Words by Wes O’Donnell
Wes is a serial entrepreneur who has successfully started 3 companies. He is a veteran of both the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force and is a professional keynote speaker covering topics focusing on veterans and leadership. Reach out to Wes on LinkedIn!
In business, words are words; explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality.
–Harold S. Geneen
In 2013 Google logged 5,922,000,000 searches per day. Grabbing even a tiny fraction of that search traffic and directing people to your store can allow you to retire early. I’m not an SEO expert… there are entire college courses teaching this one subject and there is an incredible amount to learn. Having said that, I know how to make money from my understanding of SEO so you should look at this section as a sort of “Cliff’s Notes” on the subject. If you really want to dive in, go to Moz found here: http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo and thank me later. Moz is an amazing resource.
Let’s assume that there are two primary ways for people to visit your online store. The first is direct traffic; that is, someone types in your exact URL into their browser, (something that starts with http:// or www. and ends with a .com, .net etc.) bringing them directly to your site. Were you to have thousands of dollars to pump into advertising, then you could run a television ad, say, or perhaps a billboard along the highway, that displays your web address. Many of those visitors would be direct traffic visitors. This level of advertising is beyond the reach of the majority of small businesses, however, just because your store is online, you shouldn’t neglect the power of a well-placed physical brochure or flier in the right place at the right time. When my business Modern Workspace attended the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, we handed out about 2000 brochures highlighting our products and it definitely paid for itself in new sales.
The second way someone visits your site will be through the results of a search listing, 85% of which are performed by Google and the rest divided up among perhaps 20-30 other search engines, Yahoo and Bing included. Google is the clear leader in internet search and it is here that you should focus the most effort.
If you’ve followed my previous advice and gone forward with Shopify then let me tell you what makes Shopify so good at SEO:
To start off with, Shopify’s HTML code is already built with SEO in mind, so if you choose them, they are, once again, doing a lot of the heavy lifting behind the curtain. With an online store, potential customers must be able to find your store using search engines. With an SEO friendly Content Management System, Shopify supports best practices like customizable H1, title and meta tags and SEO friendly URLs. Shopify also automatically generates sitemaps.xml files so new products and site changes are indexed and show up on search engines quickly. Some of the crucial things required for SEO, Shopify is already doing for you such as providing an optimized website structure (which Google loves). All you have to do once you’re up and running, is notify Google that you exist. So let’s call that step one:
Submit Your Site to Google for Indexing
Part one of submitting your site is going to this URL: http://www.google.com/submityourcontent/business-owner/ and click “Add Your URL”. Then type in your website address and 1-3 days later, you begin showing up in Google’s search rankings for keywords related to your products.
What actually happens behind the scenes is a bit more complicated than that. Once Google is aware that you exist, your website will go into the queue of websites waiting to be “crawled” by Google’s robots or web crawlers. At the same URL as above, you can register as a webmaster under Google’s webmaster registration. After that, using their webmaster tools you can see how many of your pages at your site have been indexed by Google. Unfortunately, Google’s crawlers only go 2-3 pages deep for the purposes of indexing, so it’s a good idea to submit a sitemap to Google as well. Google can then get a complete picture and rank you well in search.
So, Part two of submitting your site to Google for indexing is submitting a sitemap. If you’re using Shopify as I recommend, they automatically generate a sitemap for your site and update it every time you add or remove a product or page. Again, using the same address as above, (assuming you’re using Shopify) you will click “Submit Sitemap” and type in http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml
Whatever your store name/ domain name is, type that in followed by “/sitemap.xml”.
If you’re not using Shopify, no problem. There are many free sitemap generators out there: simply Google “sitemap generator” and pick the most reputable. Once you have the .xml file from them, you can submit that to Google.
On-Site SEO Basics
Many of the most important elements for SEO happen on your own website. There are some “bare minimum” on-site optimization elements you should put on each of your website’s product pages, including and especially the homepage or landing page. Let’s go over them:
The good ole days of on-site SEO. Keywords!
