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To G or not to G? re-examining Google plus

googleplus
This weeks Blog Post has been rather a difficult one to write. it concerns the Google plus network, which I’ve examined in previous posts. Rumours continue to surround the future of the Google plus with observers split on the future of Google plus, one thing is for sure there’s an awful lot of confusion concerning Google plus, I’ll attempt to clarify matters with this article and examine the cases for and against Google plus together with my conclusions.

Social Network or Social Layer?

One of the most fundamental confusions has been concerning the purpose of Google plus, is it a social network a la Facebook and twitter or a Social Layer which integrates Google’s family of products such as You Tube, Google Calendar, G Mail and Google Docs. Unhelpfully I think its a bit of both and I’ll use two definitions of Google plus for the rest of this article, these being:
Social Network this is the service accessed by pressing the plus button when logged into a Gmail account with circles
Social Layer this is the way that Google plus accounts are integrated with services such as You tube(I can leave comments on you tube using my Google account)
More confusion stems from how Google calculates User figures for Google plus, the Bloomberg BusinessWeek famously described Google plus as a ‘ghost town’ and the social network is fairly quiet especially compared to its main rival Facebook, does pressing a plus button on an external website characterise someone as an active Google plus user? When compared against the Facebook social network Google plus has undoubtedly been a failure. I’ll now examine the arguments from both camps before offering my conclusions on Google plus

The Futures bright!

Most of the positive posts about Google plus’s future are now getting rather old they certainly predate the departure of Vic Gundotra from Google in April 2014 (he’s generally regarded as the main driving force behind Google plus), most of the Google plus articles since that watershed are considerably less upbeat. Generally the positive posts had an element of “Wait and See” about them and pointed to the potential of the Google plus, a potential I’d argue was hinted at but never truly fulfilled

Its dead in the water

After April 2014 the general view is less upbeat with some observers such as TechCrunch describing Google plus as walking dead this is despite protestations from Google spokespersons to the contrary,Marketingprofs.com point to Google transferring resources to other projects suggesting that

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Google+ has been massively deprioritized internally and is being disassembled, piece by piece.(Marketingprofs.com)

If taken alongside other consideration such as the ditching of Google Authorship in June 2014 and the fact that the creation of new G Mail accounts no longer integrates new users into the Google plus superstructure, the future of Google plus as both social layer and social network looks pretty bleak.

Conclusions

Personally I don’t feel that Google plus has much of a future as either social network or social layer however it would in my opinion be premature to discount it altogether as it is still integrated with local search even if in a somewhat haphazard manner, I do feel it would a waste of time and resources trying to develop a major presence on the Google plus Social Network however maintaining at least a company profile page would make some sense even if its just for Google local purposes.

Understanding the impact of Visual Content

visual content

(source Flickr:Shineswithoutend)


Although I attempt to avoid the use of clichés, sometimes they are the best way to illustrate a point (no pun intended), the adage in this case is ‘ a picture is worth a thousand words’, given the attention starved nature of the web, where a website or social channel has literally seconds to grab the attention of a viewer, it is for these reasons that industry experts are noting the growing importance of visual content/visual social media and that is what I’ll be focussing on with this weeks post. By Visual Content I mean images or videos, this definitely includes things such as infographics & photos.

Benefits of Visual Content

Engagement

Visual Content has a number of advantages over other types of information such as textual content.

A 2012 report by ROI Research found 44% of respondents were more likely to engage with brands that posted pictures on their social media channels rather than any other type of content (Source: Curve.gettyimages.com)

Emotional Connection

Photographs and other images are for more effective when it comes to conveying emotions that their textual equivalent, especially when other people and animals are featured in the photographs beautiful natural scenes also result in positive feelings, when it comes to emotions such as Joy or Sorrow, the effective use of photographic imagery has no equal. Redsicker argues that:

‘People connect more emotionally with images than they do with text. In fact, customers are more likely to take action or make a decision when prompted with an image.’(socialmediaexaminer.com)

When this engagement leads to the sharing of content, the results can be dramatic with viral videos and memes being a substantial part of what drives the social networks

Easily Absorbed Information.

One large advantage which visual information holds over textual is the ease and speed with which it is assimilated, up to 60,000 times more quickly according to some research (Walter & Gioglio 2014), in an age of limited attention spans this is a very desirable quality, especially when selling to a younger audience, Data visualization allows large amounts of data to be looked at quickly (Sviolka) this is why the use of infographics has seen such explosive growth in recent years, alongside standard inbound marketing considerations.

