All posts by Nipa Shah

Why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your website is similar to driving directions for a car driver!

I believe that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to a website what a map (or driving directions) is to a car driver. Let me explain.

If you are driving from Michigan to Florida, even without a map, you’ll eventually get there! It will take you longer; with lots of stops to ask for directions, turning around due to wrong turns you may end up taking, getting stuck in long traffic backups due to construction, and taking a longer path because you just don’t know the short-cuts that can shorten the trip to your destination. So, like I said, you will get there! It just will take longer than you expected, may cost you more than originally planned, and will leave you with frustration over a long and tiring trip. (Now if you enjoy wandering around and in general taking three times as long to get somewhere, then this analogy becomes pointless, :)).

Similarly then, without Search Engine Optimization, your website may eventually get ranked in search engines. But like the driver without a map (or directions), your website may take years to get any kind of placement in search engines. If that happens, you will also have a lost opportunity cost from not making it in front of the customers who were searching for what you sell and thus losing out to your competition that does show up. Lastly without Search Engine Optimization, you will have to spend more money on offline and online marketing (pay per click, banner ads, etc.) to generate visibility for your online presence.

And if you end up getting the wrong directions (as in, getting an SEO practitioner who really isn’t an SEO practitioner), then beware! This will result in you spinning your wheels even longer, thus leading to more frustration not to mention loss of productivity and potential revenue.
So!

As you create your 2009 business plan, do set aside a budget for Search Engine Optimization, identify a Search Engine Optimization expert who knows what he/she is doing, and get on the world wide web with a set of driving directions (as in Search Engine Optimization!) that will get you in front of searching customers, lots of targeted traffic, and a ton of conversions in the form of clients.

Here’s to your success in 2009!

There is life beyond Social Networking!

Lately, I’m quite active on Facebook and Twitter; have made many friends and really enjoy the light banter, heavy discussions, and general networking with folks located locally and globally.

So over thanksgiving break, we were at a friend’s home watching the news about the horrible tragedy unfolding in Mumbai (terrorist blasts at hotels, etc.). As the news comes on, I whip out my phone to update my twitter buddies of what was happening in Mumbai. I did that 2-3 times that night thinking how cool it was to network and still spend time with friends and family.

My better half (who is not on twitter) gave me a look once or twice and I thought oh, oh! I’m doing exactly what I told my kids not to do, I was getting hooked to this social networking. There continued to be an urge to whip out the phone and update people all weekend long, every time I was driving somewhere (not doing that for sure), each time we were out at our friends’ homes, or even when we sitting around watching a movie.

Fortunately for me, I know when I’m doing something in the extreme. And so after four days, it hit me. I realized that I was so busy updating others on what was happening in my life that I was not living my life fully!

So as much as I enjoy networking, and I really, really do enjoy it, after Thanksgiving 2008, I decided that my phone would stay hidden in my purse anytime I am out with my family. That means that when I leave home, no updating status, no looking to see who is discussing what, no checking who @ messaged me or DM’d me, period.

And I know that my Twitter and Facebook buddies would agree with me when I say that “there is life beyond Social Networking”.

Why Small Businesses don’t Invest in Search Engine Marketing!

I get a LOT of inquiries from people who want to learn more about our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services. But it is very difficult to sell search engine marketing to small businesses. A recent study from Microsoft adCenter provides insight into why small businesses don’t invest in Search Engine Marketing. Here are some reasons cited:

  • Nearly nine in 10 (89 percent) feared keywords may become too expensive
  • Eighty-one percent questioned if paid search marketing is the best use of their marketing budgets
  • One quarter of respondents believe paid search marketing is too complex
  • Twenty-one percent thought it would be too time-consuming
  • Thirty-five percent felt they would need an agency to help set up a search marketing campaign

See, now I just don’t get the results. To me, it’s quite simple. This is the Internet age. A business that doesn’t have an internet strategy is plain and simple missing the boat.

So here are my responses to the above reasons cited:

Yes, SEO is not inexpensive, but then so is getting expert help in other areas of business like legal, accounting, operations, sales, etc.

If 70% of the population (or more) search online first before they go anywhere near a store, why isn’t search marketing the best use of your marketing budget?

Yes, search marketing is complex but that’s why you have to hire people like us who know what we are doing (sure you can check references out to weed out the bad from the good)

Yes, it is time consuming but that’s why you retain experts who can do it without you having to spend time on it directly

And so what’s the problem with retaining an outside agency? In business, you focus on your strengths and you outsource your weaknesses

Ok, so! If you are a small business owner, I’m waiting to hear from you. Don’t get left behind!

P.S. We have a specially discounted rate SEO if you sign up by December 31st, 2008.

Making Social Media Marketing Successful!

I’ve been very active on Facebook and Twitter of late. Connecting with old friends, forming new relationships, bantering with perfect strangers, exploring business ideas with others, and driving the family crazy by being glued to the computer are all part and parcel of being an “Internet Social Bee”.

(And since we provide Social Media Marketing services to some of our clients, everything new that I learn, I pass it on to my team.)

But I’m finding that what to do and what not to do is a little bit intuition mixed in with observation of what others are doing. And observing what others are doing that I shouldn’t do.

So I read with interest, the story about Proctor & Gamble not doing so well in Social Media Marketing: http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2008/12/procter-gamble-doesnt-understand-social-media.html.

The author of the article states:

“So why is Procter & Gamble failing in the world of social media? Maybe, because they aren’t being social! Brands need to engage with real conversations, using real spokes people that are able to make personable connections with their target audience.”

And that my friends is the bottom-line!

