Larry BraunerI envisioned when launching my social media consulting practice spending my time creating and executing traffic generating and branding strategies using a wide range of social media sites. I did not envision spending my time optimizing clients’ websites and blogs.

Your Website or Blog

What I found, however, was that clients’ websites had not been designed to appeal to visitors and convert them into subscribers or customers, nor were they set up to attract search engine traffic.

This problem concerned me very much. As I’ve written numerous times, the core of a social media marketing campaign is always your website or blog. Consequently, I decided to offer a full range of services to help clients make more effective use of the web.

Social Media and Web Marketing in Action

Welkin Capital GroupI was asked very recently to market the website of Welkin Capital Group, a high-end real estate finance company. When I accepted the assignment, I knew that my work would encompass more than social media and search engine optimization. It would include a total website makeover, as well.

The transformation of Welkin’s website has been dramatic. The best way to appreciate the changes we made is to compare the new website to the old website. We still plan to add a newsletter and a blog but already, the new site has a better look and feel, more room to maneuver, additional content and a social component.

While working on the Welkin site’s new design, we began optimizing the site’s content for search engines — and for human visitors too:

  • During the first six weeks, March 7, 2010 to April 17, Welkin received 51 unique search engine visits from 25 search terms.
  • During the next six weeks, April 18 to May 29, the company received 152 unique search visits from 63 terms.

We’re still working on the website’s content. Writing and tweaking content is an ongoing aspect of web marketing.

If you’re interested in real estate, you can follow Welkin on Facebook and Twitter.

Conclusion

Your main takeaway from this article:

Web marketing begins with your website or blog, the core of your web presence, and without which your social media marketing plan isn’t complete and cannot succeed.

Please subscribe to Online Social Networking and leave a comment telling me what’s on your mind. :-)

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Larry BraunerIn his video, Darren Rouse, author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog,  discusses his blog-centric approach to web marketing.

The idea is that social media sites — since they are controlled by their owners, not us — can serve only as outposts, while blogs and websites — since they are owned by us — are secure enough to serve as our permanent home bases.

I cannot stress enough the importance of starting a blog: I’ve listed many reasons for blogging in the Top Reasons Why I Blog and discussed why “there ain’t nothing like a blog” in Why Blogs Make More Sense.

However, despite all the great reasons to have a blog, you might feel that investing in a blog isn’t right for you and your situation.

Going BloglessIn that case, I want to assure you that going blogless is an option. You can accomplish with a standard website most of what you’d hope to accomplish with a blog.

Fortunately, like bathing suits, web marketing isn’t “one size fits all.” You may, however, need to be a bit more creative.

You’ll add content to your website when convenient, link to your new content on social sites, and engage your online community in discussion via those social websites.

You’ll also place website widgets on your website and use those widgets to connect your site to the social web.

Note that much of your website, especially sales pages, can be unsuitable for social media consumption. Do not be too concerned. People will reach those pages through links elsewhere on your site, search engines and whatever advertising you do.

Your site needs to be well optimized for both search engines and humans, i.e., relevant to your target audience and designed with them in mind.

OK. Gotta run. See you at the beach. :-P

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Larry BraunerSocial media critics are quick to point out that social media marketing isn’t really free.

Using social media requires a considerable time investment, typically by people whose time is quite valuable. Once time is factored into the cost of using social media — as it ought to be — not only isn’t it free to use, it’s expensive to use.

The High Cost of Using Digital Media

High Cost of Social MediaTo say that I’m enthusiastic about using  social media for branding, building a web presence, and online social networking would be an understatement. Yet, I do not contest the critics’ claims that social media is expensive. It is costly, and so are website development and search engine optimization.

Nevertheless, if executed properly according to a sound digital media plan, website development, search engine optimization and social media will be worth more than their cost in the long run.

The High Cost of Using Traditional Media

Buy traditional media and you’ll pay to reach your audience. You’ll invest time to develop your ad campaign and than pay for the price of the media on top of that. The more select your audience, the larger your audience, and the more frequently you intend to reach them, the more you’ll have to pay.

