It’s becoming more and more important for small business owners to “own” their Google results. In a world where you are what Google says you are, when someone searches for your name they need to be able to find you. The real you. Not a lookalike, another company with the same name or that social profile you thought you had taken care of it. Business owners must protect their brand, and sometimes that means doing just a touch of proactive online reputation management to secure your Google 10.
Your Google 10 is the top ten results that appear when someone does a Google search for your name. How do you go about ensuring you own all ten spots? Surprisingly, it’s not that hard. Here are some of the sites and profiles you’ll want to grab and pay attention to.
Grab your .com: Chances are you already have this one and it’s naturally ranking very well for your brand. Congrats. That’s one listing. Time to go after the other nine.
Join Professional Directories: Whatever your industry, there are guaranteed to be at least a handful of directory or resource sites you can join to help customers find you, while also helping you to take advantage of the company profile pages they offer. Often these directories will require a small application fee for your profile to be reviewed, but if you’re able to choose targeted sites, you’ll get both customers and a major search ranking benefit from them. To find these directories, try doing a search for [your industry] + directory].
Get Social: Besides just being a great way to reach out to customers, social profiles are known for how well they rank in Google due to their authority and all the links being pointed at them. If you’re looking to claim some space, try creating a Facebook Fan page, Twitter account and corporate accounts on sites like LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Naymz, etc. Don’t just register the accounts, though. Actually build out the profiles and make them useful. There’s no sense ranking a profile if the information on it isn’t up to par.
Target Industry-Specific Social Sites: Thanks to the social media boom, there are social sites now geared toward virtually every industry on the planet, whether it’s finance, sports, art and design, programming, SEO, etc. Find your niche and get involved. Create accounts on these sites and engage in the community when it makes sense. Many of the smaller social sites will also allow you to link to your “mainstream” social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook, etc. Take advantage of this feature. The more links you get to each account, the stronger it will become and the better it will rank. If there are any forums in your area of specialty, consider creating usernames on those as well.
Make Media: The search engines like media. In fact, they like it so much that they’re starting to replace “regular” search results with images, videos and news clippings. Because so few companies are being proactive about media content, you can often overtake competitor listings simply by creating media content and optimizing it – including the name of your company in the title, file name, description and within the tags, etc. As mentioned before, video and small businesses go really well together. Obviously, Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo are great sites to focus on for these purposes. [If you’re really adventurous, perhaps even create your own podcast!]
Guest Blog: Guest blogging is a great way to increase visibility and bring visitors to your site, but it can also be an effective way of grabbing more search real estate. Offer to provide a blogger with unique content in your site. In return you’ll often be given a brief bio box which will allow you to link out to your Web site and maybe even some other prominent profiles or content pieces. If the site owner is agreeable, you should also put your name and company name in the Title tag of that entry.
Speak At Local Events: Look for opportunities to speak or get involved with local events in your niche. These spots usually come with speaker bios that you can build out to rank very well (and very easily) for your name and company. They’re also exactly what you want to be ranking for when a potential partner or prospect goes searching for your brand. It shows that you know what you’re talking about AND that you care about your community.
If the list above looks a bit overwhelming, fear not. Chances are you won’t have to create each and every account mentioned in order to secure and protect your Google 10. However, variety is the spice of life…and Google rankings.
A huge trend today is going green in your business. “Going green” sounds weighty – but it’s not really. It can be very simple stuff that brings BIG benefits — everything from making double-sided photocopies so you save paper, to swapping out incandescent light bulbs for more efficient fluorescent bulbs. Not only are you doing something worthwhile for our environment, but you can save money.
So, to encourage others to “go green” in their small businesses, I’m collecting tips for going green. I will publish the best ones in a “Top 100 Tips for Going Green in Your Business” roundup.
And since YOU always have the best ideas, I’m asking your help.
Please share a tip about how YOU are going green in your business, or how others can go green. No matter how small you think a green activity is, it’s worthwhile. And I want to hear from you.
