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The Big Picture -- Well-Rounded SEM for SMBs, Part 2

Carrie Hill
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Last time, we talked about three of the bigger pieces to consider when running a well-rounded online marketing campaign. Good analytics, solid SEO, and effective paid advertising will help you understand how search engines work, how users interact with your site, and how you can make what you've done even better and more effective.

Today, we'll go a bit deeper and discuss branding, reputation management, social networking and viral marketing, and images and videos. Some of these tactics will work for you, and some might not. It all depends on what type of business you have. Keep your mind open to the possibilities -- you never know where the next big thing will be.

Branding

Who you are and who you tell people you are can be two different things. Having a strong online brand can help you gain converts. Converts are market share you didn't have before you started interacting with your online customer. Being available, easy to reach, and open to criticism are key to establishing an online brand presence.

Being well-optimized for your brand name doesn't hurt either. One of the easiest terms to rank for is your brand name. The content on your site should be naturally optimized to allow for brand ranking. Many of the mentions and links coming into your site use branded link text. It's important to take advantage of this (sometimes overlooked) traffic, and a great way to sell your products with a low margin.

Reputation Management

A strong showing for brand-based searches can help you alleviate reputation management headaches that may arise in the future. Not only does your Web site appear authoritative in searches for your name with quite a few listings visible, you're also in a great position to stave off negative publicity.

Not every customer will be completely satisfied, and there will be criticism at some point. Owning up to your mistakes publicly and owning the top 10 for your brand can help minimize the impact negative reviews may have on traffic and sales.

"If it's broken, it has to be fixed," continues to be my number one reputation management rule. Rude employees, unreliable shipping processes, and wrong information on your Web site will haunt you until you fix the problem. Pay attention to what you are and are not doing, then fix your action plan.

Anyone concerned with brand and reputation management should read Andy Beal's "Radically Transparent." Read with your highlighter and sticky notes. I'm halfway through my copy as I write this, and have found invaluable information for even the smallest online venture.

Social Networking and Viral Marketing

No, it's not for every type of business. Thinking outside of normal "old school" marketing practices is paramount to making social networking and social media work for your business. If you rely on buzz and word of mouth, then creating that buzz via a social network is a great way to drive sales and interest.

Do you sell Chacos? A video showing how tough they are is a great way to increase the knowledge of your product. Many of us have heard about the site Will It Blend? This concept started out as a viral video showing the durability of a blender. It created enough buzz to peak in July 2007 with 225,000 unique monthly visitors.

A carefully crafted concept and the right buzz surrounding it can have a smashing effect. Sharing it via multiple social networks and video sites will help get the word out.

Viral marketing and social media success has a lot of peaks and valleys. The "goal" would be to sustain the ups and minimize the downs, but novelty wears off, and staying on top of what is "working" with the audience will help you prolong your exposure. Will It Blend didn't sustain their buzz, according to Compete.com, and they were down to about 32,000 monthly unique visitors in May.

Images and Video

Images and video are two severely underutilized segments for small business online marketing. Here are some issues that can hurt, and issues that can't help much.

Hurt:

  • Using copyright protected photos/images. Don't use it if you didn't take it, buy it, or get written permission.
  • Using stock photography that is widely used without modifications. Read this blog post on the "Overuse of Stock Photography" by Patrick Winfield at the 10e20 blog.
  • Cramming 40 keywords into your image alt tags. Use one keyword, and make it descriptive, e.g., "ipod accessories photos."

Don't Help:

  • Irrelevant file names -- 294883.jpg doesn't tell a user or a search engine what's in the photo; bluewidgetpic.jpg does.
  • Supportive content on the page -- is your image and its respective file name/alt tag text supported by the content on your site?

What Should You Do?

  • Make it unique – hire a professional photographer, buy the local guy's images or get some stock photography you can modify to fit your needs.
  • Name the image file something compelling.
  • Use one keyword phrase in your alt tag.
  • Write supportive content on the page.

Remember: not everything in here will work for everyone, but an open mind can be the secret to your success.

Next time, we'll continue this discussion with tips on local search, usability, conversions, and more. I love feedback, so if you agree, disagree, or are confused about a concept, please post a question in the SEW Marketing Small Businesses Online forum and I'll be sure to address your needs. Some great minds visit the forums and you may get otherwise quite expensive advice for free!


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