Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Selecting Keywords for SEO: A Quick Guide for PR and Social Media Pros

Shannon Paul’s had a post yesterday that included very good advice for PR pros who want to plunge into the social media world (make sure you look at the presentation she’s embedded in the post).  Shannon suggests that PR pros need to start thinking about how they can make their content searchable and sharable in order to make the leap.  Kudos to Shannon for raising an issue that the clients of PR agencies have been demanding – make it easy to find the information – focus on keywords, SEO and links.

Given that the intersection of social media, PR and SEO is a topic that’s near and dear to our hearts here at BuzzStream, I thought I’d expand on one of the topics in Shannon’s presentation – keyword selection.  Picking keywords is incredibly important, and not just for press release optimization…do it right and it will help all of your marketing activities.

For our SEO-oriented audience, most of this will be fairly basic.  For those of you in PR that are new to this, I’m hoping it will give you some good ideas about how you can more effectively identify keywords, and do it in a fast, inexpensive fashion.  There’s no one right way to select keywords, but we like the approach I’m going to describe because it helps you identify keywords that are closely aligned to the terms your customer uses to shop for or to find information about products in your market (as opposed to simply finding keywords based on things like overall keyword popularity).

Keyword selection can feel pretty daunting when you’re just getting started, but it’s not as tough as it seems.  Here’s how we do it at BuzzStream.

Don’t START with Google’s Keyword Suggestion Tool!

Note that I didn’t say “don’t use the keyword suggestion tool.”  It’s valuable as a supplemental tool, but in my opinion there are a lot of reasons not to rely on it as your starting point.  The problems are similar in many ways to the problems with relying on shotgun blast media pitches for your media and blogger outreach efforts…it’s broad-based, but much of what you get is irrelevant.  Additionally, it doesn’t help you identify the long-tail search opportunities, which have a ton of potential value.  Instead, you need to start by trying to put yourself in the customer’s shoes (if you’ve developed personas and a positioning statement for the company, it’ll be even easier).  In order to do this, the first thing we do is brainstorm on the following topics …for each, I’ve included some of the more general terms we’ve identified for BuzzStream’s customer to serve as examples:

  1. Who is the product for? – e.g., small business, SMBs, DIY
  2. What type/category? – e.g., marketing, word-of-mouth, SEO, public relations
  3. What is it? – e.g., software, service, tools
  4. Verbs/adjectives? – e.g., improve enhance, better
  5. What does it affect? – PageRank, publicity, lead generation

For each of these, start with the most general terms and progressively drill-down.  So, for example, you might have “marketing” as the most general term for “category,” and from there you might drill all the way down to something as specific as “microPR.”  The more general terms will have much more traffic, but they’re harder to rank on and they don’t convert as well.  It’s the exact opposite for the more specific terms, which is what makes them so valuable.

Once you’re done, you’ll end up with a bunch of keywords in each of the five categories.  Then you start putting the terms together – e.g., “small business marketing software,” and “tools to improve search performance.”  You can do this in Excel, so that you don’t have to manually create the combinations.  You’ll need to eyeball the combinations and remove the ones that don’t make sense…you don’t have to spend a ton of time doing this because the bad ones will mostly be thrown out when you test your keywords (I’ll cover this in a minute).

Check out the competition

You can supplement the concept-oriented keywords you created by looking at your competition to see what they’re doing.  There are lots of tools to help you see what others are bidding on and to see their ads.  This is valuable because you get to see the language they use in their ads…it also helps you identify competitors that you weren’t aware of.  Some of the tools to look at include adgooroo, spyfu and keycompete.  All of these tools include a free trial period.

Competitive keyword searching still won’t tell you which terms are working and not working though.  For that, you need to test.

Test, test, test!

Once you’ve generated your keywords combinations, you can test them with an Adwords campaign.  Setting up an adwords campaign is easy to do and it’s inexpensive.  You can take a very large list of keywords (thousands) and get a good idea of what your customer really care about for less than a $1,000.  The information you’ll get back is incredibly useful because not only do you find out what people are clicking on, you can determine what converts into blog subscriptions, email signups, leads, revenue, etc.