To sweeten the pot, I’ve got a great big THANK YOU. HP has kindly donated a brand-new desktop computing suite to give away. If you share a tip and it’s included in the roundup, I will enter your name in a random drawing. One lucky winner will receive this powerful and energy-efficient suite of computer equipment for your office.
- Desktop computer - An energy-efficient, ultra-slim desktop computer — the HP Compaq dc7900 Ultra Slim Business PC
- Monitor -A big 22-inch widescreen LCD monitor — the LHP L2245wg
- Printer/fax/scanner – A wonderful printer with copier, fax and scanner built in — the HP OfficeJet Pro 8500 Premier All-in-One. It prints professional-looking color copies.
The above drawing is limited to U.S.-based people and small businesses.
INTERNATIONAL DRAWING — I separately will hold a random drawing to choose another non-U.S. winner, who will receive a $100 gift certificate to an online retailer of your choice in your country. In other words, we’ll have 2 winners with 2 different prizes — one for U.S. people and one for those outside the U.S.
HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR TIP
There are two ways to share tips: (1) Leave a comment below this post. Or (2) submit your tip on this Form. Either way is OK. Go for it! Deadline to submit your tip is October 7, 2009 at 11:59 PM, Los Angeles time.
Just like many of you, I like to save money. That’s why I offer so many “Do-It-Yourself Public Relations” products. I’m also always on the lookout for other useful, inexpensive publicity tools.
Here’s a list of tools you can use to get publicity for $1 or less:
1. Help a Reporter: Free leads from reporters who are looking for sources for stories.
2. Contact any Celebrity: One week’s trial for a $1. Get contact information for celebrities, to get potential endorsements.
3. The Gift List: Free trial of a list of media contacts for consumer product companies. This link will also give you a 15% discount should you decide to get a subscription.
4. Contacts on Tap: Free 15-day trial of a media contacts database.
5. Chases Calendar: Free listing of a holiday you can create. This annual calendar is used by media everywhere.
6. Ezinearticles.com: Free directory of articles. Submit yours with a resource box at the bottom to drive traffic to your Web site.
7. Write a guest post or get interviewed or mentioned by a top blogger, with a link to your Web site – free.
8. Win an award – Takes time to submit the award application, but usually no money.
9. Create profiles and use free social media tools including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
10. Set up and write posts on a free WordPress blog platform. These posts often get picked up in search engines, and may be found by reporters searching for sources on specific subjects.
Use these tools and watch your publicity efforts become more successful – for not a lot of money.
* * * * *
About the Author: Margie Zable Fisher is the President of Zable Fisher Public Relations, a small business public relations firm, and is the publisher of Women Business Owners Digest (www.wbodigest.com). To get free publicity opportunities in her weekly newsletter, visit www.zfpr.com.
With its new tagging ability, Facebook has made its site a whole lot more appealing for small business owners. Small business owners have the ability to seek out the people talking about them and users can get their voices heard, knowing businesses can check to see who has tagged them. But before either party can take advantage of Facebook’s new feature, you first have to get your customers to opt into the relationship. You have to give them a reason to friend your Facebook Fan page, and that’s not always easy.
I’ve written in the past about how to create a Facebook Fan page – how to set it up, what to put on it, how to make it look and feel like your brand. But how do you get people to actually want to join the page? How do you combat brand fatigue and take them from a passive observer to a full-blown brand evangelist?
You have to create an incentive.
Make People Feel Part Of Something
Think back to high school. You joined cliques for survival and to help you feel liked, respected, wanted, etc. You joined because you were made to feel like you were missing out if you weren’t part of the group. Social networking works the same way.
It’s very easy to be passive on Facebook. If you want someone to take that step and openly associate themselves with your brand, you need to make them feel like they’re missing out by NOT being part of your community. That they’ll be losing out on a common experience or missing the joke if they stay on the outside. You create that by making your community sound and feel 100x times larger than it actually is (unless you’re purposely trying to seem small and elite). You fake it until you make it. You make tagging part of your fans daily interaction with you. You make a game out of it so that you’re always showing up on their wall (with a link to your Fan page) and they’re always showing up on your page. Doing this helps spread your brand, it keeps you in people’s top of mind, and it makes them curious as to why they’re seeing you all over the place. I mean, how else do you get people to become fans of tarantulas?
