Squidoo Now In Business To Help With Brand Management?

by Anissa Wardell on Sep 24

Fast Company has an article out about Seth Godin’s recent post entitled “Launching Brands In Public”. We recently posted about Squidoo thanks to Erin, but this new piece of the puzzle, makes it an even more interesting subject, especially if you are the Brand.

You can’t control what people are saying about you. What you can do is organize that speech. You can organize it by highlighting the good stuff and rationally responding to the not-so-good stuff. You can organize it by embracing the people who love your brand and challenging them to speak up and share the good word. And you can respond to it in a thoughtful way, leaving a trail that stands up over time.

But how?

Over the last few months, we’ve seen big brands (like Amazon and Maytag) get caught in a twitterstorm. An idea (one that’s negative to the brand) starts and spreads, and absent a response, it just spirals. Of course, Amazon can’t respond on their home page (they’re busy running a store) and they don’t have an active corporate blog that I could find, so where? How?

Enter Brands In Public. (To see the whole post visit Seth Godin’s Blog at the link above.)

Chris Dannen who wrote the article for Fast Company had these parting thoughts:

But by moving the “conversation” to a static website, the energy a company might put into a personal response instead goes into a PR campaign. That brings us full circle, to backward-looking company-customer relationships. The ultimate loser? The customer.

From the Team at WebWitches

Tags: Increase traffic site Internet seo Online internet marketing Online ranking Online seo



Several weeks ago, I revisited the 16 rules for social media optimization. Switching things up, today I thought it would be useful to approach this slightly differently and look at how to optimize time spent in social media.

These tips aren’t necessarily just for brands or companies to follow, rather they may prove even more useful for digital marketing professionals themselves. In the spirit of optimizing your time reading this, I’m going to keep the tips brief and to the point.

1. Aggregate social content about your company, brand or even yourself into a real-time feed using one of the many tools available to do this. Bring the relevant mentions to you instead of always searching for them.

2. Unfollow those who don’t add value or aren’t important to your network.  This tip isn’t for a brand or company seeking to make themselves accessible to the world at large, but for you as a marketer personally.  How many times have you logged into Twitter, Facebook or FriendFeed – even just after a few hours of being away – and felt totally lost in the conversation. Unless you’re going to devote your life to watching the stream, make sure that who you’re following is actually worth your time.

3. Unsubscribe to all RSS feeds that aren’t unmissable. RSS is the perfect, simple way to keep track of relevant feeds, but over time your reader can become bloated. We’ve all logged into reader and seen Google display the euphemistic “1,000+ unread items” before. This isn’t very fun – so be sure to keep your subscription signal-to-noise ratio positive.

4. Learn to skim. As marketers, there just isn’t time to read everything fully. Learn to skim past the noise and recognize when there are conversations and content worth your time to read carefully. On the flip side, make your own content scanable to entice readers to skim. Done properly, this should increase engagement and draw people in deeper.

5. Establish a set of trusted sites to read frequently. No matter what niche you’re interested in, you absolutely must identify the trusted, valuable sites in that area. Read their content carefully, as in many cases, those at the top are the conversation starters for those in the tail. In other words: Following the leaders can keep you at the forefront of the greater conversation.

6. Audit your time. Calculate how much time you spend daily in different areas of the social web. It adds up, and no one is immune to losing time. Carefully audit just where your time is going and realign efforts to the areas that make a different in achieving objectives.

7. Automate where it makes sense, but do so carefully. Setting up feeds to auto-tweet when you add new content to your blog or share something in Google Reader may make sense. But careful not to automate things like direct messages, something that may irk those on the receiving end.

8. Analyze how people react to the content you create or share. Look at what content archetypes your community reacts to, learn from them, adjust and sharpen as you go forward.

9. Realize there is no information overload. Learn to navigate the unstoppable river of real-time and become a chief signal officer.

