Marketing Blog

SEO Is DEAD! Really?

SEO IS DEAD!
How true is this statement?
Written by Craig Cook
8/18/12

The fundamental tenants of Search Engine Optimization will always be a faithful guiding principle set for any business engaging in online marketing. At the core, SEO techniques are intended to align websites with Google and other Search Engine best practices. Search Engines don't just index front-end user content, rather they have access to a wealth of information on your website which helps the engines deliver relevant results to searchers. Search Engines utilize this backend information (like meta-tags, page titles and descriptions) to narrow search results, provide enhanced SERPs listings, and qualify the quality of pages.

By providing this essential meta information, website owners are giving Search Engines the most complete set of data from which they can gauge site relevance and provide searchers with their desired keyword results. For this reason, pure SEO will never die. However, the perception of SEO by the public is far from pure. When the general public hears "SEO," they imagine being able to pole vault their business to the top of the charts with little effort. They will hire a geek to game the system, and deliver traffic that they neither deserve nor have legally acquired.

SEO has taken a bad rap lately, and for good reason! Three are literally thousands of companies who offer SEO services. Many of these companies use outdated methodologies that not only provide little gains in terms of SERPs results, but can actually be detrimental to the long term goals of a business. Additionally, companies that promise quick results and top of page dominance are usually engaged in so called "Black Hat SEO" techniques that skirt legal, moral and ethical boundaries. Some are quick to blame Google for their recent algorithm updates, and to be sure, these moves have set back many SEO companies, causing them to rethink and restructure their service packages. However, the practices that Google has targeted in their recent Penguin update are specifically those that attempt to "game the system" and are hacked shortcuts to top results.

Thanks in part to Penguin, Google has leveled the playing field for businesses both small and large. By eliminating the morally ambiguous shortcuts, and insisting that website proprietors deliver relevant, engaging and original content, Google has put many Black Hat SEO companies out of business, and made competition for keywords results more egalitarian. The emphasis that Google has placed on Social Media, Citations and Social Sharing is in direct opposition to the old system, where back links from high PageRank and TrustRank sites earned sites higher SERPs ratings. Google found that it was too easy to pay for, hack, or otherwise attain back links from high ranking websites, and that this practice was detrimental to the philosophy and mission statement of Google Search.

I've encountered many clients who find themselves in desperate situations with their business on the line because they have engaged unscrupulous SEO companies that have destroyed their online reputation and caused irreparable damage to their future earning potential. Google does not notify you when you have been blacklisted, nor can a layman truly gauge the "SERPS Health" of a site. Only when it's too late, when traffic drastically drops, and earnings plummet, do site owners finally understand that their shortcut to success is what brought the whole castle tumbling to the ground in a pile of rubble.

SEO IS DEAD in many ways because the future on online marketing is not the shiny gold pyramid topper that SEO once was perceived to be. The future of online dominance is cross-platform Digital Marketing Strategy, with fundamental SEO technique at the core of strategic deployment. By engaging in focused social media, online footprint expansion, brand awareness and online advertising practices, (still rooted in pure, fundamental SEO technique), companies are taking a broader look at a once myopic SEO perspective.

As a white hat provider of Digital Marketing solutions, my main concern is respect for copyright, the development of engaging and relevant content that speaks directly to the target audience, and keeping up to date with Google algorithm updates and their effect on overall campaign performance and strategy. Our goal is not to talk to the Search Engines better than the competition, it's to engage customers in a conversation with business owners, using the internet as a medium for the flow of communication. If you engage the public, higher SERPs results will follow.

It's also important to keep in mind the fact that Google is not the only game in town. Digital Marketing Strategy does not only look towards Search Engines for inbound traffic potential. DMS has a broad spectrum and operates with the fundamental understanding that there are literally thousands of ways to attain inbound traffic. Placing too much emphasis on Google Search is a pitfall that can gobble up marketing budgets, while ignoring more lucrative opportunities for visibility, brand awareness and customer acquisition.