Appeal To Core Members
Every group has a core bunch. The handful of folks who are responsible for change, for leading things, for getting everyone excited and spreading the company message. Reach out to these folks and get them involved in talking about your Fan page.
Create your promotional army by hand selecting the major players, sending the messages thanking them for their support, and then telling them that you need their help. Make them feel important and like they’re on the cutting edge of whatever you’re doing. Get them to always be talking about you and tagging you places. These types of action increase your trust, build your credibility and give you social proof. These types of connectors are usually the ones with very large social networks on sites like Twitter or Facebook. Ask them to use Facebook’s Suggest feature to “suggest” that their friends fan your page. When the request comes from them, it’s harder for others to decline and it just reinforces that “inside joke”.
Offer Exclusive Content
Facebook is much more intimate than the other social media sites. Users are less likely to invite strangers into their networks and are wary of brands. If you want their attention, you have to give them something of value for their efforts. Something exclusive that they can’t get from your Web site, Twitter account or anywhere else on the Web.
The most popular way of doing these seems to be through Facebook-specific coupons or special offers. Friday’s is offering free hamburgers, Victoria Secrets gave away free undies, Sears gave away coupons and gift cards, etc. Other brands give away exclusive content via video, photos, applications, advanced notice of events, or even just real interaction with other members. Figure out what your customers crave and then give it to them.
Make Your Fan Page Their Forum
No one wants to join a group where they have no voice. They want to interact with the brands they love and feel like they’re being listened to. Once of the best ways to get people to fan your page is to use it as a forum where you ask and listen to your customers’ advice. Let your members lead by turning your Fan page into a place where users can express themselves, to talk about what they don’t like, and things like they’d like to see you do in the future. If you have an upcoming campaign or product you’re working on create a Facebook focus group that encourages people to offer their input. If word gets out that your Facebook Fan page is where you go to crowdsource your ideas, people are going to want to be a part of that. Make your Fan page the place where your customers can go to get heard.
Facebook Fan pages have always been a valuable way to build a community and learn about your audience. However, now they’re also a great way to get your users to spread the word about your brand to their friends with the use of tags. Give them a reason to join your Fan page. Make it exciting and worth their time. And then encourage them to talk about you, to tag you and increase the eyeballs interacting with you online.
Over the past year, we’ve used social media regularly as a part of our marketing mix for brand monitoring, customer service, market research and building/nurturing connections. A few weeks ago, we added a “Live Chat Event on Twitter” to that repertoire. This article series will profile our experience with live Twitter chat events, and summarize what we have learned so that you can benefit.
Our objective for the chats: Build on our reputation for crowdsourcing solutions by providing valuable content through a “new” medium. We wanted to provide a forum for anyone to showcase case studies of successfully tapping the power of workers in the crowd. And of course, we expect our own technology to figure positively amongst many of the examples.
Tweetchats have some inherent benefits in your social media line-up. Here are 6 things to consider as you weigh adding it to your priority list.
- 140 characters. Twitter forces the conversation into only the most salient points. If moderators and panelists are properly prepped, there is an awesome opportunity for presenting clear, concise, data-rich information. It’s akin to offering just the highlights of an otherwise long and uninteresting game. It’s also a great way to weed out jargon and nonsensical buzz words. Tough to include that filler when you have a character limit.
- A Built-in Audience. At all times on Twitter, you have people monitoring the stream for a variety of key words and phrases. For example, during our very first Smartsheet-sponsored #crowdwork chat, there were on average 90 people monitoring the term ‘crowdsourcing’. Many of these people had no idea who we were, but caught a bit of our chat and decided to attend based on the profile of our panelists, the topic or something else.