10. Become a search ninja. Search really matters to be ultra-successful in social, and knowing all the specific Google operators can help you get to what you need for your marketing efforts fast (such as content creation that requires research).

11. Consolidate your network presence, AKA the Seth Godin strategy. You don’t see him on Twitter. You don’t see him on Facebook. You see him on his blog, and he’s trained us all to go there and subscribe to get content. A diversified presence is not necessarily a better play if your ideas are remarkable.

12. Learn the ebbs and flows of content in a niche and what networks, sites and users matter. Get an understanding of how your corner of the web works, and in time you’ll develop an understanding for how it functions at the macro level.

13. Develop an efficient routine for your time spent in the social web. This will allow you to know how much time each set of tasks and updates take and allow you to become more efficient each day. With that said, as marketers it is also important to understand that we all use the web differently. So if you’re going to do this for efficiency’s sake, continue to explore other tools, trends and options. You can be efficient with your core functions but still experiment.

14. Make your processes simple. No one is going to argue against copy/paste being the best social media tool. There’s a reason for that: It’s dead simple. Make your time spent on social media as a participant and contributor as simple as the idea of copy-pasting content.

15. Use only the essential tools. With a constant slew of new apps being developed, it’s easy for marketers to get shiny new object syndrome. And while you should be trying new things out, you should get to the point you’re only using the tools daily that are essential to your core purposes in the social web.

16. Don’t multitask. If you want to do things like develop killer blog content, you have to turn off Twitter, walk away from email and focus. Social media makes it all too easy to multitask, but the results of your efforts will be sub-par compared to those who focus.

17. Cross-pollinate content sharing. Do things like sharing StumbleUpon or Digg links in Twitter – encourage users from one network to share content in another.  Get creative with how you do this and make it subtle or even invisible.

18. Embrace imperfection. Part of social media means, well, being social. And our social interactions are by their very nature imperfect. Some of the best blogs on the planet are hardly perfect, but that’s not what makes them compelling.

19. Eliminate busy work. Identify where the valuable, creative opportunities are that resonate with your key audiences. Now focus there – the rest may be busy work that can be trimmed.

20. Qualitity over quantity – more participation does not trump higher-quality participation. As the social web continues to grow, this will only become more important.

21. Limit distractions. No one is going to deny that social media itself can be a distraction if you aren’t careful with your time. But limiting distractions by following the other tips listed and staying focused can make all the difference at optimizing time spent in the social web.

From the Team at WebWitches

Tags: Increase traffic site Internet seo Online internet marketing Online ranking Online seo


Social media is fast becoming a standard element in the marketing mix of major consumer brands.  And with good reason: never before has such a creative landscape existed for people and the brands they love to interact, share stories and build relationships – in all directions.

With social media marketing spends predicted to grow at an annual rate of 34% according to a report from Forrester Research, analyst trends support these thoughts.  Yet, not all companies are sold, with many taking a “wait and see” approach as they believe the landscape to be risky and unproven.

Just the opposite is true – waiting may prove the riskiest move of all as brands who wait too long only succeed in yielding ground to agile competitors.  This may prove especially damaging in the B2C space.  When consumers pledge allegiance to favorite brands, they may stick with those brands indefinitely and outright ignore competitors.

At this point, the rewards far outweigh the risks, especially for brands following a social media roadmap, something which sets themselves up for success.

Still questioning the value?  The following are 7 reasons engaging in social media marketing is a no-brainer for any passionate B2C brand:

1.  Take your communications directly to consumer

While traditional media is shrinking and digital media continues to experience growth, huge opportunities are afforded to companies embracing the direct to consumer model for their communications.  For a stunning example of this at scale, consider that if the Official Google blog was a newspaper, its subscriber numbers would put it in the top 10 for daily circulation right between the Houston Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune (hat tip to Noah Brier for the observation).  Google not only delivers content directly to consumer, but as a by-product of that their messages resonate beyond other blogs and frequently into tech, trade and mainstream media.

