Archive for February, 2012

VMS-Washington – Savings of 77.32%

VMS-Washington saved Mike Wood Excavation 77.32%. We can beat anyone out there 20-60% off their current provider with average savings of 44.38%. Valued Merchant Services offers a free cost analysis to compare your current provider to us. In addition, anyone that sends us business our way will get $50.00 when sign the client signs. We also challenge you to beat our rates, if we can’t we will give you $250.00 Cash. Are you serious or curious about saving money?

In my last article, you learned about the benefits of having a business blog if you’re a large corporate brand.

Making the commitment to have a blog is simply the first and maybe toughest step. This is a step that over 50% of corporations still haven’t taken.

Once you’ve made the decision to adopt a business blog for your brand, there are a lot of things that have to be done pre-launch in order to make it successful. I’ll discuss in an upcoming post why there are many more things to take into consideration as a corporate brand in order to launch and run a good business blog.

However, the first question is typically fairly simple, but can have a number of SEO ramifications. That question is:

“Where should the blog live in order to get the maximum SEO benefit?”

This is a question I’ve gotten many times, and it can relate to a blog or to regular websites (with franchises or many offices).

I’m sure there are many differing opinions on this topic, and if we were talking about regular sites and not just blogs I may have varying opinions on a case-by-case basis. However, I’ll list the scenarios in order of most to least impactful based on what I know and my opinions about SEO and blogging.

1. Blog Placed in Subdirectory (Ex: yoursite.com/blog)

This situation for me is the most ideal from an SEO standpoint. I prefer to use a subdirectory (or “subfolder”) over a subdomain or external site any day.

Matt Cutts agrees with me:

“My personal preference on subdomains vs. subdirectories is that I usually prefer the convenience of subdirectories for most of my content. A subdomain can be useful to separate out content that is completely different. Google uses subdomains for distinct products such news.google.com or maps.google.com, for example. If you’re a newer webmaster or SEO, I’d recommend using subdirectories until you start to feel pretty confident with the architecture of your site. At that point, you’ll be better equipped to make the right decision for your own site.”

Rand Fishkin agrees with me too, but does go on to detail compelling usage examples for subdomains:

“Starting a blog? I almost always recommend yoursite.com/blog over blog.yoursite.com.”

Advantages:

  • Subdirectories tend to inherent some of the ranking benefits of the root domain.
  • Inbound links coming into the blog subdirectory and/or its blog posts can build more ranking value, page authority, and link juice for the root domain.
  • Utilizing the blog as a subdirectory, you can use blog posts to better enhance the root domain’s authority (and ranking ability) for a given topic by building hubs of content around that topic and cross-linking to key pages on the root.
  • Any social sharing equity is passed back to root domain.
  • Easier to organize content within the blog
  • Easier to create and manage from a server perspective.

Disadvantages:

  • Typically longer URL than below
  • Authority and link equity may diminish as your get deeper into a subdirectory structure – farther away from the root (ex: yoursite.com/blog/seo/google)
  • Won’t have the ability to achieve as high a level of SERP saturation as you would with subdomains.

2. Blog Placed in Subdomain (Ex: blog.yoursite.com)

This is the second best option in my opinion for SEO. A subdomain is basically a separate or third-tier website that just so happens to be residing off of the root domain. Search engines typically view them as wholly separate entities. I would only use this if the blog was completely separate to your services (or if your site infrastructure does not allow you to add blogging software to the root domain).

Advantages:

  • Typically shorter URL than above
  • Can pass some link value back to the root domain through cross-linking within template and articles.
  • Can achieve a higher level of SERP saturation as search engines can rank more than the traditional 2 listings per site – multiple pages from your root domain as well as your subdomain.

Disadvantages:

  • Subdomains DO NOT always inherit any or all of the positive metrics and ranking ability of their root domain (i.e. link equity, ranking equity, age benefits, etc).
  • Some subdomains get zero benefit from the root domain they are on (ex: sites like WordPress.com where anyone can create their own subdomain and begin blogging).
  • If you get inbound links to the subdirectory of the blog, it will build equity for the subdirectory. However, since it is technically a different site, it will not inherently pass that juice back to the root domain.
  • More difficult to create and manage from a server perspective.

3. Blog On External URL (Ex: someothersite.com)

Having a separate site as your blog – while better than nothing at all – is the least ideal solution of the 3 solutions discussed. Again, I would only use this option if the blog was completely separate to your services (or if your site infrastructure does not allow you to add blogging software to the root domain). A great example of this would be if your company had an unrelated sponsorship that had enough interest to warrent its own blog.

Advantages:

  • Can pass some link value back to the root domain through cross-linking within template and articles.
  • Can achieve a higher level of SERP saturation as search engines can rank both your corporate site and your external blog.
  • May allow you to have multiple blogs covering distinct topics, each on their own domains – as opposed to just one to one.
  • Can provide coverage for services/topics that are unrelated to your business – i.e. sponsorships.

Disadvantages:

  • Could create brand confusion if not design and branded appropriately, and consumers could be unaware that it is your property at all.
  • External blogs WILL NOT benefit from any ranking equity that is garnered from your root domain.
  • Links to your external blog and its articles will not pass along equity for your root business domain, but will instead only build equity to the external site itself.
  • Will not have the advantage of using this blog content to build authority around a subject for your root domain.
  • Again, it’s another site you’ll have to manage from a server perspective.