In the 90s, when the internet was youthful, search was driven by keywords. The more relevant keywords that you had on your website, the more likely you were to show up in search for someone searching for that related keyword. Once people realized that this was the key to a high ranking search result, webmasters would just have a list of keywords listed at the bottom of their homepage. Once Google started to penalize this behavior, webmasters started making the color of their keyword text the same color as their website background, effectively rendering their keywords invisible to humans, but still readable by a robot crawler. Google’s solution was to make an algorithm that put less weight behind keyword relevance so no matter how many matching keywords you had, they provided less influence than some of the other on-site SEO techniques.
Under no circumstances am I saying that you should ignore relevant keywords for your store; I’m simply saying that you should choose about five keywords or keyword phrases and tactfully place them into your content so that they’re present, yet don’t overpower your visitors. In fact, let’s get this out of the way right now. Build and optimize your website for humans, not robots. You can’t go wrong with this strategy… If you have engaging content that people love to look at, then the high search engine ranking will follow.
Another important element of on-site SEO is the Title Tag. Every page on your site has a title tag that tells search engines what the page is about. You should keep it to 60 characters or less and include your business name and keywords that relate to that page only. If you have access to your websites source code in HTML, (and you will with Shopify) then this tag is placed between the <HEAD> </HEAD> tags at the top of the HTML code for that page.
Like the title tag, every page of your website has a meta description as well. The meta description on your pages gives search engines more insight into what a particular page is all about. There is ongoing debate about whether meta descriptions can help you with keyword rankings. This debate exists because Google keeps their algorithms secret.
How the Title Tag & Meta Description Looks in Search Results
Now would be a good time to recall one of the apps from earlier for Shopify that I recommend buying for your Shopify store:
This app allows you to change the Title Tag and Meta Description for every page without touching the HTML Code, (messing with the HTML is always a good thing to avoid unless your experienced, since a minor mistake in the code can break your entire website, I know from personal experience). As for the App, it’s certainly one of the more expensive Shopify Apps out there but if you’re running the store alone and time is at a premium, it is definitely worth the one-time fee of $50… just calculate this into your start-up costs.
Other Important On-Site SEO Elements
The title tag and the meta description are clearly the most important SEO elements, but there are others that you shouldn’t neglect.
- Internal Linking –You can assist search engines in learning more about your website by internally linking to other pages on your own website within your site. For instance, in a blog article on Modern Workspace discussing videoconferencing, there are several links that take you over to another part of Modern Workspace, usually a product page, that helps describe the content in more detail. This is a good thing for SEO; just don’t overdo it.
- Header Tags – Most websites use three different sizes of HTML header tags that help break the content into sections as well as the added benefit of letting search engines know more about what each section of content is about. The <H1></H1> tags go around the post title – universally, there should only be one set of <H1></H1> tags per page. The <H2></H2> and <H3></H3> tags surround subheadings on the page for different sections – there can be multiple instances of both. Using header tags helps both your visitors and search engines break up your content into manageable sections. In this book you can see the headings and subheadings broken up into different sizes. Just look at the difference between the size for this chapter’s title page and the heading for this section. Essentially, you’re making the content flow better for your human readers.
- ALT Tags – You will most definitely be using images on your store site so you should think of good keywords for both the image name and the alt tag. Every photo will have a place for you to type in text for the alt tag at the time that you upload the photo. Google’s crawlers can’t index text actually contained in photos; it’s invisible to them for the purposes of search ranking and indexing. So, every photo on your site should have a short description containing keywords related to that photo to help Google index.
- Bolded Text – Don’t go overboard here, but occasionally bolding a selection of text to get a customer’s attention can help search engines differentiate other important information including keywords in the page’s content.
High quality, original content is the key to pleasing both your human visitors and search engines. If you keep up with the latest in online marketing news, then you have likely read the following phrase: “Content Is King”. Content is great for both your website visitors and search engines. The more content you have, the more likely your visitors will stay on your website. In addition, the more content you have, the more likely search engines will put more of your website’s pages in the search index.