2.  Avoid a negative groundswell

By being active in social media and having your finger on the pulse of what the world is saying about your brand, you may be able to hedge negativity before it spirals out of control.  We’ve all heard the stories about negative brand experiences from consumers which resonated in the social web, but we didn’t hear about a backlash against Priceline.  That’s because Priceline was paying attention and able to respond to a potential groundswell by alleviating the situation before it could spread.  David Armano noted the details but the consumer’s reaction in her own words speaks volumes:

“I opened Aaron’s email around 12:00PM PST I posted a Blog on Google describing the events and then sent a Tweet Blast around 2 if my tweets are logging PST, which is possible as I have no sense of time.  Then I specifically re-tweeted to people with larger follows to help make sure I was heard. Aaron called me at 4 PM PST which is 7 in North Carolina and said that,  “Priceline had called about an hour ago and offered to refund the money!”

The old saying of satisfied customers tell three friends, angry customers tell everyone becomes exponentially more potent in social media.  Shouldn’t you be there to concurrently help your customers and practice digital reputation management?

3.  Own your presence in popular platforms

Your brand may not be active in platform-specific networks such as Facebook or Twitter at the corporate level, but make no mistake that your biggest fans are already doing this on your behalf.  International Dairy Queen had an interest in getting involved in Facebook (and social media as a whole) and upon digging into the situation they discovered hundreds of others had already created Facebook fan pages on behalf of the brand to share their love of an American classic.

DQ was able to analyze what fans were doing and strategically establish their DQ corporate Facebook presence right alongside fan pages, where it has quickly grown to six-figures organically and become the major hub for the brand in that network.  With hundreds of comments and likes on each post engaging with DQ’s blog content and promotions, it is an active, vibrant digital asset (full disclosure:  DQ was previously a client I worked on at my former employer).

4.  Truly understand your demographic

Social media presents the ultimate focus group because you can naturally observe how people behave and interact – specifically the demographic you’re interested in reaching.  But it goes beyond merely watching.  By engaging with your demographic directly through social communications tools, you will learn details about them you may have not previously considered.

It is risky to miss the mark in a connected world, as witnessed by the Motrin Moms fiasco last year.  Had they been actively involved in a dialog with their target demographic, they may have created a promotion which resonated positively, instead of something still getting referenced for rubbing their consumers the wrong way.  The web as a medium is extremely referential, so you will live with the good and bad.  By having an understanding your chances of being known for something positive increase exponentially.

5.  Social media / SEO intersection

As Online Marketing Blog readers are well aware, there is a clear intersection of search and social media.  As we discuss this intersection quite frequently, I’ll sum this point up quickly with a quote from one of Lee’s posts on Mashable:

By involving SEO insight in a social media marketing effort and vice versa, marketers, public relations professionals and advertisers can extend the value of their investment. Well optimized social media content marketing efforts can attract new network participants via search. News content that experiences distribution via social news and bookmarking channels can facilitate links to company website content directly and indirectly. Advertisers that fund social media campaigns can continue to realize the traffic benefit from keyword-optimized interactive content long after the campaign has ended.

6.  Real-time market research

Once you’re active in social media and begin to attract a following for your brand, your opportunities for engagement and to gain actionable data from your audience will become limited only by your creativity.  You can crowdsource new product ideas directly to those most interested in purchasing, get feedback on making current products better and work to find out what it is your consumers really want.  Focus groups in controlled settings are out, real-time data “in the wild” is in.

7.  It’s nearly 2010 – consumers expect it

Last but not least, our world is quickly moving to a society where digital media is the dominant player.  A study by PEW confirms this:  more people say they rely mostly on the internet for news than cite newspapers, and nearly six-in-ten Americans younger than 30 (59%) say they get most of their national and international news online.  Also, the percentage of people younger than 30 citing television as a main news source has declined from 68% in September 2007 to 59% in 2008.  Digital media share of voice is only going to continue climbing while other channels lose ground.