4. No Blog

Okay, so you’re one of the over 50% of corporations that still aren’t utilizing blogging for your business. If you read my last article and still aren’t convinced of the benefits of blogging, where is your head at?

If you review the advantages I’ve detailed and still feel as if there isn’t a direct business impact that can be made to correlate to being worth your time, then maybe you’ll never understand. If that is the case, here is the advantage to not having a blog…

Advantages:

  • You can sit back, relax, and count your money because you don’t have to worry about the complex issues that come along with having a blog like good branding, creative content, increased social sharing, enhanced customer engagement, more site traffic, better SEO results, etc.

Disadvantages:

  • I can’t say that you’d have worse SEO results by not having a blog, but I can’t say that they would be any better either.
  • Less opportunity for social engagement.
  • Less opportunity for interaction with your customers.
  • Less opportunity for traffic and exposure for your website.

Just get a blog folks – it will make everyone happier!

Why hasn’t your processor mentioned the Durbin Amendment?Learn how to lower your card acceptance cost: www.vms-washington.com and ask about the Durbin Amendment that was passed on October 2011 and how it will help you lower your rates. 


VMS-Washington – Savings of 84.90%

VMS-Washington saved NW Pumping 84.90%. We can beat anyone out there 20-60% off their current provider with average savings of 42.18%. Valued Merchant Services offers a free cost analysis to compare your current provider to us. In addition, anyone that sends us business our way will get $50.00 when sign the client signs. We also challenge you to beat our rates, if we can’t we will give you $250.00 Cash. Are you serious or curious about saving money?

VMS-Washington – Average savings of 78.31%

 

VMS-Washington saved Mike Wood Auto 72.73%. We can beat anyone out there 20-60% off their current provider with average savings of 42.18%. Valued Merchant Services offers a free cost analysis to compare your current provider to us. In addition, anyone that sends us business our way will get $50.00 when sign the client signs. We also challenge you to beat our rates, if we can’t we will give you $250.00 Cash. Are you serious or curious about saving money?

Today we’re going to talk about how to go about getting more followers on Twitter. Let me first preface this with one statement: getting followers is NOT the most important aspect of social media, building relationships IS the primary objective.

Learn how to get more followers on Twitter. I provide 13 easy tips for getting more people to follow you and developing meaningful relationships on Twitter. By getting more followers you’re increasing your circle of influence and opening up many more potential opportunities to develop those relationships that are key to having a good social media presence and (if applicable) making it work for your business.

However, by getting more followers you’re increasing your circle of influence and opening up many more potential opportunities to develop those relationships that are key to having a good social media presence and (if applicable) making it work for your business.

Tip #1: Create a Solid Profile

This one falls under the “duh” section, but many people/businesses don’t do it. Creating a Twitter profile that looks good, has some personality, and works to expand your network of followers can be done in a few easy steps.

  1. Create a Twitter username/handle that makes sense and is easy to remember. Mine is @vms_washington which is fairly simple. If it’s too late for you on this step, no worries.
  2. Fill out your bio completely. You have 160 character spaces, so make sure that you make your bio interesting while at the same time using the keywords that best describe you (or your business) – think of keywords you might want to show up for in a Twitter/Google search.
  3. Enter your location. I think that it’s really important to take part on conversations not just on a national level on Twitter, but on a local level too. If your location isn’t displayed in your profile, somebody local who doesn’t know you may be less inclined to engage you in a local conversation.
  4. Create a custom Twitter background image. Make sure that your custom background image lists your key details, as well as website and social media handles. Keep in mind that it will be positioned in the top-left of your screen, as well as whether or not you want it to be repeatable. I see some people who don’t have it repeating that don’t create an image that is wide enough or set a background color that blends well.
  5. Create a Custom Profile Picture. I can’t stress this enough. If you’re a person, use a picture of yourself. If you’re a company, use a logo or relevant picture. For me, this simple thing is often the difference between me following somebody or not.
  6. Link to Your Website. If you have a website then be sure to link to it. This is good for SEO and may drive a lot of referral traffic. Also, don’t link to a shortened URL in your profile (such as bit.ly or ow.ly), it’s just annoying and makes me think scammer or fake website off the bat!

Tip #2: Cross Promote

This is another simple thing that many people overlook. Just as I’ve said above, use your Twitter profile to promote your website, but conversely you need to utilize your website (as well as other web areas) to promote your Twitter presence.

If your website gets a lot of traffic, please don’t let it go to waste by not putting an icon or link somewhere to your Twitter handle. It would be a damn shame.

In addition, if you do things like traditional marketing or public speaking that takes place offline, be sure to always find a way to plug your Twitter handle (in addition to your website).

Tip #3: Follow Others

I call this the 80% rule. If you follow 1,000 people you’ll probably get around 800 people to follow you back.

I’m absolutely not condoning following people that you’re not interesting in building a relationship or getting some type of useful communication from just to drive up your follower count. That pretty much defeats the purpose of using social media.

What I am saying is that you should make it a habit to follow people first if they interest you. This could be as simple as making it a part of your daily routine. For example, if you’re surfing the web and find an interesting site or article, take the time to follow that person on Twitter.

