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Vol. 76: Find Your Way to Sales and Marketing Success

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Find Your Way To Sales And Marketing Success - Eminent SEO Newsletter Vol 76

Synergy Between Your Sales and Marketing Teams

Whether you have an in-house marketing team or you use an agency, your sales and marketing teams must work in tandem. Yes, there will be some crossover as far as which team handles which duties. But ultimately, the two teams need to serve distinct (yet interrelated) roles.

Your marketing agency or in-house team is essentially responsible for delivering business leads, and then it’s up to your sales team to close those leads and produce revenue for your company.

This sequence is futile if the two sides don’t communicate well. The sales team must continually report and provide feedback on the quality of the leads. If the leads are mostly calling about general info or asking off-the-wall questions, then it’s up to the marketing team to refine its tactics and target a more specific potential buyer.

At Eminent SEO, it’s our goal to not only increase the number of your leads through digital channels, but to deliver highly qualified leads in the process. We strive to build positive rapport with your sales team to open up a constant dialog about the quality of your leads. It makes all of our jobs easier – and ends up with a better ROI for your sales and marketing dollars.

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Inspirational Quote

“The objective of all advertising is to buy new customers at a profit. Learn what your customers cost and what they buy … Spend all of your ammunition where it counts.”

– Claude C. Hopkins, “Scientific Advertising” (1923)

Website Highlights: Is Your Business Aligned for Sales and Marketing Success?

Sales + Marketing = SUCCESS - Eminent SEO

In her latest blog entry, Eminent SEO cofounder and CEO Jenny Stradling gets into the specifics on the roles that your marketing and sales teams play in achieving the overall goals of your business.

“What is the difference between a marketing-qualified lead and a sales-qualified lead?”

“How do I track sales back to their originating source?”

“Do I need to use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool for my business?

“What do I need to track in a CRM?”

See the answers to these and other relevant questions, along with insight into how to align your sales and marketing strategy, in the full article:

Sales & Marketing Alignment Advice

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At Eminent SEO, we love to educate our clients, fellow small business owners and the wider public on the basics of SEO, marketing and business needs. In talking among ourselves and to our clients, there are dozens of unique terms, abbreviations and slang we use quite often. Without a knowledge and understanding of the terms, how can you – as a business owner – understand how they affect your bottom line?

What is a website landing page?

What are long-tail keywords?

 

Use Our Free SEO Slang Resource to Get a Stronger Understanding of SEO

SEO & Marketing Terms to Know

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How to Build an Aligned Sales and Marketing Strategy

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Sales + Marketing = SUCCESS - Eminent SEO

In this post, I want to explore how and why sales and marketing strategies must align. I also want to share some tools that will help you build, monitor and track your campaigns and marketing ROI.

Who Does Sales and Who Does Marketing?

Generally, a business that doesn’t have an in-house marketing team will look for an agency, such as ours, to partner with. In this scenario, they are the sales team and we are the marketing team. Seems simple enough, right? Sadly, no.

Little Girl Suspicious Look - ESEOYears of working with sales teams both internally and those responsible on the client side has taught me that the roles and responsibilities aren’t always as clear as you’d like them to be.

There’s one more thing: The sales and marketing goals aren’t always aligned.

When misalignment exists, leads slip through the cracks and become lost. While it’s impossible to create THE end-all perfect lead generation pipeline with a 100 percent closing rate, maximizing the full potential of ALL marketing and sales efforts means you’re getting as close to perfect as possible.

The key is through effective communication between both sides.

The Need for an Aligned Sales and Marketing Strategy

The sales team needs to know AND fully understand what kind of performance data the marketing team relies onto measure success, and vice versa.

The marketing team needs to make sure every lead they’ve generated has the capability to seamlessly transition into becoming the sales team’s responsibility to close.

If the teams are using any automated tools, both need to understand how the other side reads the data – and how to use it to maximize efficiency.

According to The Aberdeen Group’s report:

In 2017, 92 percent of organizations reported below-average lead conversion rates because of misalignment between their marketing and sales teams. Click To TweetSimilarly, the sales teams who were top performers in their field were 76 percent more likely to report a “complete or strong alignment” with their marketing team.

A campaign where both halves understand each other’s differences in roles, responsibilities, goals and overall strategy – and have successfully aligned their efforts in a cohesive manner – will be losing fewer leads overall. That’s a win for both sides.

Tracking Every Customer

I get it, we all want MORE SALES! It’s true, but not all businesses have the ability to track their sales to the source. It’s easy if you’re an eCommerce business and the entire sales transaction happens online.

But, what about the brick-and-mortar stores who are using digital marketing to get people into their shops? I guess you could have the cashier ask them how they heard about you, but in the end, is a handful of responses indicating “Google” as the lead source really going to empower you to make better marketing decisions?

I doubt it.

As marketers, how do we even begin to work toward getting “more sales” if we don’t even know which key performance indicators (KPIs) to focus on?

Marketing Key Performance Indicators

Marketers need DATA! The only way any of us are ever going to provide a client with an accurate lead generation report is to have the proper tools and processes in place.

Typical campaign KPIs we track and report on include:

  • Organic marketing keyword impressions and rankings
  • Website traffic data, per source type (direct, organic, referral, social, paid, etc.)
  • Website traffic trends and user behavior
  • Conversion rates, per type (phone calls, form fills, eBook downloads, chats, subscribers)
  • Off-site marketing conversion rates, per type (email opens, social followers, fan submissions)
  • Marketing platform insights, such as increased page likes and followers
  • Marketing return on investment (ROI)

In order to track these metrics, we use:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • Keyword tracking tools
  • Call tracking tools
  • Website and social platform chat tools
  • Platform insights
  • Other paid reporting tools

Sales Key Performance Indicators

These KPIs and reports are certainly useful and important to the sales team. But, among those responsible for conversions, you will hear this time and time again: “We only care about sales”.

Sales can be nearly impossible to track for some businesses without the sales team entering data into the tools. How can your marketing team track sales if they only happen offline?

If you are an addiction treatment center, for example, and you take phone calls as a primary lead source, what happens after the call? Do you make notes in a call tracking system? Then what? Does the “lead” get manually placed into a CRM? Do you have a CRM?

If you are a call-centric business or if your sales cycle isn’t completed entirely online, then you MUST have a CRM.

What is a CRM?

A CRM is a customer relationship management tool. This is where you can house your contacts and manage your leads.

Do I still need to notate my call tracking tool if I have a CRM?

YES! Your CRM will help you manage your leads.

If a lead closes and it came in from a phone call, you should always go back to your call tracking system and enter in the conversion information. This allows the marketing team to export the calls and determine which ones converted into sales…and which ones didn’t.

And not just calls, but the source of the call. Don’t you want to know where your conversions are coming from? Was it the Facebook ad campaign or the email marketing?

By scoring the calls and entering in conversion data, the sales AND marketing teams will know what is and isn’t working.

Website Leads Website Sessions Comparison Report Chart - Eminent SEO

The Difference Between Marketing and Sales Qualified Leads

Now that we all agree the marketing team can’t perform its job without the sales data and input from the sales team, how do we know who is responsible for what?

Marketers generate leads.

Sometimes, however, lead generation focuses on different stages of the buyer’s journey. This means not everyone is ready to BUY NOW.

So, we develop various funnels and lead capture opportunities to catch the various buyers at every stage in the journey.

We then group the leads into two types:

  • Marketing Qualified Leads
  • Sales Qualified Leads

Marketing qualified leads are typically website visitors who downloaded a gated asset, such as an eBook or brochure, in exchange for their email info. They can also be newsletter subscribers, quiz participants, event attendees or webinar signups.

Really, an MQL can be anyone who connected with us and provided contact information, but has not yet requested a call or more information from the sales team.

Sales qualified leads can start as a marketing lead and turn into a sales qualified lead when they explicitly express interest in purchasing.

Similarly, they can start as a sales qualified lead if they:

  • Call
  • Initiate a chat
  • Request more information
  • Fill out a sales form (such as insurance verification, intake form or consultation request)

As marketers, we need a system and the right tools to generate and nurture the marketing qualified leads. We can then convert them into sales leads through a manual process, or we can work with the sales team to align the systems and tools to automate the lead-management process for reduced human error and better lead management overall.

Generally, this system is a CRM.

Marketing and Sales Automation Tools

It might sound complicated, but it’s really not that difficult to manage the tools once you set them up properly and the teams are both trained on how to use them.

Unfortunately, there isn’t one singe tool that will provide the sales and marketing teams with everything they need.

As outlined above, your marketing may rely on several tools to track and report on your multi-channel marketing campaigns.