Can you really afford to ignore the new medium of choice for consumers?

From the Team at WebWitches


Tags: Increase traffic site Internet seo Online internet marketing Online ranking Online seo

Written on September 10th, 2009 at 12:09 am by Darren Rowse

Forums – How to Expand Your Blog #1

Miscellaneous Blog Tips 68 comments

Yesterday I share with readers an exercise to brainstorm 10 ways that they might expand their blog in the coming years.

The reason I suggest the exercise is not that there’s anything wrong with being ‘just a blog’ but because as I look at a lot of top blogs going around today it strikes me that many of them have evolved in different directions and now also include other mediums, areas and features that wouldn’t normally appear on a blog.

By no means is it essential to grow your blog in this way – but it certainly is a trend among many successful blogs.

Over the next few days I want to explore some of the ways that I see blogs being expanded. Hopefully in doing so it’ll give those wanting to grow the potential of their blog a little inspiration in how they might do it.

Expand Your Blog with a Forum

Lets kick things off with a way of expanding a blog that many bloggers will be quite familiar with – adding a forum to your blog. This can be done either as a free area or a paid or premium area where members pay a subscription to join it.

Examples of Blogs and Forums Working Well Together

Screen shot 2009-09-09 at 2.12.00 PM.png

1. Ars Technica – Major Tech blog Ars Technica has had a forum area operating for some time now.

I’m not sure how many members it has but as I write this it has over 700 signed in members on the forum and over 3500 guests viewing it.

Discussion areas cover most of the topics that the blog covers and in many areas there’s a lot of action (literally millions of posts).

Screen shot 2009-09-09 at 2.11.41 PM.png

2. Digital Photography School – I quickly added a forum area to my own photography blog not long after I started the site as I began to hear from readers that they didn’t want to just respond to what I had to say – but they wanted to start conversations, ask questions and share what they were learning themselves.

This forum doesn’t get as many unique visitors as the blog area on DPS but it does drive a lot of page views. It also converts pretty well in terms of advertising and over time has been picking up speed as more and more members join and as the site begins to grow in it’s search engine ranking.

Other Examples include:

There are of course many others – feel free to suggest more in comments below.

Advantages of Forums

There are many advantages of starting a forum. Here are four that come to mind for me (and they just scratch the surface):

1. Increased reader engagement – one of the things that I noticed after starting the forum on DPS was that it seemed to hook people into the site for a longer period of time. Most blogs have a life cycle in terms of new readers where the average reader will eventually move on from the blog as their interests change, as their knowledge grows, as they master the topic being explored. However starting a membership or community focused area gives those who might move on from your blog a reason to stay connected – the relationships that they form. I know I have a few members of the DPS community who for one reason or another moved on from being blog readers but who are still central members of the forum.

The key thing is that forums require people to ‘sign up’ or become a member. This requires people to ‘buy in’ or invest a little something into your site which gives you a point of contact (you get email addresses etc) but also creates a point of connection and sense of ownership of your site in your reader. This extra engagement often leads to long term relationships and loyalty.

2. User Generated Content – one of the things I’ve been experimenting with in the DPS forum is to set up a ‘photography tutorials’ area. In this area we encourage readers to share what they’re learning about photography. It’s been a successful area of the forum for two reasons – firstly it creates useful content that other forum members enjoy but secondly it also has created content that I then can use on the blog.

Example: today I put together this post – 21 Great Reader Shots [And How They Took Them]

3. Increase Page Views – as mentioned above – my photography forum doesn’t get as many unique visitors to it as the blog area – but it does drive a lot of page views because each visitor who comes tends to view more pages per visit. This is fairly typical of forums as the way they’re set up tends to drive people to view multiple threads and view a thread multiple times as they interact with others. This can be a good way of making money via impression based advertising (although it can decrease the overall CPM rate if you’re using AdSense as someone viewing multiple pages is probably less likely to click ads).