You may even take it a step further and maybe leave a comment or some type of feedback in addition to a follow. If that’s the case – WALLAH!!! You’ve just started the process of beginning a meaningful relationship with another person online.

Tip #4: Re-Tweet Others

I’m a huge proponent of this methodology. Nobody likes that friend that only talks about themselves and never wants to listen to or talk about what others are saying. Don’t be that Twitter user who is only interested in talking about yourself.

If you find an article that somebody in your circle wrote interesting, or if somebody you know is promoting a worthy cause, then Re-Tweet that sucker! You’ll find that by helping others achieve their goals first (without expecting anything in return), you may be setting yourself up for a favor later on.

It’s kind of a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” type of thing. BUT please don’t help others just because you want something from them. Help them because you want to! It’s just good karma.

Tip #5: Promote Sharing of Your Content

This especially applies if you’re a blogger like myself. Make sure you’ve got Twitter Re-Tweet buttons installed on your post pages. This will enable users to Re-Tweet your site’s content. This will do a couple of things:

  • Drive more traffic to your blog. Everybody likes that!
  • Expose your articles to that user’s Twitter circle. This is a giant black box if you think about it. Imagine if the person that RT’s your article has 30k followers? That’s 30k potential eyes on your content – who might then be inclined to follow you as well.
  • Enables you to start a relationship. If somebody is nice enough to RT your article, be nice enough to follow them in return. This is a door-opener to beginning a relationship on Twitter.

Tip #6: Be Worthy of Re-Tweet

This tip is to ride on tip #5. If you want people to RT your content or tweets, it’s gotta be worthy of it in the first place. If you create content that is compelling and helps somebody learn something new or solve a problem, then you’ll probably find that you’ll get a lot of RT’s. If you content and tweets are as stale as a bag of chips left open overnight, then don’t expect much.

Tip #7: Be Active, Send Tweets Often

If you’re trying to build a Twitter following, it is imperative that you don’t let yourself go a few days – let alone weeks – without sending a Tweet out to your followers. I recommend sending at least 1 Tweet per day at a minimum to keep you top of mind to your followers, as well as to stay fresh.

In addition, sending compelling Tweets frequently will increase the likelihood that your Tweets get Re-Tweeting. See tip #5 for reasons why that is important again.

This is not to say you need to be spamming people with tweets all the time, as that shit can get annoying fast! Do that, and you’ll likely get more Twitter quitters than followers.

Tip #8: Use #HashTags

#HashTags are Twitter’s way to link conversations around the same topic together. Accompanying a Tweet you send with a relevant #HashTag may be a good way to show up as part of a Twitter search, and will enable people to see the entire string of Tweets associated with that tag – helping them to keep track of the conversation a bit better.

Also, if you attend and event or speak at an event, create a hash tag for that event (ex: #epsmm10 which I created for a webinar series I did for Express Employment Professionals). This can be a great way to connect – and be connected – with everyone who attends and Tweets using that hash-tag.

When people track these conversations back to you, the you’ll likely get followers pouring in. If you’re a speaker at an event and have created a hash-tag, then you’ve opened yourself up to lots of opportunities to be followed and to find more people to follow (see #3) – even if you forget to do tip #2.

Note: The #HashTag that I created (#epsmm10) still shows up as a Tweet I’ve send and other users Tweets still have it in there, but when I perform a Twitter search for it, it shows no results. Not sure why that is? It is indexed in Google, but not showing in Twitter. Anyone who can tell me why that may be would be a big help.

Tip #9: Establish Credibility

This comes through the development of relationships and the expertise and credibility that may come from other areas. If you’re a famous actor, then this is easy. If you’re like me, it becomes hard work and a bit of a grind.

Establishing credibility means being good at what you do, being worthy of a RT (see #6), and helping others (see #3 and #4). If you’re able to do these things well, people will be far more inclined to follow you.

Tip #10: Fill a Need

This one is a no-brainer as well, and probably should have been mentioned a little earlier on this list. However, like a tree it fell where it fell. Whether it be providing useful tips, information, laughter, sorrow, etc etc etc., if you’ve filled some type of need or desire that peaks somebody’s interest they’ll be far more likely to follow you.

For me, I help people solve their problems around SEO, Social Media, and WordPress. A guy like @mikewhitmore who’s a social media strategist that provides me with the great blogs and  updates that my heart so desires. That’s a need, he fills it, which is why I follow.

Tip #11: Try To Get Listed

Getting listed on somebody’s Twitter list can be a very good thing. First off, like getting Re-Tweeted, being in someone’s Twitter list exposes you to a whole new network where you may not have been exposed before. People do not necessarily have to follow you to see that you’re on somebody’s list, but by looking at a person’s list they may decide to follow you.

For example, I’ve created a list to help me keep track of my Local Seattle Twitter Connections. If somebody wants to get involved with other Twitter users here in Seattle but may not necessarily know who those people are, they may look at my list to see who they should follow.