Today, most of the paid tools open up their API so developers can code integrations. Still, this does require an expert who understands the technical side of things if you want to automate the process.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

You can automate most of the marketing and sales funnel, but there will always be some pros and cons when doing so. Automation tools are pricey and require a professional team to setup and manage.

On the other hand, you can manually manage your leads and save costs on automation tools and supporting marketing materials – but at what cost to your bottom line? How many leads get forgotten when there is no CRM to store and manage them? How much time is wasted manually emailing leads that aren’t qualified for the sales team?

Automation costs more on the front end to set up and manage. But in the long run, you’ll save on:

  • Avoiding human error
  • Automating lead capture
  • Paying an employee to follow up with the unqualified leads
  • Automating lead nurturing
  • Reusing emails and assets in automation campaigns
  • Leveraging the tool data in the marketing strategy development

Even if you decide not to automate, you still need to manage and track your leads. And unless your business gets less than a handful of leads a month and you can manage them in a shared Google document or other free tool, you should consider getting a CRM.

There are free CRMs, such as the HubSpot CRM FREE, that allow you to test using a tool to manage your sales pipeline without making a huge investment into customization and integrations. It’s literally free, forever. We like that.

Free Hubspot CRM Landing Page - ESEO

Creating an Aligned Marketing and Sales Strategy

We begin by outlining all of the marketing channels. This should include both digital and direct marketing sources:

Multi-Channel Marketing Venn Diagram - Eminent SEO

We then like to think through the possible conversion actions, per source. This includes:

  • Calls
  • Chats
  • Downloads
  • Subscribes
  • Likes
  • Messages
  • Submissions
  • Form fills

All of these user actions or conversions are trackable with:

  • Call tracking
  • Chat tracking
  • Website form capture
  • CRM lead capture
  • Social insights
  • Email tools
  • Reporting tools

The sales team is responsible for:

  • Scoring calls
  • Scoring chats
  • Managing sales leads
  • Entering in sales conversion data
  • Providing feedback to the marketing team

The Marketing Team’s Responsibilities

The marketing team is responsible for:

  • Ensuring the tools are set up and integrated properly
  • Monitoring social messages
  • Generating leads
  • Nurturing marketing qualified leads
  • Reporting on marketing and sales KPIs
  • Using sales data in developing the marketing strategies

Marketing keeps the channels up to date with branded assets, such as:

  • Content pages
  • Images and graphics
  • Videos
  • eBooks and white papers
  • Blog posts
  • New landing pages
  • Infographics
  • Quizzes

Marketing also performs ongoing strategy development and campaign management tasks, such as:

  • Organic outreach
  • Guest blogging
  • Email campaigns
  • Paid ads
  • Social engagement
  • Media buys
  • Keyword research
  • Technical SEO
  • Editorial calendar development
  • Competitive analysis

When both sales and marketing agree to the strategy, we upload it into a shared Google doc and privately share it to the various members of the teams. This way, we all have an open, shared document to reference that outlines the marketing channels.

Using a Google doc also makes it easy to add columns for identifying who is responsible for which leads, the tool used, steps in the lead workflow management, and final “house” for the lead once it’s converted (or dead).

Lead And Sales Lifecycle Strategy Google Spreadsheet - Eminent SEO

Defining and Measuring Your Marketing and Sales Goals

Each business is unique. Your service offering, your product, your marketplace, your competition, your history, your mission – these are all defining variables. It’s important for your sales and marketing teams to review all of the data, put the data in context and create a shared short- and long-term set of goals.

You’ll need to review:

  • What your unique value propositions are: What sets you apart from your competition? Why are you special?
  • Who your audience is: Are they searching for your brand or products? Where do they “live” online? Is there a demand for your services?
  • Who your competition is: What are they doing with their website and marketing? What do you have to do in order to compete?
  • Your existing website and digital assets: Are they optimized for the engines and your audience? Do you need a new design as well as marketing materials?
  • What your brand says to the world: Who are you and what is your mission? Does your brand and reputation say “work with me”?

Depending on your overall existing digital footprint, you may need to factor in a bigger budget or a longer amount of time to reach your goals.

Aim for a Mix of Short-Term and Long-Term Victories

It’s possible to speed up the process of lead generation with paid ads and low-hanging-fruit opportunities. The only time these shortcuts wouldn’t apply is with your organic marketing, because there is no amount of money you can spend to speed up the process of building trust within your niche. Trust comes with age, and age comes with time.

With a multi-channel marketing campaign, your goals should be aimed at short-term wins and long-term gains. Even paid ad campaigns take time to mature and gain better quality scores for improved ad placement and click-through rates.

You should aim for month-over-month increases in the important marketing KPIs, but you should estimate marketing ROI for a full campaign on a quarterly or yearly basis.

Goals vs. Objectives

Your goals may be specific desired business results, such as:

  • Adding more sales funnels
  • Automating the sales cycle
  • Gaining a specific percentage of repeat customers
  • Generating a specific number of leads

Whereas, the overall marketing objectives may be broader, such as:

  • Brand awareness
  • Product awareness
  • Fan and social follower growth
  • Marketing lead generation
  • Lowering the cost per acquisition
  • Growing market share
  • Reputation management

Although it may seem like a good idea to target all of these objectives in your strategies, you may want to focus on one or two at a time and create a plan to expand into additional areas as you go.

Setting SMART Goals

Once you’ve developed a strategy and have a clear plan on which marketing objectives you want to focus on, it’s time to create the SMART goals.

SMART marketing objectives are:

  • Specific: The goals are clearly defined and prioritized.
  • Measurable: The goal KPIs are established and tracked.
  • Achievable: The team agrees these goals are within their abilities.
  • Relevant: The goals relate to the overall brand purpose and mission.
  • Time-Bound: The goals have a timeline, milestones and deliverables.

SMART Acronym For Marketing - Eminent SEO

Final Tip: Assign a Leader

We’ve found the sales and marketing teams work best as a functional unit when there is one primary decision maker. Ultimately, the person who makes decisions on budgets, marketing KPI’s, business objectives and sales goals should understand the strategy and be empowered with the correct data to make an informed decision.

Once you’ve established your short- and long-term goals and have a strategy and a team in place, stick with it! The leader should give the team the freedom to work on its individual expertise, but always regroup and share strategy updates with both sales and marketing in order to ensure a continued, cohesive strategy.

Main Takeaways for Building an Aligned Sales and Marketing Strategy

An alignment between your sales and marketing strategies is crucial for generating high-quality leads and better conversions. When there is a failure in alignment, leads get lost in the pipeline; they slip through the cracks and never reach the closing stage.

To ensure alignment:

  • Build a solid line of communication between the teams.
  • Develop and manage one strategy plan with clear processes.
  • Use tools to monitor and track your progress.

If you are just getting started or your sales and marketing teams have already learned how to work independently of each other’s goals, this may sound like an arduous task. However, once the plan is developed, the tools are set up and the teams are communicating well, you will be thankful you took the time to align your marketing and sales strategies. And, better yet, your bottom line will benefit.

Anchorman Jumping Hooray Meme - ESEO

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Jenny Stradling

Owner and CEO at Eminent SEO in Mesa, Arizona. I started doing SEO and marketing in 2005. I'm a busy mom of four of my own and two step kids (and a grandbaby!). I owe my sanity to my partner in work and life, Chris Weatherall. I love sharing and engaging in business and marketing conversations, and I'm heavy into social media and blogging on these topics. I focus on quality, ethics, strategy, data and getting results. I work with a variety of brands and businesses with a special focus on addiction treatment marketing. I do this work because I care about making a difference.

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Body Language Tips: How to Carry Yourself in Job Interviews and Professional Conversations

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Body Language Tips For Job Interviews Professional Conversations - Eminent SEO
You walk into a meeting room with an interviewer. From that moment, the person is unconsciously noticing the expression on your face, whether you are slouching or standing tall, what you are carrying in your hands and what you are wearing.

While we rarely consciously think about body language cues, we recognize when someone is demonstrating positive business etiquette, showing confidence or communicating weakness. Carrying yourself well in interviews, business presentations and other professional conversations gives you an advantage in how you are perceived.

The Handshake Is Your First and Last Impression

The first and last contact you have with an interviewer is the handshake. What you convey in that handshake is vital to creating a positive lasting impression. A handshake, when it is done well, conveys a sense of trust. A firm grip conveys confidence, while a weak handshake conveys weakness.

Ironically, a painfully firm grip conveys that you are compensating for a lack of confidence. Combine a firm handshake with a smile, and look directly into the other person’s eyes. Altogether, this gives a sense of a confident, likeable, trustworthy person.