The trick to making both search engines and visitors happy is to have quality content on our websites. Even with an online store where you are selling goods or services, you need to go beyond just product descriptions, pictures and a shopping cart. What’s stopping your customers from going to Amazon and getting the same product for cheaper? You are helping them out with quality how-to guides and tips in the form of content. In addition, this helps you look like the authority in your given industry and people feel safe ordering from someone that they feel knows the product inside and out. Admittedly, I like to go to Amazon and read customer reviews of a product before I purchase, but there’s nothing stopping you from including this exact functionality in your own store; there are numerous apps in the Shopify App Store that allow you to add customer reviews to your site.
So what qualifies as “quality content”? Quality content can include a number of things including, but not limited to, the following:
- Relevant News Articles
- Stories Related to Your Niche
- How To Guides
- Customer Testimonials
- Videos: Either Homemade or Linking to YouTube
Creating quality content for your website is going to require you to invest significant time, but it is something that you simply have to do. Search engines will dig it, and visitors will find it useful enough to share on social media, leading to even more visitors. Let’s look at an example of quality content from Modern Workspace.
Visit this URL:
As you will see this is a massive article on what’s basically a beginner’s guide to videoconferencing. The article itself is filled with relevant keywords related to that industry which ensures that it keeps popping up in Google Search for those keywords. How do you know what keywords to use? Which ones are the most searched for? More on Google Tools later, but for now know that Google Adwords has a free Keyword Analyzer Tool that allows you to search how often a keyword gets searched for each month as well as numerous other points of data associated with it. Back to my article, at many other places, I link to products within my own website. By using Google Analytics, which allows me to track how visitors got to my website, I can see that several sales (conversions) have resulted from visitors that came through a Google search and landed on that article’s page.
Now, you don’t have to go to that extreme… after all, that guide is a lengthy example. But you should do something helpful, even if it’s just a quick how-to article. Your visitors will appreciate the free information and they will show that appreciation in the form of sharing it via social media and more sales (conversions).
Two Words On Duplicate Content
Avoid it. Let’s say you sell wall mounts for flat screen TVs and you come across a particularly good how-to article on wall mounting on someone else’s website. What’s stopping you from copying it and pasting it on your website? Technically… nothing. However, you’re going to run into a couple of problems. The most obvious one is that you’ll be violating someone else’s copyright, potentially opening yourself up to litigation. Nothing spoils a day faster than a cease and desist letter in the mail from a company that has a lot more money than you do.
At the very least, you’ll have to remove the copyrighted material from your website if not suffer a full blown lawsuit for them to recover damages. This goes for photos as well. There are services that will give you access to royalty-free photos like Shutterstock and Getty Images, but they cost money and remember, you’re on a budget. So what did I do for photos? I bought a dedicated camera (something better than my phone camera), and I take my own photos. In addition, I search Wikipedia Commons found at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page which is an amazingly deep source of photos in the public domain.
Another reason to avoid duplicate content is that Google will penalize websites that have the exact same content as another website by ranking you much, much lower in Search. For instance, if I copy and paste an entire article from another website, Google will (eventually) realize that I did, check to see who had the content first, determine that my site contains the duplicate content and rank me on page 18 or some other ridiculously low search ranking. This could sabotage all of your other SEO efforts so it’s best to create your own content.
One last word on duplicate content: Once you find some quality suppliers for your niche, it’s tempting to grab their product descriptions from their site by highlighting, copying and pasting the content to your online store. While you have permission to do this as their dealer, you will still be penalized for duplicate content by Google. You should re-word their product descriptions to set you apart from that supplier’s other dealers, many of whom probably copied and pasted. This will give you the jump on other entrepreneurs in your niche by ranking you above them in Google’s search results for that product’s keywords.
Off-Site Optimization/ Link Building
The ultimate goal of link building is to get other websites to link to yours. One of the factors that Google uses to rank you in search is how many other websites link back to your website. But not all websites are created equal. Think quality instead of quantity. Having 100 links from less reputable sites might not help your ranking in search at all, and in some cases, may even hurt it. On the other hand, one or two well-placed backlinks from popular and highly trafficked sites can boost your ranking a large degree.