The theory that applies to offline marketing is the same that applies to online marketing. So make your social media marketing successful by doing the following

  1. Connect, really connect with people
  2. Have actual conversations
  3. Don’t sell

Remember, the focus should be on building long-term relationships, rather than making a quick sale.

Social Media Websites for Business Networking

So you want to start marketing using social media websites? You’ve begun to do a little bit with Linkedin.com and Twitter.com. And you know all about Facebook and Myspace.

There are so many sites out there, but which ones would be best for business networking?

Well here is my first list of five networking sites which can provide business benefits

1. Digg it (www.diggit.com): A very popular social news website which covers pretty much all topics you can imagine. It also has a separate video and image section.

Social Media Marketing

2. Stumble Upon (www.stumbleupon.com): StumbleUpon discovers web sites based on your interests with a personalized engine which learns what you like, and brings you more

Social Media Marketing

3. Small Business Brief (http://www.smallbusinessbrief.com): This site focuses on small business news. It covers topics such as marketing and sales, website development, management and entrepreneurship

Social Media Marketing

4. Hubspot (http://links.hubspot.com): Social news site for marketers, entrepreneurs and business professionals.

Social Media Marketing

5. PlugIM (http://www.plugim.com): PlugIM is an internet marketing community site which covers topics such as search engine optimization, business and marketing.

Social Media Marketing

I’ll provide more lists in upcoming weeks. Do check these sites out and provide feedback on what if any benefit you’ve gained from using them.

Social Networking for Business Owners

It drives my kids up the wall, I’m on Facebook and all their friends are now my friends. When I comment on something, they laughingly say “you’re stalking me, mom, I’m going to take you off my friend list”. (Hasn’t happened yet so I think they aren’t really serious about that.)

But what’s a 40 something year old (and a business owner at that) doing on Facebook?

People know Linkedin well, and don’t raise an eyebrow when asked if they are in linkedin. That’s because Linkedin is primarily used for professional networking. But you ask them if they are on Facebook or Twitter and they look at you like you’ve lost it.

I have a profile on all three and some more sites like ecademy, myspace (yeah, who wants to be there anymore?) and several other sites.

But I primarily use Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter. These sites allow me to form new business relationships. And by showing ongoing updates on both twitter and facebook, I keep in front of new contacts so that they become aware of me and my business.

I do choose who I wish to network with. I’m also a bit averse to connecting with someone who’s just going to bombard me with “buy this” messages. But all in all, posting comments on Facebook and Twitter has become second nature to me in the past few weeks.

So how has that helped me?

Well, I am now connected to people or offices which I could never reach without these social networking sites. I follow people like Barack Obama (truly!), Whitehouse, Governor Granholm, and many more. No, they are not my “friends” per say. But I can read what they are up to and they can read my posts (if they were so inclined). Pre-Facebook and Twitter, could you ever get that close to the president, governor, and the president elect and actually get a chance to do one-on-one messaging to them?

Have I closed new business yet?

As far as business goes, well, I can’t say that I’ve closed sales one after the other due to my social networking. But I can say that I’ve increased branding and visibility, there is a sure increase in traffic, and I have the opportunity to explore business alliances with more people than ever before.

Will it lead to definite lead generation and closure? Not sure! But will it benefit me in the long run? Absolutely!

It will benefit me because using social networking sites, I am able to network with people across the world and eventually those people will become my referral sources just as I will become theirs. And that is invaluable in business.

So folks, if you’ve not yet joined the social networking revolution, start now. Just focus on one or two sites first. And remember, creating a profile and doing nothing with it is not social networking. Networking, whether offline or online, requires effort.

It’s quick and easy to do. It will take time so be aware of it. Don’t get obsessed by it but be sure to do a little online networking every day. So go now and create your profile on Facebook, Twitter, and any other site that catches your fancy. And be sure to add me to your “friends” or “follow” list.

My Twitter Experience

Although I have had a Twitter account set up for quite sometime, I’ve only recently begun active networking on Twitter. In five weeks I’ve gone from having 5 followers to 203. Not that that’s something to be awed by because I know many who have thousands of followers.

But I’ve decided not to get hooked to the numbers game. When I sell online marketing, I preach to my clients that, “it’s the quality of traffic that counts”, and so using that same mind set on twitter, I focus on following people who seem interesting rather than everyone and their brother.

When I asked an individual why he wasn’t following me when I was following him, his response was “I don’t have time to follow everyone who follows me”. And I thought huh? Isn’t networking supposed to be a two-way street? And so, I follow people who see the value in following me. And if I follow someone whom I find interesting and find that they don’t follow me, after a few days, not matter how interesting they may be, I un-follow them. That applies to everyone, including “media”.

I may not be able to communicate one-on-one with every individual that follows me. However I make an attempt to scan their messages each time I’m back online to make sure that I can add some value while networking with them.
So how can I summarize my twitter experience?

I find that some people post funny stuff, some others are simply there to self-promote (not that that’s a bad thing) and then there are others who actually do attempt to conduct active networking with others. There are some who don’t respond to @messages and then there are others who post inane comments all day long. All in all, online networking is not much different from offline networking where you run into similar personalities.

And although I’m trying to balance my “followers” and “following” number, I find that some days, the numbers are completely skewed. Like today, I have 203 followers but I’m following 243. Go figure!

As far as time goes, I find that although posting a 140 character message doesn’t take time, it does take time to actively network with others on Twitter. No different than networking with someone offline.

My postings on twitter haven’t resulted in any real business yet, but I have formed some interesting connections and I had the pleasure of seeing one of my tweets scrolling on CNN last night – :).

All in all, it’s been fun “tweeting” and I plan to continue, although on a little less frequency. That’s because I need to go do some “offline” business development to continue growing my business.