With Changes in Marketing and SEO Strategies Sure to be a Discussion Point at SXSW, Where Does That Leave Online Marketing, Traditional Press Releases and SEO?

SEO and online marketing are not dead. They are evolving.

Over the past 9-12 months, there have been some big changes within some of the major search engines.  This will no doubt be a talked-about topic at SXSW amongst marketing individuals. The fact is that the changes are supposed to be positive.

“We have had a few enquiries from individuals about sending out a press release, wondering if it is still a viable method of marketing as it used to be,” said Michael Iwasaki, managing partner of 24-7PressRelease.com. “A press release is not going away and will always be a mainstay tool for many marketers. On that note, they need to be treated with respect. We have always advised that if you send out a press release, ensure it is newsworthy, something that will attract journalists, bloggers or any other individuals that may want to follow up your story. “

He has advice regarding anchor text links, also. “If you wish to include links within your press release, do not abuse this option. Adding 8-10 keyword links (all pointing back to the same location) is not advisable.  We are not experts for search engines, but advise no more than 3 links within a press release, pointing to different locations such as your home page, WikiPedia.com, or your blog.”

Remember to include varied media in a release, too, as studies have shown that improves a release’s performance. “Including media within your release is an excellent way to gain visibility.  At www.24-7PressRelease.com, an excellent example is through our Mass Media Visibility package. We have a relationship with PR Newswire for amazing traditional media exposure and distribution, and you can also add images and video with almost all of our packages,” added Iwasaki.

In this day and age, having an array of marketing tools is recommended. A decent start could include Google AdWords, social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), blogging and of course a press release with media inclusions.

About 24-7PressRelease.com
Launched in 2004, 24-7PressRelease.com is a leader in the online press release distribution industry.

Through its multichannel distribution network, 24-7PressRelease.com helps corporations and organizations disseminate their news to consumers, editors, journalists, bloggers and websites.

24-7PressRelease supports businesses in building brand awareness and increase visibility on the web through social media and bloggers.

White Hat SEO Guidelines to Follow

When it comes to SEO, there are two ways to approach it.  The first approach is called a “white hat” approach, meaning that whoever is responsible for executing SEO activities on behalf of a website, whether it is an in house SEO Specialist, an SEO agency, an SEO consultant, a marketing team member, etc., implements SEO tactics that are deemed appropriate in the eyes of the search engines.  The search engines publicly state what approved practices are and which practices are frowned upon and could result in a penalty or dip in ranking.  The second approach is called a “black hat” approach.  Black hatters use these practices that are frowned upon.  And why would they do that?  Well, black hat tactics can sometimes result in a quick improvement in rank and SERP (search engine results page) presence.  However, since the search algorithms continue to get more sophisticated, these black hat SEO activities will catch up with a site owner sooner or later which is why white hat SEO is the best option to protect your site in the long run. 

Follow these 3 crucial guidelines of white hat SEO for long term success:

Focus on link quality over link quantity

In the old days of SEO, nearly any link that you could get that pointed back to your site held some kind of value.  That’s no longer the case as the Google Penguin update made it clear that not all links are created equal and there is in fact a big difference between good links and bad links.  Links that are considered to be “unnatural” are bad and include links from unrelated websites, link exchanges, hidden links, and more.  A white hat approach means only going after quality links from trusted sources that in addition to improving a link portfolio, will also result in generating traffic from target audience members. 

Avoid keyword anchor text overuse

Sites that relied too heavily on exact match anchor text were also victims of the Google Penguin update.  If your site is using the same keyword anchor text over and over, it’s not a natural way to link.  Think about how a visitor might link to your content.  They probably wouldn’t link using one of your top keywords.  They would be more likely to use the anchor text “click here” or link to the name of your business or brand or might not even include anchor text at all and simply include the full URL.  Vary the anchor text so that it includes branded keywords, some priority keywords, and many long-tail variations so that it doesn’t look like you are trying to manipulate the search results for a particular phrase. 

Write content for the reader first, search spider second

Content is a necessary component of an SEO campaign today.  Content that includes targeted keywords is what gets noticed by the search engine spiders.  However, it’s important to keep in mind that the search engine spiders aren’t the primary target of content, the primary target are actual human Internet users.  If your content is stuffed with keywords, it’s clear that it wasn’t created with the end user in mind and will be rejected by the search spiders. 