Your Giant Interactive Billboard

Last May I wrote The Long Tail and Social Media. The simple idea is that your website and social media content have value to you long after you’ve put them online. Search engines and social media channels provide you with constant exposure 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, like a giant billboard on a super highway.  Your billboard, however, is interactive and could be worth a fortune to you.

Primary and Secondary Target Audience

Your primary target audience consists of your potential customers or people who care very much about your cause. Your secondary target audience is everybody else who appreciates your content or uses your website. They can spread your message or click through your ads.

The way traditional advertising is priced, it probably won’t be feasible to reach out to your secondary audience. The return on investment would be too small. However, digital media, which has little or no incremental cost, enables you to cast a wide net and reach both your primary and secondary target audiences.

Digital Media Replacing Traditional Media

So far I’ve assumed that you have a choice about digital media, but you don’t. Traditional media is declining and is gradually being replaced by its digital counterpart. The question is no longer which but when. When will you jump on the bandwagon?

Please take a minute or two to leave a comment below and to subscribe.

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Larry BraunerAre you using website widgets effectively?

I listed 10 Types of Widgets for Your Blog or Website. Now, I discuss strategies for employing widgets on your site.

While using website widgets is not rocket science, here are some important concepts worth keeping in mind:

  1. Widgets Are Content - Recently, a Twitter connection told me he liked my content and use of widgets. I thanked him, but the truth is that website widgets are content, as is each other aspect of your web site’s design. When you select widgets for your site, realize that they are just as much a part of your site as the copy you write. When you select a widget, customize it to the extent possible to appear as you wish, including both its size and color scheme.
  2. Widget Privacy Issues - In Website Widgets and Ads Raise Security and Privacy Issues (recommended reading), I discussed security and privacy issues and concluded that, “You are responsible as a blogger or web site owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use web widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too.”
  3. Space Considerations - One way you pay for the use of a widget is by giving it valuable space on your website. There are only a modest number of widgets you can reasonably host on your website without it becoming cluttered. Choose carefully and don’t clutter your web site with widgets (or anything else).
  4. Website Widget Placement - As I stated in 10 More Easy Ways to Improve Your Website, “If visitors need to scroll down to view vital content, you’ll most likely lose them. Similarly, if you have an important widget, such as a Facebook fan page widget, place it where it will be visible without scrolling down.” Place key widgets near the top of each page and prioritize the rest.
  5. Most Useful Website Widgets - Community building, subscription, tracking, and social networking widgets (see 10 Types of Widgets for Your Blog or Website mentioned above), can add important functionality to almost any website.
  6. Monitor Your Widgets - Periodically, monitor and reevaluate your website widgets. Don’t set them and forget them or fall in love with them. Your needs and priorities can change, and widgets can also stop working or become obsolete.
  7. Your Website Layout- If you plan on using many website widgets, I suggest picking a theme with two sidebars, rather than one, to better accommodate all your widgets.

When you surf the ‘Net and find sites you like, look to see which widgets they use and how they use them. That’s a good way to come up with new ideas.

Here we are, coming to an end of our time together. Don’t go yet. Please subscribe first and leave a comment. :-)

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Larry BraunerHow well is your blog or website performing?

This past November, I wrote, “Some web sites clearly have it together. They have lots of traffic and appeal to visitors.

“Other sites aren’t bad. They have good potential. With a few tweaks here and there, they could enjoy much more traffic and appeal much more to their audience.”

Blog or WebsiteI listed 10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Blog or Website and indicated that there might be more suggestions to follow.

