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If you like TopRank's Online Marketing Blog, you'll find toprank.blog.com a useful source of summaries for search engine marketing, social media and online public relations.

TopRank Online Marketing is a leading Minneapolis SEO agency.

Facebook Search Engine Optimization

2010 August 6
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Facebook SEO

Facebook search is a growing opportunity. According to comScore June 2010 U.S. Search Engine Rankings figures, Facebook search queries have grown from 395 million in January of 2010 to 621 million queries in June, which is almost half the monthly queries reported for Bing (1.7 billion). If you publish content on Facebook or if you’re trying to reach audiences on Facebook, here are several tips for optimizing Facebook content:

  • Pick your page name and vanity URL wisely. Use keywords in the about box when you write your description of the page as well as in the Overview section of the info tab.
  • Take advantage of FBML (Facebook Markup Language) to add custom content (text, images and links) that can include relevant keywords that work together with your other keyword use.
  • When adding content like photos, discussion topics and status updates, use keywords in titles as appropriate. “Whenever you create a unique page on Facebook such as a discussion topic on a Fan page, there is an opportunity to implement most of the standard SEO tactics you would use with a web page.”
  • Consider Facebook’s latest offering, Questions. Be thoughtful about keywords as you title your Facebook Question and the description. “The more likes you get for your Question, the more like-ly it will show in search results, so make it interesting, descriptive, interactive (add a poll) and promote it to your network. You could also ask and answer your own questions.”

Visit Online Marketing Blog for more Facebook SEO and Marketing  tips.

Social Media Marketing – Overcoming Obstacles to Business Use

2010 July 16
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Posted by toprank

In an interview with WebProNews‘ Abby Johnson, TopRank Online Marketing CEO Lee Odden talked about social media obstacles and shiny object syndrome that often get in the way.  Businesses that hear about all Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites often “jump in” without considering the rules of engagement. The only way companies can really create value and receive benefit from the social web is to participate. With social media marketing, companies need to take the time to understand which social channels their customers are spending time on and what their information needs are. Then next step is to fulfill those needs in a way that delivers value, builds on the brand promise and also invites the participants to take next steps towards a more commercial conversation.

Content Marketing Tips on Curation

2010 June 29
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Posted by toprank

content curation

Blog search engine Technorati tracks over 100 million blogs on the web. New business blogs are started every day, on top of micromedia like Twitter, pseudo micro/blogging services like Amplify and actual long form articles from companies that realize consumers are no longer satisfied with basic products and services information. They want more. Creating new content on a daily basis is a challenge for most companies because they’re not staffed to be a publisher. Even with copywriters, topics can get stale after a while. In other words, content creation over the long term can be a real challenge.

Even if you buy into the idea that curating content authored by others makes sense and that you can avoid any appearance of appropriating content in a way the author didn’t intend, there’s the issue of implementation.   You can assign a person or people in your company to do it manually. This takes some coordination and cooperation between the people responsible for reading industry newsletter, blogs and feeds to identify content worth extracting and including in your curated publishing platform. Many popular marketing newsletters do this such as SmartBrief or sites like Social Media Today.  The challenge is that it takes time and the sites you follow may not post something useful every day. Manual input takes time too.

On the other end of the spectrum is fully automated aggregation using third party tools that convert RSS to HTML.  The pro of this method is that it takes no time at all after setup. It’s all automatic. The down side, and believe me, there is some serious down side to this, is that it’s not curation. Sure, you might make some editorial decisions when selecting the initial feed sources, but after that it’s all splog. ie spam blog.   Curation is about editorial discretion at the article level.  But wait, I said above that manually culling great content out of multiple streams is too time consuming.

How can you get editorial discretion efficiently?   One way is to use a service like Curata offers. Curata pulls in feeds based on keyword topics you identify and algorithmically filters content streams accordingly.  At the same time, the publisher of the Curata powered blog can add comments to the excerpt as well as add their own blog posts. The mix of efficiently and intelligently curated content along with original content results in a productive source of information that is useful to readers, beneficial for publishers and a great complement to a content marketing program.