Other resources

This is really just the tip of the iceberg, and there are a ton of good resources if you want to dig in deep into keyword research and selection.  My favorite is Search Engine Guide’s series on keyword research, selection and organization.  Aaron Wall has great training information on keyword selection as well.

If there are specific areas of keyword selection you’d like us to drill into in future posts, let us know.

One other thing – keyword selection is as much art as science, so feel free to jump in here…PR and social media pros – what’s working well for you when selecting keywords?


More proof of the small business social media advantage

Chris Brogan had two posts over the weekend about a guy named “Bob” at a Fortune 500 company who tried to engage with his customers and was cut off at the knees by management.  By themselves these posts are interesting reads, but for marketers at small and mid-size business, they’re even more interesting when read with Marshall Kirkpatrick’s post about Balsamiq.  I’ll get to that one in a minute, but first let me get back to Chris Brogan’s posts…

There’s a good discussion in the comments to Chris’ posts about whether or not Bob should have done this without the company’s approval and whether or not the company has legitimate reasons not to participate.  My take – I’d bet a dollar that the conflict stems less from the specifics of the situation and more from the fact that it’s a big company with a culture and org structure that’s not designed to support this kind of participation. I wrote a post a few weeks back about the social media advantage for small and mid-size businesses and Andy Angelos from Zocalo Group pointed out in the comments that often big companies want to participate in the conversation, but they’re simply not built for this.  They’re designed for deliberate, structured decision making and they’re optimized for preventing bad decisions from being made.  This just doesn’t work when the name of the game is speed and independent decision making.

So, as Einstein said, “in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity,” and in this case, Mister or Miss marketer at a small or mid-size business, the opportunity is yours.  If you doubt this in any way, go take a look at Marshall Kirkpatrick’s post on ReadWriteWeb about Balsamiq.  The post describes how the founder of Balsamiq has leveraged social media to build a kickass small business in a really short period of time.  We use Balsamiq here at BuzzStream to create all of our low fidelity mockups and we love it…what were we using before Balsamiq?  Microsoft Visio (i.e., the big company product).  Why did we switch?  Because Balsamiq solves a specific problem really well, we liked the way that the product was evolving, and we got great support from them.  On top of this, we just liked the mentality of the company and, even though we’ve never actually met him, we liked the founder, Peldi Guilizzoni.

So how do all these things relate to social media?  Peldi uses social media as the underpinnings for virtually all of his communications with the market.  Why does the product solve a specific problem so well?  Peldi blogs and uses twitter actively and gets tons of feedback on the needs of the market.  Why is support so good?  Balsamiq’s Get Satisfaction support community is very active and Peldi is heavily involved in the discussion (also great for driving product direction).  How did we find out about Balsamiq?  Word-of-mouth, resulting from his participation on blogs and twitter.  And what was it that made us like Peldi, even though we’d never actually met him?  Take a look at his blog…you can’t help but root for him.  When I use Balsamiq, I don’t feel like I’m using some product built by a nameless, faceless team of engineers…I feel like I’m using a product built by a human being who loved building it and is really excited about growing his business.  I wouldn’t feel that if it weren’t for Peldi’s social media participation.

As I’ve said before, we’re in the middle of the single biggest shift in marketing since the advent of television.  Few big companies are going to really embrace this in the near term.  As a marketing or SEO manager at a small or mid-size business, this is a huge opportunity for you.  If you’re thinking about participating or if you’re just dabbling,  now is the time to get in the mix.