So how do you get links? There are many ways to do it; some good, and some bad. There are ultimately three primary types:
- Organic Links – By far the best type to have. If you have quality content, these will start to accumulate “organically” or without you having to ask for them. As an example, Modern Workspace began offering Bulletproof Backpacks and wrote an article on why they are important and/ or necessary. Shortly after publishing the article, I began to notice a spike in traffic from an odd source… The Huffington Post. Using Google Analytics I tracked the traffic back to its source and discovered that a reporter there had written an article about my article and store and linked to my site so that her readers could see the backpacks she was talking about. So this organic link to Modern Workspace is now permanently embedded in a highly trafficked website constantly improving my ranking in Google Search.
- Whitehat – This is good, hardworking link building, plain and simple. More on this below.
- Blackhat – This is spammy, low-quality link building. You should avoid this if you value your reputation.
Whitehat link building is hard work. That’s why there are companies that offer their services to do your websites link building for you. This is fine if you have the money (in my experience about $200-$400 per month) and you need to research the company to make sure that they don’t incorporate blackhat spammy techniques. You should know going in that it takes months to build quality backlinks, even if you use a service to do it for you. In the meantime, there are things that you can do on your own to build links:
- Become an online stalker on your favorite popular blogs in your chosen industry. Email the blogs owner, ask if you can write an article for them for free (owners are always looking for fresh content for their own Google rankings) and typically you will get a link back to your website in an author box at the top or bottom of your guest article.
- Reach out to related businesses (but not competitors) to see if they will link to you. This is hard work as you have to send a lot of emails and get a lot of rejections, or worse, dead air and no response. If you have a lot of suppliers or partners, you can ask to be put on their “partners” list on their website. As an example, AVTEQ Inc is a supplier for Modern Workspace. If you were to go to AVTEQ’s website and click on their “Our Partners” page, you will see the Modern Workspace logo that is clickable and takes you to my store. This counts as a backlink. Another example is once I wrote a short news story on Modern Workspace regarding an IV decal that could be put on IV bags in hospitals for pediatrics that were colorful and brightened up an otherwise sterile and clinical environment. Shortly after, I noticed a link on that manufacturer’s (Little Love Medical LLC) website linking to me.
- Create a social media presence. It goes without saying that the social media revolution is won. Make sure you have a company page on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ at the very least. You should also include Pinterest and StumbleUpon if your product line includes a lot of beautiful, high resolution photos or extremely useful content. The jury is still out on whether LinkedIn is completely worthless or only slightly worthless (that is, for your online ecommerce purposes. It’s great for professional networking if you’re a job seeker or job seeking… but then again, so is CareerBuilder.com). Business profiles for these networks are free (except LinkedIn) so there’s no excuse not to create a business social presence.
- Submit your site to paid directories. This is not necessary but will speed up your link building process. Perhaps the most popular and reputable paid directory is the Yahoo Directory followed closely by Best of The Web or BOTW Directory. These are directories where an actual human will review your website and determine if your site is good enough to be included. If it is, you can expect to see a significant traffic jump from the inclusion as even Google gets many of its ranking info from Yahoo’s Directory. Here’s the catch: Submission to the Yahoo Directory costs $299/ year and there is no guarantee that you will be included just because you paid. BOTW is $200 cheaper at $99 but the same rules apply.
You’re paying for the time of the human reviewers, not paying to be included. Be sure to look very carefully at the website requirements before you pay to make sure you don’t get rejected for something silly after you’ve paid. Is it worth it? I’m leaning towards yes although I haven’t actually submitted for Modern Workspace. I did, however, pay to submit for my site WarriorLodge.com with both Yahoo and BOTW and was accepted. You’re decision. Bypass low-quality directories that have nothing to do with your industry or ones that link to shady websites in the adult, pharmaceutical, or online casino industries. A quick note on the paid directories: You can always find a discount code if you look hard enough. For instance, I googled BOTW Discount Code and was rewarded with a code that gave me $50 off my Best Of The Web Directory submission that I then entered at checkout for the win. You’d be surprised how many discount codes are flying around the interwebs.
