Internet Marketing

Google+ Used in Apparent Black Hat SEO Scam

Colorado Attorney General now Involved

Competition is tough! All manner of businesses are forced to compete with one another for the attention and good placement on the internet search engines. When prominent placement is achieved, revenue frequently follows.  The intensity of local competition though has caused some businesses to take chances with so called “Black Hat” schemes to get them this good search engine placement. At the core of this scheme seems to be a campaign for online reviews. Online reviews are validations for the goods and services that a company provides. The more positive reviews, the better the placement for the company on the search engines when users seek information about a particular product or service.

Getting positive reviews for one’s business can be difficult though. Not only does the consumer have to be satisfied with the service or product, he/she has to write a review on the right social media platform.  Enter Google+…    Google+ and Google local provide a powerful platform where positive reviews impact the way a local result is displayed. Get good reviews here and your search engine results should improve.

A Denver roofing company was recently featured in a local CBS news station story about how Google+ pages were apparently set up under the names of customers for the purpose of providing positive reviews. Positive reviews for the company did appear under the names of these customers. Interestingly though, the customers that supposedly provided the reviews may have never actually created the accounts or written the reviews. The customers were apparently all satisfied with the work performed, but the Google+ pages that bore their names didn’t seem to belong to at least some of them.

Investigating who created these accounts in the names of customers is an ongoing process extending up to the Colorado Attorney General’s office. Whether this tactic constitutes a form of identity theft or false advertising is a central question.  According to the Colorado Attorney General, the practice may also be a violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act.  In the end, whoever created these accounts may wind up in much more trouble than they wanted. In any case, this type of “Black-Hat” SEO or internet marketing tactic will surely place the business and the marketer in a very negative light.

Vince Lombardi – famed Green Bay Packers Head Football Coach – was once reported to state that “winning isn’t everything – it is the only thing.” Winning in the SEO and internet marketing area does have some common sense rules and those that stretch the guidelines are likely to get themselves into trouble and significantly damage  their and their client’s reputation. Stay tuned to this story!

Here is the link to the local news story. Take a moment and watch the video as well.

 

 

 

 

Creating Good Content – Just the Basics

No doubt about it, developing good content requires investment. Time, research and expertise all go into crafting interesting stories that others in your market will find interesting and valuable. This ‘value’ inclusion is the element that builds strength for your website and strength for your reputation as an author.  As author and sponsorship authority and rank become more important in attracting new readers from the search engines, these story elements cannot be taken lightly and in the end, define what is ‘good content.’

What is good content?  Simply put, good content:
·    benefits others
·    offers help and assistance, and
·    answers questions

Note in particular that there is nothing in this list about selling a product. The place for product advocacy is on a product web page that the user can be invited to read. Content created for the purpose of building a relationship should in most cases avoid a direct sales pitch and instead offer suggestions, solutions and information geared to making the reader’s life better.

Does informational content qualify as marketing content?  The simple answer is ‘yes.’ Marketing establishes relationships with those that may become future buyers and brand advocates. Content that helps build these relationships then qualifies under the business marketing function.

Many marketers and marketing organizations fail to distinguish between marketing and sales. The selling function provides information necessary to the buying decision and in many instances, attempts to compel the reader to take action. The marketing function tends to fall under a higher level of research, relationship building and brand management. It is within this latter area that content marketing tends to be the most effective.

Making this content effective – in addition to meeting the basic good content requirements – provides a benefit to those reading it that they don’t have to pay for.  It is though, an invitation to continue visiting the site or blog and when the need to buy arises, the author will have the credibility to compete for the business.

Benefits:
Benefits take many forms. Ways of thinking about certain problems or overcoming obstacles qualify as a reader benefit. In terms of form, content may be presented graphically or with a bit of humor. Humor is in fact a big reason readers return to certain sites.  Information that is delivered with some entertainment value is disarming and makes consuming the content enjoyable.