Through continuing educational opportunities, monitoring of technological advancements, and the ability to redeploy based on new information, modern Digital Marketing Strategists are able to provide comprehensive, effective solutions for business. There is no shortcut to online success. Digital Marketing Strategy takes a "long look" approach. Only through the feedback loop of [strategic planning -> development -> deployment -> analysis -> strategic planning =>] can long term, sustainable growth be achieved.
 

FB Cover Image Guidelines

Facebook Cover Image Guidelines
Written by Craig Cook
1/23/13

Facebook Pages provide generous pixel real estate for branding in the Cover Image and Profile Photo layout. Creative designers have an opportunity to craft identifying characteristics into the familiar, popular framework of the Facebook environment. Standing out from the noise is just as important online as in traditional marketing, and leveraging your FB cover and profile images for maximum impact is a primary concern for business owners. Proper, functional use of these free design areas is the key to successful page deployment and audience development. As designers push boundaries to attract attention, they must balance the needs of the client with the limitations that Facebook has set forth in their guidelines.

Keri Wirth Facebook Cover ImageSEOptimization.Pro worked with Keri Wirth Music to design this fun, friendly cover/profile image combination. Starting with the imagery that appeared on her website (http://keriwirthmusic.com), we adapted and enhanced the thematic material and provided a redress of her core aesthetics. The general theme also appears optimized for Google+, as we seek to provide our clients and their audience comfort and familiarity across the social media spectrum.

It must be noted that Facebook has strict rules for Cover Images as follows:

All covers are public. This means that anyone who visits your Page will be able to see your cover. Covers can't be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on anyone else's copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines.

Covers may not include:
i.    images with more than 20% text;

ii.    price or purchase information, such as "40% off" or "Download it on socialmusic.com";

iii.    contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in your Page's "About" section;

iv.    references to Facebook features or actions, such as "Like" or "Share" or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features; or

v.    calls to action, such as "Get it now" or "Tell your friends."
Source: http://www.facebook.com/page_guidelines.php

The good news about all of these guidelines is that Facebook is attempting to filter out endless marketing messages in their main interface (however cluttered it is on the right side of the screen). This challenges designers to think outside of the box, and to rely on creativity as opposed to routine. Facebook doesn't want to be your local Pennysaver, a flat and static barrage of billboard after billboard with information overload the only true benefit.

Those who do not follow the guidelines are subject to having their cover images removed, though as of this time Facebook is not deleting these images from profile pages. For more information about FB removing cover images it deems unsuitable, read this great article from Mashable - http://mashable.com/2012/11/30/facebook-cover-photo-crackdown/

Some truly great page designs have sprung from the well of creativity; pages that connect a business identity with the masses through innovative aesthetics. Here are some of our favorite designs:

Florence & The Machine FB Cover

This Cover Image / Profile Photo combination does not utilize "seamless" techniuqe, but does exemplify the overall asthetics of the "Ceremonials" album marketing.

Etsy FB Cover Image

Etsy draws on a wealth of user submitted photographs of handmade and vintage goods to add variety to their Cover Image.
Users who check back often are treated to a curated gallery of Etsy bests including seasonal and holiday highlights.

Inc. Magazine FB Cover Image

Inc. Magazine deployed an image mosaic, a growing trend among top companies on Facebook.
Simliar graphic elements can be seen on the pages of Coke, Pepsi, Sony and many other major brands.

   

Introducing AdWords Express

Google AdWords is the powerhouse of online PPC advertising. Traditionally, Google AdWords has been a vehicle for e-commerce and service industry providers to drive traffic to their website via contextually placed ads relevant to users search queries. Many brick-and-mortar retailers, especially restaurant owners, complained that AdWords was not tuned to their needs, where driving traffic to the website was less important than generating foot traffic to their location. Addressing the situation with Google Places was just the first step, allowing retail owners to claim and modify their Google Maps listings and optimize them with fresh content, images, video, and additional information. Now, Google is introducing AdWords Express, a service aimed at hyperlocal advertising with distinctive Google Maps/Places tie-ins.