About the Author:

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a search marketing company that provides B2B SEO services.  For more information call 781-999-1222 or visit http://www.brickmarketing.com

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Suggestions to Maintain Website Visitor Growth

What’s frustrating about SEO and online marketing in general is that it often takes time to see an improvement in website traffic.  However, as time goes on and the site has been optimized, a link building strategy has been created and implemented, and social media activity remains consistent there should be a gradual increase in traffic.  The goal is for the traffic volume to continue to improve steadily.  If you find that your website traffic has hit a wall and traffic has reached a plateau, that’s when it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and try some new strategies.  Writing blog posts and press releases and sharing them in social media can really only get you so far. 

Here are 4 additional ways to continue to improve traffic efforts:

Look for guest blog posting opportunities

Blogging is a great online marketing strategy for many reasons.  Not only do business blog posts provide potential customers/clients with valuable information about your company and industry but they also serve an important SEO function.  Blog posts provide the opportunity to inner link to other pages of the site.  They are also valuable from a social media sharing perspective.  In order to improve your social signals for search purposes it’s necessary to share content in social media that is worthy of sharing.  A great blog post will get shared, re-tweeted, promoted, etc.  Writing for your own web property is a great start, but it’s suggested to branch out and look for writing opportunities on other related industry sites.  In addition to generating quality links back to your site that improve search engine trust, it can also improve visibility among target audience members and the links can generate direct traffic back to the site. 

Try new content formats

While blogging is an important component of online marketing today, it is really only one content outlet.  People like to consume content in various formats, so creating content in various formats is a great way to improve exposure.  Don’t be afraid to try something new.  Experiment with webinars, eBooks, infographics, videos, white papers, etc.  Each of these pieces of content has the potential to gain attention from target audience members and get them to convert.  A good strategy is to use your previous blog posts as inspiration.  Repurpose blog post content and turn it into one of these different formats. 

Email marketing

No matter what you’ve heard, email marketing is still an effective tactic as long as it’s implemented properly.  People are always checking their email and if you can provide them with something of value, it will get opened.  While it can be difficult to generate a quality opt in list of subscribers, it’s worth the effort because you know that the recipients are interested in what you have to say.  If you already are active in email marketing, take a look at the data and see what the open rate is.  Maybe you need to make a few minor tweaks. 

Online advertising

If your website traffic has hit a wall one option to look into is online advertising.  Banner advertising is usually hit or miss depending on the niche.  The better option is usually to invest in PPC.  PPC can be expensive depending on the keywords that you are targeting but it can generate visitors.  It also helps achieve organic traffic in an indirect way.  If a searcher sees your brand in both the organic and paid section of a search engine results page it qualifies that your site has what they are looking for. 

About the Author:

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a B2B SEO firm.  For more information call 781-999-1222 or visit http://www.brickmarketing.com.

Press Release Topic Ideas for SEO

One relatively easy way to generate backlinks and traffic to your website is to write and distribute a press release using a paid distribution service anytime there is anything newsworthy going on in your business.  An online press release that is distributed through a paid service allows links in the body of the release.  This can help grow your link portfolio and improve the trust and authority of your site over time if the releases get picked up by reputable news sources.  Online press releases also help from an online reputation management perspective.  Online press releases typically appear in the search engines for branded search terms.  Unfortunately there is no guarantee that there won’t ever be any negative content posted about your business online.  Positive content (like press releases) should outweigh any negative content to keep attention away from anything negative.

Press release topics need to be newsworthy.  If there is nothing “new” about the release, it won’t get picked up and it may even be rejected by the editor of the press release distribution site.  However, there is no need to over think the release.  Anything “new” can be newsworthy and can be turned into a great press release with the correct writer.  If you aren’t sure what topic could be turned into a press release, here are some ideas:

New employee

Depending on the size of your business, it’s possible that you are hiring someone new every other week.  If that’s the case, it isn’t recommended to send out a press release each time.  You might want to save it for when a higher level executive is hired.  However, if you operate a small business, hiring a new employee is definitely newsworthy.  Send out a press release about the new hire, the position that they will hold, and how they will be contributing to your business.  It’s a good opportunity to also showcase what your company has to offer.

New product/service

Over time a company should evolve and add new products and services to keep up with the demand of consumers.  Writing and publishing a press release is a great way to promote the new offerings of your company.