- It’s a Good Medium for Bloggers. Social media is an indirect channel for us; we get our best ROI from engagement with bloggers and journalists. Since building our reputation is the goal, improving blogger relations is a big part of that. Because they are fast and can be monitored while multi-tasking, Tweetchats are a great way to gain an introduction to a blogger in a specific niche, especially if you have interesting topics and thought leadership.
- Twitter Was Not Built for This. Twitter was not built for chat, yet millions are using it for that purpose. You should expect unpredictable delays. Twitter applications (of which there are many) all respond differently on client-side machines. It’s impossible to replicate what each audience member is experiencing and delays are commonplace.
- Annoyed Followers. I know there are ways to ‘alert your followers’ that you are engaged in a chat and may be tweeting often for the next 25 minutes, but needless to say, some followers still get irritated.
- It Can Be Confusing. Let’s face it, non-Twitter users have no idea what you’re talking about when you tell them to participate in a Tweetchat by following the hashtag #crowdwork at 9am. They want the registration link, the url, the dial-in, the slides, etc. etc.
As with any marketing initiative, Tweetchats take time and investment. The objective must be crystal clear and if your audience isn’t on Twitter, it may not be the medium to achieve your goals. A great way to experiment is to summarize a traditional online or web event through your company’s twitter stream and gauge the feedback.
Look for my next article soon: The Details-Preparing for your First Tweetchat
* * * * *
About the Author: Maria Colacurcio is the co-founder of Smartsheet, the only collaboration tool with a built-in workforce. Prior to starting Smartsheet, Maria worked in B2B marketing for 10+ years at companies including Onyx Software, NetReality and Microsoft. Join our weekly Tweetchat on crowdsourcing by following @Crowdwork or #crowdwork Thursdays at 9am PDT.
This content from: Duct Tape Marketing
Tagging or bookmarking websites, images, and people is a tactic that is somewhat synonymous with social media. When you send an @reply through twitter you are effectively tagging that person and linking to them in your tweet. It’s an effective tool on twitter and allows the twitterverse to see your link to that person as well. An effective way to draw some attention to your Facebook activity is to tag people in your images. The act of tagging puts it on their wall, your wall, and sends a notice to the person being tagged. Some folks use this very effectively as an awareness activity. Hint: take pictures with well-known folks you meet at conferences and then upload and tag them and you might draw some attention from the wall of your tagee.
This week Facebook expanded tagging in a way that I believe will be very useful for business purposes. Now, when you update your status on your personal page, business page, or on any business page where you share information, you can tag any of your followers in your update and it will automatically create a link to your follower’s page, publish the status update to that person’s wall, and send them a notice that they were tagged. Do you see how that might be useful?
A couple rules. The folks you tag must be following you and a tagged person has the option to delete the tag. Try this out, but don’t overdo it!
The way you invoke the tag is where the twitterlike comparisons really come into play. You start typing your status update and then add the “@” and the Facebook system will drop down a list of possible people to tag as you start typing that person’s name. The @ sign does not appear in the update like on twitter but it signals Facebook that you are trying use the tagging feature.
My guess is that this functionality will be a big hit and Facebook may look to expand it to events, comments and other updating features.
Currently, it seems like there is a lot going on in the world of search that is pretty exciting for the typical user. Today I would like to point out a few changes I’ve noticed and what they might mean for your SEM and SEO efforts.