How do you get on somebody’s list:

  • Fill a need (see #10)
  • Be a specialist (I specialize in SEO, therefore I show up a lot in SEO lists)
  • Be worth following & listing (see #12 and #6)
  • I’m sure there’s more…

Tip #12: Be Worth Following

All of these other tips are great, but none of them hold a candle to this tip. Just be worth it! Be interesting or helpful enough for someone to take time out of their day to follow what you’re saying.

A main goal of using social media is to become an influencer. An influencer is someone who holds enough sway with the common-folk to get conversations to impact public opinions – good or bad – by what they say.

This often comes with flat-out being interesting enough to follow. So damn it, don’t be boring!

Bonus Tip

A quick and cheesy bonus tip…

Tip #13: Pictures, Contests, and Prizes

I read an article a while back from Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg.com on TechCrunch. In the article, he talked some about the impact that taking and posting amazing pictures (which have the potential to get viral exposure), as well as the impact of running contests and giving away prizes in exchange for getting more Twitter followers.

In my opinion, these methods (while maybe getting you more followers) may be a little less organic and meaningful. But hey, a follow is a follow is a follow. Enjoy!

To my readers: What methods have you used to get more followers on Twitter? Are there any experiences that you’d like to share that helped you gain more Twitter followers? I’d love to hear from you.

Why hasn’t your processor mentioned the Durbin Amendment?Learn how to lower your card acceptance cost: www.vms-washington.com and ask about the Durbin Amendment that was passed on October 2011 and how it will help you lower your rates. 

Don’t get me wrong: I love SEO and we do a lot of SEO work. However some businesses turn SEO into an obsession, and that’s a big mistake.

The fatal flaw of an SEO fixation is that it takes your eye off the ball. SEO is about traffic. Traffic is important, but it’s not the goal. The fundamental purpose of Internet marketing, as I see it anyway, is conversion.

First CRO, Then SEO

A typical scenario, and one that makes no sense to me, is when a firm spends tons on SEO and pennies on conversion rate optimization (CRO). They’re driving more traffic to their site – but so what? If their lead generation site features ho-hum offers or no offers at all, people won’t inquire. If their e-commerce site has baffling navigation, people won’t buy.

For companies like these, even sizable increases in search traffic will fail to translate into a meaningful increase in conversions. The result:

  1. A significant part of the SEO spend is wasted
  2. Companies grow dissatisfied with their SEO program
  3. Companies change their SEO strategy or hire another provider
  4. The cycle of ineffectiveness continues

That companies should tune-up their sites for conversion before launching into a big SEO program is as obvious as can be – so why do so many people miss it? I’d love to know your thoughts about this, but here are some of the reasons I see:

Why Companies Fixate on SEO, Not CRO

  • Ego problem one. Companies want to see their name as the number one result on Google for their pet keyword phrases.
  • Ego problem two. Companies tend to feel their products and services are so awesome that the mere mention of them on their website will have prospects stampeding to the order desk. They don’t recognize the need for compelling offers, intuitive navigation, and an all-around positive user experience.
  • Monkey see, monkey do. The world is inundated with SEO practitioners and SEO advice. Most companies are led to believe that SEO is indispensible, that their competitors are doing SEO, and they will get their butts kicked if they don’t participate.
  • Monkey don’t see, monkey don’t do. In contrast, how many CRO gurus are out there banging the drum for their extremely important discipline? They are badly outnumbered, and as a result, fewer businesses come to fully appreciate the value of their specialty.
  • Easy and accessible metrics. Traffic and ranking statistics are easy to grab and easy to grasp – on the surface, anyway. A company sees traffic and ranking trending up, and figures the program must be working.
  • Fuzzy lead tracking. Conversion tracking, on the other hand, is rather tricky to set up properly, which is why a lot of small and midsized firms have little or no idea where their web leads are coming from. That being the case, they have no way to formulate a conversion optimization strategy
  • No appetite for offers. Due to budget constraints, decision-by-committee, lack of imagination or a number of other reasons, firms have a tough time coming up with offers that are big enough and creative enough to win the hearts and minds of visitors.

Conversion Isn’t The Only Problem

This could be a post in itself, but I’ll just mention in passing that SEO can no longer be executed in isolation; for SEO to succeed today it must be thoroughly integrated with other marketing disciplines in addition to conversion optimization – most notably, with social media.

There are still too many SEO campaigns that fail to leverage social sharing, and fail to include meaningful and strategic content creation. Programs like these simply cannot succeed.

Companies need to look at online marketing holistically, rather than trying to pick and choose specific disciplines to invest in. This sounds logical, just like putting the CRO house in order before diving into SEO. And yet, how many small and midsized firms actually have a holistic strategy?

How to Stop Feeding the SEO Habit

Again, I am not suggesting that SEO is bad or that companies should suspend SEO activities while they shore up other aspects of their marketing. SEO is something that must be done continuously; it has a cumulative effect. So rather than stop or suddenly change gears, take these actions to make a smooth transition from SEO-obsessed to SEO-balanced.

  • Do a CRO audit. If a business looked at a comprehensive set of conversion optimization recommendations, I think it would be quite shocked to see how much room for improvement there was – and the tremendous upside of making those improvements. If that’s the case with your site, remember that a new investment in CRO will be partially offset by improved results from your existing SEO program.
  • Do a holistic strategy review. As I said earlier, it’s unproductive to arbitrarily decide which marketing activities to emphasize. SEO is only valuable in terms of how its ROI compares to other activities, and is in many ways reliant on other activities to maximize its own ROI. Whether yours is a $100,000 business or a $100 million business, the best results come from a strategic approach.