Social Media Measurement: Yes, ROI Matters

Jason Falls blog, Social Media Explorer, is right near the top of the list of my favorite social media blogs.  Jason had a post last week about social media measurement that led to a pretty lively discussion in the comments, on twitter, and on a number of blog posts that linked to the original post.  For some reason, I can’t seem to get this one out of my head…there was a lot I agree with in the discussion, but also a number of things that just don’t ring true to me.  In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts:

Like it or not, ROI matters

Based on what I saw in the conversation that followed Jason’s post, people’s views about ROI measurement seem to fall along a continuum.  On one end is the group that argues that measuring ROI might be hard, but it’s not impossible, and, given that the end goal of social media participation is to grow the business, social media marketers are either going to figure it out or they’re going to get screwed.  Dan Thornton makes the argument pretty effectively in his comment when he says that engagement metrics are important, “but you still need to figure out where engagement sits for the rest of the business, and how it’s integrated into other areas. If it’s contributing to natural search results, for example, then without any measurement of other outcomes, the results are all attributed to SEO work, and engagement is disregarded.”

At the other end of the spectrum is a group that, at best, is ambivalent about the idea of trying to measure social media ROI in terms of financial metrics.  Shannon Paul’s comment is indicative of this:

“I understand that businesses make decisions based on the bottom line, but isn’t social media engagement all about humanizing organizations? Ultimately, businesses are made of human beings and most human beings I know are motivated by a number of things in different measure — profit is only one such motivator.”

Shannon is another one who’s writing some really good stuff on her blog, but I’m with Dan on this one (just in case the title of the post didn’t tip you off).  Peter Kim summed up my feelings about this best when he said “I have and will always believe that the purpose of marketing is to sell stuff, whether direct response or 30-year sales cycle.  Marketers who don’t believe that their job is to ultimately sell something should become receptionists instead, if all you want to do is talk.”

Yes, metrics that indicate the quality of conversations are important and, yes, people should get more out social media participation than financial gain.  Frankly, I don’t think you can be successful without these things.  But at the end of the day, if participation isn’t going to result in revenue for the business, the initiatives aren’t going to get funded and it’s all for naught.  Marketers can get away with this now because we’re still deep in the early adopter phase, but this won’t last long.  Particularly in this economic environment, companies are going to move quickly from exclusively measuring things that indicate level of participation to measurements that tie to revenue.

You can’t determine the right metric without first identifying the goals

Katie Paine talked about letting your objectives drive your choice of metrics in the video interview that accompanied Jason’s post (watch this video…the ROI on the 11 minutes you’ll invest to watch it is very high :-) ).  Paraphrasing her comment, “in order to determine ROI, you need to know what the R is.”  In other words, you need to decide what you’re trying to achieve.  I think this is exactly right and it a point that gets missed often.  The metrics for measuring word-of-mouth effectiveness, for example, are going to be very different than the metrics for brand loyalty.

Incidentally, as part of this discussion, I’ve seen a number of tweets/comments saying that social media isn’t for attracting new customers, it’s for building relationships with existing customers.  Maybe I’m just misunderstanding what people are saying because, at face value, this doesn’t make sense to me and there are plenty of word-of-mouth case studies that refute it.  Some examples: 1) NetQoS’ viral video campaign – two of the primary goals were to increase traffic and drive leads.  The net result of their campaign was that it added $500,000 into the pipeline, 2)  Caminito Steakhouse, where they’ve seen a 30% increase in sales concurrent with a significant improvement in search engine rankings on key terms…they haven’t drawn a clear line that shows the link between participation, improved PageRank and increased revenue, but I guarantee you that it wouldn’t be hard to build a model that shows clear correlation, and 3) Martell Home Builders – take a look at the comment from Pierre Martell (the owner of the business).  Lead gen is a key part of their strategy and according to Pierre, “from an ROI point of view, because of the real estate fees were saving, it didn’t take many sales to justify this approach from a pure dollars and cents point of view.”

Traffic still matters

Katie argues that traffic doesn’t matter.  I disagree.  By itself it doesn’t, but in conjunction with other metrics, I think it’s still valuable.  Give me two blogs that are equally relevant to my customer, have the same average number of comments, have the same PageRank, etc.  Are you telling me that, even if one of these blogs has twice the traffic as the other, it’s no more valuable for word-of-mouth than the other?