AdWords Express is being hailed as the easiest way to advertise on Google. You can create an ad in minutes, and set the automatic administrative service to autonomously manage ad serving. When users conduct a local search for the product or service being advertised, Express will deliver an advertising impression above or beside search results. Additionally, a business location will be marked with a distinctive blue pin on Google Maps, standing out from traditional red pin markings delivered by organic search results.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the AdWords model is the ability to advertise on Express without having a website. Restaurant owners and small businesses without comprehensive online marketing strategies can point their Google AdWords Express ads to their customized Google Places page.

Perfect for local businesses looking for new customers, AdWords Express is a great new option for online advertising. You set the budget, you control the geographic reach, and then you sit back and watch the traffic flow. Charges are only accrued when users click on your result, so you can be sure that you are generating clicks from motivated users looking to get more information about your goods or services.

Get the most out of your AdWords Express campaign with Express management services from SEOptimization.Pro. For just $49 a month, SEOptimization.Pro will manage your online advertising through Express, create captivating ad copy, generate a competitive keyword target list, optimize your Google Places page, and provide you with detailed monthly reports with recommendations to make the most impact with your adbudget.

We have a limited number of coupons worth $100 in free advertising on Google AdWords Express. The first 5 customers that sign up for SEOptimization.Pro's AdWords Express management will receive this fantastic bonus. Break into the world of online advertising today with Google AdWords Express and make the most of your advertising budget with Express Management services from SEOptimization.Pro
   

Google Introduces +1 For Business - Pages

11/7/2011 - Google announced today the introduction of Google+ for Business with the addition of Pages. Google+ Pages allows businesses to enter the world of Google Social Media, a world that was previously closed to business encroachment. With the introduction of +Pages, businesses can now add their profiles to Google's growing social media platform. With a simple interface, and lacking many connectivity features that long running social media sites provide, Google's foray into social media for business is in it's very early stages. Twitter already is abuzz with suggestions for improving Google's Pages interface, and developers are releasing information about planned upgrades including profile management and analytics integration. Currently, you can add a business logo, a website link, Google Places link, hours of operation and other basic profile content. I imagine that as Google Pages takes hold, more customization and optimization options will become available.

Should your business create a page on Google+? The answer is a resounding yes! If not for any other reason than to be a part of the revolution. However, from the standpoint of online marketing, one can surmise that a Google+ Page account will have significant impact for online visibility. Traditionally, Google has placed it's own "products" above competitors in search results (though Google's Eric Schmidt has denied this to a congressional anti-trust panel). Add to this fact that Google+ is integrated into every Google product already, and you have a formula that places Google in the enviable position of forseeable master-of-all-social-media. You've seen the +1 symbol next to your search results, alongside AdWords results and in Google Places. Blogs, bulletin boards, news sites and YouTube have intergreated +1 into their social media sharing tools. +1 is here to stay, so why not hop onboard and get started early?

Here's a great way to get started on your Google+ journey... Visit SEOptimization.Pro's Google+ Page today and join our circle. We look forward to watching Google+ Pages grow, and invite you to join in on the fun.

   

Persuasive Volume

Audience Development: Attaining Persuasive Volume
An Arts Marketing Whitepaper

by Craig Cook

The goal of an arts organization in the mediated environs of the 21 Century is to develop an audience for selected cultural content while maintaining a positive income flow. The sheer number of economic choices available to the general public, coupled with a diminishing average attention span, has left traditional modes of cultural dissemination wanting for spectators. With the onset of the digital information paradigm, classic (and one might argue intellectually superior) forms of cultural expression and presentation have been relegated as secondary to immediately gratifying entertainment and news media. The question facing the next generation of cultural expressionists is how to apply business models to the administration of cultural agenda in an effort to access greater public consciousness, thereby securing continued funding. The answer may be found in the concept of Persuasive Volume.