Going through these exercises will put you in a much better marketing frame of mind.

Where do you see SEO fitting in to your marketing strategy? How do you see the relationship between SEO and social media evolving?

Why hasn’t your processor mentioned the Durbin Amendment?Learn how to lower your card acceptance cost: www.vms-washington.com and ask about the Durbin Amendment that was passed on October 2011 and how it will help you lower your rates. 

VMS-Washington – U.S. Credit Card Debt on the Rise Again, up for 4th Straight Month

 

I think that we can announce with some confidence that the post-Lehman trend of sharply declining credit card debt in the U.S. has reversed itself and is now climbing upwards quite rapidly. Following the huge gain in November, consumer credit card debt rose again in December, although at a much more modest rate, we learn from the latest Federal Reserve report, released on Tuesday. It was the fourth consecutive monthly increase – the first time that has happened since the financial crisis struck in September 2008.
While the December rate of increase in credit card borrowing was more than twice as low as November’s, the opposite was true for non-revolving consumer credit, whose rate of growth accelerated and was in double-digits for a second consecutive month. As a result, the aggregate U.S. consumer borrowing grew at a close to double-digit rate and is fast approaching pre-recession levels.
An increase in consumer debt was largely expected, as we already knew that retailers enjoyed solid holiday sales, however the growth rate exceeded the expectations of most of us. And, if anything, the increasingly good unemployment numbers should prepare us for more such surprises in the months to come.

Credit Card Debt up 4.1% in December

The total amount of outstanding consumer revolving credit, made up almost entirely of unpaid credit card balances, rose in December by 4.1 percent, or $2.8 billion, lifting the aggregate number up to $801 billion. That amount was 1.42 percent above the post-Lehman low of $789.6 billion reached in April of last year, which also happens to be the lowest level in more than seven years.
Following the financial meltdown of 2008, revolving credit in the U.S. had been falling uninterruptedly until December 2010. For 2011, however, half of the Federal Reserve monthly releases, and each one of the last four reports, showed increases in this total.
Yet, even with the latest spike in revolving credit, the total remains far below the level recorded in August 2008, the month before the collapse of Lehman Brothers. December’s $801 billion figure is lower by 17.73 percent, or $172.6 billion, than the $973.6 pre-crisis high.

VMS-Washington – U.S. Credit Card Debt on the Rise Again, up for 4th Straight Month

Overall Consumer Credit Up 9.3%

The non-revolving portion of the consumer debt total, made up of student loans, auto loans and loans for mobile homes, boats and trailers, but excluding home mortgages and loans for other real estate-backed assets, rose in December at a double-digit rate for a second month in a row. The Fed reported an 11.8 percent spike, bringing the total up to $1,697.3 billion, an increase of $16.5 billion from November. The non-revolving debt total didn’t fall as much as the revolving one in the wake of the Lehman disaster and resumed its upward trajectory much sooner. It has now been rising almost uninterruptedly since July 2010, with August 2011’s 6.4 percent decline marking the sole exception. The current total is higher by 4.9 percent, or $79.9 billion, than the pre-Lehman high of 1,617.4 billion, measured in July 2008.
The aggregate amount of outstanding consumer credit in the U.S. – the sum of revolving and non-revolving debt – rose by 9.3 percent, or $19.3 billion, to $2,498.3 billion in December. It was the fourth consecutive monthly increase. The new total is still lower by $89.8 billion, or 3.5 percent, than the all-time high of $2,588.1 billion, reached in September 2008, the month when Lehman tumbled.

The Credit Card Takeaway

We know what’s causing consumer credit to rise. We’ve now had seven straight months in which the economy has added 100,000 jobs or more and the last two months have seen the biggest gains of the series. The December number was 200,000 and the one for January – 243,000. The unemployment rate is now 8.3 percent, 0.8 percent below the August 2011 level and the lowest one in three years. The improving employment picture is yet to lead to any meaningful rise in paychecks (hourly wages were only up by 1.9 percent in January on a year-over-year basis), but Americans clearly feel upbeat about the future and are beginning to take up more credit once again.
Yet, even as credit card debt is on the rise, the credit card delinquency and charge-off rates are falling. The late payment rate in December – 2.91 percent – set another all-time-low record, according to data from Moody’s, a credit ratings agency. The default rate for the month was reported at 5.04 percent – 37.24 percent below the level at the end of 2010 – and Moody’s expects it to fall to under four percent by the end of the year.
Moreover, the December monthly payment rate (MPR) – the portion of their outstanding credit card debt Americans repay at the end of each month – was 21.58 percent, more than a percentage point higher than the November level and very close to the all-time high of 21.91 percent measured in August. For perspective, the historical average has hovered in the mid-teens. So, even as they are starting to feel comfortable with debt once again, Americans seem to be doing so, on the whole, within their means and are keeping a close eye on the “payment due” date. Let’s hope that this trend will survive the recovery.

Why hasn’t your processor mentioned the Durbin Amendment?Learn how to lower your card acceptance cost: www.vms-washington.com and ask about the Durbin Amendment that was passed on October 2011 and how it will help you lower your rates. 