Here then are ten more tweaks (presented as problems and fixes), bringing the total to twenty. Hope they’ll keep you busy for a while. ;-)

  1. Key Content Hidden “Below the Fold” - You have seconds to capture a visitor’s attention. If visitors need to scroll down to view vital content, you’ll most likely lose them. Similarly, if you have an important widget, such as a Facebook fan page widget, place it where it will be visible without scrolling down.
  2. Long Flash Intro - I hate sitting through flash intros designed to impress. Don’t you? Why would you want to subject your visitors to long (or even short) flash intros? Flash intros are dead time. Why not instead impress visitors with your knowledge and the relevance of your content?
  3. Clutter - Some websites have too much going on; they look like patch quilts.  Others have ads that fill every nook and cranny. What can I say? Such sites are overwhelming.
  4. No Call to Action - What do you want your visitors to do when they visit your site? To buy? To subscribe? To leave a blog comment? Let them know what you expect, and if your request is reasonable, they may very well comply. If you don’t ask, they may not know what to do, and they’ll leave, perhaps forever, without taking action.
  5. Distracting Ads - Pop-up ads, blinking ads, glaring banners, sexy ads, scripts that forward to advertisers’ sites after a few seconds, inappropriate auto-playing audio, etc. I dare say, these are “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” Make sure your ads don’t interfere with your content. If your ads are your content, then please disregard everything you’ve ever read on this blog.
  6. Images Not Labeled - Make your visitors and the search engines happy. Whenever possible, describe your images using alt and title parameters in your img tags. If all this is gibberish to you, worry not. Your web development or HTML guru will know what to do.
  7. Hard to Navigate Site - Don’t confuse your visitors. Keep your website simple and provide a site map if you can.
  8. Difficult to Understand - Write for your audience. Not everyone will have an advanced degree, some could have nothing or as little as a certificate from an online school – unless of course such people are your target audience.
  9. Spelling and Grammar Mistakes - There ain’t no excuse for bad spellin and grammar.
  10. Stale Content - Fresh content is good for SEO and for attracting repeat visitors.

Implement as many of these ten website improvements (and the ones listed 10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Blog or Website) as you’re able to.

How time flies! Already, we’ve come to the part of the blog post where people usually leave a well thought-out comment. :-D

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Larry Brauner

In the past week, social media hype and the competency of  social media consultants have been analyzed from different vantage points by prominent writers.

ClickZ published an article, Here Come the Social Media Carpetbaggers by Rebecca Lieb.

Social Media Carpetbaggers

Rebecca pointed out that a combination of the recession, the decline of traditional media, and the nearly zero cost and barrier-to-entry into social media has spawned 21st century “social media carpetbaggers, in all flavors and colors of the rainbow.”

Which carpetbaggers?

It’s reputable marketers who have built deservedly strong reputations in other digital disciplines: branding, creative, strategy, search, media, and a host of other specialties, who are suddenly labeling themselves “social.”

These carpetbaggers are anxious to get their piece of social media marketing, and their dog-and-pony shows and social media clichés substitute for real experience, competence and substance.

Social Media Snake Oil

Social Media Snake OilBusiness Week published Beware Social Media Snake Oil by Stephen Baker which portrayed social media consulting as sizzle more than steak.

Stephen criticized rigidity, conflicts of interest, reliance on soft metrics, and in the worst of cases, pure hype:

“It’s a bit of a Wild West scenario,” blogs David Armano, a consultant with the Dachis Group of Austin, Texas. Without naming names, he compares some consultants to “snake oil salesmen.”

Beyond Social Media Snake Oil

The David Armano just cited added to the discussion in a subsequent article on his blog, Life After Social Media Snake Oil. David made some astute comparisons between the social media “hype and fuzzy metrics” and the denial surrounding the dot com bubble.

David ended his article by connecting the past and the future:

The true believers who stuck with the Web even when the bubble burst became the people you wanted to work with. If there is a shakeout in the social space, the same will happen. The true believers will remain, while others flock to the next hot field.

Social Media in Perspective

Mark Evans also picked up on the Business Week piece. Mark concludes that we need more perspective:

All the hype surrounding social media and tools such as Twitter and Facebook overshadow the fact that effective marketing and communications will continue to include a variety of tools. To counter all the happy talk from social media consultants about what could be, the biggest thing needed right now is perspective.