Persuasive Volume (PV) can be defined hence as benchmarks of public reach, the achievement of which secures varying levels of external aid. In much simpler terms, persuasive volume refers to the number of audience members necessary to secure ever more lucrative sponsorships, advertising, publicity, recognition and credibility. When an organization reaches a certain persuasive volume, it can demand more attention, respect, quality, and money. The goal of the PV mindset as applicable to arts administration is to position arts organizations in business relationships that are a reflection of the core audience and will further the ability to secure market share. To attain PV, one must employ the right mix of content development, marketing, information gathering, and strategic positioning. One must also consider the fact that none of these areas of concentration exist in a vacuum; rather they co-exist in a never-ending feedback loop, each affecting the other on a daily basis.

The application of Persuasive Volume is not limited to those interested in fostering the classical arts. Rather, PV can be a guiding principal for any organization whose life and economic stability rely on attendance and public awareness. Whether managing a rock band, designing a gallery show, or producing a summer festival, incorporating a PV mindset into traditional business models will put your organization on the path towards success.

From Foundation to Fortification:
The application of the PV model necessarily begins with the organization itself. Within the initial business development plan, PV ingredients should be mixed into the market schema to strengthen the foundations of the company. One should have a specific set of audience reach goals for the first few years. Understanding who your demographic is, and what types of marketing influences them is key to increasing your base. A clear understanding of content goals will allow an organization to identify PV strata, and set management agendas for ascension along the scale. Gathering information about your demographic for presentation to possible sponsors and advertisers will allow an organization to move up the PV pyramid.

Identifying the Market Niche:

Deciding on whom you are going to reach out towards is a core element in the PV pyramid. The decision to cater to a demographically diverse audience, versus a targeted demographic, will direct all decisions to follow. A lifestyle magazine, directing content towards a specific group of people (i.e. skateboarders, music lovers) is more likely to employ direct marketing tactics like street-teaming and concert promotion, as well as strategically position themselves for advertising and partnerships with companies that provide products that the demographic would find useful. An organization whose main goals are to promote Opera would be more inclined to develop strong PR relationships with local and national newspapers, and market directly through subscription drives and calendar mailings.

A unique variable when catering to a wide demographic is the Lowest Common Denominator (LCD) factor. Catering to the LCD means that content, marketing, and strategic positioning must be done with the everyman in mind. Reaching out to your audience with lofty, difficult to decipher marketing information can hinder an organizations ability to convert newcomers.

Once an organization has identified the market niche, they can progress to the development stage, where the selection of content can make or break and organization’s ability to do business.

Content Development:

Content is key to any arts organization. Carefully choosing the content that your organization wishes to highlight will guide you throughout the rest of the audience development process. Staying true to the goals set forth by the creators of any arts organization is difficult, as external economic pressures will often place management in compromising situations. Approaching content development with a strong understanding of the market niche is essential to successful penetration. How far off the beaten path is your organization willing to trudge to bring new and creative work to the table, and how will your audience react to such eccentricity?

If your goal in developing content is to present generally accepted forms of cultural diffusion, say chorale music or classic ballet, it is best to stay within an acceptable date or stylistic range. Purveyors of modern cultural content risk uncertainty with each new presentation, as work that the organization may deem cutting edge may not gain favor with the general public. What has proven true time and again in the artistic world is that audiences generally accept works that provide a level of comfort and familiarity. Though a piece of modern dance or sculpture may invigorate the intellectual elite, many times the complexity of such work will be lost upon the greater populous. Know your audience well, and cater to their needs...

Taking PV into consideration, one must decipher what types of content attract external aid, and at what economic level? A symphony orchestra may have a large number of corporate sponsors, but may lack advertisers and partners engaged in the proliferation of orchestral music. A snowboarding magazine on the other hand, may not cater to a wide enough demographic for major corporate attention, but will concentrate their efforts on securing advertisers who want to reach out to snowboarding culture.

Now that you have identified what content will be presented, the development of a concise marketing plan is necessary for growth.

Marketing:

Once you have identified your intended demographic and developed content aimed towards their interests, it is necessary to begin the process of marketing in order to raise public awareness. Marketing encompasses a number of different fields, all working in harmony to further the goals of the organization and present a clear message to the public. Through a carefully planned mix of advertising, publicity, promotion and pure marketing, any organization can achieve increased awareness.