In 2007, the number of corporate brands using business blogs for marketing purposes was at just 16% according to eMarketer.

In 2012, that number was projected to be around 43%, which indicates that more companies are opening up to the idea of business blogging as an avenue to achieve their business goals.

Still, that leaves a significant number of businesses and corporate brands who have yet to adopt a blog. It has been my experience that when approaching businesses and corporate brands about getting a blog started, they have three main questions.

  1. What are the benefits of having a blog?
  2. How can we make our blog successful (which I will cover in my next post)?
  3. How will our blog drive business impact?

I will discuss the benefits of blogging for businesses in no particular order, as well as hint at some of the direct business impacts of having a blog.

1. Business Blogs Can Build Consumer Engagement

Blogs serve as an avenue from which good customer engagement can take place. Think about it – besides picking up the phone and calling you or visiting your business in person, where else would someone be able to have a direct conversation with someone in your company.

A couple ways in which you can engage your blog’s consumers:

  • Answering comments they’ve left on your blog articles.
  • Responding to comments or questions that you might through social media channels (if you’ve been savvy enough to cross-promote your blog posts there). See point #7.
  • Sending out weekly email recaps of the week’s top blog posts to your subscriber-lists (see point #8), and answering consumer questions via email as they come in.
  • Answer popular consumer questions through pre-recorded video responses, then post on your blog.

I’m sure there are more.

2. Blogging on Breaking News

Gone are the days of submitting traditional press releases as a means of updating the public on important company news. Granted, brands can (and should for links and further distribution) utilize press releases, many corporate brands now choose to to break news on their business blogs. For example, last week Google used their webmaster blog as a way to announce the release of Search Plus Your World.

In addition, corporate brands can also use their business blogs to address world news. This timely approach can show consumers that a business isn’t just thinking inside their own brand bubble, and is also addressing important events from the outside world. A great example I found of this in action was Southwest’s efforts through their blog to help consumers make donations to the Red Cross after Hurricane Irene.

3. Blogs Can Educate & Establish Trust

Brands using corporate business blogs can also leverage their content properties as a way to help their consumers learn about topics that are pertinent to the company, or about topics that are pertinent to the customer. This can be done in a few ways:

  • How-To’s: Whole Foods blog teaches consumers how to cook vegetable bean soup
  • Lifestyle: Zillow’s blog discusses financial questions to ask before you get married
  • Holiday posts: Ford’s blog discusses chocolate, flowers, and Ford for Valentine’s day

This type of stuff goes a long way towards establishing expertise, credibility, and trust, all while giving your customers what the are asking for.

4. Keyword Targeting for SEO

Anyone who has worked in the digital department for a large corporate brand can probably attest to the hassles and legal approval processes that come along with making any and all changes to the website. Therefore, getting new website pages implemented (or making modifications to existing pages) to work towards your SEO goals can be a tricky and time-consuming matter.

Although every blog will still have a content strategy and approval process in place, most blogs offer a certain level of agility and flexibility to release new content on a regular basis.

What does this mean for SEO? Let’s say you identify a keyword that you’d like to target for your business. In order to target said keyword, you either need to tweak an existing page or create a new page to focus on said keyword.

Since we know making changes to the site is like telling an elephant to roller-skate up the side of a mountain while doing back-flips, using a blog post can be a quick way to target said keyword in the interim while you wait for the supporting topical page to be added to the regular site.

Doing this will give you a chance to rank for your keywords a bit more quickly, and if your brand is smart enough to layer subtle calls to action through the blog (along with some links to conversion pages), you will likely see some business impact.

5. Social Media Cross-Promotion

Another great thing about having a business blog for your corporate brand is that the opportunity exists for it to be cross-promoted via social media outlets. This social exposure typically happens in a few key ways:

  • A lot of corporations have an abundance of content that may be considered stale and not worth sharing, OR the site’s purpose simply isn’t content (think airline and travel sites). In either case, the normal content on the site is unlikely to be “shareworthy,” meaning nobody will find it interesting or worthwhile enough to share in their social circles. Blogs can help corporate brands break that mold by enabling them to create content that is any mix of fun, interesting, relevant, and many angles of shareworthy.
  • Blogs offer inherent advantages to promote social sharing via the various share buttons that are offered by the likes of TwitterFacebookGoogle+, etc. Most blog posts have some sort of social sharing option.
  • If you have a business blog and social media pages, you can cross-promote your posts on say, your Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus brand page to increase its overall exposure, engagement, and likelihood of being reshared.

These are no-brainers though.

6. Link Building for SEO

Again, taking into consideration the notion of being shareworthy, blogs can often be more linkworthy than regular websites just due to their inherent nature and flexibility with writing good content.

A good blog post has the potential to get spread throughout your networks, shared, and often linked to our cited by other sites/blogs if the content is considered to be in some way useful.

Anyone who knows SEO knows how valuable it is to build high-quality links back to your website using targeted anchor text. For those that don’t, let me educate quickly. Acquiring a link back to your website is like a positive vote. The more positive votes (links) your site gets, the better. Furthermore, links from sites that themselves are considered authoritative (and having lots of links) are better than links that are less authoritative. Also, search engines look at the anchor text that people use to link to your site as an indication of your site’s relevance for that anchor text. So, ultimately, you want large quantities of high-value links using a variety of your target keywords as anchor text.