Small and mid-size businesses have different measurement capabilities and needs than big businesses

Note the mention of ROI in the NetQoS, Martell Homes and Caminito Steakhouse word-of-mouth case studies.  For all three of these SMBs it just isn’t that difficult to measure ROI because the marketing mix isn’t that complex and the customer touchpoints are easier to track.  Very different than a big company, where measuring ROI requires fairly complex modeling since there are so many more possible drivers of revenue.  Do the metrics that the small business uses encapsulate all of the benefit provided by social media participation?  Definitely not, but it doesn’t matter.  Despite the fact that some of the value generated doesn’t get captured by the metrics (e.g., for NetQoS, prospects that become aware of the company as a result of the video campaign, but visit the site through organic search), there’s still enough measurable value to clearly justify the investment.

Measurement on the front-end is very different for the small business as well.  Big companies might think it’s important to conduct detailed analysis to determine influence, but small companies have neither the time or money for this.  While traditional metrics have problems, they’re simple and, when combined with engagement metrics, they’re good enough for small businesses.

So what does your social media dashboard look like?  What are your social media goals and what are the metrics that you track most closely to determine your success?


3 Quick Ways to Use Social Media to Get to Big Media

The world of PR is in a state of turmoil. As advertising dollars shrink, print pubs have all but disappeared and online media sites are strapped for resources. Only the biggest stories seem to get picked up these days. So, how do you get the press to pay attention? Try social media.

At BreakingPoint, I’ve seen a huge impact from social media activity on media coverage–primarily blogs and Twitter. In fact, I guestimate that a full 30% or more of my company’s Twitter followers are media or analysts. Recently one of our security experts posted an in-depth look at a clickjacking vulnerability on our blog, we posted on Twitter and a writer from Ziff Davis (one of our followers) picked up the story. This coverage has been one of our top sources of web traffic for over a week now. Amazing!

Here are a few very easy ways you can get started using social media to get to big media:

  1. Monitor and get involved in the conversation. Set up your RSS feeds, Google Alerts, and Tweetscans in iGoogle and start watching the market. Identify issues and trends. Spot conversations and jump into the conversation. If someone posts to a forum about a need, offer advice. If someone mentions your company or product, by all means, reach out to them. HubSpot provides this excellent piece of advice in their post on the topic:”Monitor your company / brand on Twitter. A while back we noticed that Guy Kawasaki mentioned Website Grader on Twitter.  Well, of course we had to let him know a bit more about Website Grader and maybe ask if he would also blog about it?  The result was this blog article on Website Grader which drove a good amount of traffic and leads.”  (See below for a cool tip on how to easily monitor people talking about your company on Twitter.)
  2. Build a circle of influence with journalists and analysts. BreakingPoint’s Director of Marketing Kyle Flaherty provides a detailed three part case study in how we used these tools for PR and crisis communications. He shares these details about getting started:“With our goals outland a limited amount of knowledge concerning our community we set about reworking the way in which we communicated with the outside world.  Blogging and Twitter dominated our activities the past three months, but we’ve also been sure to be interactive with Vimeo (after realizing YouTube simply provides poorer quality), Flickr and to gather information at places like FriendFeed, Facebook, Squidoo and Ning.”
  3. Sign up for Help a Reporter Out (HARO) Think of it as a free version Profnet.How does it work and why is it so popular? Journalists go online fill out a form and their request gets added to the three time daily email distribution to members. If you see a story that you could contribute to, your simply reply directly to the query. I’ve used it myself and have connected with several journalists. East Coast PR pro Peter Shankman started HARO out on Facebook where the service grew rapidly and needed a home off Facebook to manage the size. You can also follow Shankman on Twitter.

    I’m sure there are many more techniques you can use to get noticed in the media these days. Feel free to share in the Comments section.