Event sponsorship

Offline marketing efforts can help improve online marketing efforts if you know how to leverage them.  For SEO purposes, event sponsorship provides many opportunities.  You should be able to obtain a link from the event website. It can also help with content marketing.  In addition to announcing the sponsorship via a press release, you can also write blog posts before, during, and after the event.

New office

If your company is growing it’s likely that you will need new office space to accommodate that growth.  If your business if moving from one location to another it is a newsworthy event, especially in the town that you are moving to as it is creating more jobs in that area.

Awards

Anytime your business or an employee wins an award, you should want to brag about it.  Awards can generate business to your company.  When people conduct a branded search and see a press release stating that the company won an award, they will be more likely to do business with you.

About the Author:

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a Boston SEO firm.  For more information call 781-999-1222 or visit http://www.brickmarketing.com.

3 Ways to Improve Your Local Search Presence

As the results that appear when conducting a search become more personalized based on location and people are increasingly searching on a mobile device while on the go, local SEO is becoming more and more crucial.  When someone conducts a search, the search engines determine what establishments are the closest that offer what they need, assuming that the searcher is looking for what’s most convenient.  Therefore, it’s necessary to use specific tactics in order to convey to the search engines (and target audience members) where exactly your business is located.

Incorporate these 3 tactics into your SEO strategy to improve local search efforts and generate more local traffic to your site:

Incorporate local keywords onto the website

Whether you are targeting a local audience or a national audience, the first step of an SEO campaign is the same.  The first thing that needs to be done is keyword research.  This will give you an understanding of how people are searching.  You never want to simply assume which keywords to use because it could result in missed opportunities.  If you are targeting a local audience, keywords will need to be localized by including the city or the city and the state.  For larger areas, like big cities, it makes sense to niche it down even further by targeting a specific neighborhood.  This is especially a good idea for local businesses that have lots of competition in a small area, like take out dinner establishments.

Add contact information to every page of the website

There are certain elements of a website that are necessary to include because they help to convey trust to the website visitor.  Some people are still wary about what they find online, so it’s important to include contact information to confirm that you are, in fact, a real business.  This is especially important for a local business that people are going to physically visit.  Include the address, mailing address (if different), and phone number on every page of the site so that people don’t have to go looking for a contact page.  Include the names of the towns, neighborhoods, or cities that you serve along with contact info in the footer.  Remember, the phone number digits should be separated by dashes (ex. 555-000) so that people can easily click on it and call from their mobile device.

Activate local business listings

One of the first items on your local link building strategy should be to submit information to and activate profiles on local directories.  For local search, Google displays Google+ Local profiles prominently above the fold.  If yours isn’t verified and doesn’t include much information, it probably won’t appear.  Bing and Yahoo! also have local business directories.  It’s easy to fill out the information and go through the verification process.  Basic listings are free, but there are Enhanced Listing options that may include photos, company logos, and a more detailed business description.  There are plenty of other local directory sites to submit information to like Yellow Pages, Super Pages, and Local.com.  All of these profiles will appear for a branded search.

About the Author:

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a Boston area SEO firm.  For more SEO tips, subscribe to the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter.

Should I Keep Blogging?

If you have put some time and effort into setting up a blog, posting regular updates, and attempting to share your posts and engage with your blogging community, but you’re still not seeing many results, business owners will often ask: “Should I keep blogging? Is there any point?”

The quick answer is: “Often, yes.”

There are a few things that you might be missing. For example, your blog may be low on views, or comments, but if it is hosted on your company website, the updated and refreshed content could still be really helping your site in the search engines. Search engines love fresh content but people don’t often have a reason to update their company’s “About Us” page on a regular basis. Having a blog page on your site is a great way of keeping your site’s content new in an authentic way, which can only help your search engine ranking. So it’s often good to consider the benefits your blog may be providing that aren’t as easy to see.

If your blog is not hosted on your website, then rather than stopping blogging, consider moving your blog over to your site, and that way you are at least gaining some benefit.

If you honestly feel that the blog is taking up too much time and energy, then perhaps revisit the frequency with which you are blogging. Cutting it down may help balance out the effort to results ratio.

You can also revisit your content. Are your blog posts easy to read – are they fairly brief (200-300 words is a good guideline), interesting and well written, without too many grammar errors or typos to distract the reader? You can use a blogging service if you don’t feel confident writing your own posts.