Whereas the process of link building can be very tedious and time-consuming, writing a good blog post can help your brand get backlinks in bundles with the right amount of exposure. This will create a good balance of manual effort versus letting your marketing do the work for you.

7. Recurring Traffic Base

Last but certainly not least, a blog can be a good way to build up a base of recurring traffic that will keep coming back to your site, and will eventually be clamoring for your next blog post (hopefully) if you write them well and give them things that are useful to them.

Through the magic of RSS feedreaders (like Feedburner, Feedblitz, or Rapid Feeds) and email subscription options, you can build a list of people who subscribe to your blog, many of whom will keep coming back in the future as you update. If these people aren’t your customers already, then I challenge you to find a better means of staying in front of them for a relatively low cost with as high a level of engagement? Not many.

Anyhow, I’m not saying that having a blog is the end-all-be-be-all or anything, and I’m not even saying that it will help your ROI, but what I am saying is that if you’re part of the over 50% of corporate brands that still don’t have a business blog, then you’re seriously missing out on another emerging way to converse with your consumers in the digital space.

What do you think? Should every corporate brand have a digital blog? Why or why not?

Stay tuned for my upcoming post on the things that need to be in place to make a corporate blog (or any blog) successful.

Why hasn’t your processor mentioned the Durbin Amendment?Learn how to lower your card acceptance cost: www.vms-washington.com and ask about the Durbin Amendment that was passed on October 2011 and how it will help you lower your rates. 

There are a lot of tools for Twitter out there. We’ve all heard of the big ones: that’s not what this post is going to entail. What I’d like to dive into are some creative tools for Twitter that I haven’t seen a lot of people use, and that you can start to implement so you’ll be ahead of the pack!

Posting Statuses To Twitter At The Perfect Time – Timely.is

You might never have stopped to think about this, but… are you tweeting at the right time? I mean, to the vast majority of people, using Twitter amounts to nothing but tweeting something when they feel like doing it, and trusting their followers will get the message, read it and process it.

The truth is that sending a tweet when nobody is around is almost the same as not sending it. The tweet will become buried by all the messages that come after it. That is a simple, unavoidable fact.

And that is what Timely is here to address. It is a web application that can take care of scheduling all your tweets, and sending them when they would reach out to more people. Once you give Timely access to your Twitter account, the application will take care of analyzing the last 200 tweets you have sent, and figure out the best time slots for anything you want to send in the future.

If this sounds good to you, then you will be happy to know that Timely is a free service. Timely will analyze all your tweets and figure out what times of day you get the best engagement and then auto schedule your tweets for those best periods of the day. As your followers grow, Timely will adapt and learn what new times might be best. The app also provides tweet analytics and performance insights that shows you how you’re doing (including click-throughs and audience reached).

In a nutshell: If you send out multiple Tweets at once, it could annoy some of your followers. There’s also the risk that your Tweets could be pushed to the bottom of their feeds if they aren’t constantly reading their feeds. Timely helps fix that by scheduling your Tweets, and has the added benefit of some light analytics afterwards.

It is also a fantastic app for those managing multiple Twitter accounts who wants to optimize when their tweets are scheduled. The Timely bookmarklet makes for a nice work flow where you can fill up your queue of tweets quickly and then let Timely find the best time to tweet them out (and you can change between accounts with a single click). Great for community managers and others who want to share helpful links on Twitter without spending all day on it.

Posting Photos To Twitter With No Ads – Posterous

Posterous you say? I thought that was a blogging platform? Fear not, I mentioned that these would be creative tools, so read on to find out more about how to implement Posterous. There are a lot of ways to share photos with your followers on Twitter. Posterous, however, has a position in the photo sharing market that makes it truly the best option for sharing photos are Twitter, one that offers numerous advantages to you as a user and blogger.

If you have made your decision to start blogging through a tumblelog and you chose to use Posterous, you already have a distinct advantage to sharing your photos on Twitter through Posterous: your followers will be linked to your blog to view the photos and not to some 3rd party application like TwitPic.

This is advantageous in many ways: the foremost way being you allow users to check out a separate blog in addition to photos. Your blog can contain much more than just the photos that you’ve sent to Twitter! Services like TwitPic offer the bare minimum; pretty much only photos you upload to them which can be shared one at a time, and nothing else.

Many of these services are ridden with ads and look very cluttered and tacky. Meanwhile, using the “Clean Sheet” or one of Posterous’s other sleek themes will allow you to share your photo content on a nicely laid out on a blog style page with no ads and no distractions. You will notice Rainn Wilson from “The Office” does this on his Twitter. The benefits do not end here however.

Posterous offers the option to upload multiple photos at once and have them automatically appear in a very sleek slide show display. No more spamming your followers with shortlinks, simply upload a few photos that you took at the moment or recently and send one link out via Posterous to Twitter and give you followers a few things to check out. This makes your photo Tweets much more entertaining and worthwhile.

Additionally, you photos will display in a clean timeline. Posterous offers the aforementioned blog style layout, so your other photos display in date order for your users to check out. So after a person is linked to a photo of yours via Posterous, they now have access to the rest of your photos in a timeline style.