As will all software that manages content, it’s a tool and customization as well as expertise in use translate into greater effectiveness in implementation. For more insights into using curation as part of your content marketing strategy, read this post on content curation where industry thought leaders:  Paul Gillin, Pawan Deshpande, Joe Pulizzi, Rohit Bhargava, David Meerman Scott, Brian Solis and Aaron Strout help define the topic and where it fits within a digital marketing mix.

3 Tips for B2B Marketers to Start their Social Media Journey

2010 June 16
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It’s usually consumer products and services companies that get most of the attention with social media marketing, but there are plenty of reasons for B2B Marketing professionals to get into the social game. How about 54 billion reasons? That’s the forecasted spend on US B2B social media marketing spend for 2014 by Forrester Research (via eMarketer).

If you’re a B2B marketing professional trying to make sense out of where your business fits on the social web, consider these three tips to get you started.

1. Establish a Listening Program: Brand monitoring is the most common dimension social media monitoring efforts focus on, but extend your efforts to Audience Analysis and Social Keyword Research as well to get a handle on the community you’re trying to engage with. Trending keywords can facilitate real-time marketing or longer term editorial planning and SEO.

2.  Give to Get with Content: Commit to aligning content with searcher personas that also meets your marketing objectives. Information and education have their place with B2B marketing. Understand those needs of your target audience and develop content (optimized for keywords of course) that meets those needs but also facilitate your prospecting pipeline.

3. Leverage Social Media Marketing campaign tools across channels to promote optimized social content. Creating multiple media and content for a single promotion to a mix of social destinations is very time consuming and inefficient unless you use tools. Examples of social media marketing campaign management tools with corresponding analytics include: Awareness, SWIX, Sprout, Pop.to, WildFire, Objective Marketer, Spredfast and Socialtalk.

Essentially, B2B marketers don’t need to “do social”, they need to “be social” and that means time and resources for participation, analysis and action. Customers can tell the difference and everything from measures of engagement to leads generated will show the difference as well. A listening program will give you insight and intelligence about the social market you’re trying to reach. You can identify the influentials you should connect with and monitor what others are saying about your brand. You can also identify what types of content to publish and promote from you B2B blog. Social media marketing campaign tools will help you stay organized and coordinated in your social content promotions.

Social Media Marketing Tips: Facebook Twitter & Blogging

2010 April 27
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Social Media Marketing is hot and business marketers are searching for tips they can use to better understand the what and how of the social web. Here are a few quick tips for better social media marketing with Facebook, Twitter and Blogs.

Facebook: Leverage Facebook advertising to gauge the audience opportunity. Research other fan pages to see what those Facebook users are not getting elsewhere and give it to them. Encourage interaction as you grow
the network and give them a reason to share your updates on and off Facebook.

Twitter: For both Twitter and Facebook, do the homework on the end consumers and influentials you’re trying to reach. Create profiles or personas of their characteristics, behaviours and preferences. Then target those personas in your friend and follower tasks to grow a high impact network. Search.twitter.com can be very handy to find who you’re looking for or you could use tools like tweetminer.net. Grow a network, execute on a plan to provide value and opportunities for the network to do what you want them to do whether it’s to upgrade to a more commercial relationship, spread the good word about our brand or recruit others to join the club.

Blogs: Take the time to create a plan for the audience, keywords and business goals you’re trying to reach with a blog. Develop a content marketing strategy that allocates resources for SEO, network development,
content promotion off the blog, commenting on other blogs, quickly responding to comments made on the blog, automatic distribution and syndication, repurposing of content and encouraging social popularity. One
of the most important tips for a new blog is to have patience and to watch web and social media analytics closely for both progress and opportunities.

When to Use Hashtags on Twitter?

2010 April 25
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Posted by toprank

Twitter hashtagsQuestion:  What are #hashtags and when is it appropriate to use them on Twitter?

Hashtags should be used to thread a conversation together or to provide context. Hashtags used as popular keywords is a marginal tactic and can be perceived as desperate or trying too hard.

Example 1: If I used the tag #onlinemarketing after every tweet, it would seem gratuitous.