With the rise of social networks such as Flickr & Pinterest that are essentially visual in nature, the importance of visual content & social media is emphasized, This importance is likely to continue into the future, the purchase of Instagram (by Facebook) and Vine by twitter confirms this importance. Due to the fact the human brain is largely visual in nature, this importance is not likely to be lessened any time soon., therefore it is imperative your companies content & Social Media campaigns take the many advantages of visual data into account, for assistance in helping your company to develop an effective visual content marketing or visual social media contact me today, I’ll be delighted to help with any questions you may have

Local Search

Local Search

Local Search

This weeks blog post will examine the practicalities of obtaining a 7 pack local search placement for your SERP (Search Engine Results Page) listing, as web Developers have only just returned to local search listings I’m eager to secure a 7 pack listing for my own company website, this post will highlight the steps required for doing this.

What is the 7 pack?

The 7 pack is the name of the area reserved for local company listings on the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP), all of the major Search Engines (Google, Bing & Yahoo) have an area set aside for local search results, as the Google area frequently contains 7 company listings it is known as the 7 pack.

Citations

Citations are an essential element when developing a profile for local search; Rutledge suggests that ‘ the best way to target your area is to make sure your business is listed on every local web directory available’ (Rutledge 2014) these listings are classified as citations. Any website which makes reference to your company is a citation. Citations have been identified as a key component of the ranking algorithms for both Google and Bing (moz.com) who go on to suggest that a citations also validate that a business is a part of the community, this is especially true in less competitive niches where competitors are less likely to have company websites.

Citation Tools

Building an effective citation profile can be quite a time consuming process and to help a number of companies have developed tools to speed up the process and to check for errors in your citation profile such as inconsistencies, Unfortunately it looks like not all of the tools cater for the UK market.

Consistency

Consistency is a vital part of the efforts to obtain a 7 pack listing for your website, by this I mean the same NAP (Company name, address, phone number need to be employed between the various websites which are used form your local search profile, Google and the other search engines will penalise inconsistencies in this data and it ill affect your chances of attaining a 7 pack listing, for these reasons I find it useful to draw up a ‘standard profile’ before my profile building efforts get underway, this is usually in the form of a Word document containing Company name, address, phone number, website URL, email address and company description so I can simply copy & paste the information required when creating company listings and accounts on various websites such as Google plus, Yelp et al, it makes life a lot easier in the long run if profiles are created with consistent data rather than trying to adjust it later.

Schema.org and Microdata

On page optimisation also has a role to play in local Search with Rich Snippets being especially important; this involves using microdata which utilises the schema.org vocabulary this puts your company data into a format readily understood by the Search Engines when they crawl your website.

Engagement merely a buzzword? These 4 metrics will change your mind

conversation

attrib:Flickr(Kevin Van den Panhuyzen)


In this weeks blog post I will be examining what I personally regard as the most important factor when social media is part of a company’s marketing efforts, Engagement. If followers are to be a part of a proprietary audience then its engagement that is required to turn them into more than simple vanity statistics such as number of followers, here I agree completely with Jeffrey Rohr who suggests that :

‘Use your Paid, Owned and Earned Media not only to sell in the short term but also to increase the size, engagement and value of your Proprietary audiences over the long term'(Rohrs 2013)

Rohr’s conclusion is that three elements are essential when developing proprietary audiences these being size, engagement and value (Rohrs 2013)

Genuine engagement goes far beyond a basic ‘like’ and the generic tactics utilised by organisations such as pictures of cute kittens, I’ll argue that real engagement is based on interaction above and beyond simple likes or pluses its based on conversation. I feel that ‘join the conversation’ almost qualifies as a banality such as ‘content is king’, if Social Media for business is allowed to degenerate into turgid missing caption competitions and the use of ‘cute’ stock imagery then its a real opportunity lost by Small Businesses to engage and build a genuine rapport with their clientele/customers so there is a need for businesses to genuinely join the conversation rather than just pretending to, engagement is earned it cannot really be bought.

The Measurement of Engagement

I appreciate that social media needs to be monitored, but while developing metrics and measurements practitioners could potentially fall into the cynic’s trap of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. At the heart of every Social Media success story lies engagement.