Visual Search – images seem to be getting more and more important in the search world. I don’t know if it’s a function of the fact that no one likes to read of if images are being used digitally (say as phone wallpaper) much as they were in print fashion years ago. It’s always been a good idea to optimize your images online, say with a file name and alt attribute that describe the content, but with Google’s changes to their image search engine it’s probably more useful than ever. Also, check out how Bing is displaying images with it’s Visual Search feature – this is a Bing search for Pulitzer winning fiction
A Feisty Competitor – And speaking of Bing, depending upon the research you choose Bing and proposed combination of Bing results for Yahoo search could start to put a dent in the once thought impossible Google search share. Bing users are finding the comparison shopping and travel, including airfare prediction feature very attractive. It’s certainly time to plug in and make sure your sitemap and other functions are playing well with Bing
Would you like a biscotti with that? – Lastly, Google is poised to release an update to its search algorithm so substantial they are making the rounds promoting it and allowing developers to play with it to experiment with results. The update is dubbed caffeine. The big promise is better results, faster results and real time results. The search engine optimization community always get very nervous during these updates but many signs point to the fact that if you produce lots of high quality content you’ll be fine. Although, take note (and I’ve been suggesting this for some time), social media content seems to becoming even more important for ranking purposes. I do also think that page load will get more emphasis so I would run your pages through the YSlow tool to get suggestions on speeding up page loads. You can play with search results in caffeine right now and see how your site will fare in a split screen mode of Google vs Google Caffeine Rank Tool. Google’s search voice Matt Cutts also shares views on Caffeine
Posted by randfish
Tonight I’m tackling a contentious, thorny issue and that’s always a tough task. Thus, I’ll ask, up front, for a bit of leeway in how my words are parsed and interpreted. I’m happy to make clarifications on specifics in the comments.
Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of questions (through Q+A as well as from clients and the SEO community) about the practice of buying links. A good number of folks have pointed out that, years ago, I endorsed several text/paid link brokers – companies that aggregate link ad inventory and sell it to those seeking to boost their rankings. This practice does violate Google’s Quality Guidelines as well as other engines’ desires, as do most of the direct forms of paying money to get a link that will assist with organic search rankings (I say “most” because the Yahoo! Directory and a few others like it may be exempt).
I’ve listed some of our general thoughts about paid links:
- Buying/selling links is an inherently high risk activity
- Certain smart methodologies may temporarily reduce that risk, but never to zero (at least, in my opinion)
- The size, credibility and importance of your organization strongly impacts how you might be penalized by the engines (large companies and popular websites are far less likely to receive harsh penalties or bans in the same way smaller orgs might)
- To perform SEO is to decide that the environment and rules created by the search engines is, for better or worse, your ecosystem
- Choosing to manipulate that ecosystem in ways that violate the engines’ rules or intent is not necessarily immoral or unethical but it is potentially damaging to your business (if you rely on search engine traffic)
I want to set the record straight publicly about where I (and SEOmoz) stand vis a vis recommending link buying and link selling as SEO practices.
- We no longer recommend paid links, link ads, link buying or selling to any of our active clients
- We do this because we believe that the risk to reward ratio is too high and not because of ethical, moral or legal reasons
- Our stance has also changed because we feel that paid links no longer offer long-term, high yield value for SEO campaigns, and that other methodologies that require similar effort and finances are almost always more accretive and less risky
This doesn’t mean that I want to take back the things I’ve said in the past about individual link sellers or those SEOs who endorse paid links or link brokers. If your business has risk tolerance for buying or selling links and you go into it with your eyes wide open, I have no problem with that. The businesses and individuals we’ve recommended in the past value their customers, provide a high level of service and are smart operators. Many of them also offer “white hat” link building and SEO services which we’d still recommend today (some have even left the link ads business entirely).
If you’re buying or selling links today, my general feeling is that there are other, more valuable, less dangerous tactics that will add long term value to your SEO. There may be cases where, particularly for large companies, link buying is a low-enough risk activity to make some sense, but as a rule, and as part of SEOmoz’s commitment to our core values of transparency, generosity, quality and empathy, paid links aren’t going to be part of our toolbox going forward.
p.s. I’d love to hear in the comments how those of you who run consulting businesses or offer SEO consulting services deal with this issue in messaging to your clients.
Posted by randfish
Short post tonight as I’m just back from a short trip with Mystery Guest to celebrate our one year anniversary (which was awesome, BTW) and need to get caught up on lots of email.
Let’s start with a quick quiz – which of the following statements is true?
