 20 years of extensive experience and an excellent track record for success.


Opportunity it’s all around. Take a look.

Two hundred years ago the only way you could have a cold beer was if it was winter or if you were rich and could transport and store ice.

Then came Frederic Tudor, an entrepreneur who turned ice into a business, and made a fortune shipping ice to the Caribbean and all over the world.

Technology marched on and people found ways to create ice in warehouses that did not need to be shipped. It could be stored and created locally.

Enter The Web.
Just a few years ago, John Pohlig might have hung up balloons and perhaps an inflatable gorilla outside a Honda dealership in Torrance, California to attract shoppers.

Now Mr. Pohlig, director of marketing, uses Facebook and other social media to try and increase business. Four thousand “likes” later, and Scott Robinson Honda has a huge Facebook base.

“We’re building relevance out there” he says. “Our objective is to reach as many people as possible. Over the long run, this will help build our business and our company.”

“People don’t have time to spend all day at the dealership anymore,” Pohlig notes. “We answer all their questions online before they come in, and get them right out.”

Some 41% of all car dealers now have Facebook pages, according to CNW Research.

Enter The Smartphone.
Nowadays 35% of American adults own a smartphone. One quarter of them use their phone to do most of their online browsing!

Now it’s a cash register. Your mobile phone, I mean. Remember the cash register? Back in 1883 it was a big deal invention called the “Incorruptible Cashier”. Today it’s a pocket-sized credit card reader from squareup.com that plugs into your mobile phone and makes you an instant business able to accept credit cards safely and securely from anywhere.

The cash register comes of age!

Have you?


SEO & Google. Same Story.

Just build it … and they won’t come.
Certainly no small business owners should be under the illusion that simply throwing up a website is sufficient to launch their business on the web! Do you know what you’re up against? Here are just a few things you need to consider …

Google remains the  key to online marketing.
You may have heard plenty about the new social media revolution, but make no mistake. If your business model still depends on organic online search marketing in any way to bring customers to your website, then your fate remains in the hands of Google.

A new way of marketing.
This new approach of reaching your customers over the Internet is about changing your outlook. Think micro markets instead of the masses. “It’s not 1924, and this isn’t Hollywood, but it is a revolution”, says Seth Godin. Read more about it on Seth’s Blog.

Tricks for getting your website found.
The solution to getting your small business site found by potential customers is Search Engine Optimization and it’s more involved than you think. SEO is  a must-have for any company with a web presence, but it is especially important for small businesses with limited brand recognition.

The bad news? Because SEO does not follow an exact methodology taught in most business schools, and the algorithms that power Google and other search engines are covert operations, there is a lot of bad information floating around on the topic.

I suggest going to the source, GOOGLE and downloading their Starter Guide to SEO. 32 pages, but free, accurate, very complete,  and no bull. In fact, I think this PDF by Google is the best one I have yet read on the subject.

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


There is no recipe for an ideal website …

But there are basic ingredients. Here they are.

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
– Steve Jobs

Not an easy task, designing a website  entails a lot of research and brainstorming. Biggest question: Who is your target audience? Essentially, every website includes the following components:

1. LAYOUT STRUCTURE – Below are some examples. Your choice depends on your industry, your goals and your target audience.

2. SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

SEO is addressed at the beginning of the design process. It starts with creating 15 or so  keywords/keyword phrases, then your Page Title.The humble Page Title is your main tool to attract new visitors from search listings and to help your existing users to locate the specific pages that they need. The Page Title is contained within the HTML <title> tag and is almost always used as the clickable headline for listings on search engine result pages .  Then you need to create h1-3 headings and above-the-fold keyword content.

3. CONTENT

Homepage
Visitors spend 2.5+ seconds on this the most important page of your website! Remember your taglines must explain what the company does and what makes it unique among competitors. Two questions can help you assess your own tagline: Would it work just as well for competitors? Would any company ever claim the opposite? Taglines need to be short and quickly communicate the purpose of the site.

How Visitors Read Your Web Pages
The F-shaped reading pattern reveals that the normal eye gaze begins from top left on a web page, moving horizontally to the right. Moving a little below on the left side, this pattern repeats but the gaze stops around the center and then you scroll the page downwards to have a glance over the important sections placed on the page. This makes a virtual F-shaped pattern on a web page and it is believed to be the normal eye movement pattern of any web page.

User-Friendly Navigation
Tests show that visitors first look at the pictures, then at the titles then at the text. Navigation often gets completely ignored! Navigation only comes into play, when a user feels lost. Still remember to have clean horizontal menu bar(s), preferably not flash.!

Writing For The Web. It’s different.
Remember users won’t read your text thoroughly. So the first two paragraphs must state the most important information. Don’t write a wall of text. Write for online, not print. To draw users into the text , use these tricks: Subheads, bulleted lists, highlighted keywords, short paragraphs, the inverted pyramid, a simple writing style, and language devoid of marketese.

Body Content Area.
This area discusses the company/services/products. It also includes images depending on the nature of the site and the layout selected.  This area can be subdivided into sections for services or highlighting certain popular or featured products.

Simplicity … is the ultimate sophistication.”
– Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

4. DESIGN

A series of playing cards designed by Tauba Auerbach, hand numbered and signed. The Whitney Museum.

Consistency is important. Users spend most of their time on other websites. This means that they form their expectations for your site based on what’s commonly done on most other sites. If you deviate, your site will be harder to use and users will leave. So keep the design simple .

Contrasting elements matter, i.e. background, header & footer colors; typography sizes & styles, and above all images.These days design trends include using standard font sizes and adequate white space, and offering clear color contrast. For screen design, an overly strong contrast (full black and white) is not ideal, as the text starts to flicker. Benchmark: #333 on #fff

***

“Design is a key determinant to building online trust with consumers. For motivated users of an information site, bad design (busy layout, small print, too much text) hurts more than good design helps.”
– Sillence, Briggs, Fishwick, and Harris, 2004.


Books We Write About … from amazon


Beyond Blogging: The Secrets to Blogging Success

Beyond Blogging provides readers with a succulent selection of interviews and handy tips from the greats of the blogging world. Injected with Nathan and Mike’s personal flair, Beyond Blogging is sure to delight blogging veterans and neophytes alike.

Bloggers featured include:

* Chris Brogan
* Gary Vaynerchuk
* Chris Guillebeau
* David Risley
* Penelope Trunk
* Chris Garrett
* Darren Rowse
* Pete Cashmore
* Jonathan Fields
* Shama Kabani
* Michael Dunlop
* Steve Pavlina
* iJustine
* Brian Clark
* John Chow

At the conclusion of these 15 amazing case studies, is what we call the “$100K Blueprint,” which combines the best practices and techniques of these 15 bloggers into an easy to follow 5-step blueprint that can help you turn any blog from average to extraordinary.

Learn from their mistakes and cut your learning curve in half. This book is THE definitive guide to blogging in 2010 and beyond.

_____________________________

Social Marketing to the Business Customer:
Listen to Your B2B Market, Generate Major Account Leads, and Build Client Relationships

Influence, decision-making, lead generation — it’s all here. Whether you’re a small business owner looking to get your arms around social media, a senior manager at a Fortune 1000 business or a marketer trying to pick up tips about this dynamic new landscape, “Social Marketing” has something chewy to offer.