Monday, April 27, 2009

Search Engine Optimization - What Does This Have to Do with Social Networking?

By Lisa Helminiak

Until this year search engine optimization (SEO) was something almost all our clients wanted to talk about. How could they take advantage of it to make their site more visible? What did it mean for their site development or maintenance issues? What keywords should they use to attract buyers, prospects, or partners? SEO was hot!

This year, it’s been a different story. SEO is yesterday’s news. Twitter and other social networks are now on the agenda. Twitter has become the new social media darling and has reignited the conversation about how marketers can gain attention for their brands in the ever expanding social media universe.

It is because of the rise of social media that understanding and practicing SEO is more important than ever.

So, how does this work? First, let’s look at SEO fundamentals. Here are the basics.

1) Keyword Research – What are searchers typing into to Google, MSN or Yahoo to find you? This is more difficult than you might imagine, especially if you work in an industry that likes to make up lots of words.

2) Keyword Strategy - Which keyword phrases you want to rank for (be found on) that will drive traffic, but also convert to a larger business goal. For instance, if you are a Minnesota apple orchard selling apples, let’s say “Honeycrisp” since they are my favorite, you may have better luck finding customers by optimizing on words such as “Minnesota apple orchard” or “Minnesota Honeycrisp apples” rather than “apples”, “apple orchard” or even “Honeycrisp apples."

3) Meta-Data and Content - Use and alignment of meta-data within your site code and aligning this with search optimized page content. Keep each page of your site to one main idea, providing clarity and simplicity to both users and the engines.

4) Design and Development - Technical and design practices to make site content readable and understandable to the engines.

5) Link Building – Driving traffic to your site from links from other popular sites.

Fundamentally, social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc. give you other very popular web spaces where you can publish your content. Once you understand your keyword and link building strategies, these can be extended into posts or content uploaded to these site.

YouTube and Flickr, for example, allow you to embed meta-data with your video and photo uploads. Your description on Twitter should use keywords and possible location data to help you be more visible to potential followers. Posting to your own blog or industry blogs can be a great way to build links into your site. SEO strategies are important to understanding how the web works, especially as universal search gets better and better.

SEO is a building block for all online visibility and the more you practice it, both on and off your site, the more visible you will be to the humans you want to reach.

Lisa is a Principal and Strategist at Azul 7, a full-service digital agency in Minneapolis. She will be presenting at the upcoming MNAMA event Search 101 - Strategies to Raise Visibility and Drive Web Traffic on May 5.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Social Media vs. Traditional Media: Which is More Important?

By Philip Wocken

The latest craze in marketing is the use of social media to virally build brands. The craze is well deserved, too. When websites like Twitter grow 1382% from February 2008 to February 2009, it’s tough to ignore the craze. However, while 65.7 million people visited in February 2009, it’s important to remember that not all demographics understand that a “tweet” is different than the noise a bird makes and that a “wall” can be more than just a vertical divider. So the question becomes: “What’s more important? Social Media or Traditional Media?” The answer is both.

In a junior high physical science class, we scooped some sand into a jar. Next, we added a handful of rocks and had to try to get all of rocks to fit into the jar. It didn’t work. We then emptied the contents of the jar onto the table, and this time put the rocks in the jar first. Then, we poured the sand into the jar. Voila! It all fit. Puzzled, we asked the teacher why it worked the second time. He taught us that it was easier for the smaller sand to fill in the cracks between the larger rocks. When the sand was in the jar first, it was more difficult to squeeze the larger rocks between the sand granules. The teacher mentioned something about it being a rule of physics that couldn’t be broken. I didn’t understand what he meant at the time, but I do now. The same sets of rules apply to marketing.

Using the above example: the sand represents social media, the rocks represent traditional media channels; and the jar represents the client’s/company’s marketing budget. Often times the budget is predetermined and, as marketers, it is our job to make all of the marketing elements fit into that jar. The rocks provide a solid base that can be targeted in any number of ways. The sand fills all sorts of cracks: everything from reputation management, to promotions, to public relations, to cultivating a following of ultra-loyal brand ambassadors. In that science class, we had to use both the sand AND the rocks. We couldn’t use just one of the materials. The same goes for us as marketers. At this point, traditional media and social media strategies reach different niches, so both forms of media must be used. Fill up your jar with all of the right-sized rocks, and then generously add in the sand. Don’t worry, it’ll all fit.

Philip Wocken is an inventive marketing manager specializing in Online Marketing techniques. He can be reached at http://BuzzBrains.Biz and he can be followed on Twitter @BuzzBrains.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Marketing Education to Excellence

By Kelley Loughrey, MN AMA President

“With regard to excellence, it’s not enough to know, but we must try to have and use it.” Aristotle

Excellence is not the same as “perfection.” Excellence requires dedication, persistence, and practice over time. Excellence is achieved through the willingness to try and the lessons learned along the way. An education in excellence is simply putting in the time and effort required to create a life habit. Like most things in life, excellence is a process – not an isolated event.

So what does this have to do with marketing? Everything. Marketing is a process – not a one-time event. And marketing requires education and effort over time. I don’t mean a point-in-time education, like your MBA from one of our fine local universities; I mean on-going, continuous learning by doing, sharing and teaching. These are important elements that your local professional marketing association offers to you - every single day. The question is “Have you taken advantage of these lessons and learned anything new lately?”

The primary purpose of the AMA is to provide quality-marketing education. I believe that it is because of our dedicated members and leadership that we are the best resource to enable each and every one of us to achieve excellence. We share best practices and valuable information, we offer innovative and enlightening programming to make us better in every way. The American Marketing Association is the “go-to” source for millions of marketers and non-marketers seeking best-in-class education and information.

Every day our members have access to research, case studies, white papers, seminars, webinars, blogs, tweets, conferences, meetings, local events and networking mixers hosted nationwide by the AMA. The MN Chapter is one of the five largest and most active of the 75 chapters nationwide nearly with nearly 800 active members. The collective knowledge of our members, speakers and sponsors represent a powerful resource of excellence from which we can share knowledge, expertise and experience.

Minnesota Chapter Mission: To educate our members about the AMA, especially the benefits of belonging to the Minnesota Chapter by creating indispensable opportunities to get involved in our marketing community.

As the President of the board, I believe it is our responsibility to share our collective knowledge and experience as a way to educate our members and non-members and promote the benefits of membership to the AMA. By attending our events, I meet the most amazing people in our local community. My role is to learn how they benefit from AMA and how we can continue to improve. Along the way I too have received an amazing education about the individuals and organizations that are committed to marketing excellence.

Not all attendees are marketers by profession; in fact many attend our programs and events to learn about the benefits of marketing and becoming more engaged with the function. They learn how to market themselves, to improve network skills, or simply understand and tap into the power of marketing. More than any other collective activity, we all experience “marketing” thousands of times each day. And not all of it is excellent.

It is our shared marketing experiences that allow us to reflect and share best practices in marketing – when is it “too much” or “just right” or even “not enough”? Can you remember the last time marketing was so effective that it influenced your purchase, behavior or belief? I hope so. Because if you do, it represents excellence in our profession and reinforces our learning how to do it well.

If, as marketers, we are doing our jobs well, then customers are buying and if customers are buying, people will be employed and when that happens, only when that happens, will we all feel the benefit of an organic economic stimulus plan.

It begins with education, persistence, effort and results in marketing excellence. Get involved today with your local AMA and play an active role in sharing what you know and learning how to do it best - teach, learn, do.

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