Use Mirroring to Rapidly Create Rapport

Psychology tells us that we tend to like people who like us and share similar beliefs and attitudes. Two people who are sharing a similar emotion will tend to mirror each other’s gestures and postures. When you intentionally mirror the body language of the person you are talking to, you create an unconscious assumption in the other person that you agree with them and are “in sync” with what they are saying. This creates a positive feeling for you.

Another benefit is that the effect also works in reverse. When you mirror an interviewer, manager or colleague’s body language, you come to experience the same emotions he or she is experiencing, thus deepening the unconscious bond between you. If you both are seated, sit at a slight angle from the individual so you both aren’t directly facing each other, which can get uncomfortable. You’ll also want to make sure to situate yourself at a comfortable speaking distance from him or her.

The key to using mirroring in a professional conversation is to avoid crossing the line into mimicry. Your mirroring should be a sincere expression of the fact you are in agreement and share similar thoughts on a subject. When used well, mirroring rapidly creates a sense of rapport between you and an interviewer.

Hand Gestures Facilitate Convincing Speech

Many of us are prone to fidget when we’re nervous. We may play with our hair, click on a pen or crack our knuckles. Nervousness also shows in our speech with the “um’s” and “uh’s” we insert without thinking about them.

Incorporating hand gestures into your speech not only gives you something productive to do with your hands, but it also facilitates the area of the brain responsible for speech. This helps eliminate many of the empty filler words we say while searching for the right phrase to say.

Make sure your gestures aren’t wild. Keep your hands close to your body and don’t overuse them in conversation. When the other person is talking, place your hands flat on the desk or in your lap if you have a tendency to fidget.

Finally, don’t overuse gestures, or rely on them as a substitute for having something useful to say. In general, making positive use of body language opens up a new channel of communication to convey positive feelings, create rapport and build professional relationships.

Body Language Tips: What NOT to Do

Now that you have ideas on how to carry yourself in a business environment, please peruse the following infographic for body language habits to avoid in interviews and other professional conversations. The infographic comes courtesy of The Website Group and Swiss Canadian Capital.

Read How Rudeness in the Workplace Can Sabotage Company Culture

See the Consequences of Workplace Incivility

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Eminent SEO provides strategic SEO campaigns with measurable results along with expert website design, development, pay per click, content and social media and organic website marketing. 800.871.4130.

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GIF Images Are Clever Tools in the Right Marketer’s Hands

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Beginners Guide To GIF Images In Marketing - Eminent SEO

A Graphics Interchange Format image, better known as a GIF, consists of picture files compressed to decrease transfer rate. GIFs possess several pictures in one file to create an animated effect. GIFs are prevalent in modern day cyberspace because the images are quick to download and the animations are often entertaining. For marketers, animated GIFs can be incredibly useful for improving engagement online.

We’re not here to settle the GIF pronunciation debate: Does it sound like gift without the “t,” or should it be pronounced like the peanut butter brand Jif? Instead, we want to offer you a rundown of the types of GIFs available, how you can make your own, and the legal considerations involved in GIF sharing.

Prevalence of GIFs in Social Media

Although GIFs can be used in blog posts (such as this one) and in website content, people primarily think of these animated images in the context of social media conversations. Here’s a quick breakdown of how many GIFs are posted to different social media platforms, according to the New York Times:

  • Tumblr: An average of 23 million GIFs posted every day
  • Facebook Messenger: Roughly 5 million GIFs sent between users every day
  • Slack: More than 2 million GIFs sent between users each month
  • Twitter: More than 100 million GIFs shared in 2015

The Different Types of GIFs

Not all GIFs are created equal. Before you go attaching a GIF on a social media post or your website, it’s best to know the different types of GIF images and to make sure you’re using the right one for the right situation.

1. The Replay GIF

David Tyree Giants Super Bowl CatchThere was a time not too long ago when sports fans had only a couple  of opportunities to watch a replay of their favorite touchdown catch or slam dunk. It was either shortly after the play occurred via instant replay, or later during ESPN highlights. If you missed those windows of opportunity, your last option would have been hoping someone recorded it on VHS.

In the age of YouTube, those days are gone. GIFs, however, let fans replay highlights in a condensed format. The replay GIF changes the game by continuously looping virtually any notable footage – from last night’s game winning field goal to even a memorable scene from your favorite movie.

On Twitter, the official accounts for the NFL and NBA were recently using a high volume of Vine videos for replays. But with Vine supposedly on its way out the door, the NFL and NBA are slowly turning to GIFs and native Twitter video to highlight must-see moments.

Replay GIFs are not limited to entertainment. This style of GIFs can be helpful for the marketer who wants to share current company news or connect a current event to their business.

2. The Reaction GIF

Chris Pratt Andy Parks RecreationEmotions are studied on replay with the reaction GIF, which is arguably the most popular style on social media. Film and TV are the industries most responsible for content you’ll see in most reaction GIFs. Outside of Hollywood, reaction GIFs serve marketing industries by replacing textual replies with animations. For example, a creative GIF could be used as a social media reply.

Reaction GIFs are typically used to enhance whatever comment a user is making online. These looping images express whichever emotion the user is feeling or trying to convey at the time. No matter the emotion, reaction GIFs typically elicit a laugh out of the viewer, especially if the image is used in a clever way in reaction to a particular topic.

3. The Cinemagraph

Chicago Traffic CinemagraphThe cinemagraph is the black-tie affair GIF. More formal than its GIF relatives, the cinemagraph GIF is a still shot-animation hybrid. The viewer of this GIF doesn’t experience one event in a loop, but one event continuously progressing through time. In a cinemagraph, one element of the image is in motion while the rest stay still.

Because cinemagraph GIFs have a limited number of moving parts in the image, the viewer is left with a tranquil feeling. Travel and fashion companies gravitate toward the cinemagraph GIF because of its professional appearance and quiet tone. The visual benefits and complex consistency of the cinemagraph GIF demand advanced editing skills and usually begin with footage captured by a camera on a tripod.

4. Technical GIFs

Sea Level Pressure United StatesBrowsing through the internet for useful marketing data is no longer a painful chore thanks to technical GIFs. Technical GIFs transform boring figures into engaging content. These types of GIFs are especially useful for marketers who want to include statistics, diagrams or graphs for product summaries.

Technical GIFs are interactive, as opposed to a black-and-white graph on a PowerPoint slide. Video marketing combined with a technical GIF creates an even deeper animation experience.

5. The Perfect-Loop GIF

Max Monster Rainbow Loop - Eminent SEOWhereas the cinemagraph GIF is still and serene, the perfect-loop GIF is active and busy. This GIF consists of a seamlessly looped camcorder recording of an event. The final frame of the shot leads back to the initial frame without missing a beat. Even though the viewer relives the same 7-or-so seconds over and over, he or she can lose track of time due to the seamlessness of the GIF.

The perfect-loop GIF can be used to a company’s advantage. Since the loop is inherently nonstop, it can be used to market non-stop service. It can also be used to advertise a customer demonstration’s of a successful product.

How You Can Make GIFs Yourself

Creating a GIF doesn’t take a background in computer science, IT or engineering – nor is it limited to tech-savvy people. For example, if there’s a YouTube clip for which you can’t find a corresponding GIF, there’s an easy way to to turn that video into a looping image. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Find a YouTube clip to make a GIF out of.
  2. Type “gif” before the “youtube” portion of the URL. Press enter. This will transfer you to gifyoutube.com. You can use your originally selected YouTube video to make a new GIF.
  3. Pick the start and stop times and add a GIF title.
  4. Click “create GIF.”
  5. A preview of the GIF will appear. If pleased with the preview, use the new URL to share across the internet. If displeased with the preview, click “go back.”

If the looping image you’d like to create doesn’t have anything to do with YouTube, you can try one of these GIF-making online tools and see which one you find easiest to use:

  • Giphy Create Tool
  • GIFS.com
  • ScreenToGIF (lets you record a designated area of your computer screen)
  • RecordIT (similar function as ScreenToGIF)
  • GIF Toaster
  • GifBoom or GIF Me (for turning phone videos into GIFs)

And, of course, if you have reasonable skills in the Photoshop department, you can use that software to make a GIF out of original artwork, a series of still images, or any video file you’d like to upload into the program. Here’s Adobe’s guide on how to make GIF images with Photoshop.

Sharing GIFs: Legal Considerations to Keep in Mind

Millions Of GIFs Posted To Slack Tumblr Facebook Messenger - ESEO

Legally, individual users are given a lot of slack when it comes to GIF creation and usage. Businesses, on the other hand, are not.

Companies must be aware of the legal restrictions of GIFs. Clashes over a GIF’s origin are judged according the doctrine of fair use. This doctrine allows copyrighted material to be edited and used for alternative purposes if the copy is derived from the original and does not compete financially for copyrighting rights.

