May 31 2012

The Benefits of Article Marketing for Your Business

 

Article marketing has proven to be an effective way to promote your online business for a number of reasons. They are the equivalent of infomercials on the TV, giving both interesting factual information and promoting products and services that can help solve a particular problem.

In addition, article marketing can drive traffic to your site, help you get subscribers for your newsletter, and help you improve your page ranking with certain search engines. Links back to your site or products from other sites can be perceived by Google as a vote for your site, indicating that it is interesting and relevant to a particular keyword.

Article marketing is the use of factual articles on niche topics to help drive traffic to your own site. Rather than a pure promotional piece, these articles will contain high-quality information and leave the reader eager for more. On the top article directories such as Ezinearticles, your content will appear attractively and at the end of the article you will be allowed to give promotional data about yourself in the form of a resource box.

In your resource box you would put a brief biography of yourself and your contact information, including a link over to your site.

Article marketing has become a popular way to spread the word about your business in a non-spammy way on a wide variety of sites around the Internet. It has also been used to boost the rank of a site in the eyes of search engines like Google, though with the April 2012 Google update, these links are not only valued less highly, but can even be penalized under the Penguin algorithm update. (See Joan Mullally’s guide on 44 Marketing Trends in 2012 for more information.)

The more articles you put into the directory, the better will your site’s search results will be because the site will be considered to be more relevant. Sites at the top of Google’s search engine results pages will get more natural traffic, also termed organic traffic, that is, traffic that is not paid for, as compared with Pay Per Click (PPC) traffic.

Some article directories have gained a reputation for publishing rubbish, but there are still some reputable ones that will help add to your online presence. Look at it this way. If someone uses those sites regularly and types in dog training, you have a better chance of being found and ranking highly on the article directory for that key phrase than you do on Google.

If visitors then like what they read and click to find out more about you, you have the potential for a repeat visitor and perhaps even subscriber and customer.

Some people advocate publishing an incomplete article to force people to come to your site, but this seems fairly obvious as a marketing ploy and can be frustrating for the reader.

Other Internet marketers offer good articles off site at the directories but lead them to a rubbish site full of ads with the express goal of getting ad revenue from the clicks they get on the ads and banners they have put up all over the site. This is a valid way of making money, but certainly not loyal repeat visitors, which we feel are the life-blood of any long-term, sustainable online business.

Still other sites are publishing articles which are incomplete and poorly written in an effort to get as many up as possible for the sake of the links and the page rankings. The recent changes to the Google Panda update that first hit in Feb 2011 and has now hit online business owners in April 2012 can actually trigger a site review by a human being. If your site fails, you can end up in a penalty box for 3 to 6 months, which would cause the traffic at most sites to plummet.

The trend towards article marketing has also led to a lot of copied content or rephrased content, which we commonly refer to as spun content. Content spinning through software or human means was designed to help business owners rank highly for as many keywords as possible related to the niche they were working in.

With the recent Google changes, duplicate content and keyword stuffing in poorly written articles generated by a computer will also get you penalized if you are not careful.

Article marketing is not dead, but it is certainly in need of an overhaul in 2012. If you have been cranking out a lot of poor-quality articles, slow down and let your quality start to come through. Do not try to take short cuts. After all, the content that you produce is a reflection of the information products that you are trying to sell online. If you see all of your content on your site and article directories as a free sample of what people can look forward to if they buy your product, you might be able to make more sales of your products.

At the very least, you can start to position yourself as a knowledgeable expert on your niche without being seen as a spammer. Combined with other search engine optimization techniques, article marketing done correctly can still be a valuable source of traffic to your site and a measure of relevance and therefore rank so long as you know what Google is looking for, and what they are penalizing.

FURTHER READING
SEO Success Secrets: How to Master Search Engine Optimization Techniques for Continuous Free Traffic to Your Website

44 Top Online Marketing Trends in 2013: How to Use Them to Increase Your Profits

May 15 2012

How to Use Business Cards as an Effective Marketing Tool

Organize Your Business Cards to Supercharge Your Networking

Business cards are one of the most powerful networking tools on the planet – and one of the most abused and underused. Most people go to networking events and just collect a bunch of business cards that never get contacted.

This is a terrible system. If you don’t have a good system for organizing your business cards, you’re flushing money and contacts down the drain.

==> Rule #1: Write on Your Business Cards

Whenever you meet someone new, write some notes on the back of the business card. For example, if you get a business card from a graphic designer, write “Knows tech execs, may be good for networking, also great designer for Fred, brown hair, tall.”

Next time you look through your business cards and come across that card, all you need to do is turn it over and read your notes. You’ll instantly know who it is and what your next to-do is regarding that card.

==> Contact Them within 48 Hours of Meeting

Even if you don’t have anything you want to do with them yet, always follow up within 48 hours.

Even if your follow up is something as simple as “Ben, it was great meeting you last night – Let me know if you ever need help with X.”

This opens the dialogue and opens a channel of communication. Later, when you want to make real meaningful contact, they’ll remember who you are.

==> File All Your Business Cards

People often don’t file business cards the same way that they file other important papers. Something about the small size of the business card makes it seem somehow less important.

It’s not. Filing business cards is just as important as filing any other crucial business document.

File your business cards by networking event, by category of services or by how you’d like to connect with them in the future. Go through these cards every couple weeks to see if there are people you’d like to connect with.