What I find with having both a blog and forum is that there are some great cross promotional opportunities. In blog posts I’m constantly referring to threads in the forum that have examples of what I’m talking about or that I set up for people to share photos on the topic I’m talking about. Similarly in the forum we often point people with questions to tutorials in our forums. While some people tend to stay in one or the other of the areas – there’s a fair bit of cross over.

4. Appeal to a Different Type of Reader – I discovered a month or two into DPS forums that quite a few of those joining never read the blog area and that quite a few blog readers had little interest in using the forum. While some do use both areas it became evident to me that quite a few people preferred one medium over the other and that the two sections were appealing to two different types of people. I’m not sure if it’s to do with personality, demographic or learning style – but I guess we each find different mediums more appealing and starting a forum gives another option for people to connect with your site.

Challenges of Membership Areas

1. Moderation – most bloggers understand the challenge of moderating comments and protecting their blogs from spammers. On a blog comment moderation can be enough for some bloggers to give up and close comments – but on a forum there’s no such luxury because closing down comments kind of kills the whole purpose of a forum.

There are lots of tools and features of most forum platforms to help with this but in the end moderation takes a lot of time and effort. At DPS we have a growing team of volunteer moderators (lead by a paid community manager) to tackle this challenge. Much of their time is taken with dealing with spammers or trolls.

2. Community Building – our moderation team is not just there to police the negative stuff happening on the blog but also to grow/build the community. Building community doesn’t just happen – you can’t expect to just set up a forum area and automatically have community – it takes work, creativity and time.

3. Critical Mass – one of the biggest challenges with forums is having enough critical mass to be able to kick them off and attract other readers. This is why I didn’t start a forum on DPS immediately – I wanted to grow the blog’s readership first. I also started a Flickr group before the forum to grow a community there that I could then transition into a blog.

The other thing I did to get the forums active before going live was to invite a smaller group of my key commenters from the blog and long term newsletter subscribers to get early access to the forum so there was some activity there when the site went live.

Concluding Thoughts on Forums/Membership Areas

Forums are not easy. While they have many plusses they take a lot of work and time to build. They’re probably best suited to blogs with an established readership or list to help kick things off but also where the topics lend themselves to discussion, sharing of opinions or sharing of something else (eg. pictures).

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Written on September 6th, 2009 at 12:09 am by Darren Rowse

Hobby Blogs: Making Profits from your Hobby

Miscellaneous Blog Tips 88 comments

In this post Kevin Sanders shares some introductory reasons to take a hobby and blog about it. In effect this is the way that I personally got into blogging – there was no intent of my blogs being anything more than hobbies in my early days – but out of writing about things I was passionate about emerged a business…. Now it’s over to Kevin….

I’ve been going to the gym for about twenty years. I’m not a professional bodybuilder or fitness instructor – lifting weights is just a hobby of mine. But I’ve learned a lot over the years, and I’ve even trained some of my friends. I often give (free) advice about exercise, diet and supplements.

I asked myself this question about ten months ago: Why haven’t I created a fitness blog? I loved the topic, and I already knew the basics of blogging.

So I did it – I created StrongandFit.net. I started blogging, using tips I learned here at problogger.net. Slowly but surely, the traffic started coming. My fitness blog is now most visited (and most profitable) blog. My only regret is I didn’t start it sooner.

Here’s my point: I think there are millions of people who have untapped earning potential in their hobbies (a certain blogger’s digital photography hobby comes to mind). They’ve just never taken the time to share their valuable experiences and expertise online.

Here are some advantages to blogging about your hobby:

Ready-made niche

All the pros agree – you should choose a niche you are passionate about. Well, a hobby is something you already love enough to do with your free time. Seems like the perfect place to start!