- I said it earlier but I’ll say it again: Content is King… Create link worthy content to score that coveted organic linking!
The Googolplex. Google Tools that you Need
As a small, cash-strapped veteran owned online business with ambitions to expand and grow, Google is your best friend. With an online business, you’ll be entering their universe; they created it and they control the laws of physics inside of it. It’s laughable, but they may as well own the Internet; such is the extent of their reach and their power. Lucky for us, they’re a benevolent creator and they give us some amazing tools, all free, that help us perform better and make money. Let’s take a look at some of those tools now.
Most of us are familiar with Gmail. It’s Google’s free (ad supported) email system. What many people don’t know is that for $5.00 per month, you can have your own virtual office with Google Apps for Business which includes a Gmail account that has your company’s domain. So instead of email@example.com you can have firstname.lastname@example.org or in my case, email@example.com. It’s essential to project that professional image for your company. Your potential customers need to feel safe when putting their credit card information into your shopping cart; I can’t stress the importance of projecting yourself as a large company, even if you’re a one-person operation. In addition to the customized Gmail domain, you also get Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Calendar and more. It’s one of the best uses of $5.00 that you’ll spend on your startup.
It’s hard to quantify how important Google Analytics is. However, having been in the military, you know the importance of intelligence before an operation. In an operational setting, you needed information to increase your chances of victory. It was crucial and when the intel weenies got it right, it made all the difference. The same is true in in your newest battle, ecommerce. Google Analytics is free and easily installed into your store by placing a little snippet of code into the HTML of your website. If you’re using Shopify, it’s even easier; there’s a place in the theme specifically set aside to place the snippet so you don’t have to mess with HTML code.
You need solid information on how your visitors are getting to your store, what part of the country they’re coming from, what keywords they used in search to find your products, what type of technology they’re using like screen size and colors on their monitor, new versus returning visitors and most importantly, what content they looked at while they were there. All of this is available through this free code from Google. Armed with this information, you can change or tweak the user experience on the backend to maximize your conversions.
Important Analytics Metrics that I constantly scan:
You should really spend some quality time in Google Analytics playing around with the settings at looking at the many reports. The more comfortable you are navigating through analytics to find key statistics, the better idea you’ll have of your website traffic. There are, however, a few key metrics that I scan several times per day.
The bounce rate measures how many of your visitors arrive to your site and immediately leave. As a general rule, a 50% bounce rate or higher is undesirable, becoming more so the higher you get. A 100% bounce rate means that someone arrived on your site and immediately left without interacting with any other content. Analytics will allow you to see your site’s bounce rate and compare it with related information like the most popular landing pages.
How did people get to your site? Some of your options are:
- Paid Search- the visitor clicked on an Adwords ad or a Google Shopping product listing ad to get to you
- Referral- Someone clicked a link to your site that was posted on another website
- Organic Search- You showed up in a normal search result. This is highly desirable or Free traffic.
- Direct- Someone typed in your URL exactly to get to you.
- Social- A visitor saw one of your posts on Facebook, Twitter or others and clicked on your website link.
Starting out, expect to see most of your traffic come from paid search via Google Adwords (more on this in the next section) and social traffic from your Facebook business page. It takes time to get that coveted organic traffic; just be patient and do your due diligence with your SEO best practices.
Google Adwords allows you to advertise on Google Search Results for relevant keywords that you pick and it’s a nice way to supplement your organic search results. You can choose how you appear with your own headline, description and URL sending people to whatever landing page on your store that you want to advertise for. For instance, Modern Workspace ran an ad for a Cisco SX-20 Wall Mounting Kit and when someone clicked on the ad, they landed on the product page for that exact unit. For Adwords Cost per Click ads, you want to ensure that you use “buy” commands in your headlines. So, instead of “Cisco SX-20 Wall Mounts” I have “Buy Cisco SX-20 Wall Mounts”.