The four factors considered in the doctrine of fair use for GIFs include:

  1. The intent of the GIF: Is it for profit or not for profit?
  2. The content of the GIF.
  3. The ratio of GIF used to copyright material.
  4. How the GIF would value the potential audience.

GIFs of well-known people – namely actors, celebrities and athletes – have strict publishing guidelines. Businesses intending to post a GIF of a celebrity should gain permission from everyone in the clip, the copyright owner, and the creator of the GIF.

If a business wishes to use an athletic GIF to show a game highlight or replay, there are high hurdles to clear. The MLB and NFL are fairly strict with their GIF policies. Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee and FIFA do not allow GIFs at all. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects social media sites that post GIFs if a reporting structure is in place to eliminate content suspected of copyright violation.

For marketing companies, it’s best to follow these GIF-sharing suggestions:

  1. Obtain a written release. Contact the copyright owner and actors/celebrities present in the GIF for permission to share the GIF.
  2. Provide hyperlinks. Content shared by another should have a link to the original site. This protects the company using an unoriginal GIF and places the original site with the liability responsibility. Give recognition to the creator.
  3. Make your own GIFs. Creating a GIF bypasses the legal trouble. Instead of asking others for permission and risking legal ramifications, you won’t have to ask anyone permission to create your original GIF, and you won’t be under the threat of impending legal action.

We’re not saying you can’t use existing GIFs that involve movie scenes, sports footage, etc., but you’ll run the risk of legal action if you use one of these images with your business’s name behind it, especially if you stand to profit off anything associated with that particular image. Therefore, we advise being prudent with what type of GIF image you plan to use as well as the platform on which you will use it.

GIF Images Have Staying Power on the Web

GIF Laptop Collage - Eminent SEOGIF images can be profoundly useful when used correctly. Clever use of these animations can undoubtedly help a business reach and advance its goals. These images also add a smile and a laugh to a monotonous work day.

The graphics interchange format has actually been available since the 1980s, and tech experts have continually predicted that the format will lose favor on the web soon. Yet, thanks to Twitter and other social media platforms, GIFs have only seemed to become more popular and ubiquitous in recent years.

With so many GIFs circulating the web and even making their way into other mediums, such as text messages, these looping images have been embraced as a new way to communicate. What’s your favorite particular GIF image or style of GIF?

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Fundamentals of Logo Design: 6 Questions to Ask When Designing a Company Logo

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6 Questions To Ask Designing A Company Logo - Eminent SEOWhen starting a business, you want your logo to be legendary, memorable and to make a statement. You want it to create a buzz and help your brand become a household name.

All this is possible if you put in the time and effort as well as ask the right questions before, during and after the design phase. Here are some questions to get you started and push you in the right direction to create the perfect logo for your business.

What Is My Mission?

Any business that has the intent to be successful will first come up with a mission statement – the “why.” Company leaders will begin to refine the goal and the intention of the business, who it is looking to target, and why the business even exists.

It is imperative to revisit your company’s mission when designing a logo. Your logo should not only be memorable, but it should also convey the reason your business exists in the first place. Before you go to any graphic designer, whether in house or outsourced, you must go back to the basics and remind yourself “why” and make sure your mission is crystal clear.

What Type of Logo Do I Want?

There are a few different styles you can approach when your logo is in design. Whatever type you choose, you’ll want to make sure it reflects the personality of your business and is memorable to your audience.

Here are four main styles of logos that could help your company stand out:

1. Watermarks

Think Google, Coca-Cola or Absolut Vodka: All three logos are standalone lettering of the company’s name. All have distinctive lettering, color and graphics to represent the brand. You can probably recall each logo as you are reading this right now. In other cases, an abbreviation of a company’s name can work for this style of logo, too.

2. Letterform

Letterform logos are ones that use one or more letters that stand alone as a symbol of the brand. Some of the most famous letterform marks are McDonalds, Chanel and Honda.

3. Pictorial

Also known as iconic marks, pictorial marks are a personification of the brand. Think about it: You know where someone got their coffee from when you see a green Siren with a crown, or what type of computer a stranger is using when you see an apple on the back, and you know what channel you’re watching when you see the iconic peacock. Starbucks, Apple and NBC have all mastered the art of the pictorial.

4. Abstract

Swoosh. What comes to mind? Nike, of course! This is probably the most successful abstract logo out there. Nike has built such a strong visual identification that it is easily recognized around the world. Other prominent abstract designs include logos representing Chase Bank and Sprint.

Which Color(s) Best Represents My Brand?

Become A Know It All Color Psychology In Logos - Eminent SEOA bit of psychology goes into creating the perfect logo for your business. Human beings have a subconscious recognition of colors and their meaning. If you want to appeal to the senses, you must choose the right color that will mesh with a certain neuro-association of your potential customer.

For example, the color red is associated with:

  • Energy
  • Danger
  • Determination
  • Strength

Yellow represents:

  • Happiness
  • Joy
  • Cheerfulness.

This might be a time to refer back to your corporate mission and decide what exactly you want your customers to feel or take away when they see your logo.

In considering the color(s) of your design, take shape into account as well – whatever best represents your brand and works in tandem with the colors. Brand logos should produce emotion and communicate your message simultaneously.

How Much Is This Going to Cost Me?

There is a reason why cost was not one of the first questions listed to ask. The reason is that designing a logo isn’t a cut-and-dry process, and there are many questions and steps involved from both the clients’ end as well as the designer’s. Of course, you want to get it right the first time. This is not to say that you will never change your logo, but you should want to get it as perfect as you can the first time around so that as time goes on, you are only making minor tweaks.

If you choose to go with a professional design company, you will spend anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000. Instead of one designer working on your project, you will have the benefit of multiple designers working with and for you, which means more creativity and ideas to bring your vision to life.

Don’t Let the Price Tag Discourage You!

If those price figures gave you a mild heart attack, don’t fret. There are options to cut your costs, especially if you are a small business with a small budget. Once you narrow down your options and get a bit more specific with what you want, you can take your ideas to a freelance designer or smaller company that can give you a more accurate quote for your budget.

Expect to pay a minimum of $250, even if you go with the more affordable designer. This is, of course, the lower end of the spectrum and would be for a simple design with two options and about two rounds of revisions. If your design is more complex and requires more detail, you should expect to pay a minimum of $400.

A good designer will include extra services like multiple design options for all merchandise, letterheads, business cards, etc. They will also allow as many revisions as needed to get the job done.

How Long Will This Process Take, and Is It Feasible with My Budget?

When considering cost, you must also be realistic about your budget. If you are spending every last cent of your logo budget on this project, it may be a good idea to hold off until you have more money.

What you pay a designer should be comparable to the time spent on the project. This means that clear communication is key. The more clearly you communicate your vision, the easier it will be to nail it the first go-round. Logo design projects can get extremely difficult when the client and designer have different interpretations of what the design should look like.

Remember, time is money. You certainly don’t want to get stuck with a design you don’t like as well as no money to have it corrected. You reap what you sow. Invest in your business first to enjoy the reward later.

Did I Cover All My Bases?

Many new small business owners make the mistake of not covering all of their bases and researching their competition. Originality matched with your key points and core values are what’s going to make your logo stand out from your competitors. Do your research!

It is imperative that you research the logos of other businesses, especially your competitors, to make sure that yours isn’t the least bit the same. You’ll want to avoid confusing your audience and, even worse, throwing away sales to your competition.

Also, it is wise to take time and consider every space, place, nook and cranny your logo could possibly appear. This could mean:

  • T-shirts
  • Letterheads
  • Pens
  • Windows
  • Billboards
  • Apps
  • Your website
  • Directories
  • Social media
  • Vehicles
  • Cellphone cases
  • Etc.

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It all depends on what works best for your industry, but you’ll want to consider all possibilities ahead of time. Your logo should translate across multiple avenues of marketing and communicate the same message.

Final Thoughts on Designing a Company Logo

At the end of the day, you want your employees and other to be proud to don your brand. You want your message to be strong and hope that it seeps into the subconscious of all those it comes in contact with. You want to become a household name and make a statement without saying a word.

Designing the perfect logo for your business can be a daunting task and it’s not for the faintest of hearts. Remaining close to your mission and your core values and remembering the “why” is what will help you keep a laser-like focus during the process. Authenticity and transparency are key if you want to create the trust needed to support your brand, so choose wisely.

Need a logo from scratch? Or an update of your current graphic? Eminent SEO can help. We can evaluate your current logo in comparison to your competition and then work closely with you produce a fresh, unique and relevant design. Just call 800.871.4130 to get started, or learn more about our Business Branding Services here.