Ready-made posts

You’ve probably already invested time, effort, and money into your hobby. Maybe you’ve even answered questions about it or shown others how to get involved. In other words, you probably already have dozens of posts swimming around in your head. All you have to do is take the time and write them down.

Ready-made affiliate opportunities

Most hobbies have books, magazines, equipment, or other products/services. You’ve probably already invested in some of these and formed an opinion regarding which are most valuable. In other words, you are already set to endorse certain products. Your reviews could earn money and help others make good choices.

Re-Energize your hobby

Blogging could get you more involved in something you’re already passionate about. It could even get you back into something you once enjoyed. The process of blogging (research, forums, etc) has an energy to it that ads to the fun.

No expertise necessary

What if you are a novice? No problem! Just be honest about it and invite others along your journey – share what you are doing. Here’s an example from the fitness niche: I’ve seen several blogs created by overweight individuals who want to document their weight loss journey. Some of these are quite inspirational.

If you never make money, it’s OK – its just a hobby

As Darren has pointed out, most of us probably won’t make big money from blogging. My blog is making a little money for me, but I’m nowhere near ready to quit my day job. But that’s the beauty of a hobby blog – you’ll have so much fun you’ll be willing to wait for the profits.

Final Thoughts:

You have a hobby, don’t you? What are you waiting for? Start a blog and monetize it! You have nothing to lose.

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Are you ready to celebrate the successful launch of your new company blog? Technically speaking, the launch went off without a hitch. Your content is fresh, informative and even entertaining. And your blog’s design is well-branded and intriguing.

But before you pop open the bottle of champagne, consider one more piece of the puzzle: blog subscribers. You’ve made an RSS feed available, but no one seems to be subscribing.

In order for a blog to generate links and traffic over the long term, you must devise a strategy to acquire an active group of passionate and engaged readers. Use these 5 basic tips as a starting point for gaining blog subscribers:

1. Make it easy and obvious for readers to subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed. You can achieve this by:

Allowing one-click subscriptions

• Offering email subscription for the large percentage of readers who may not be familiar with RSS

• Using auto-discovery tags so the RSS icon will appear on the side of the address bar of most browsers

• Displaying the RSS icon where readers will see it (above the fold, on every blog page and at the bottom of every post)

• Including text with the RSS icon for readers not familiar with RSS (for example, “Subscribe Now!”)

2. Take advantage of feed directories. With feed directories, you won’t see hundreds of new blog subscribers to your RSS feed immediately. But you will reach the portion of readers who use these directories to find and subscribe to new feeds. Find a list of submission URLs for RSS directories that you can submit your feed to.

3. Leverage all available resources. If you have an existing blog, newsletter, forum or social media following, you may have an easy time convincing that audience to subscribe to your new blog’s RSS feed. Plus, if they truly enjoy your content, they may recommend your RSS feed to others. If you don’t have a ready-made audience to rely on, identify a related blog to leverage. Work out an agreement where you’ll promote his or her blog on yours, and vice versa.

4. Think outside the box. Offer an interactive quiz or poll on your blog to entice and entertain readers, but require them to become blog subscribers in order to participate. Or, run a contest that requires a subscription, and create a badge for the winner to be placed on his or her site and link back to your blog. Have some fun and draw added attention to your RSS feed icon by incorporating an animated image.

5. Write often and write well. Don’t underestimate the power of quality content. Without relevant, timely and entertaining content, your readers have no incentive to subscribe to your blog RSS feed. Also, publish frequently and consistently—not just for search ranking purposes, but also so potential blog subscribers know your site is active.

What tactics do you think are most effective for gaining subscribers to your blog?

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By John Herrman, 5:39 PM on Mon Sep 14 2009, 3,129 views (Edit, to draft, Slurp)

Oh, what a romantic vision Microsoft has here, with Visual Search: Imagine a search engine that served up results in images instead of text, and had easily-recognizable pictures, organized by topics and other parameters, which you could narrow down until you found what you were looking for. That dude, with the hair, in that movie? Done. The camera, with the stumpy lens and retro body? Found. That girl, in that band, with that smile, and that voice? Binged.