Example 2: If I tweeted a question about opinions on Facebook Like buttons, I might add the tag #pollfblike to my original question so that replies might also use it to string the responses together.

Example 3: If I tweeted a statement, observation or quote about strategy, I might add the tag #socialmediastrategy to provide context.

Hashtags have been used effectively to conduct scheduled conversation on Twitter such as #blogchat or #journchat.  A blog or Facebook Fan page typically announces the scheduled chat and topic on Twitter along with a designated hashtag. That same blog might also aggregate all the messages for the discussion for easy consumption later. The compilation of tweets also provides great content for search engines.

Here are some addition resources on how to use # hashtags on Twitter:

Stats on Blogging and SEO – TopRank Marketing Survey

2010 January 27
Posted by toprank

Blog SEO Survey A large number of companies are familiar with the process of starting a blog, but few have experienced the challenges of maintaining and growing a blog for more than a year. Understanding the long term benefits is key to sustainable business blogging. One of the most notable benefits of publishing blog content, especially if optimized, is the compliment to search engine optimization efforts.

TopRank Marketing’s Online Marketing Blog recently conducted a survey with 326 Corporate, Agency, Small Biz and Independent marketers to discover their current experiences with blogging and the perceived impact on search engine optimization efforts.  Key findings:

95% indicated blogs are used as part of their search engine optimization efforts
87.4% successfully increased measurable SEO objectives as a direct result of blogging
90% cited blogging as important, significantly important or a primary SEO tactic

Blogs are started for many reasons ranging from corporate communications in a newsroom format to conversational posts from executives or subject matter experts. When it came to SEO benefits from blogging, the top choices were:

  • Creat new optimized content
  • Linking from blog posts to optimized web site content
  • Attract external links
  • Increase crawl rate / frequency
  • Community building for content/links promotion
  • Content Syndication

The timeframe between starting a blogging effort and seeing results is a very common question for companies considering a blog as part of the marketing and communications mix. In the TopRank survey, respondents reported seeing SEO results fairly quickly:

94% of bloggers reported seeing measurable SEO benefits from blogging within 12 months
54% of respondents start to see SEO benefits from blogging within 3 months

After timeframe to see results, the next most common question about building a case for a corporate blog are the results. Adding a SEO effort to a corporate blog allows companies to increase the outcomes and reach of the content published. The top benefits from blog SEO included:

  • Increasing company site traffic
  • Increase company leads/sales
  • Inbound links
  • Referrals from the blog
  • Lead generation from the blog
  • Improved web site rankings
  • Increased blog traffic

Starting a blog purely for SEO reasons will make content sustainability difficult in the long run. A blogging strategy must meet meet other goals as well, especially those that involve engaging customers or interactions with readers. Other success measures from blogging include:

  • Increase overall online exposure. They won’t know about you if you don’t say anything, participate
  • Contribute to company’s bottom line goals in at least a semi-direct way
  • Branding and owning SERPS
  • Increase quality of site traffic
  • Improve visibility and prominence in search engine results is by far the most important, it’s all about search
  • Branding
  • Incease visibility and demonstrate the company is “up to date”

Convincing management that a corporate blog or any kind of blog is not always easy. Nor is long term creation of content and promotion. Many of the comments about obstacles to blogging centered around time, resources, measurement and a lack of awareness.

  • 67.2% cited resource issues as the most common objection to implementing a blog
  • 42% cited content sourcing issues
  • 35% didn’t see the benefit of blogging
  • Regulated industry or legal issues got in the way for 19.3

Is blogging here to stay? 92% of respondents feel blogging will continue to be an important content optimization and marketing tactic for the next 3+ years.

Read the full results of the Blogging and SEO Survey here along with a large number of comments from respondents on measuring success and SEO applications of blogging. Follow @toprank on Twitter for more insights into Social SEO and Blogging.

TopRank Marketing – SEO Case Study

2010 January 24
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Posted by toprank

TopRank Marketing

According to eMarketer, total US search marketing spending is predicted to reach $23.4 billion within 3 years.  Follow the money and you’ll see an industry that is credible and where corporate marketers are investing.  The following search engine optimization case study illustrates how TopRank® Online Marketing helped improve revenue for the national Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Jobcenter.