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10 Ways Social Media Can Help You Stand Out in the Job Search Process

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Social Media Can Help In Job Search Process - Eminent SEOWe live in an era of convenience where we have the ability to access information with the click of a button in a fraction of a second. Technology has allowed us to accomplish tasks and reach out to people we never thought was possible even 20 years ago.

Social media, in particular, is the beast that holds much power in our success or demise. It can single-handedly crumble a person’s reputation with a single tweet, or catapult a career with the sharing of a 20-second video. The bottom line is the user must navigate with savvy and caution.

Searching for the job you want can be exhausting. The whole process is time-consuming and impersonal, and it can difficult to show your full range of qualifications. Well, we’ve come up 10 ways you should leverage social media to stand out from the pack and look more desirable to potential employers while you’re in the job search phase.

1. Get On Board!

LinkedIn Most Popular Job Search Social Media - Eminent SEOLet’s start at the very beginning. If you do not have social media accounts and you are not close to retirement, get at least one now! LinkedIn is the most popular job search site, where an estimated 95 percent of recruiters search for candidates, and 79 percent of all employers hire based on contacts and referrals from this network.

Employers also look to social media sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to get a more personal take on a candidate and make sure that they fit in with the culture of their company. They also look at candidates’ social profiles to gauge who might possess the type of character traits needed to thrive and be an asset for their team.

2. Maintain Your Account

Although keeping up with your social media accounts can be a job in itself, you need to do it! Don’t forget: You reap what you sow. You should set up a strong profile and use keywords that highlight skills that potential employers may search for.  As you develop new skills or complete certifications, let them know!

Potential employers want to see that you’re keep active on your profiles, but you don’t need to get overwhelmed trying to show your activity every single day on every single site. Just a little something every few days goes a long way.

3. Become a Social Butterfly

Like Share Comment Tweet Social Media - Eminent SEOIf you’ve spent any time on social media, you know how awkward it is to get a random “like” from someone you completely forgot you have a connection with. You know, the “creeper” who looks to see what everyone else is doing but never engages? Don’t be that guy! It’s social media, so don’t forget to be social!

Remember, you have a choice of what to entertain and engage in, so choose wisely. You don’t have to put your entire personal life out there just to be seen. In fact, that disposition has the potential to deter potential employers and only serves as a distraction. Instead, it’s best to like, share, comment, tweet and retweet relevant information in your field and follow sites that interest you professionally.

Get used to putting your name out there. The more you get your name in front of businesses, the more it’ll stick and show them that you are relevant and up to speed in the industry.

4. Use Discretion

As tempted as you may be to make a comment about certain political candidates or fire back at an internet troll, it’s usually in your best interest to refrain. By all means, be authentic, but if you desire to use social media as an avenue for potential employment, you must remember that once it’s out there, it stays out there. Photos, comments and posts can come back to haunt you with a vengeance, even if you delete them, so using the utmost discretion from the get-go will only help your cause.

Also, it’s important to be mindful of the persona you illustrate online. You may be someone who can compartmentalize your life and have a “work hard, play harder” mentality, but if “play” means posting pictures of you and your buddies passed out after a few rounds of beer pong, or you showing off your new bikini in a dressing room, you should just pass. Companies want someone who can represent them professionally at all times and not compromise their reputation. If you do post highly personal photos, you should keep your account private.

5. Make an Impact

You don’t have to filibuster your way through an interview to show that you have good ideas and can make an impact. Use your social media platform to gain followers by posting information that your audience will appreciate. Gaining followers will not only show employers that you have something to say and can influence the community, it will also give you the confidence to continue to make an impact, which can allow you to feel a sense of accomplishment.

6. Keep It Positive in the Job Search Process

It’s not easy being unemployed (or underemployed). It can take a toll on your self-confidence and your ability to land a new position, so why remind yourself of that?

You can rephrase your former employment status in your profile and avoid using the word “unemployed” and instead highlight what it is that you are looking for. Your profile will sound much more ambitious and will remind employers that they need you as much as you need them.

7. Read Between the Lines

Actually, employers are the ones that will read between the lines, so be sure to cross your T’s and dot your I’s. Literally. Using the correct punctuation and grammar on your page and in your comments will show your potential employer how well you actually communicate.

Everyone loves to highlight their “excellent written and verbal communication skills” on a resume, then fail to proofread a comment left on a company Facebook page or description paragraph on their profile. If you say you are great communicator, do not pick and choose when to be great. Make sure to stay consistent with whom you describe yourself to be.

8. Get Endorsed

Ask For Recommendations Endorsements - Eminent SEOSince LinkedIn is one of the top job search engines, it is important to get endorsements from other professionals within the network. Your connections are allowed to endorse you, or legitimize your skill set. You can ask former bosses or coworkers to write recommendations for you, and you can certainly return the favor.

Creating several symbiotic professional relationships online can only help you. The more high-quality references you can get, the better. These endorsements show employers that you’re not the only one that thinks you’re great, because there are others in your field that give you a stamp of approval.

9. Keep It Simple

We know … you have so many awesome qualities it’s hard to narrow it down. But you have to. Simplicity is key in a great professional social media page. Try to narrow down your descriptors to what you want employers to know.

You may think you are offering a way to get to know you better, but all the extra words only serve as a distraction. Get down to the essentials and stick with it. There will be plenty of other ways for potential employers to get to know you.

10. Dress for Success

This seems simple, but you’d be surprised at how many people fall short with this one. Now, it’s not necessary to wear a tuxedo or red carpet dress in every photo, but your attire should lean toward the conservative, business casual side.

Social media has become a place of validation in our society, and many users look for approval from others in the looks department. Professionally, it’s an entirely different ballgame. Again, be authentic and be yourself, but if ever in doubt, err on the side of caution.

The Payoff

If leveraged correctly, social media has the power to distinguish you from your competition without having to even step foot outside of your home. You can make yourself the most sought after in your field, or you can get lost in the shuffle of mediocrity: The choice is yours.

If social media overwhelms you, it’s OK. You don’t have to do it all. Simply pick whichever social site works for you and stick with it. Something is better than nothing, and as with almost anything else, you get out what you put in.

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Google’s Message Is Clear: Review and Clean Up Your Website’s Outbound Links

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Sweep Bad Outbound Links Under Rug - Eminent SEO

Earlier this month, several reports stated that Google started issuing a specific warning to various webmasters. The message hit at one miscue: “unnatural” outbound links.

Google reportedly first started sending this message out on Saturday, April 9, via email and Google Search Console. While it probably took some webmasters aback, others likely knew they had it coming.

In either scenario, the webmaster is going to have to make some clear changes before submitting a “reconsideration request” to Google in order to get his or her rankings back.

Let’s look further at the heart of the issue plus what the best practices are when it comes to outbound linking.

What the Outbound Link Warning Said

Google warned certain webmasters that it detected a “pattern” of outbound links that is “either unnatural or irrelevant,” violating the search engine’s Webmaster Guidelines. Therefore, the search engine applied a “manual spam action” to the website in question.

Google added that the unnatural links it detected appear to be trying to “artificially boost” other sites’ search engine rankings. Basically, to Google, it looked like the sites that were flagged were trying to pass so-called link juice to other websites, among other suspicious practices.

How Webmasters Were Directed to Fix It

Google’s stern warning about outbound links was essentially a penalty upon the sites that were flagged. Receiving a penalty either hurts a website’s search rankings or kills them altogether. The penalty won’t be lifted until Google does a manual review of the site.

For the websites that received this latest warning, the webmasters behind them were directed to either manually remove the links in question or add “nofollow” tags to each one. The piece of code for asking search engine crawlers to not follow a link, if you’re wondering, is rel=”nofollow”. Once the webmaster has sufficiently addressed the outbound linking issue, Google advised sending a reconsideration request.

What Is an Outbound Link?

Just to be clear about what an outbound link is, it’s any clickable link that takes the user to an external website, which is why it’s also called an external link.

In today’s SEO climate, it’s recommended to be very judicious about how frequently you include an outbound link on your website. Any link (internal or external) that you don’t add “nofollow” to will be taken into account by search engine crawlers, making it a “dofollow” link, effectively.

If you’re linking to a low-quality website, a dofollow link could actually hurt your SEO value. Also, too many links (whether internal or external) could lower the search rankings potential of that particular webpage. Therefore, it’s best to use nofollow tags every so often when you’ve got a webpage with an abundance of links and/or if you’re linking to sites with low domain authority.

When Google issues a manual spam action on a website, it can apply to either a site-wide match or a partial match. A site-wide match means Google detected an issue on every page of a website, likely in a sidebar, the header or the footer. A partial match means the issue applied to just a single webpage or a certain set of pages on the site in question.