Giving some credit to one’s readers is also important.  Letting the reader distill his/her value from your content  by presenting case studies, results of system trials and other attempts to do things differently are terrifically valuable.  In the end, providing a benefit to your reader simply means sharing something that you have learned in your business or in life.

Help and Assistance:
Offering help usually takes the form of offering a resource list or some type of suggestion for solving critical problems.  In addition to problem solving, information to help in problem avoidance is also quite valuable to the reader.  In either case, providing this value is a good reason for the reader to consume the content and to return at a future date.

Sometimes, problems and obstacles are either hidden or somewhat embarrassing.  Recovering from mistakes and errors can make for compelling content. Besides, everyone loves a comeback!

Questions:
Answering questions is a frequently overlooked way of connecting with readers. Simply maintaining a list of issues that others in your industry are wrestling with can give you a never ending supply of content ideas. Presenting questions and answering them also keeps you in a leadership position in your industry.

Creating good content may not be easy.  If it was, everyone would be doing it.  in the end, the effort to create good, basic content is conceptually easy, but more challenging to deliver.  But.. by attracting readers in your niche and by presenting your ideas, you can attain a leadership role in your industry and with that, attract business when readers become buyers.

How to Get More Google+ Followers – Community Building Fundamentals

In building one’s Google+ following, there are a couple key strategies that may not be unique to Google+ but are fundamental to most social media relationships. Keeping in mind two simple strategies can make building one’s G+ community more interesting and efficient. These are :

  • contributing to the conversation, and
  • giving others a good reason to follow you.

These two points are really indistinguishable in their application, but tactically, there are separate considerations. Understanding these strategies can make your social media outreach much more efficient and rewarding.

Contributing to the Conversation:
Reading other posted content, commenting by adding bits of value is contribution in its simplest form. Really focusing on adding value though, can greatly improve the response you get from your efforts.

Adding Value:
What kinds of ‘value’ are appropriate to the social media outreach? Your experience, opinions and observations make the most compelling content. Observations or the sharing of your discoveries makes interesting reading and can help others in your niche achieve their objectives. The more you help others achieve objectives, the more others will keep you in their circles.

Much can be said for sharing useful statistics. Stats can be difficult to present, but they offer a real opportunity to prove your points. Sharing a case study that shows a specific action leading to a verifiable, measurable result can make a great bit of content that others will find useful. Research and the willingness to share results in your community will make your content valuable and will inspire others to share it within their circles.

Content creator frequently resist sharing their findings or research for fear of giving away their expertise. Sharing results doesn’t necessarily mean sharing all of the tactics or minute details about how the task was accomplished, however. A few generalized statements of objectives and process can frequently provide the value without sharing the actual inner workings of one’s processes. In the end though, being a part of the community may occasionally require sharing of a few of these success secrets. This is just part of being a niche leader.

Giving Others a Reason to Follow:
Adding value is of course the primary reason others will follow your social media sites. However, establishing relationships involves application of some standard social skills, including thanking others for following you and only following others that share good content. Establishing yourself as a thought-leader with valuable industry insight as well as being welcoming to new followers is an unbeatable combination. Followers are people, and people won’t stay around if they do not feel welcomed – even if the content is fairly good.

Following Tips:
Just as you wish others to follow you for the value of your content, only follow others that can contribute to the pursuit of your objectives. Staying within your niche is helpful, especially when reading the history feed. If you are part of a larger organization, this is especially important. Interspersing irrelevant information with valuable content takes time to sort through and won’t help anyone find useful information. So by keeping the content in your feed meaningful, internal readers can quickly understand if the content is worth spending time reviewing. In the end, a smaller circle of relevant, followed sites make the history feed more valuable and easier to manage.

Likes and Plusses:
Adding your vote to others’ content that you find useful by liking or ‘plussing’ it by clicking on the plus sign next associated with a G+ post is actually a good way to invite others to follow you. Telling the content creator that the material was valuable is a good way to invite her/him to join your community as well.