This reduces the amount of clicks from people just wanting information and helps to narrow it down to people that are ready or nearly ready to buy. Since it costs you money every time someone clicks on your ad, it’s best to make sure that they’re aware that they’re going to an online store, so that you’re not wasting money on visitors that have no intention on buying. So how much does each click cost you? That depends on your keyword. Some keywords have higher competition than others and as a result, they can command a greater price per click. Instead of guessing how much to price each keyword at, I just set a maximum budget for the day… say about $5.00 and give Google the power to adjust the bid for the keyword on their own. This strategy has worked out well for me. Once you have reached your $5.00 (or whatever budget you set) for the day, your ad disappears from the search results for that keyword; it’s all fairly simple. Just make sure to set a daily budget that you can live with, and budget for it monthly as part of your advertising overhead.
Google Shopping is a comparison shopping engine that puts the same product side by side from different stores. This allows customers to find the lowest price on a particular item they are looking for with a link directly to that product at that particular store. You can see this in action by performing a standard Google search for a specific product, let’s say a Sharp Aquos TV, but instead of “Web”, “Images” or “Video”, you’ll click “Shopping”.
Unfortunately, Google Shopping is “Pay to Play” meaning that they charge to have your products listed in this engine. It’s part of your Adwords budget and to create a product listing ad, you’ll simply create it in Adwords as you would for a normal Keyword search ad and give it its own daily budget.
Google Shopping is typically the fastest way for a new store to get its products in front of potential customers so it’s worth giving a shot. If you’re using Shopify as we are at Modern Workspace, they make it easy to export your list of products as a CSV file or Comma-Separated Value file. Once you have that specific file, you can upload it at Google’s Merchant Center. Once you’ve followed the instructions for uploading your product list as a CSV file at Google Merchant Center, they will take approximately 24 hours to process that information. After the feed is approved, you’ll be able to head on over to Adwords and create a Product Listing Ad, set your budget and release it into the wild. Remember to keep an eye on your Google Analytics so that you can see how successful (or not) your product listing ads are performing. With analytics you’ll be able to see exactly how someone got to your site or product: Did they type your URL in directly? Did they click on your product in Google Shopping or did they follow a link over from Facebook? All of this information will assist you on shaping your future approach for marketing, ensuring that you’re not wasting crucial funds on strategies that aren’t working. Like Google Adwords, you’ll be charged for every time someone clicks on your product that sends them over to your store.
The Good and the Bad of Google Shopping: It’s very important to remember that if someone has arrived at your site via Google Shopping then they are likely in “purchase mode” or about to make a purchase decision. This is the best kind of website traffic for an ecommerce store. You can think of Google Shopping as a sort of highly targeted advertising. But there’s a downside to consider: The very reason for a comparison shopping engine’s existence is to compare the same product from multiple stores, showing potential customers which store has the lowest price.
If you’re going to list on a comparison site like this, your prices will have to be competitive. Unfortunately, when you get into a price war to fight for the lowest price, your margins will suffer. Most startups can’t afford to compete with price against larger stores (Amazon as an example) which runs a low-margin business but has a high volume which makes up for it. You won’t have a high-volume of customers, at least not at first so you should not lower your prices so much that you’re only making a few dollars on every sale. There’s no quicker way to get burnt out on ecommerce than to achieve a high number of sales but still struggle to pay your bills and overhead.
So what’s the solution? I recommend NOT competing on price for all of your products but choose a select few that you can temporarily cut prices on to attract new customers. After a month, rotate new products into the comparison shopping engine that you feel you can lower the prices on. The other option, of course, is to sell something that no one else sells and price it at whatever the heck you want… but most of us don’t have this option.
Whether you’re a social network enthusiast or you barely tolerate it because it’s the easiest way to communicate with family, you have to acknowledge that social networking is an incredible tool for business. In our first year of operation, 70% of MD-Advantages’ new B2B clients came from sending “InMail” messages on LinkedIn. We did this by using the search function to find people with the title “Procurement Manager” or “Purchasing Agent” at major hospitals around Texas. I then sent a message requesting a sales meeting for a product that we sell that could solve one of their particular problems or fill a need. Why Texas? Because we’re based in Dallas and, being on a budget, I couldn’t afford to fly all over the country to make a sales pitch; keeping my search in Texas kept everyone within driving distance and thus the cost down. In addition to LinkedIn, many of my non-business customers, the general consumers, came to my store from my Facebook business page for Modern Workspace. People are much more likely to buy a product if it comes recommended by a friend.