How Certain Websites Ran into This Issue

For quite some time, a common website practice was to link to several other websites either through text or images placed on a sidebar or in the footer of a page. Granted, this was never an SEO best practice, but some webmasters did this either as a partnership with other websites or because they simply liked those sites and wanted to give a subtle shout-out to them.

These type of links could often be paid for as kind of a one-way means of drawing some SEO power from an authoritative website. In other cases, the two sites linked to each other in a type of affiliate marketing scheme.

Today, this practice is going by the wayside, and Google may have just delivered it its final blow with the recent penalization of sites with unnatural outbound links. For a good example, let’s look at the website behind the screenshot that seemingly every media site is featuring when reporting on Google’s outbound link warning: SammiTheBeautyBuff.com.

Sammi The Beauty Buff Homepage - ESEO

While nothing looks amiss when you first land on the homepage, if you scroll just a little ways down, you’ll see a right sidebar that features several logos that link to other websites – all under a section called “Memberships.” Inside each review, there are also several product links (or that may have been for undisclosed free samples – but more on that point later). At first glance, this area may be what earned the website a penalty from Google.

Sammi The Beauty Buff Membership Links - ESEO

The webmaster of this beauty products blog must have gotten the message, because if you dig into the source code of the homepage, these are all nofollow links. If they weren’t before, they are now.

Say Goodbye to Blogrolls

If you used WordPress to create a personal blog in the past, you were practically encouraged to add a blogroll to your site. Also known as a links menu, a blogroll is a way to list other blogs and sites you find valuable or that are relevant to your specific blog. The blogroll can be easily added using a widget in WordPress, and it will show up in the footer or sidebar of your blog or website, depending on the theme you use.

Here’s an example of a blogroll in somebody’s sidebar, without calling out the site that is using it:

Wordpress Blogroll Example - ESEO

WordPress itself still has a support page that talks all about the blogroll, but given the direction of Google’s search algorithm, it’s likely this feature is going to be de-emphasized or abandoned in the near future.

WordPress is far from the only content management system or website builder that features a blogroll option. But, no matter which content management system you use, a blogroll or links menu is a feature you’re going to want to ignore going forward – if you care at all about search rankings.

A More Recent Development: Penalties for Exchanging Links for Free Products

After Google started issuing outbound link warnings, the tech giant eventually clarified why it was handing out penalties. According to Search Engine Land, the penalty appeared to be targeting free product reviews. This is because companies that provide product reviewers free merchandise are often looking for a dofollow link from the reviewer’s website to theirs.

So, Google has effectively put the kibosh on this practice. Can product reviewers still receive free stuff and write about it on their blog or website? Certainly. Google just asks that they disclose when they receive free items and then nofollow any links to the company that provided the product. This explains why the aforementioned Sammi “The Beauty Buff” was called out by Google earlier this month.

If, in fact, only free product reviews were the target of Google’s recent penalties, then most of these penalties would likely be classified as partial matches. An individual product review is generally going to take up only one webpage, rather than resulting in a site-wide external link just for the free item(s) provided.

Did Google’s Recent Warning Apply to Inbound Links?

Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land reported that he only saw a “few inbound link notification penalties” on the weekend when Google started warning certain webmasters of unnatural outbound links.

So, for the most part, websites weren’t getting penalized for having another site link to them, no matter how spammy or irrelevant the backlink appears to be. Instead, the sites hosting such a suspicious link are the ones that primarily landed on Google’s radar.

What to Do About Your Outbound Links

Even if you’re not a product reviewer, now is as good a time as any to review your website’s outbound links, since Google will certainly continue to target suspicious linking practices.

If your website has a static, site-wide sidebar, are there any external links featured? You can ask the same about the footer. It’s time to nofollow those links or contemplate if they even need to be there in the first place.

Other than those areas, you can also go through some of the individual pages of the site and the blog to see if there’s any area where someone happened to link to a plethora of external sites. You need to go in and nofollow most of those links, if they aren’t already, and consider if each and every link is even helpful for the user in the first place. If not, remove as necessary.

If your website has a partnership with another in the form of a dofollow site-wide link to theirs, tell them that current SEO best practices call for you to get rid of the link. Or, perhaps, you can compromise with them and turn it into a nofollow link – and maybe decrease the number of pages it shows up on.

Are ‘Nofollow’ Links Still Helpful?

Perhaps your site has scored a link on an authoritative website, but their webmaster wants to remove it in light of recent SEO events. See if they can just nofollow the link to your site instead.

Yes, the link juice goes away when someone adds a nofollow tag, but that doesn’t mean the link can’t still have value in a different way. If the hosting site draws tons and tons of visitors, some of them are eventually going to see and click the link to your domain, resulting in increased traffic for you. The number of clicks on your link per visitor is probably going to be pretty small, but it’s still better to give them that option than to not have it there at all, right?

But What if I’m Linking Back and Forth Between Several Interconnected Sites?

If you have a main website and a few microsites, or just several “sister” sites, it doesn’t hurt to feature links to all related sites in the footer of each one of the properties. Google is pretty savvy at understanding when sites are related. You don’t even have to nofollow the links in this case.

However, if we’re talking about dozens of websites, no matter how well they go together, you should avoid interlinking them, even with nofollow tags. In a 2014 Search Engine Watch article, Google engineer and video personality Matt Cutts was quoted as recommending only up to five links in the footer to other related websites. He added that if you operate 50 to 100 related websites and are thinking about interlinking them all, don’t do it – or, at best, only link to the four or five most relevant sister sites.

Internal and External Linking Strategies with Eminent SEO

Need help with evaluating which links to remove from your site and then actually getting it done? Eminent SEO can clean up not only your outbound linking strategy, but we can optimize your site’s internal linking strategy as well. We also can remove and disavow spammy or low-quality links that lead to your site, as well as help you recover from any search engine penalties you may have suffered.

We have been helping clients with their internal and outbound linking strategies for more than 11 years, and we’ve been updating our processes with every step of Google’s evolution. To learn more about optimizing your website with proper linking practices, contact Eminent SEO today at 800.871.4130.

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How to Market During the Holidays: 2015 Edition

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Market During The Holidays - Eminent SEO

If your company is going about its marketing efforts this holiday season in the same manner as it does the rest of the year, you’re doing it wrong. Not only are shoppers in a frenzy searching for presents for loved ones, but there are several days during the season that are designed to encourage consumers to open up their wallets.

If you’re the owner of a business or at the helm of a marketing team, you’re about to receive several ideas on how to tap into the holiday spending craze and make your company’s products or services stand out. Before we get to those suggestions, let’s rewind a bit and take a look at just how big the holiday season is when it comes to how much money is being tossed around.

Looking Back at the 2014 and Previous Holiday Seasons

Marketing and retail experts now consider the holiday shopping season to stretch from before Halloween to after New Year’s Day. In fact, an estimated 30 percent of shoppers begin their search for holiday presents before Halloween. However, when it comes to measuring retail dollars during the holiday season, the standard window is from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.

Analytics firm comScore has been keeping a very close eye on U.S. holiday spending in recent years. In 2014, comScore found the total amount in retail sales during November and December was $838.9 billion, about 3.5 percent growth over the previous holiday season. Shoppers are expected to drop $885.7 billion during 2015’s holiday season, which would be a jump of about 5.7 percent from the same time frame in 2014.

Holiday Transactions via Desktop

To the surprise of almost no one, online sales are on the rise during the holiday season – although transactions at brick-and-mortar stores are still significant. In 2014, consumers spent just under $70 billion online during the holiday season. That was up almost $10 billion over the holiday period in 2013.

Shoppers used their home or work desktop computers to spend $53.3 billion during the 2014 holiday season.

The following chart illustrates the steady growth in desktop holiday transactions since 2010:

When you look at the hottest days for holiday purchases via desktop in 2014, all but one of the top 10 days fell in December. Cyber Monday won the individual day battle for the fifth straight year, according to comScore. The day after Cyber Monday (sometimes called Cyber Tuesday) came in second. Black Friday finished in just fourth place, one spot behind Green Monday (a term coined by eBay for a day that is one week after Cyber Monday).

The 2015 holiday season will have a bit of a wrinkle, however. As two of the hottest online shopping days should fall in November. Cyber Monday lands on Nov. 30 this year, with Black Friday coming on Nov. 27.

Mobile Holiday Season Sales

As you’re probably well aware, consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with making a purchase with just a couple of button presses on their mobile devices. According to an IBM report, mobiles sales constituted more than 22 percent of all online transactions during the holiday season in 2014. That was a jump of about 27 percent over the 2013 holiday period. Mobile holiday season sales are projected to surpass $36 billion in 2015 and skyrocket to more than $60 billion by 2019.