Except Visual search can’t really do any of these things yet, because it’s just a small collection of indexed photo albums, at least for now. Oh well! Give it a try anyway, right here. (Warning: You must be Silverlit). [Microsoft]

From the Team at WebWitches

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The PR industry is in a state of flux with changes in the print industry, citizen journalism and the social web. Consumer behaviors with information discovery, consumption and sharing have been significantly affected by the dramatic increase in social platform usage and ease of self publishing.

Companies that rely on reaching and engaging those consumers through PR and marketing vendors and/or internal professionals need to carefully consider what skills and capabilities are needed to succeed. I’ve asked Adam Singer at TopRank to present his view on the matter and he’s come up with the following post.]

Jason Falls recently made a smart comment about the need for Public Relations professions to be “social media ready”.  In that post, he referenced a 2009 “Digital Readiness Report” to assess the specific social media marketing skills companies are looking for in a PR vendor.

The report provides useful insight for identifying a qualified agency as an external partner in today’s competitive and increasingly digital PR landscape.

As an active practitioner in the SEO, Social Media and Digital PR field for over 6 years, TopRank wholeheartedly believes communications and marketing professionals that work on behalf of clients need an intimate knowledge of how search/social and PR intersect.  For companies that are wondering whether their current marketing and PR vendors we’ve put together a 10-question assessment to get a better understanding of what skills are needed to be competitive in an increasingly digital world.

1. Are you implementing social media marketing, but not SEO?
According to the Digital Readiness Report mentioned above, social media adoption outranks organic SEO. Yet more than 82% of Internet users surveyed in “When Did We Start Trusting Strangers” (published by Tom Smith, one of the researchers of the Digital Readiness Report) stated search engines are the tools most frequently used to source information about products, brands and services. That disconnect reinforces the need for SEO as a primary “pull-based” digital marketing tactic.

2. Do your social media and SEO efforts work together?
SEO and social media have a clear intersection, and if you are practicing both, they should work together. SEO strategy infused with your social media marketing efforts can directly influence the discovery of communities and content via search engines. Additionally, social content can boost links to your website, improving search traffic and online sales. In other words, if you’re going to create it, why not optimize it? There’s a danger in treating social media and SEO as separate silos.

3. How do you measure the return on investment of your social media engagement efforts?
The multitude of conversations happening about your brand in the social web are no doubt difficult to measure. But considering the impact and influence of those conversations, thinking strategically about how to measure social interaction becomes crucial. After determining what you’re trying to achieve, you need to create the right mix of tools to measure it (standard web analytics, blog metrics, social media monitoring, etc.).

4. Is social media something you do in your spare time, or is it a core function that requires a dedicated resource?
Whether your marketing, PR or customer service department is responsible for social media efforts, or you choose to outsource, determine who owns each tactic, ensure you have the appropriate resources and provide ample training opportunities. You’ll only get out as much as you put in. Agencies can easily add “social media” to their list of capabilities, but it’s important to get examples and evidence of the agency’s own social participation.

5. How much effort is put toward managing the search and social media friendliness of your corporate website?
The 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer indicates that companies’ own websites are viewed as more credible sources of information than blogs, social networks or advertising. That, combined with the positive effects that frequently updated, quality content can have on search rankings, presents a strong case for investing in content management. If your marketing strategy does not emphasize high-quality, relevant content to attract visitors to your site, you may be missing out on an excellent opportunity.

Whether its for specific company names and brands or generic terms relevant to products/services, content on company web sites provide significant opportunities for discovery by industry analysts, journalists and bloggers as well as consumers. Further enabling that content to be saved and shared with others in a social context helps that content travel and facilitates distribution to audiences “off site”, increasing exposure.