Lastly, it can often be as simple as the blog design that is off-putting to readers. Aesthetics are everything, after all! Consider the size of your font – is it too small? The font itself may even be hard to read, so consider changing that. The blog’s interface design could be too bare or too cluttered – try changing that. Or incorporate images or video into your posts – online readers love multimedia.

Try out these changes before quitting your blog altogether. And remember – sometimes things just take time to grow, just like business! So stick with it.

The Power of Blogging, Part 3

The folks at Prompt Proofing, a copywriting, editing and proofreading service that also offers blogging services, finish off their 3-part guest post on the power of blogging:

We have talked about two major benefits of business blogging in Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series. We have discussed how a blog allows you to have your own voice on the world wide web, and how you have the opportunity to become known as an expert in your field through informative and interesting blog posts. Today we finish up with a major benefit of business blogging – this benefit is the main reason many businesses start a blog in the first place:

INCREASE TRAFFIC TO YOUR SITE

That’s right, that elusive Google ranking can start creeping up without the expense of an SEO consultant or a huge marketing campaign. It could be as simple as keeping a blog. How does that work?

There are several factors to improving your SEO rank, and here are a few:

  • Increase the number of quality ‘backlinks’ to your site (backlinks are other sites linking to your website)
  • Get your website indexed by Google and other major search engines (this means they will ‘spider’ or ‘crawl’ your website and log your individual web pages as results to potential searches in their search engine)
  • Refresh your content regularly – new content leads to an increase in indexing, which leads to an improvement in your SEO ranking as websites whose content never changes tend to get pushed down in relevance by search engines

How can blogging help? Well, congratulations if you thought that the last bulletpoint above is the most important benefit of blogging. If you have a professional, attractive-looking business website, it probably took you some time to put it together. You may have used a website copywriting service (which Prompt Proofing offers) to ensure your content was word-perfect, and that’s a great idea. But that means you don’t want to change it much once it is posted. Therefore, your content is not going to be regularly updated, meaning you will miss out on that crucial benefit to SEO ranking. The search engines will continue to push your website down the rankings until it barely even factors anymore.

Well, simply add a blog page to your site. Update it once a week or – at the very least – once a month, and bingo! Your website is suddenly being regularly refreshed with new content and will start to crawl its way back up the search engine rankings.

As for the first two bulletpoints above, the statistics below will help show how blogging helps out with these.

The statistics below are courtesy of Janet Meiners Thaeler, an SEO consultant who provided them in her article, Blogging: The Best SEO Tool for Small Businesses:

Bloggers see:

  • 55% more visitors to their websites (people will be finding your site who wouldn’t have before because they are looking for the information provided in your latest blog post – as discussed in Part 1)
  • 97% more links to their website (people will link back to your blog if they think it’s worth a read)
  • 434% more indexed pages (more blog posts means more pages for the search engines to crawl and index!)

You can’t fight statistics! Get blogging now to see a huge improvement in your business website’s performance.

The Power of Blogging, Part 2

Continuing their guest post series is Prompt Proofing, a copywriting, editing and proofreading service that also offers blogging services for business:

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the fact that a blog provides you with the unique opportunity of having your own voice, speaking directly to customers, Internet readers, other business owners and more. This week’s benefit elaborates on this. Not only does a blog provide you with a unique opportunity to show off your own style of communication and, therefore, business, but it also gives you a forum through which to educate your readers. Therefore, this week’s benefit of business blogging:

BECOME KNOWN AS AN EXPERT IN YOUR FIELD

If you are in business, chances are it is because you have specialized knowledge in one or more areas. For example, if you are in trades, then you have specialized knowledge in the area of plumbing, welding, bricklaying, electrics, etc. This is knowledge that John Doe walking down the street doesn’t have. If you’re an accountant, you know how to balance books and handle complex financial information. If you’re a lawyer, you know the letter of the law inside and out – or at least you know how to find it out! If you’re a hairstylist, you know what you’re doing with a pair of scissors close to a head of hair.

You get the point. You have something to offer; a niche (however small) to fill. That’s why you are in business. Use this knowledge and exhibit it in your blog and there’s a good chance you could become known as an expert in your field. So what, you ask? Well, here are just a few of the results that could come from being recognized for your specialized knowledge:

  1. Your blog could develop a following of people who want inspiration, information and education in a certain area.
  2. Through this following, your presence on social media is bound to increase as people spread the word and share your blog. This is the best form of advertising: FREE and reliable for the customer (people trust word-of-mouth referrals far more than any paid business advertisement).
  3. You could even become a consultant for a journalist. Journalists often have a ‘beat’ that they cover, meaning that they tend to focus on writing stories on one type of news, such as finance, travel, entertainment or sports. Generally, each journalist will have a list of experts they can consult for quotes and background information on issues they need to write about. Yet again, more advertising that is respected and FREE!