Lastly, you can add commentary to the photos in Posterous to give your readers a little more insight. This is another ability that adds value per Tweet. Gone are the days of “Here is me _______ – [shortlink]”, now you can upload photos and stay in the 140 character limit on Twitter while adding additional content on Posterous, giving your readers more context and description. It is also something that adds optional depth to readers they are interested.

Getting More Followers On Twitter By Sharing Content – CloudFlood

As you know, being a power user and having an impact on Twitter means that you need followers. Having a large follower base on Twitter means your tweets will reach as wide an audience as possible: not only your followers, but those who they retweet it to.

Having a large base on Twitter also allows you to inform people of other ventures that you are apart of, site as a new site or new release of something. One great method for gaining peoples interest is a “freebie”, giving something away in order to get something small back from the user, possible an email address, or maybe… even a tweet spreading word about whatever your new endeavor is.

Enter Cloud:Flood. To maximize the number of people who tweet about whatever page you’d like to direct them to, follow three easy steps to implement the Cloud:Flood app in perfect form: first, create a free product you want to give away to your website visitors. It could be an eBook on your chosen topic, an MP3 or even a Zip file full of PSD’s.

Then, make a button on the Cloud:Flood site, linking to the file you want to give away, and a page to promote (this can be any page you want, whether it is a new site, a new product, a new post…anything!). You then place the button that you just made on Cloud:Flood next to the freebie offering on your site.

Site visitors see the freebie, and are asked to Tweet or FB Share your link in order to get it. People love getting something for free, so from my experience, this has a high conversion rate: why would your followers pass up something free from you if all they have to do is send out a tweet or Facebook share? Once they share your link, they are automatically given the freebie.

You both win here: your followers get something for free, and you get free, guaranteed promotion on Twitter through their tweets, which you can set (you enter a predefined message to be shared before you make the button). Start up your next big project with a huge boost from Twitter with this technique, and you’ll be glad you did! Not only will you get eyeballs from Twitter visitors on a page you desire, but if you have the predetermined message mention your name, you’ll gain followers as well. So get to work on your next freebie, and let Cloud:Flood do the rest.

Why hasn’t your processor mentioned the Durbin Amendment?Learn how to lower your card acceptance cost: www.vms-washington.com and ask about the Durbin Amendment that was passed on October 2011 and how it will help you lower your rates. 

I know what you are thinking.  I can use Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin for free.  I can set up a page, profile, or account, and it will not cost me one penny.

That is very true.  Accounts on almost all of the major social networks are completely free to set-up.  They will never ask for a credit card or a PayPal account.  They ask for nothing but information in return.

Wait.  That is not entirely true.  They do ask for something.  They ask for time.  Time to fill out your profile.  Time to create that page.  Time to post interesting information and updates.  Time to respond to your family, friends, and clients.  Oh, and did I mention the time to find all those great articles that you are sharing on Twitter and Facebook?

They ask us to spend our time.  But that’s free, right?

Or is it?

Social media accounts may be free to start, but there are many actual and hidden costs to establishing a presence within social media.  It’s important to know what some of these will be, before you or your brand begin.

Actual Costs

Within your company, who is responsible for your social media?  Or are you the social media department?  Either way, the hours you spend on social media is time taken away from other aspects of your company, whether it be speaking with new clients or ordering goods to sell.

And, as all of the literature suggests, you should have a landing page within Facebook, as it increases engagement considerably, and this may be the last time your “fans” directly visit your page.  Not only do the applications to use cost money, ranging from $5 to $30  per month, but what about the time it takes to create the landing page.  And the learning curve?  If you’ve never done it before, it could take hours just to figure out how to create the landing page.  Then you need to create it.

If you are creating these Facebook pages yourself, then you are not tending to any other aspects of your business.  Your time is money.

If you have someone within the company handling this, what is their hourly rate?  Their time is certainly money.  Either way, setting up your accounts will take time, which relates to an hourly rate.

Now that you’ve set up these accounts, do you just sit back?  If you build it, will they come?  Unfortunately, the answer is no.  You need to tend to these accounts.  You need to find great articles to share.  You need to engage with your clients and customers.  The time you’ll invest will vary from a few minutes per day to hours per week, depending on your social strategy.  (You do have one, don’t you?  After all,Saying You are on Facebook Does Not a Social Strategy Make.)

Hidden Cost

Now that you are active on social media, you are beginning to realize that you will also need to utilize their advertising engines, something you hadn’t thought of before, while thinking this would all be “free”.  Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all offer their own brand of advertising, whether it be ads or sponsored stories, to bring your message to your specific customer.  And all of these ads cost money, whether it be per impression or per click, they will all cost, and you will need to set a budget for these ads, that very well may be above and beyond your standard advertising budget.

So, in the end, is it worth the cost?  That is only something you, as the business owner, can decide.  I would only ask, “Can you afford not to?”

What other costs to social media have you found?  Share with me.

Why hasn’t your processor mentioned the Durbin Amendment?Learn how to lower your card acceptance cost: www.vms-washington.com and ask about the Durbin Amendment that was passed on October 2011 and how it will help you lower your rates.