The Half-Year Update: Standout Social Media Changes That Have Impacted The Search Industry So Far In 2014

It’s hard to believe but six months of 2014 have already passed. As important as check-ins and analysis are for any program, it’s equally important to take a step back and look at the broad picture of what’s happened in the first six months of 2014. As search and social become more intertwined, it’s key to note where the social media industry currently stands and where it is moving. Here are a few of the social media developments that will likely impact search and other digital initiatives as the year moves forward.

Pinterest Web Analytics

Pinterest introduced Pinterest Web Analytics, which allow site owners to see insights about how people are interacting with pins from their website. Users can get information on how many people:

1. pinned from their website
2. have seen these pins
3. visited their site from Pinterest

The most repinned, most clicked, and most recent pins features give users insights into the most popular pins. This change signifies the upward movement of Pinterest as a key player in the social space. Offering analytics demonstrates the impact social media plays in website traffic.

Facebook Algorithm Changes

Facebook rolled out a new algorithm to the News Feed that removes what Facebook considers “spammy” posts. Like-inducing posts, links that lead to a website full of ads, and frequently circulated content have been reduced on Facebook’s News Feed in order to combat spam behavior.

Facebook is concentrating on making quality posts, such as status updates, legitimate articles, and links appear in the News Feed. Businesses and brands must now focus on generating a quality conversation on posts to improve their appearance in the News Feed. Content that includes comments and conversations will appear on fans’ feeds more frequently.

With algorithm changes and increased brand competition, there is less space on the News Feed resulting in declined organic reach. As the algorithm moves forward, brands will need to adapt to these changes and consider implementing social media ad budgets to focus on engaging fans and making the most out of social media marketing.

Twitter Profile Updates

Not to be outdone by Facebook changes, Twitter introduced a new profile redesign in the first half of 2014. The design features a larger header image and more dynamic features, like pinning tweets to the top and larger tweets for higher engagement. As Twitter’s first major overhaul in years, this change was a big move for the established Twitter.

Google+ Business Pages

Google enabled Google+ business pages to connect their page to their local business listing on Google Maps. Business owners will no longer have two independent Google properties to maintain, creating a more streamlined Google experience. This change demonstrates the continued integration of all Google properties and features.

What changes have you seen make an impact in the first half of 2014?


Best Twitter Features to Promote your Online Business

SEMPO_Blog_Twitter1Why Twitter?

Businesses of all sizes have been slow in realizing the potential of social media marketing. And those who do, fail to understand the reason and benefits of marketing on Twitter. The thing about Twitter is that it is not the average social media site where people sign-up to hang out with friends. Twitter is also about information.

You may not realize this, but many people turn to Twitter for information, so there can be no better place on social media for getting your brand message across. In fact, many potential customers may already be searching Twitter to find you. Do you have something for them?

There are as many as 2 billion searches on Twitter every day, and around 645,750,000 active users. Fortune 500 companies and small businesses have accounts on Twitter to interact with their target audience. Along with this marketing potential, Twitter has introduced many features over the years that can be used by online marketers to boost their brand image.

Marketing in 140 characters?

This is the character limit of a tweet; 140 characters has, in essence, become a term of its own and it was a challenge for marketers to get their point across in the shortest amount of words. In all fairness, they managed to do just that, using relevant keywords, Hashtags, links, and tweeting at the best time as revealed by research. However, now you have more enhanced features that will not only help you cross this character limit but also enable you to incorporate various media elements as well.

Best Twitter Marketing Features:


Twitter Cards

Twitter cards allow you to attach media expressions to Tweets that direct readers to your content. All you need to do is add a few lines of HTML to your website. As a result, every time someone Tweets a link to your content, a card will be added to it that can be viewed by user’s followers. So even if you post a link to your Flickr photo in a Tweet, a card will be created. You can choose between a Summary Card, Photo Card, Gallery Card, App Card, Player Card, and Product Card. Be it price, benefits, or description, everything you need to post about your content can be done using a Twitter card. You can also promote your products using the gallery view and 2 “customizable fields” where further information about the product can be added. Recently, the social network made one more step toward enhanced promoted tweet campaigns by introducing conversion tracking and tailored audiences options.