As you can see, it is ever so critical to make sure your business’s website is mobile-friendly. Every online asset that belongs to your company needs to be optimized for mobile. If some assets aren’t, you need to get somebody on the job, pronto. Don’t let your website sit with clunky mobile navigation and slow-loading pages this holiday season. That will ensure you miss out on your proper share of the billions of dollars that get poured into online purchases this time of the year.

Your Holiday Season Marketing Strategy

Now’s the time to bring your holiday-themed products to the forefront. If you don’t have any holiday-themed items, dig into your numbers and see which types of products or services tended to be more popular last holiday season. People are ready to spend money this time of the year, so you and your team have to prepare a consistent blitz on every channel available to you, including social media, email, digital ads and more.

Shoppers love specials, so now’s the time to mark down prices of your some of your products or services, and then you have to let online users know about it. At the very least, plan to slash some of your prices on the major spending days, such as Cyber Monday and Black Friday. You should have all promotions for those two days pinpointed at least the week before Black Friday, and be ready to send midnight emails on the day of those two shopping holidays. It’s also helpful to tease your promotions with an email or two starting exactly one week before Black Friday.

As for your website, you should benefit greatly from creating a dedicated landing page of holiday content, including the items that either pertain to the holidays or are going to be on discount during this time. You also might want to consider adding site-wide holiday design accents to show your celebration of the season, with sidebar or horizontal banners that take your visitors to either your holiday landing page or certain holiday-themed products or services. You may even want add holiday language to the meta data of certain pages on your site, specifically the ones of products or services that you’re really pushing during the season.

‘Tis the Season to not be Stingy

Shoppers are dropping some big bucks during the holiday season, so your business should too as you market during the holidays, especially if you’re trying to reel in some of those ready-to-spend consumers. Even if you’re not one to throw money at Facebook and Twitter ads, you’re definitely going to want to try it on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and perhaps a few of the other top shopping days listed above. Make it clear what good or service you have on special, and be sure to stress the urgency of the promotion.

If you want to go even further, set up pay-per-click campaigns through Google AdWords that lead to certain pages on your website (especially if you’ve created a holiday landing page). Banner display ads are also worth exploring, particularly if you have a talented graphic designer on staff who can deliver creatives that pertain to specific promotions you’re running during the season.

But What if I’m a Service Company?

If your company doesn’t offer tangible products and instead provides business-to-business and/or business-to-consumer services, it’s still possible to tap into the holiday shopping craze, even if you don’t have any offerings that directly apply to the season. If you’ve analyzed your sales over last year’s holiday season and even the ones before that, then you should arrive at a specific set of services that you want to feature and even mark down this time around.

Consider offering a gift card (even if it’s digital only) on your website. Even if a few of your website visitors during the holiday season decide they don’t need your services, they may have someone in mind that does. Thus, a gift card will come in handy. You may also want to look into going through an eCommerce marketplace like Groupon in order to offer one of your targeted services at an enticing rate to a large audience of consumers. On the days of the major shopping bursts, you obviously don’t have to promise your services on the same day, but you can lock in customers at a discounted rate for service you’ll provide later.

As a service provider, you might have to be a little more creative than retail stores and eCommerce sites are during the holiday season, but there’s no reason why your sales can’t spike during these two months in comparison to the rest of year. A focused marketing effort will put your company on the path to holiday success.

Don’t Stop at Christmas

As mentioned before, the holiday season doesn’t really stop once Christmas Day passes. Keep up your marketing push not only through New Year’s Day, which falls on a Friday in 2016, but through the weekend that follows. Use social media and email to stress that time is running out on select goods and services at special holiday rates.

You now know the hottest holiday shopping days, and hopefully you now have some ideas in mind on how you draw consumers to your business this season. Ultimately, your marketing plan will succeed if you understand, “What products or services do I have that will appeal to buyers this holiday season,” and “How can I best direct attention to these offerings.” It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but hopefully you’ll figure out which tactics work best for your business. Best of luck to you and your team on making this holiday season shine brightest of all!

Need Help?

Do the suggested steps to succeed during holidays seem outside of your team’s capabilities internally? Eminent SEO can help your company excel this holiday season through our wide range of digital services, including custom email and social media campaigns, website improvements, mobile upgrades, landing page creation and more.

To find out more or get started today, just call: 800.871.4130.

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Andrew Gilstrap

Content Director at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. My goal is to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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5 Signs of When to Stop or Redirect a Struggling Online Marketing Campaign

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Struggling Online Marketing Campaign - Eminent SEO

Sometimes, the best-laid plans simply go awry.

This phenomenon is fairly common in the sometimes unpredictable world of marketing. Although businesses can measure most of their marketing efforts like never before, part of the process remains artful, especially in the planning stages.

Every marketing campaign comes with some degree of a chance for failure. Sometimes, the reasons why they failed are obvious. In other cases, the reasons are hard to pinpoint. The answer could be the campaign simply didn’t get a foothold in the public’s consciousness, whether due to timing or other external circumstances.

If your team is currently putting forth an online marketing campaign — such as pay-per-click, email or search engine optimization — here are five signs that it may be time to pull in the reins on the project, or at least hand over the responsibilities to an experienced marketing firm.

1. When You’ve Given it Sufficient Time

It takes a certain amount of patience with online marketing campaigns. Rarely are they fruitful right off the bat. You’ve got to give every piece of the campaign time to coalesce. In the case of SEO campaigns, for example, you may have to wait at least sixth months before you start seeing results.

Before you launch any online campaign, have a time-frame in mind for when you’ll draw down if the effort isn’t paying off. Once you hit that deadline, you should know if it’s worth letting the campaign play out for a little longer or if that’s when it’s time to call the troops home. Just be sure not to abort the mission before you’ve really given it enough time to show signs of success. By the same token, don’t be too proud to call a campaign off if it’s readily apparent that it’s just not going to provide the returns necessary to sustain itself.

2. When Your Adjustments Aren’t Moving the Needle

Even for campaigns that take longer to pay off, you should know fairly soon after launch if the effort is receiving some degree of reception and if it’s on track to succeed. You should know this because of the abundance of digital tools at your disposal to evaluate various aspects of the online campaign.

So, before giving up on the effort, try to make any necessary tweaks to the approach. For example, this could mean using different imagery or a different tone in the copy. Or, maybe you’re targeting the wrong keyword. Also, you can try doing A/B testing to see which variation is getting more traction. If you’ve made adjustments to the best of your ability but the campaign still isn’t significantly getting off the ground, that’s when there would be little shame in calling an end to the whole effort.

Before the campaign reaches the breaking point, you may want to give serious consideration to contacting a business-to-business marketing agency. Yes, it will be more money poured into the project, but the experts you hire should be able to turn the tide on the campaign, as they’ll likely have resources and expertise that goes beyond what you have internally. If you go this route, give the agency your full confidence and ask for frequent updates and key performance indicators.

3. When Your Execution Can’t Get any Better

Similar to making adjustments, if you and your team have all put forth their best efforts and the campaign is still floundering, then it may be time to throw up your hands and move on to the next project. Just make sure you’ve allowed sufficient time for each employee involved in the campaign to perform his or her relevant duties. You may even have to hire new talent internally for this initiative or delegate additional tasks to current employees after launch. If you’ve done all this and the online campaign is still in neutral, then there’s simply a problem with the campaign, and not necessarily with you or your staff. If you identified the issues early on but you and your team still can’t seem to get the campaign to break even, despite everybody’s best effort, this might be the point where you seek help from an outside marketing firm.

4. When You’re Consistently Seeing Negative ROI

One of the areas you want to keep your eye on throughout the campaign is the return on investment. Basically, is the amount of money you’re putting into the campaign equal to or less than what you’re seeing in sales and new customers?

It’s not uncommon to be in the red the first few weeks after launch. After all, investments are often expensive and are rarely recovered quickly. However, if the campaign has been active for several months and is consistently yielding negative ROI on measured intervals of your choosing, you should put a stop to it before it drains your business irreparably.

What if the campaign is in the black but falling well short of expectations? Keep it going, period. It may hugely pay off down the road. Even if it doesn’t, at least it’s eliciting a positive net ROI for your business. If this is happening with your online campaign and you’re still thinking about getting help from a marketing firm, a well-qualified team should be able to take what you have and provide a major boost, reaping sizable rewards for everyone involved.

5. When Other Strategies Are Succeeding

If you have other campaigns and business strategies in place that are succeeding, then it makes sense to ditch the one lagging behind. After all, why keep throwing good money after bad? Something to keep your head up about is if you have several other strategies that are “winning,” then it means your business model is solid. Unless you’ve created a PR nightmare for your company with an unsuccessful online campaign, then have no remorse about calling for an end to an initiative that isn’t working out. It happens to the best of companies.