So what are the best social networks for business? Let’s take a look:
The Rex Imperator of social networks, Facebook is, by a wide margin, the most popular of the social sites with 1.4 billion worldwide registered users. Its users primarily share content in the form of conversations and pictures/ videos.
How do I leverage Facebook for business?
Once you’ve created a Facebook business page for your company or brand, you can really create a personal connection with customers by engaging them and putting a personal face on your otherwise faceless company. You can also create specific events that will elicit even more follower engagement that will, in turn, send people to your online store. Facebook will also enable you to deploy highly targeted advertisements to potential customers. Unlike Google, which provides search results based on keywords that people type in, Facebook allows you to create ads that you can custom tailor to only appear in the News Feeds of people that have a “Liked” a specific thing.
For example, I create an ad on Facebook for emergency crash carts that contains a link that sends people directly to my product page for a crash cart. During the ad creation process, I target only those people who have “liked” emergency medicine, medical equipment and medical technology. It’s this highly targeted profiling system that makes Facebook so valuable to advertisers, and part of the reason why they’re so profitable. This demographic data that they’ve been collecting for years, or rather, that we’ve been voluntarily giving them for years, is a gold mine of information for advertisers like you and me.
When posting to your business page, be sure to provide content that’s engaging. Because of the way Facebook’s algorithms work, a typical post only appears to around 7%-15% of your followers. You can pay to boost a post which will get it in front of more fans or you can just create engaging content that prompts people to Like or Comment. Once someone likes a post, it appears in front of a portion of their friends and so on and so forth, continuing exponentially. How do you do this? Ask questions; people will jump at the chance to give their opinions. Perform a vote; Product A or Product B? Pictures are “Liked” 50% more often than text posts and people are 40% more likely to “Like” or “Share” a post Wednesday thru Saturday.
Twitter is a social network that restricts posts (called “Tweets”) to 140 characters or less. Unfortunately for our society, celebrity watching on Twitter has become somewhat of an informal American pastime; people watching with baited breath to see who the next famous person to make a fool of themselves will be. But Twitter is not completely useless. Aside from its international success at organizing social revolutions in politically sensitive countries, it can also be used with great results in your business.
How do I leverage Twitter for business?
Twitter can be a great place to promote events at your company and drop links to your store for certain products. In addition, it’s a great place to get involved in conversations with other users who are suffering from a particular problem, allowing you to show off you expertise and solve those problems. Using this tactic, you’ll gain more followers and eventually, turn those followers into customers.
A word of caution: Use the “retweet” carefully. An article that you retweet is an automatic endorsement from your company. It’s best to fully read any articles that you didn’t write before you spread them around the interwebs with your company name attached.
As for Twitter paid advertising, unlike Facebook I haven’t had any success with Twitter ads for business. That’s not to say that you won’t… Wouldn’t hurt give it a shot; just drop me a line if you have any success so I can ask you what you did and duplicate it.
LinkedIn is the Facebook for professional-types, however pictures of your kids at Halloween aren’t welcome here. Entire books have been written on using LinkedIn to get hired, and indeed, its user profile system is set up much like a modern resume. But if you’re reading this, you are not interested in pandering to a human resources manager; your using LinkedIn to find potential customers, and if you’re selling Business to Business, this network really shines.
How do I leverage LinkedIn for business?