In the example above,  you can see how East India Tea Company successfully promotes a new post on its blog with the help of Twitter cards. Though the message occupies more space, it also gets more engagement, as it is reflected on number of retweets and favorites.

Custom Timelines

A custom timeline is much like a Twitter list, but here you can choose which Tweets to include in the list. These timelines can be embedded into websites as well. There is a title on top, followed by a 160-character description. New tweets that are added appear at the top of the list. Note that you can only use custom timelines with the TweetDeck app. Once you download the app, you can use timelines to promote your business in several ways. For example, you can have a list of the oldest to the newest products, so that potential customers will be aware of your latest offerings. Secondly, if you use hashtags with your products, you can make a timeline of the best tweets from your customers. The same goes for customer reviews, testimonials, and answers to FAQs.  The information will not only be streamlined, but the presentation will be user-friendly as well.

Tweet Archive

Many users are already aware of this feature where one can download all tweets since day 1 and turn them into an archive. You can use this feature to observe your earlier tweets as well as to see if any improvements need to be made or if some successful formula was used before that you may have forgotten about.

See below how the archive of your tweets will look like if you request it via the Setting tab of your Twitter account.









Trending Topics

As mentioned at the outset, Twitter is all about sharing information, and nothing exemplifies this more than the Trending Topics feature. This feature has been constantly updated, and now there are hundreds of cities around the world on the list to help you discover at a glance what’s trending across the globe. You can also receive more specific trends after you select the country or city you are interested in.  If you are also using the Twitter features discussed so far, then you have access to comprehensive market research about almost any target audience in the world.

Enhanced Photos

You do not have to be a social media marketing expert to realize the compelling and engaging benefits that photo sharing offers. To further augment visual content shared on the website, Twitter teamed up with Aviary to provide iPhone and Android users with special filters and effects. These range from black & white to vintage, which means there are multiple options to choose from. Hence, you can always find filters and effects that help you tweak your pictures in line with your brand image.

As you can see, the feature looks pretty much like the one on Instagram, so the process of enhancing the photos is going to easy and enjoyable.









Negative Keyword Targeting

Keywords, when used properly, can do wonders for your business’s online visibility. When misused, they can repulse both your customers and search engines. So your aim should be to appear in relevant search results instead of spamming users with hashtags that they were not looking for. This is where the Negative Keyword Targeting for Promoted Tweets comes into play. This feature ensures that the search terms you use do not appear in tweets and conversations not related directly to the product itself. For instance, if your product name is Pure Passion, you can ensure that the product doesn’t turn up in search results for either ‘pure’ or ‘passion’ keywords.

Note that there is a bulk importing tool on Twitter as well, where you can highlight words that you want to match with your keywords. This tool provides you with three different matching options when entering keywords, which are exact match, phrase match, and basic keyword match.

These are some of the best features on Twitter that empower marketers to create a unique selling point on social media. Use a combination of these tools, and engage with the huge audience of Twitter users.



Factors That Impact Your Positioning in a YouTube Search

In our last blog post, we discussed optimization strategies for your video content. By providing visitors with compelling titles, descriptions, and tags, you are providing YouTube’s search engines with the triggers to support your optimization efforts. Like the content triggers discussed earlier, there are several engagement factors that are influential in getting your videos to the top of YouTube.

Much attention has been paid to Google’s ranking factors and algorithm and how they impact your positioning on Google.  By becoming aware of YouTube’s ranking factors, you could improve your video’s rankings on both YouTube and Google. Here are some critical engagement factors that influence your video’s YouTube ranking:

1. Trust and authority of your YouTube channel

YouTube prefers video producers that routinely produce quality video content. Thus, it looks not only at engagement of individual videos but also at engagement of your video channel overall. Factors such as number of subscribers, number of channel views, and the overall age of your video channel are important in ensuring consistently high ranking videos.

2. Engagement of your videos

While the overall number of views is surely an important factor in a high-ranking video, it is more important for your video to be interesting to those who choose to view it. How long do your videos keep your viewer’s attention? Generally speaking, videos that capture 40% of the viewer’s attention (i.e., over two minutes of a five minute video) will help your video rank higher. YouTube looks at two audience factors – absolute (what percentage of your video is watched) and relative (how does this compare to other videos of similar length?).