Final Word

Just because one campaign falls short of the mark doesn’t mean your entire business is doomed. Maybe you patterned the online marketing campaign after what you saw another company do. However, what works for one business isn’t guaranteed for the next.

Don’t beat yourself up for one failed campaign. Collect yourself, get back to what you know your company does well, and build upon those strengths.

A Different Direction

If you have an online marketing campaign that is struggling but that you still think has a chance to thrive, you can turn to Eminent SEO for direction or to hand over the duties involved in the project. Our talented team has powered hundreds of successful online marketing campaigns (SEO, PPC, social media, link acquisition, and more) for clients all over the U.S., starting either from scratch or mid-campaign. We know how to address areas of need, plus we always provide full KPI (key performance indicators) reports to keep you in the loop on the latest results of the campaign. If you’re ready for help or you just want to learn more, call Eminent SEO today: 1-800-871-4130.

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Andrew Gilstrap

Content Director at Eminent SEO - I enjoy writing, editing and photography. My goal is to make YOUR website read better and rank better!

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How to Earn Backlinks with Valuable Website Content

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Earn Backlinks with Linkbait

In order for any website to obtain any sort of search engine rankings, high quality backlinks are still necessary. Back in the day before Google updated its algorithm to get rid of spammy, manipulative link building practices, website owners could easily place their site in low quality directories or participate in some sort of link scheme to gain high rankings on Google.

Today’s link building has to be much more strategic, and you have to have content that webmasters want to link to on your site. Otherwise, you’re just wasting their time and yours because they aren’t going to link to just any site. It needs to provide their readers with something valuable. In short, the strategy for gaining highly authoritative, .edu, or .gov backlinks is to create content that’s meaningful and considered “link bait.”

What is Link Bait?

Link bait can be characterized as creating content on your website that encourages web users to share or link to, also known as viral content. Since a lot of websites are competing for the top positions in search engines, many websites are beginning to see the importance of content marketing, even for the sole purpose of increasing rankings.

Examples of what link bait can entail:

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • eBooks
  • Case studies
  • Videos
  • Memes
  • How to’s
  • Stories
  • FAQs
  • Landing pages
  • Apps
  • Interactive websites or features
  • Product giveaways
  • Lists
  • Visuals

How to Create Link Bait That Encourages Users to Link to You

Creating link bait can be simpler than you think. Don’t overthink the situation. What you must understand first is your target audience. Ask yourself these primary questions to help you understand your audience and how you can develop content that will speak to that audience:

  • What is their primary problem?
  • What is the solution to their problem?
  • How can you help nurture them to reach that solution?
  • What educational content can you develop to help them potentially solve their problem?
  • What statistics can you provide to help sell your customer into learning more?
  • What is your final offer?

Create Useful Content

Now that you have those questions answered, you should have a pretty clear understanding of what kind of content can be developed on your website that would speak to your ideal audience. It’s important to keep in mind that only useful content is going to gain any sort of visibility online. You have a lot of competition that has already been creating useful content.

If you’re still stuck on the type of content that’s going to attract the right users and be shareable for their networks, think about creating content that is educational and entertaining, such as ways you can add humor to it. Keep the content highly relevant to your industry, but non-promotional. The last thing users are going to want to share is a page on your website talking about your product or your company.

Valuable Content for Backlinks

Create a Plan of Action for Your Content

Once you’ve developed a list of ideas for content, there needs to be a plan in place to promote this content so that it can start to receive the visibility it deserves. For example, if your link bait piece is an eBook, there are several things that need to be thought out in order for the promotion to be successful. Here is some additional collateral that can go into eBook promotion:

  • Dedicated landing page with quality content and optimization. This will most likely be what your users will link to, so make sure this landing page is fully optimized and speaks to them.
  • Where the content will be promoted throughout the website. If the eBook is relevant to a specific service or product you offer, promote the eBook on those relevant pages with a CTA.
  • Create link bait with other forms of link bait. Think about other content that is going to promote this offer and where to promote it. If you’re a B2B business, think about B2B social networks that would find your eBook most valuable. Create a meme or statistic graphic to give users something enticing to click on and share when sharing the link to your eBook landing page. Consider other educational content that could be turned into a blog post, and, at the end of the blog post, have the eBook be the final CTA. Do you have email contacts stored that can be segmented into lists? Send an email to those contacts and show off your eBook.
  • Promote your content in the right places. If you’re strictly targeting other business owners, think about where those business owners would spend their time online. What social networks might they be part of? What big brands might they be following? Make sure you have link bait visible to your audience in the right places online.
  • Develop the right messaging for the eBook. You want people to link to your eBook, but you have to create the right message for users to want to link to you. What do you want people to take away from this eBook? This is where those statistics can be a big help with enticing users to share and learn more. Also, this is the perfect time to add a little humor to your message, because humor can really catch someone’s attention.
  • Outreach to the right websites. Develop a list of websites that are relevant, have high authority in Google, and have trusted backlinks. Don’t be generic with your outreach approach, because everyone else is doing the same thing as you: trying to get a link. Don’t be naive and think these websites are just going to link to you when you approach them with a generic email. Be creative with the approach and have some key talking points ready about their website and EXACTLY where you see a fit for your eBook to be promoted. Whether you think a guest post would suffice or if there’s already a blog post on their site relevant to your eBook messaging, have an idea of how you’d like to promote your content on THEIR website. Being thoughtful goes a long way.

Include a Call to Action as a Final Message in the Content

Since the content shouldn’t be about your product or service, you can lead to a final CTA in your content. Every piece of content on your website should have an end goal, which is your final CTA. Make that CTA clear and concise so users are not only sharing your awesome content, but know how to reach an industry expert if they need more help. This works together with your sales funnel, nurturing website users to become qualified leads. Boom.

Boom Backlinks

Creative Link Bait Campaign Examples

There are so many ways to create link bait on your website, and existing brands have already established pieces of content that have gone viral. Some examples of existing link bait from other brands include:

Moz’s Search Engine Ranking Factors

This content piece went viral because of the visual content developed by Moz’s team to showcase different Google algorithm ranking factors. This spiked the interest of many other SEO companies who have used this content in their own blog posts and articles as a valuable source for understanding Google’s ranking factors.

Moz Search Ranking Factors Backlink Analysis

By developing this valuable piece of content, Moz has boosted the Page Authority, increased social indicators, and increased the total inbound links. You can say this content was pretty successful.

RSS Tutorial

Every blog needs to have a RSS feed. The following How To tutorial walks you through how to set up a RSS feed and why these steps are so important for websites.

Rss Tutorial Link Bait Backlinks

The success of this content lead to 2,403 backlinks, increased social indicators, and a domain authority of 74/100.

Psychology of Color Infographic

Understanding color psychology is important for any website designer or digital marketer to understand in order for websites to convert at a higher rate. showcases different colors and how they can effect moods, emotions, and more in a nutshell.

This specific infographic did better socially by creating more than 2,100 likes, more than 2,300 tweets, and more than 780 Google+1s.

100+ Ways to Conserve Water Interactive Landing Page

This page shows more than 100 tips on how to conserve water usage to help educate the world about excess water consumption.

Water Conservation Link Bait Backlinks

By creating an interactive way to educate the audience, the page authority alone is a 76/100 with more than 4,500 natural backlinks. That doesn’t even count the number of social indicators happening here. There are more than 7,900 Facebook likes, 8,240 Twitter tweets, and more than 5,500 Facebook shares.

Takeaways

Creating viral link bait is not an easy process. It definitely takes a lot of creativity, optimization, content marketing, and strategy development in order to attract natural backlinks. Many times, there is a lot of trial and error that goes into developing the right piece of content in the right form that’s going to attract the right audience. Once you’ve established the type of content users are going to share naturally and webmasters are going to link to without any issues, you can develop out your content marketing strategy to include this type of content more on your website, which leads to more backlinks and higher search rankings. The key takeaway is to create valuable content that users are going to share and want to interact with.

Don’t have time to create a content link bait strategy? Our digital marketing experts can help by developing out a viral marketing campaign tailored to your audience.
Learn More About Our Expert Viral Marketing Services Here

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Lacey Bertnick

Director of Accounts at Eminent SEO. I'm passionate about digital marketing and SEO. I've been auditing websites since I was 19 years old. Been steady in the SEO and digital marketing game for 10 years. I've learned a few things. I love music, pitbulls, traveling, hiking, yoga, healthy living, new experiences, writing, learning and evolving. I'm the type of person that will tell you how it is. If something isn't working for you, change it. Life is all about the evolution. Marketing isn't any different.

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