- A) My pages are in my XML sitemaps file, so they must be getting crawled
- B) My pages have been crawled, so they must be in the index
- C) My pages are in the index, so they must be able to show for queries
- D) None of the above
If you guessed A, B or C, congratulations, you’re part of a large contingent of folks doing SEO who are (rightfully!) a little confused about how the engines might be doing this. I’ve created a quick graphic to help out:
The takeaways here aren’t tremendous, but they can be valuable to help explain to SEO outsiders why pages may not be drawing traffic even though metrics like appearing in your XML sitemaps, showing in Google Blogsearch queries or appearing to be crawled in Google Webmaster Tools suggest they should. If you want to determine if a page (or set of pages) are actually included in the engines’ main indices, there’s only two definitive ways to know:
- Perform queries that show the page appearing in the results (without having to use the &filter=0 in the URL string)
- Check your traffic logs to see if queries are actively sending the page traffic
This is why I love the metric of # of pages that received at least one visit from search engine X each month. If that number is trending in a positive direction, you can at least rest assured the engine is indexing (and holding onto) your pages.
Comments are strongly encouraged on this topic (particular since I didn’t get to cover it in great detail). Thanks!
Posted by Danny Dover
This is the second post in a series of SEO guides aimed at answering frequently asked SEO questions. (The first one explained How To Properly Move Domains.) If you have an idea for another guide, please let me know in the comments below.
This structure of URLs is one element of a problem called internationalization. The internet evolved (or was intelligently designed for those not down with the Darwin ;-p) in a way that made TLDs (Top Level Domains like .com, .info, or .org) almost completely useless for determining the intent of a website. (The exception to this is regulated TLDs like .gov, .edu and some country specific TLDs) In theory, a .com is supposed to only be used by companies and .org by nonprofit organizations. Obviously, this does not happen. Combine this with the current trend to misuse country specific TLDs (ccTLDs) for shorter domains names (Hint: Bit.ly has nothing to do with Libya) and you can easily see why the semantic value of TLDs has became a relatively poor metric for categorizing websites.
So what are you supposed to do as an SEO who wants to build a search engine friendly website with international versions of content? Prepare to summon your inner SEO scientist. You are going to need to pick between three options each with different pros and cons.
Task: Weigh the following options and decide which is the best for your organization.
Subdomain – uk.example.com/
Great option for websites where strong international push is expected from within the company.
- Maintains some of the metrics (domain trust, domain popularity) of the root domain.
- Users will easily understand that this is the country specific version of a site they are familiar with.
- While you maintain some of the value of the root domain metrics, you do lose a significant amount.
- Higher risk of mislinking. Many linkers will link to the “www” of the site out of habit.
ccTLD – www.example.co.uk/
Great option for websites that have a strong attachment to country of origin and are vastly different from their foreign counterparts.
- Very obvious and intuitive to the user.
- Good chance of getting correct links.
- Provides the ability for each domain to be hosted on a country specific IP address. This can be essential for ranking in country specific search engines.
- Completely different domain than its foreign friends, amigos and amis. This means they do not share any of the benefits of inbound links.
Subfolder – www.example.com/uk/
Great option for an already well established website that is looking to expand into new international markets.
- All links to any version of the site help boost the domain. It’s a rising tide raises all boats situation.
- Less prone to linking mistakes as this format follows the standard website convention www.example.com.
- Does not perform as well in local results.
- Potentially confusing for users looking for a ccTLD (.co.uk) version of the site.
A couple more points worth making:
Google Webmaster Tools:
Google provides a service for making the problem of internationalization a little less nasty. If you sign up for and verify your website with Google Webmaster Tools, you have the option of geotargeting your website. See below:
The IP address of your server makes a big difference in country specific search engines. If you have a small to medium sized site, make it a priority to get a server hosted in the same country as your primary audience.
What if I am lazy and don’t want to think through all of the options?
First, consider a new career (perhaps a politician?) and then go with the subfolder option. It is not the best option for all situations, but it will suffice for most. (How bout them apples?)
If you have any internationalization tips, tricks or advice that you think are worth sharing, feel free to post them in the comments. This post is very much a work in progress. As always, feel free to e-mail me or send me a private message if you have any suggestions on how I can make my posts more useful. All of my contact information is available on my profile: Danny Thanks!