Many Google+ posts include links to the poster’s blog. Community builders that get in a hurry frequently ‘plus’ content without actually reading it. ‘Plussing’ a G+ post though, really implies that you have read through the material. This is where the value is to you, but it is surprising how many just go through their feeds and plus content based only on the description. Of course those that receive the plus vote are happy to get it, but by skimming through or plussing posts without reading through it only shortchanges the one doing the community building.

Citing a portion of the content and then basing your comment on specific parts of the material is particularly effective in showing that you read and understood it. Adding your value to other’s content makes the entire post more valuable to the community and establishes you as a major contributor. Savvy community builders look for others willing to add value, research and opinions for inclusion into their communities.

Inspiring others to follow you requires a commitment of time and effort. Time spent reading other content as well as adding your own value points shows that you are knowledgeable and would be worth having as a member of other circles. And.. whenever someone follows you, always send a thank you note!

Matthew Stone assists clients build significant Google+ communities to help them grow their businesses. Follow him on Google+ or follow Denver SEO Consultants  to join the conversation!

 

Get Google+ Followers – A Start Up Strategy

After working with Google+ for the past two months, we’ve identified some useful tactics and engagement strategies to build your following. These strategies required some significant investments of  time and effort.  However, the effort provided the somewhat unexpected benefit of being an incredible learning experience.  Not only did we build a following now pushing 400 in about eight weeks, we gained an incredible amount of knowledge from reading the content provided by others in the community. In the end, this is what building a community is all about;  sharing and contributing for the purpose of improving the knowledge base for all participants.

The adoption of Google+ by other businesses as a strategic social business platform has reached a remarkable level. Some estimates have the new user growth rate exceeding 30% per year. Based on our experience working with the platform and with the community we’ve built, this growth rate estimate might seem a bit low. Google+ is easy to use and allows efficient management of one’s community of followers and provides some very significant business benefits.

Why Users are Adopting G+

In addition to the benefits of improved knowledge, attracting a number of Google+ followers improves page rank and Search Engine Results Page ranking for the company website. A robust following generates direct traffic for blog posts or content that you might wish to share more widely. In the end, building relationships using Google + is worth the effort.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be discussing some of the lessons-learned from building our Google+ following and sharing what benefits we learn about.  We will also share the mistakes and errors we made when we got in a hurry.  Experienced social media managers may understand these points, but hopefully our ‘lessons learned’ will help you avoid the same troubles if you are undertaking this task yourself. This week’s post is about kicking off the effort.

Setting up the Google+ Page

The Google+ home page can be easily set up in a few minutes using your Google login. If you don’t have one, just go to Google’s Set Up Page  and click on the ‘get started’ tab. As Google has combined Google Local with Google+, the new set up procedure requires you to verify ownership of the site. There are a couple easy ways to do this that the system will instruct you through.  Once this is done, the system will ask if you would like to customize with some images.

Step One – Images

Image creation does not need to be one of your major strengths. However, selecting a logo is important. When the page is set up, the system will ask for a Profile and a Banner image. It is possible to set up the page without these assets, but leaving them blank or using the Google supplied images just shows a lack of effort and won’t be inviting to readers.

The most important of these is the ‘Profile’ image. Not only does this image display on the main page of your Google+ site,  whenever you comment, “plus” another comment or  post, this image appears in a greatly reduced form. Logos that are simple and contain little text work well. Logo images that have long wording will look fuzzy and unclear when rendered in the smaller version. Some users simply use their photos for their Profile image. This might take a little trial and error to get a good logo for use as the Profile image, but making sure that the image works well in both large and small form is worth the effort when you start commenting and leaving your mark as you build your network.

Setting up your banner image is very easy as well. You can just grab a snapshot of your storefront, office or other interesting image that fits the long space at the top of the page.  NEVER choose a stock image from Google for the banner as that just shows a low level of interest in managing your page and your page will look like thousands of others.

Setting up the Google+ page is really very easy. Working with the images really isn’t that difficult either. The time consuming part begins when you reach out to others in the community to start building your following.  Check back next week when we’ll get into the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how to contribute and how to attract followers.