3. Social signals

As with traditional SEO, social media links appear to be an increasingly important factor in the overall strength of your content. Factors that indicate video social sharing include embeds, external links, and the strength of the sites the video is being shared on. Particularly strong social sharing sites include Digg, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ so be sure to prompt sharing to these and other sites when posting your video.

4. Comments, responses, and reactions

YouTube wants to gauge how much dialogue your video generates. The numbers of comments, likes, and responses are important factors in determining your video’s ranking. Note: video responses in particular are hugely important. After all, YouTube is a video sharing site. If your video is responsible for creating additional video content for YouTube, you’ve hit an SEO home run.

Likes and shares are also factors that determine level of interest in your video. YouTube gives significant weight to the number of shares.

YouTube has determined that engagement is a better measurement of quality and satisfaction than simple views. As Google has given greater importance to Quality Score, YouTube has given greater importance to engagement. In both, the common threads are quality and relevance. If you create quality and relevant content for your readers and viewers, you stand a much better chance of getting to the top of every search engine.




How Optimizing Video Can Lead to Traffic and Conversions

What’s the second largest search engine behind Google?

Bing? No.

Yahoo? No.

AOL? No.

The correct answer, of course, is YouTube, which processes more than 3 billion searches each month. Additionally, since November 2011, YouTube video results are embedded into Google search results. Try typing “psy Gangnam style” into Google, and the first four results, ahead of Wikipedia, Facebook, and Billboard, are YouTube videos. (Psy’s Gangnam Style, incidentally, is the most watched video of all time with nearly 2 billion views as of February 10, 2014. Thus, it seems logical for search marketers to think beyond Google and Bing. Search strategies must include all aspects of digital marketing, including video. Let’s examine the key strategies for optimizing your video content.

1.  Choose the most relevant content for your business – Context is equally important in video optimization as it is in search optimization.  A simple tutorial on how to use your product is a great video for product marketers. Hosting a webinar that conveys your expertise on a particular subject is a great choice for service marketers. Remember, consumers like video because it gives them a better understanding of your product or service. It aids in the decision-making process. As you develop your script, put yourself in the mind of the searcher. Include phrases that are searched on often.

2.  Select a keyword relevant title for your video – The title of your video is like a PPC ad. Its purpose is to gain a click-through. Choose a title that is relevant to the content of your video, but exciting and engaging enough to get that coveted click-through. Your title should include a key phrase that your research determined to be the most relevant search phrase for your desired action.

3.  Include tags – Tags are keywords and phrases that provide the YouTube search engine with clues as to what your video is about. Think of them as hashtags for your videos. List your most relevant tags first, as order does play a factor in YouTube’s algorithm. Be as specific as possible so you can limit the amount of competition for your video. What makes your video unique? Try to include the same keywords you included in your video’s title.

4.  Write a keyword-rich description – Make sure you use the same relevant keyword phrases that you included in your title and tags. This consistency will go a long way towards establishing the relevancy that is so important to both Google and YouTube. Be thorough and comprehensive. So many video creators cut corners when developing their video’s description, but you can really give yourself an edge if you provide YouTube visitors with an in-depth description.

5.  Upload a transcript – Uploading a transcript to YouTube is an easy way to ensure your targeted keywords are interpreted correctly by the search engines. Simply create a .txt file of your video’s script, and upload it to YouTube via the Video Manager section of your YouTube account. When you name the .txt file, use the search term you’re optimizing for in your .txt file’s name. Additionally, by uploading a transcript, you automatically enable YouTube’s captions.

6.  Create a video sitemapGoogle Webmaster Tools provides simple instructions on how to create a video sitemap.

Each entry must contain the following pieces of data:

1. Title
2. Description
3. Play page URL
4. Thumbnail URL
5. Video file location or player URL

It is recommended that you host your video on YouTube and embed the YouTube video on your own site.

Optimizing video is a process, and like traditional SEO, will reap tremendous benefits to your business or your client’s business when followed correctly.