6. How strategic are the recommendations for the company blog?
The highest-ranked digital skill for large organizations, according to the Digital Readiness Report, is blogging. Those skills should include the ability to develop a strategized blog content plan based on what resonates with readers. That might include a scheduled, specific mix of posts on subjects relevant to your niche in a variety of formats. Now that every company is in effect a media company, begin to think like an editor and have an audience acquisition strategy in mind. Start to think of blogging holistically and comprehensively.

Anyone can “set up” a blog, but there’s a very big difference between setting up a blog or web site and doing so in a way that is successful for reaching business goals. Agencies should practice what they preach to clients in this area more than just about any other social web activity.

7. What is your company’s approval process for micro-blogging?
According to the Digital Readiness Report, micro-blogging has grown slightly larger than blogging (62% vs. 59%). User adoption of micro-blogging is high because it’s quick and easy. The benefit of this communication mechanism lies in its speed and agility. Are you slowing the process or short-circuiting the potential success of a micro-blogging campaign with a lengthy approval process? Or are you agile in your micro-blogging efforts? Do you have established processes that provide guidance as well as flexibility? Roles for public facing employees and how they communicate on the social web are essential.

8. Is your current PR agency effectively optimizing your news content for search and social media?
Who are your customers and with what kind of content are you engaging them?  What are their preferences for types of content and frequency of communication? Which sites do they visit, and how often?

PR departments don’t typically have control over all corporate web site content, but they do typically influence what is posted on newsrooms including: press releases, announcements, case studies, media coverage, newsletters, webinars etc.  Each piece of content or media published online can serve as an entry point to your message. It’s essential then, that your PR staff or vendor is working to help make that content visible via search and/or social channels.

9. What is your PR firm’s true core competency: traditional PR or social media and SEO?
These days, the demand for traditional PR skills is starting to dip. 18% of respondents in the Digital Readiness Reports said they have no interest whatsoever in traditional PR.  And, for the vast majority of respondents, knowledge of social networks (80%), blogging, podcasting and RSS (87%), and micro-blogging (72%) is either important or very important when it comes to PR and marking hiring.

How does your PR firm and staff measure up?  The lines are blurring in capabilities between PR and Marketing consultants. Discover the core capabilities of the agencies or consultants you work with and decide of they best match with your internal resources.

10. Have you considered hiring a social media specialist?
The Digital Readiness Report found that while 43% of large organizations are interested in hiring a social media specialist, only 23% of small to mid-sized firms are. Many organizations say they’re serious about social media and new media communication and recognize the need for it. But that requires backing it up with dedicated human resources with the appropriate knowledge and experience – or potentially outsourcing it.

What other questions should companies ask their PR firms regarding SEO and social media expertise?

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Facebook’s most Twitter-like feature yet – the ability to include other users in messages using the “@” symbol – is now live.

As we reported last week, the feature doesn’t include just users though. Brands (Facebook Pages), events, and groups can all be included in status updates using the syntax.

The feature includes auto-suggest, so as you type after the “@” symbol, FacebookFacebookFacebook

lets you select users from a drop-down menu. Meanwhile, after you’ve tagged someone in an update, they get a notification, as well as a post on their wall.

When you look at other user’s status updates that include use of “@” the names are clickable. In this example, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Kanye West, and MTV can all be clicked, which sends users to the respective fan pages of each.

For the moment, it doesn’t appear there is any aggregated view of status updates that mention you – however, since they end up on your wall, which also includes the “just friends” filter, you’re left with essentially the same thing as Twitter’s @mentions feature.

Seeing this feature live certainly drives home the point – at least for me – that this is a major competitive threat to TwitterTwitterTwitter

(see also: Facebook @Mentions: Five Ways They Could Impact Twitter) in the long-term.

What do you think now that you’ve seen it and had a chance to play? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Regards from the team at WebWitches

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Regards from the team at WebWitches
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