Metrics

Of all the Social Engagement Metrics I have examined, I prefer the ones proposed by Avinash Kaushik because they are readily measured but don’t rely on too esoteric metrics, the metrics he proposes are as follows:

• Conversation rate
number of replies per post
• Amplification rate
number of shares or retweets per post
• Applause Rate
number of likes, favourites or plus ones per post
• Economic Value
Value per visitor (kausik.net)

Kaushik states

Conversation Rate. Amplification Rate. Applause Rate. Economic Value. Four simple measures that get you to focus on the right thing from a social media participation perspective help you understand how well you are doing at it, and quantify the business impact. (kausik.net)

These Measurements offer the best of both worlds as they offer actual figures for those who like to measure the impact of social media additionally practitioners can easily monitor campaigns. Kausik helpfully suggests Analytics solutions capable of monitoring these metrics.

I believe that engagement lies at the heart of effective social media some commentators dismiss engagement as a meaningless buzzword I disagree completely and feel it’s a shame that that the term has been devalued, hopefully this article has provided food for thought and a possible solution for monitoring the impact of your social media efforts. Note that Carl Potts Designs offer social media campaigns designed specifically for Smaller Businesses contact me today to request a consultation.

Content Marketing is possibly the most influential trend in online marketing today with insert facts here.
I want to use this weeks post to explore the concept and clarify what successful content marketing requires then I’ll examine the benefits of content marketing, and how it fits into your overall marketing plan. We’ll then conclude with an overview of the takeaway points

What exactly is Content Marketing?

At first glance Content Marketing appears to be an easily understood model, a number of authors suggest that it’s nothing new only that delivery of engaging content via a website hub is a new variant of an old approach, examining the concept beyond the simplest level, Ann Handley suggests

‘Content is what sets your company apart – because it will define how you relate to your customers, and whether your customers choose you over anyone else’ (Curata 2013)

Joe Pulizzi argues that Content Marketing is far more than simply creating content which answers the questions of leads and potential customers, Content marketing sets out to complete business objectives which can include

• Increasing Website Traffic
• Brand Awareness and Visibility
• Asset Downloads
• Lead Generation
• Building trust
• Improving customer loyalty (Source: Curata 2013)

What are the benefits of Content Marketing?

Content marketing has a number of benefits, amongst these being
• Better Search Engine Rankings
• Developing customer trust
• Brand Recognition

It is a lot easier to publicise a website which is filled with great quality content which solves peoples problems as opposed to one with hardly any content. Search Engine Optimisation in 2014 is basically concerned with the development of good quality content, with recent Algorithm changes by Google such as Panda and Penguin have penalised sites with poor quality content, not so much ‘build it and they will come, rather answer their questions, entertain them and they might come’

Jay Baer suggests that top of mind awareness is a powerful sales tool i.e. when a customer thinks of a brand they think of your company, Content Marketing is a fantastic way for generating top of mind awareness especially when your content promoted via Social Media

Conclusions

We’ve seen that Content Marketing is not really a new approach to marketing it is however a new discipline (Pulizzi 2012) beyond the obvious creation of content there has to be underlying and measureable business objectives, it is not a case of simply ‘creating content for contents sake’, there is no need to go over the many benefits of content marketing again. The Consequences of having poor quality or little content are worth examining

• Lack of Customer engagement with high bounce rates
• Poor Search Engine rankings
Please note that the Carl Potts Designs Newsletter regularly covers topics such as ‘what is good quality content?’ and how can Website content be promoted effectively. Please signup today for the monthly newsletter if you would find further information on this subject and other online marketing topics interesting.

Theres Content Gold in them hills, are you standing out from your competition?

Gold Rush

Image from http://www.america101.us/

For this weeks Blog post, I’ll be returning to the content theme I’ve explored previously. By now it should be fairly obvious that I’m a firm believer in the advantages of content marketing. This post aims to go beyond the obvious and address the quality issue, which is in my opinion what differentiates great content from merely acceptable content. Great quality content shares many characteristics with good quality content however there is other qualities which make all the difference, that’s the ‘secret sauce’ if you like

Good Content

Good content has the following qualities, it is:

  • Authoritative and well researched
  • Interesting & informative,
  • Directly answers the requirements and needs of visitors i.e. targeted
  • Useful


Great Content is has all these qualities and the following in addition

• Passionate, the Author genuinely cares about the subject
• Sincere
• Fresh

Kristina Halvorson defines it thus:

Great content meets users’ needs and supports key business objectives. It engages and informs. It’s well written and intuitively organised. It keeps people coming back for more’

(Kristina Halvorson 2012)