Improving search visibility of job listings led to visitor referral increases exceeding 400%, dramatically increasing the value PRSA JobCenter job listings provide to companies hiring PR and Communications professionals and attracting more advertisers.

SEO Case Study Situation:

PRSA represents the world’s largest PR organization with over 31,000 professional and student members. One of the key resources the PRSA offers to its members is the Jobcenter where over 77,000 potential employees are able to connect with Communications and PR hiring managers at major corporations and agencies nationwide.

To improve the reach of job listings published on the JobCenter and improve the effectiveness of connecting candidates with open PR and communications positions, PRSA engaged Minnesota based TopRank Marketing to address JobCenter search engine optimization issues. Keyword research, code and content optimization, content organization, ongoing promotion and link building plus analytics combined to boost JobCenter search traffic via Google, Yahoo and Bing search engines.

SEO Solution:

A SEO Audit was conducted to identify target market keywords, opportunities for code level optimization, crawling and indexing issues as well as content that would meet the needs of candidates searching for specific types of PR and communications jobs.  A keyword glossary of popular and relevant terms was reconciled with the available content on the web site and recommendations were made to update pages, tags and links where necessary.

Part of those recommendations were to create job category pages that offered specific information on the top job searches on the PRSA Jobcenter.  RSS feeds for each category were created and promoted, allowing job seekers to subscribe and receive automatic updates.

A variety of link building tactics including the use of a widget to populate other web sites with PRSA powered job listings provided direct traffic and a useful signal to search engine crawlers that other topically relevant web sites considered the PRSA Jobcenter worth linking to.

The Jobcenter site optimization edits and new job category pages provided targeted content for the search engines and also created a seamless connection between the employers job listings and job seekers. Clustering popular phrases by category and subsequent content pages proved useful for search engines and for searchers.

Ongoing training of PRSA staff on keyword usage in new document creation as well as link building helped the client, “help themselves”.

SEO Results:

Within the first six months of implementing the SEO audit and new category pages, total traffic to PRSA’s site has increased substantially, while pageviews for PRSA’s Jobcenter increased by over 40% and continues to climb.

Search engine rankings and visitor referrals from competitive keyword phrases increased substantially. For example, referrals from queries on the #1 Google ranking keyword phrase ‘public relations jobs‘ have increased by over 450%.

The goal of making Public Relations and Communications job listings posted to PRSA’s Jobcenter more easily found via search directly affected the ability to promote PRSA over competitors and attract new advertisers.

For other search engine optimization case studies, tips and how to’s connect with TopRank:

Website: Internet Marketing Consulting
Twitter: @toprank

Blog: Online Marketing Blog
Facebook: TopRank Online Marketing

Quality Control: 5 Tips to Ensure Your Pay Per Click Campaign is Up to Standard

2009 September 1
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Posted by toprank

Pay Per Click Tips

As a business owner, you take pride in the quality of the goods and services you provide to your customers. Why should your marketing and advertising efforts reflect anything less? This is particularly true for pay per click (PPC) advertising campaigns, or the listings in the search engine for which you pay each time a user clicks on your ad.

Unfortunately, many PPC advertisers adopt a “set it and forget it” attitude towards paid search: selecting keywords at will, haphazardly drafting ad copy, directing those who click on their ads to a homepage, and expecting the leads to pour in. A truly effective, quality PPC campaign requires a little more effort than that.

Just as you would take the time to nurture your goods into the high quality products your customers expect, so should you take the time to nurture your PPC program into a high quality, optimally performing campaign. Follow the below five steps for PPC campaign creation and practice a little quality control in your online marketing efforts.