==> Throw Away Cards You’ll Never Contact

People often feel guilty about throwing business cards away. It feels rude, as if you were disrespecting someone else’s business or a potential connection.

The reality is, if there’s a card that you’re never going to contact, it doesn’t make a difference whether it’s in your drawer or your trash can.

Having cards you’ll never contact in your business card pile makes it a lot harder to figure out which cards are actually valuable.

Getting in the habit of writing on your cards, contacting people quickly, sorting your cards and tossing the ones you’ll never use is one of the most valuable business habits you could develop. This is how you meet potential clients, investors, employers, employees and partners.

Other Reading:

Click here for a listing of all our Business Guides

Your Green Business Start-Up Guide: How to Start and Run a Sustainable Business

May 09 2012

How to Use Stories to Engage Your Customers

One of the best ways to build customer empathy is through telling stories. Stories suck people in, keep people entertained and can help get your message across in a much more heartfelt way.

When people listen to a story, they immediately put their guards down. People aren’t looking out for a sales pitch. Instead, they relax and let you take the lead.

When you tell a great story, your audience will not only love the experience, but also understand your point and connect with your brand more.

So how do you tell a great story?

==> Focus on the Opening and Closing

The two most important parts of the story are the beginning and the end.

The beginning of the story needs to catch people’s attention so they pay attention to the whole thing. You need to set up the “what’s in it for me” right from the get go. Let your audience know that an essential lesson is buried in the story and that they need to listen closely.

The end is equally important. This is where you reveal the moral of the story and tie it back to your audience’s real life. The end of your story should feel like an eye-opening experience to your audience.

==> Trim the Fat

Beginning storytellers often try to tell the story as completely and accurately as possible. Unfortunately, that often results in rambling and overly long stories.

Trim out as much of the story as you can, without losing the core of the story and without losing any of the punch.

Don’t worry about getting all the details in. It’s okay if the story is just slightly different than what happened, as long as you’re abbreviating and not lying.

Keep it simple and to the point.

==> Make the Characters Come Alive

One of the biggest things to pay attention to in the story is the characters, especially the main character.

The audience should be able to relate to the main character. As you’re telling the story, they should be able to vicariously experience the emotional arc that the character is going through.

Every story should have a beginning, where the problem is set up. Throughout the story, some sort of tension arises. The character battles through the story and eventually comes out victorious or defeated.

Throughout the story, the audience should get to know the character more and more until they feel like they somehow know this person.

==> Use Stories from Everywhere

The best storytellers use stories for all over their lives. Always be on the lookout for ways you can turn experiences you’ve had in your life into stories to help hammer your message home.

Storytelling is one of the best ways to build empathy with your customers. Focus on the opening, trim the fat, emphasize the characters and look for stories from all over your life.

Other Reading:

How to
Use Twitter for Viral Marketing

How to Start Using Twitter as an Effective Marketing Tool for Your
Business

Successful
Social Media Marketing In 15 Minutes A Day

Apr 27 2012

How to Track and Measure Customer Engagement with Your Site and Brand

Customer engagement is the one thing most online companies are looking for, but it can be a very vague concept for many business owners who think only in terms of raw numbers, traffic, rather than what people actually do when they get to your site.

How do you know if your customers are engaging with you and feeling loyal to you?

Unlike profits and ROI, there’s not one place you can look and say “aha, we now have connection.”

Instead, to figure out how much of a connection you’re making, you have to collect a variety of different metrics and statistics and make an inference.

These statistics can show you whether or not your message is hitting home with your customers.

==> Facebook Virality

In your Facebook Insights stats, there’s a number called “Virality.”

This is essentially what percentage of people who see your posts end up commenting, liking or sharing it, which makes your story appear on someone else’s news feed.

The higher your virality, the higher the percentage of people who connected with your message enough to pass it on to their friends.

Your Facebook virality is one of the most accurate gauges of how well your message is hitting, because it takes quite a high bar for someone to recommend something to a friend.

==> Twitter Retweets

The same can be said of Twitter retweets. Pay attention to what kinds of messages get retweeted and what kinds of messages don’t.

If you run a sales training organization and find that tweets about cold calling tend to get ignored while tweets about closing existing customers seem to take off, then you know where to focus your attention.

==> Analytics Numbers

There are a few numbers you should pay attention to in your analytics software: bounce rate, average length on site and pageviews per person.

Of all these statistics, the one that is most indicative of whether your message is connecting is “average length on site.”

All of these numbers will tell you essentially how much someone likes your content. If they don’t like it, they’ll bounce. If they like it, they’ll stay longer. If they like it, they’ll view more pages.

Take a look at the time on site of your various content pages and your various traffic sources and see if you can spot any patterns.

==> Surveys

Finally, one last way you can gauge whether or not people are connecting with your message is to simply ask them.

Using a service like Survey Monkey, you can easily construct a survey in under 30 minutes.

Make your survey short. Ask customers to fill it out, preferably in exchange for a bonus or a chance to win a prize.

Gather all the data from your survey and determine how well your message is hitting. Make changes, then re-do the survey a few months down the line.

Applying metrics and statistics to your efforts at building a connection is crucial. Simply guestimating whether or not you’re connecting isn’t a good way to run a business. By tracking metrics, you’ll be able to steadily improve those metrics over time.