Conclusions

In the great content gold rush of 2014, everyone (or nearly everyone) has been in a rush to create and offer free content. Personally I feel this is unsustainable. Far too much of the free content on offer is of mediocre quality and simply rehashes other peoples content. The Emphasis needs to be on quality over quantity, Google checks the quality of content as part of their Algorithms this includes factors such as spelling and grammar. Originality is another Factor that needs to be considered, although given the rate n which new content is being developed all the time, its hard if not difficult. Eschewing tired platitudes is a big step in the right direction, I won’t provide examples here I’m personally sick of seeing them. To show I’m not just Mr Negativity I’ll provide 3 examples of what I’d consider to be great content.

Renae Christine’s (http://richmombusiness.com) videos

Renae produces really great professional videos, her lively presentation style (which may take some getting used to), the branding between her videos is slick and consistent, difficult and possibly dry topics are covered with verve and style. In my opinion this is great quality content. A sense of fun infuses her videos this lifts it above the vast majority of her competitors who recite facts in a ‘bored nerd drone’. Her videos manage to combine this sense of fun with an awful lot of useful and relevant information. This is what in my opinion makes them great content.

The post ‘Web Design is 95% typography’ by Oliver Reichenstein

As one would expect from a typographic expert the layout of this article is impeccable, a number of issues are debunked by the author as he examines web typography in depth, a substantial number of additional resources are provided which will allow the reader to consolidate his or her knowledge of the subject and related areas. This in my opinion is what makes it great content and the 400 domains back linking to the article, underlines this verdict.The article can be viewed here

Which Social Network should my company use?A review of the factors involved

Which social Network should my company use?

This week’s blog post will focus on the choice of major social networks available. For Smaller Businesses, it’s unrealistic to cover every social network. So eventually a choice needs to be made which networks to cover. The considerations and criteria I use for making my choice will hopefully be of interest to people, especially those in a similar position and help them to reach considered decisions on behalf of their own business or company, I’ll examine 3 major networks from a local perspective (i.e. my local area (North Lancashire/South Cumbria where my prospective clients are generally located)

Facebook

Facebook is undoubtedly the most popular social network amongst my prospective client base, however it’s not all positive. Facebook has an excellent reach especially for paid ad placements, which are categorised as suggestions by Facebook, recently changes to Facebook such as the edgerank algorithm mean that organic (free) Facebook posts reach less people than was previously the case also Facebook can be somewhat difficult to take advantage of for sales purposes, its strengths are social so its excellent for brand awareness, however I’m not sure if I want if increasing brand awareness or sales as top priority from my social media effort.

Twitter

Twitter is another popular and established social network it's more accommodating for business use than Facebook, where business can be somewhat intrusive at times. The ‘salesperson in a soiree’ problem that was discussed in the Carl Potts Designs February Newsletter .As yet I’m not sure how well established twitter use is amongst SMEs I suspect it lags behind Facebook use in that sector as many SME business owners already have personal Facebook accounts. Prediction is not an exact science; however I expect twitter use to continue to grow in the SME sector over the next few years with SMEs becoming aware of the benefits of an active twitter presence, recent changes to Facebook organic (unpaid) reach will encourage SMEs to use other social networks, Twitter I suspect will be the main beneficiary of this.

Google plus

Google plus is the dark horse in the social network race. As a comparative latecomer its not as well established or widely known as Twitter or Facebook, which is ironic given the clout of Google, if Google plus is shown to have an impact on Search Engine results (especially Google) then I expect take-up of Google plus in the UK to increase dramatically as it has in the United States, I suspect YouTube (which Google own), Google Analytics and Gmail will encourage more businesses to examine Google plus

Conclusions

The Social Network market is in a constant state of flux as the major players vie for a larger market share. There’s no ‘one size fits all approach’ which will work for every business, it depends on your company’s client base and the networks they are currently using and the networks you think they’ll use in the near future, if your business is highly visual such as fashion or artwork then Facebook makes perfect sense especially if you serve a younger market, if your company wishes to make really effective use of social media then they need to try to make their product or service visually stimulating, or at least interesting which for certain industries could be fairly problematic(note: if you are solving the problems which trouble your customers you are by definition ‘interesting’ at least to your customers) so understanding what concerns your clients makes perfect business sense and will allow you to tailor your social media and content strategies accordingly. As I need to be very familiar with Facebook for business use I’ll continue to maintain a presence there, with my main focus being on twitter