  1. Materials: Think of keywords as the basic materials of your pay per click campaign. You ensure the materials you put into your goods and services answer a specific need to create your ideal product. Take the same approach to keyword selection. Look at the specific terms that truly describe what you are offering to searchers, and not just which terms are most popular.
  2. Assembly: The way in which you organize your keywords into specific ad groups is similar to how you would structure the assembly of your product to ensure maximum efficiency. In product assembly, you group like tasks together. In ad group creation, you group like keywords together. Place your keywords into extremely granular, closely-related groups that can speak directly to your ad copy to ensure a high quality, cohesive ad group.
  3. Packaging: Ad copy is the packaging of your PPC campaign. You design your packaging to attract attention and entice customers, and your PPC ad copy should function in the same way. Your first goal is to let searchers know exactly what you are offering – so draft your copy to speak directly to the keywords in its ad group. As PPC ads are very brief, don’t be cryptic. State exactly why searchers should click on your ad rather than all the other rankings, both organic and paid, for a given term.
  4. Product: Your landing page is the product of your PPC campaign. It’s what you are trying to get searchers to ‘buy,’ by either filling out an inquiry form, downloading a piece of fulfillment, or even directly purchasing your goods. Your clients want a functional, appealing product that fulfills their need. Your landing page should be user-friendly, informative, and a direct response to the user’s search query.
  5. Quality Assurance: You continually monitor and adjust your product for improvement. A PPC campaign is no different. Take your ‘customer feedback,’ or your click through and conversion rates, into consideration and adjust your keyword lists, ad copy and landing page continually in order to develop the optimal PPC campaign.

Creating a quality PPC program can take some time and effort; however the end result of a high-impact campaign is increased brand awareness and leads that translate into greater revenue. Approach PPC like you approach your product, and you can create a quality PPC program that generates a high ROI.

5 SEO Campaign Essentials for Top Search Engine Ranking

2009 August 26
Posted by toprank

5 SEO Tips

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a necessary component of any successful business website. The internet has become the primary resource for information on everything, including the goods and services your company provides. Yet with all of the search engine hoops to jump through, an effective SEO campaign is surprisingly similar to a political campaign. You need to beat out your competitors and win over your public, in this case the search engines, to convince them you are most deserving of the top spot.

So how do you get the search engines’ votes? Will you need to hire a campaign staff, i.e. enlist outside assistance, to make it to the top? Take TopRank’s five SEO campaign essentials into account and ensure your website is elected to the highest search engine position.

  1. Plot Your Campaign Trail: Know what you ultimately want to achieve with your SEO campaign. Are you looking to increase your site traffic? Up your brand visibility among your target audience? Generate more leads? Solidifying your goals is a necessary step in deciding which SEO campaign tactics to deploy and how to measure your results.
  2. Staff Your Campaign Headquarters: Do you have the resources to implement your ideal SEO program? Or will you need the help of a seasoned campaign manager to reach your goals? Once you have established what you hope to attain with your SEO program, take a look at your capital, SEO knowledge, and bandwidth to decide what you can accomplish and what you will need help with.
  3. Count Your Votes Unlike a political campaign, you don’t have “yay or nay” votes to indicate your win: and even these are not always so clear-cut. Do you determine success by your website’s rankings for key terms in the search engines? Or by a change in organic website traffic over a given period of time? Reference the objectives you established in order to solidify precise metrics that will clearly indicate the success of your SEO campaign.
  4. Take Your Message to the People: Just like a candidate, you need to get your campaign message in front of an audience in order to sway those votes. Find your target audience online, rather than waiting for them to find you. Knowing where your prospective customers are interacting with one another online, and promoting your website as a resource within that space, can increase the reach of your SEO program and improve your ROI.
  5. Deliver on Your Campaign Promises: You need to make good on the initial ‘promises’ you made to the search engines in terms of the quality and relevancy of you website in order to maintain the top spot. As search engines are constantly upgrading the way in which they determine website rank, a good SEO program should adapt to survive and thrive in the changing online environment. A consistent, ongoing SEO program is your best bet to ensure you win your bid for reelection and continue to rank highly in the search engines.

Campaigning for the top slot in the search engines can be difficult. Your needs are unique, and you need to keep your goals clearly in mind in order to establish a campaign that will get you the ‘votes’ you need to exceed the competition. Good SEO consultants or in-house SEO specialists should use their expertise to establish individualized campaigns for each and every project.