The level of marketing that any firm can engage in is determined by economic factors. Grassroots organizations have to make the most out of inexpensive marketing solutions. These groups benefit from free publicity (newspaper/Internet articles and community calendar postings), street-marketing (dissemination of postcards/fliers/posters in and around the community), and radio and television promotion (local news spots, air-time for trade agreements, ticket give-aways). Organizations that have strong financial resources are more likely to employ print and media advertising to increase awareness.

Designing the content of a marketing plan to communicate with the core demographic, while enhancing the ability to reach a greater audience, is essential to successful outreach. A company that is focused on architecture would probably not want to design a marketing campaign around pictures of fast cars. A better approach would be to highlight angular representations of natural forms and shapes that architecture is derived from.

Gathering information about your proposed demographic can help guide the process of marketing development and will help to codify PV strata.

Information Gathering:

Feedback is one of the most important aspects of continued market saturation. Arts organizations must constantly probe their audience for information that may be useful in the design of content, marketing and strategic positioning. The development of expansive demographic information is vital to strategic positioning, content, and marketing decisions.

Web sites have some of the best demographic tools available to them in the current economic environment. Programs like Level Ten Hit Counter allow web administrators to track minute user details ranging from technology data (screen resolution, operating system), to personal taste indicators (user navigation paths, top pages). Other demographic information such as time spent on the system, click-thru path, and advertising click-thru allows site administrators insight into what content is working best and what advertisements are connecting with the core users.

Non-web based organizations also have myriad feedback tools available for information gathering. Surveys, polls, email forms, focus groups, mailing lists, subscription information and sales statistics all help arts managers make informed decisions affecting their PV perspective.

Strategic Positioning:

While engaged in the process of developing an audience, one must always be on the lookout for unique opportunities, and must actively pursue new sponsorship, partnership and advertising avenues in an effort to increase awareness and public support. An ice-dance organization that aligns themselves for sponsorship with a skate manufacturer is utilizing strategic positioning to reach out to their core demographic in an effort to encourage continued participation in ice-skating activities. This is an example of a symbiotic relationship where the manufacturer is able to showcase their product in front of a captured audience, and the arts organization is able to foster continued participation in the sport.

Carefully filtering the sponsorship money into the marketing mix allows both companies to get their message out to the greater public, thereby increasing the chances of continued public involvement. It is necessary to have concise demographic analysis in order to engage companies in investment discussions. Whether via advertising or sponsorship, companies who may be willing to fund your activities must be convinced that your organization is reaching out to their public, and that a mutually beneficial arena exists.

The PV Perspective- A Concise Approach:

Once you have identified and developed the factors that will increase audience participation, and focused on Persuasive Volume as a governing principle, it is time to employ PV tactics to reach your audience and economic goals. Each step of the development process allows your organization access to new PV strata. Grassroots organizations that have an audience between 1-5000 patrons have a certain status, and can work within their abilities to court local sponsors, advertisers and partners. Printing of programs, gallery guides, newsletters and marketing materials gives grassroots companies the ability to sell advertising space. One must be careful to concentrate advertising retention on products and services that will directly foster increased audience participation.

After an organization has excelled within a specified PV strata and increased audience share, it is time to step things up. Regional advertising, sponsorships and partnerships are a good next step. An audience between 5001 and 15,000 is likely to afford an organization more leverage opportunities and the economic means to begin print, radio and television advertising. At this point, content development must broaden, marketing solutions must expand and strategic positioning becomes a more important factor. You have conquered your core demographic and must concentrate on regional private and corporate organizations for continued support.

The obvious next steps are to expand into national and international markets as your company continues to grow. At this point, the economics of a deal become more important than the audience reach factors. With money, any organization can develop high-level marketing campaigns for greater audience contact. Fostering audience development with the PV perspective will enable your organization to dominate the market niche and sustain development for years to come. Careful planning is key to organizational success, and following PV guidelines will ensure that your company continues to foster audience participation and expansion.
   

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