How To Create Leads Through Your Content

Content, content, content. There’s a lot of talk about the importance of content. But does it really make that big of a difference? You better believe it. The right content can attract new customers and help SEO for your site, which results in all the precious leads. According to B2B Infographics, 92% of SEO practitioners say content creation is an effective SEO tactic, and 76% regularly invest in content creation.

Let’s take a step back and start at the beginning. Content is a cycle that helps create brand awareness, website traffic, and leads and build relationships. Your social media presence, blog, email marketing, and paid search work together for consumers to find your business online. All of these activities increase brand awareness. Then, your engaging content sends customers directly to your website, where they can scope out your business.

Content also improves your SEO by helping your website get indexed faster, increasing rankings for search terms, and increasing domain ranking.  It’s a win-win. According to iMedia Connection, 71% of marketers say that content marketing has helped improve their site’s ranking in organic search, and 77% say it has increased website traffic.

So we understand why it’s important but how can using content be put into action to generate leads?

1. Create a mix

Develop a mix of both paid and owned content to generate leads. Mixing PPC ads and social media ads along with engaging content will allow new customers to become aware of your business. In combination with your engaging content, customers will never want to leave.


2. Get creative

There are numerous ways to reach customers through engaging content. One way to reach customers and build relationships is through email. For example, after a customer makes a purchase, offer them a discount if they review your product. This will not only show that you care about what customers think but also provides incentives for making another purchase. You just generated another lead through content (Go you!).

3. Drive it back home

Consistently linking content and paid search back to your website will help drive traffic to your website, therefore creating leads. Whether it’s a blog post, mobile app, or a Facebook ad, every piece should have a website link. Provide a contact form on each page, ask for feedback, post customer reviews, and get customer contact information to continually generate leads.

Once you’ve executed your plan, it’s time to analyze your success. Determine the cost per lead by using your PPC amount and the number of leads you received. Use Google Analytics to determine the number of clicks from social to your website. By analyzing the data, you can make informed decisions to decrease your costs and increase your profits.

iMedia Connection found that 70% of marketers say that content marketing has increased their brand awareness,59% believe it supports sales growth, and 45% say it has reduced their advertising costs. After analyzing the data, it’s important to remember that generating leads through engaging content is an ongoing cycle that can play an integral role in your business’ success.


10 Tips to Creating Engaging, Optimized Content

Compelling website content is the key to engaging with your audience. It needs be unique, shareable, and useful for the reader, as well as optimized to help attract/influence search engines… Let’s go back to the basics with 10 tips to writing engaging, optimized content:

1. Headline – When it comes to creating content, a headline needs to be compelling. Why? Simply because it is the first thing readers look at. When trying to write a headline, keep in mind that it should draw in readers and give them (and search engines) a very concise idea of what your content will be about.

2. Show and Tell – Write your article as if you were writing your English papers back in college. Back up your points with reliable sources (links when possible) as this will make your content more credible. Also consider using graphics to reinforce key points (see below for more on this).

3. The 5 W’s – Try to answer the “who, what, when, where, and why” questions as concisely as possible. When each of these questions are answered, your content becomes more useful and more likely to be shared.

4. KISS (“Keep It Simple Stupid”) – Most of the time, content that is to the point keeps readers interested and more likely to read through the whole article; put away those thesauruses and avoid using jargon!

5. Meta Description – Like the headline, the meta description is what search engines use in their results listing to let your readers know exactly what your content is about. Try to be as specific as possible so as to capture your reader’s attention.

6. Optimize with Keywords – A very easy way for your content to be easily searched and receive higher traffic is by implementing the use of keywords. Focus on a single keyword or keyword phrase for each piece of content. Include several “natural/conversational” keyword mentions but don’t overdo it. Remember, it’s always quality over quantity.

7. Images – Like keywords, images are what draw readers to your content. Remember, search engine bots don’t see pictures, so be sure to optimize your images. This can be done by including a descriptive file name, alt text, and a caption for your images.

8. Summary – As a conclusion to your content, always recap what you are trying to say in the article. For some readers, the conclusion is where they draw most of the information, or at least tidbits of the information.  It’s also a good place to encourage feedback from your readers.