These benefits certainly help to outweigh the cons that many business owners fear – if I give away my secrets, how will I have a business anymore? Well, I promise that by giving some DIY tips to a home owner looking to do some renovations, you won’t be put out of business. If anything it will save you working on small, poorly-paying jobs, and will instead give you the promotion to land larger jobs where no one will attempt DIY, even if they have read your blog for advice! Just choose what you blog on carefully. For example, a hairstylist can blog about ideas for styling hair or updos, or can post photos of great colours or cuts that the reader can then take to her hairstylist to replicate. That doesn’t mean people will stop getting their hair cut professionally. An accountant can provide information on how to keep a personal budget and good tools to use to manage your personal finances. This doesn’t mean businesses will stop requiring accountants to balance their books throughout the fiscal year.

Blogs create a win-win situation for everyone, especially the small business owner. Take advantage of this!

The Power of Blogging, Part 1

This 3-part blog post series is provided by Pat Wootton of the copywriting, editing and proofreading company, Prompt Proofing, who offer blogging services:

No matter what your area of business, even if it is as seemingly localized and simplistic as a lawn-mowing service, you cannot ignore the power of the blog in today’s world of business.

True, the area of social media as a whole is vital but this has become such a daunting subject, deserving of several months of blog posts to even scratch its surface, that it is easier to focus on one area, and the blog is certainly one effective and very doable area in which businesses can market themselves at a low cost, reach a whole new demographic of customers and dictate their entire brand image.

Because even the blog is a huge area of interest and study, we will analyze its benefits to business over a series of blog posts, focusing on one core advantage each week.

This week, we have advantage #1, perhaps one of the most important benefits of all:

YOUR BLOG = YOUR VOICE

Yes, even if you aren’t writing it yourself!

Many businesses use a blogging service, and Prompt Proofing also manages blogs for its clients, writing and posting blog posts on a regular basis in order to keep up the company’s search engine presence and provide the blog’s readers with regular, informative news that is well written.

The fact of the matter is, with marketing and word-of-mouth whispers between current and potential customers, a blog is the one space in that vast web of the Internet that you can dominate and claim as your own, allowing you to exert some influence over how your business is perceived.

Readers much prefer reading a business’s blog to its marketing materials because, quite simply, they don’t feel as though you are trying to sell to them. Obviously you are, as there would be no point in putting your time and energy into a business blog if you didn’t eventually hope to gain some customers from it, but the fact is, you cannot maintain a sales pitch throughout every single blog post (or at least, you shouldn’t).

Blogs read more informally than marketing literature, and are there to provoke discussion and provide information rather than simply to persuade the reader to hand over their credit card. Prompt Proofing’s blog is a great example – we essentially charge people to improve their communication and writing, yet we constantly write blog posts advising you how to improve your own writing. That’s because we recognize that education and information are two key factors that bring people to peruse blogs and we don’t want to just sell our services to you. We want you to find something of interest to read on our site, and – because it is our passion – we desperately want to improve spelling and grammar everywhere!

Let’s go back to our example of ABC Lawn Mowers Ltd. Their blog posts could cover issues such as how to care for your garden or what model of lawn mower to buy. That’s right, they could be providing information about how to buy a machine that would mean their services would not be needed! Seem counter-intuitive? The fact is, you want to draw readers to your blog. You cannot be naive enough to assume that every reader will become a customer. The most important thing is to increase traffic because that will increase awareness of your business. Even if that reader buys the lawnmower and never uses their service, they may direct someone else to your site in future who doesn’t have time to mow their own lawn and just wants ABC Lawn Mowers Ltd. to do it for them.

This is a very simplistic example of how business is gained from a blog, but truthfully the ways in which blogs can lead to business growth are far more nuanced and plentiful than it is possible to outline here. The bottom line is: Blogs lead to business growth. End of story. So why aren’t you doing one?

If you don’t have time, dedicate a few hundred dollars from your marketing budget each month and pay a service to blog for you, once a week to start with, steadily increasing after that if you feel like it. The important thing is not to miss out on this low-cost and easy opportunity to have your voice heard!