As I stated earlier, using “InMail” private messages on LinkedIn won Modern Workspace quite a few new B2B customers early on. Typically, you’re unable to message someone if they’re not a direct connection on LinkedIn, and that’s where the InMail message comes in: This system allows you to send a private message to anyone on LinkedIn, for a price. That’s right… an InMail message is not free. If you have a paid premium membership on LinkedIn (as of this writing, approximately $249.50 per year) you get 3 free InMail messages to send per month. Otherwise, you’ll pay $10 per InMail message. Ouch… But it should be noted that with a premium membership, if you don’t get a response within 7 days from your intended message recipient, the InMail credit goes back into your account to be used again later. So, is a premium membership worth it? I would say yes if your customers are other companies or businesses. Using a search by profession, you’ll be able to identify procurement managers at companies in your niche or industry that you want to earn as a customer. Then all you have to do is stalk them, message them and convert them.
There is one more benefit to LinkedIn that deserves mention: the ability to join groups. You interact with a group much the same way you would do in real life. Talk about topics in your industry, discuss current trends and show off your expertise in your niche. A highly engaged group member like you will begin to garner trust and people will begin to see you as an authority in your chosen field. From there, you’re just a stone’s throw from a loyal and hopefully repeat customer.
YouTube, owned by Google, is the internet’s preeminent video-sharing service and generates a healthy 1 billion unique visitors every month. Everybody loves video… humans are visual creatures.
How do I leverage YouTube for business?
Create a company “channel” on YouTube where visitors and customers can subscribe and quickly find your message. And what message is that? It depends on your industry. But this is a great opportunity for a how-to video or something offering valuable tips to your customers. Remember that bit about creating value for your store visitors? This is your chance… YouTube videos can be embedded into webpages so even outside of YouTube.com, you can enhance your customer experience.
Just remember, keep the videos short if you want to keep your viewers engaged. Less than two minutes is the sweet spot; anything longer and you risk losing your viewer’s focus. The obvious exception to this is if you’re illustrating a how-to video on a time-intensive task like hanging a wall mount for a flatscreen TV. Even then, you should be cavalier with your editing to keep things flowing on screen and keep your viewers from going somewhere else.
Every smartphone takes video and every operating system has some sort of free, albeit rudimentary, video editing software like Windows Movie Maker.
When Google+ launched, I let out an audible sigh of exhaustion. Another social network? That’s precisely what the world needs! But my sarcasm was short lived once I discovered the incredible power of Google+ in relation to SEO and Google Search.
How do I leverage Google+ for business?
Once Google+ had been out for a few months, people started to notice an amazing correlation between search rankings on Google and the number of +1s (equivalent to a Facebook Like) that a URL had received. The bottom line is that Google must index content for that content to show up in Google’s search results. Posts from Facebook and LinkedIn and Tweets from Twitter are NOT typically indexed by Googles robots.
On the other hand, Google+ public posts are crawled and indexed by Google, meaning when someone shares your awesome post on Google+, you’re gaining link equity… That doesn’t happen on Facebook, or any other social network. So how do you take advantage? First, obviously, you have to create a Google+ business page. Next is to post high quality, original content to your Google+ business page just like you would do in your store. In addition, all of your content on your website should have a Google+ button (as well as other social sharing buttons from other networks) making it easy for your visitors to share you content.
Also, you need to start engaging with other communities in your niche on Google+. Like-minded communities where people can pool their expertise and share tips or just shoot the shit about stuff they’re passionate about is like winning the lottery; your search ranking will vastly improve and search is where you’ll receive most of your customers from. The only companies that don’t need to rely on search to achieve profitability are those companies that already have enough money for a national advertising campaign offline, for instance the constant barrage of TV commercials from the likes of eHarmony.com, Care.com or Angie’s List, just to name a few. Campaigns like that send people to those companies’ sites directly. If you’re reading this book then you are not one of those companies. You need search juice.
Last, but certainly not least, Rally Point, colloquially known as “LinkedIn for Military” is an incredible resource to network with other military veterans and active duty servicemembers. You can even post by topic ensuring that you communicate with the group that you want. I cannot over-stress the importance of surrounding yourself with those individuals who are on the same mission as you. Keep your eye on Rally Point; they’re doing great things for the military community.
In our connected world, business moves both fast and socially. Make sure that you have a solid understanding of the basics of being found online as well as the importance of making those social connections that will bring you and your veteran-owned startup success, revenue and long life.