9. Revision – When you believe you have finished writing your article, think again. Always revise and edit until you cannot revise anymore. Then don’t be afraid to make more changes to the content if it’s not getting the readership you expected.

10. Social Sharing – Finally, include social sharing features on each page of your website. When people share your content through social, it can help your website rankings.

Try out different tips to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Always experiment until you’ve come to the right recipe for drawing readers to your website.

Do you have a tip for writing engaging, optimized content? Share in the comments below:

Social Media and Your Customers: Using Facebook for Customer Acquisition

Consumers live in social media so it only makes sense for you to establish your company there as well. Businesses have spent the last few years trying to figure out how to effectively use social media as a customer acquisition channel. A recent study showed that 77% of B2C companies and 43% of B2B companies have acquired customers from Facebook, so there is evidence that you can successfully turn fans into real-life customers.

As an efficient platform for engagement and community building, Facebook allows businesses to share information within seconds and stay linked with their fan base. It is important to establish a connection and interact with customers through this channel for entertainment, branding, and customer support purposes.

“Building a solid community from your loyal customer base is the best way to attract quality prospects that can be converted,” says Debra Ellis, a business consultant and author of 31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing. “The people who use your products and services are the ones who are most likely to have friends and family that would like your company too.”

Here are 5 ways your company can turn Facebook fans into paying customers:

  1. Sweepstakes and Contests – Promotions are a great way to increase traffic to a website and develop sales leads. Traffic to a website is important because traffic increases the opportunity to make sales. Running a giveaway not only keeps your customers engaged and sharing your brand but it’s also a useful way to grow your email listings. Whether you are starting with 100 or 100,000 fans on your Facebook page, giveaways have been proven to increase that number. A basic enter-to-win sweepstakes with a lower barrier to entry often proves the best option.
  2. Facebook Ads – Take advantage of Facebook ads and direct traffic to your website. Facebook ads aren’t simply more established on the site, they are actually more efficient. You can entice your audience with special offers and sales. The advantage of using Facebook ads is you can target your customers by location, age, gender, and even interest. Facebook ads also allow you to remarket your ads, so if a customer searches for your product or a similar product outside of Facebook, they can be reached when they return based on their search information.
  3. Outreach With Email – While social media platforms are instant and easy to share, the best way to acquire and retain customers is through email marketing. Use every opportunity to encourage customers to join your mailing list. As mentioned earlier, promotions are a great way to build your email list. Include a checkbox in sweepstakes forms for participants to sign up for promotional deals, or consider linking your signup form to your Facebook page with an app. Offer incentives for participation with a special discount.
  4. “Fan-Only” Coupons – Having a Facebook fan base gives you the ability to stay in contact with your current customers and reach potential customers. Coupons are a great way to bridge the gap between fan and customer. Many of your fans already use your products so take advantage of that. Coupons aren’t pushy, but act more as an invitation to browse your products. If a fan “likes” your page, they are already showing interest in your brand. For those who like your page but have never purchased your product, a “Fan-Only” coupon will entice them to make a first purchase. In fact, a recent study by ExactTarget and CoTweet found that 40% of people who liked a Facebook page did it initially to receive a discount or coupon. Coupons give you the opportunity to take the conversation off your Facebook page and into your store. Using a variety of coupon campaign applications, you can easily create a coupon that customers can print out and redeem in store. If you want to build your email list, you can have your customers enter their email address to receive coupons. Also, making the coupon “Fan-Only” can drive more clicks because of the exclusivity.
  5. Post Testimonials – We all know that Word-of-Mouth is the best form of advertising, and this holds true online. Post customer testimonials to let your fans see what real people are saying about your products. Don’t just have testimonials that say your products are great; post testimonials that discuss how the product solved a common problem, too. A great example of this is weight-loss products that show photos and post testimonials from people who have used them. They don’t sell; they tell a story about their product.

It is possible to turn Facebook fans into paying customers but you need to do it in ways that are much different than traditional advertising. People go on Facebook to read stories, not to look at products. Tell a story, engage with your audience, solve a problem, and then you will get new paying customers.