My Comments on What I’ve Read

I have several comments to make on the articles I’ve read:

  • Not only social media, but web development, and website, social media and search engine optimization all have more than enough carpetbaggers and snake oil salesmen. In all these areas, service providers, and even their completed work, are difficult to evaluate. Licensing isn’t required either, so they can easily hang up shingles and start practices. Sadly, they’re practicing on your company.
  • In the case of Rebecca Lieb’s marketing firm turned social media carpetbagger, it’s unfortunate that they haven’t yet developed the strategic alliances they will need to compensate for a lack of experience that cannot be otherwise mitigated in the short run.
  • Measuring ROI and developing other hard metrics was a concern shared by several authors. I protested already in my article, The Social Media ROI Obsession, that much of social media marketing is really public relations, and that the use of softer metrics may be appropriate in such a case.
  • While the absence of clear financial justification may cause the social media marketing bubble to burst, I expect that public and customer relations, as well as B2B prospecting will continue to make good use of social media.

And now, it’s your turn to comment on another hot topic. :-)

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Larry BraunerWe discussed in Why Doesn’t My Website Generate Sales? four different aspects of poor website performance: too little website traffic, the wrong website traffic, insufficient stickiness and poor conversion.

Today we shall examine the all too common problem of too little website traffic and answer three important questions:

  1. Doesn’t my website deserve to get traffic?
  2. Why doesn’t my website get traffic?
  3. How can I create traffic to my website?

Doesn’t My Website Deserve to Get Traffic?

If your website offers useful information or creates value for visitors in some way, it deserves traffic.

It’s really that simple.

Why Doesn’t My Website Get Traffic?

Deserving web traffic is one thing, and getting it is another. I believe that most websites deserve traffic. They were put on the web to present information or create value for visitors in some other fashion. Nevertheless, most websites sit and collect dust to the disappointment of their owners.

Here are a few reasons for the lack of traffic to deserving websites:

  • Lacking web marketing savvy - Most website owners do not know how to market their websites and generate traffic to them. This is alright as long this shortcoming is adequately compensated for which is usually not the case.
  • Assuming that web developers know marketing - Many website owners hold the mistaken belief that web developers will optimize their websites to attract traffic from the search engines. When the site is finished, there is often a keyword expression such as the company’s name that shows up on the first page of the search engines, but that keyword expression is trivial and doesn’t bring much traffic if any. This mistake is pretty common and very sad. It’s a major cause of the following problem.
  • Negativity - Too many website owners don’t appreciate the great marketing potential of the web or don’t believe that the web’s suitable for their business. This is a good example of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

How Can I Create Traffic to My Website?

Here are four ways to generate website traffic:

  1. Buy advertising - Your best options are print, radio and Internet. You may need a copywriter to develop an effective ad for the media you choose. Before you spend much on advertising, satisfy yourself with an experiment that your ad works and that your site can convert visitors into buyers. If you don’t take this precaution, you may end up throwing away money on advertising that doesn’t produce results.
  2. Connect with your target audience on the web- Online social networking is a path to free website traffic. Building your audience and your brand online is the main focus of this blog. Find the time to explore my site map and read a whole bunch of my articles. Use comments to ask questions. Social networking sites can be very useful, or they can be a very big waste of time. Knowing how to use networking sites effectively makes all the difference.
  3. Learn search engine optimization - You can read some books and optimize your website by yourself, just as I have done. There is an SEO learning curve, but in my opinion, it’s not as steep as the social media learning curve. Good website content and good SEO can attract thousands of free search engine visitors to your website.
  4. Get marketing help - find a web marketing consultant to guide you or do everything for you. That person could be me, or it could be somebody else who’s knowledgeable.

This is your website traffic road map. It’s up to you to choose the route and destination that are best for you.

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Larry Brauner

A web developer knows how to build a website and how to create a web page that interacts effectively with visitors.  Web developers can often organize information and design web sites with great visual appeal.

Generally speaking however, web developers are neither experienced Internet marketers nor skilled copywriters. They specialize in following, tweaking and implementing the specifications provided to them by small business owners and corporate marketing departments. A web developer is a technician skilled at converting a set of instructions into an interactive web site.

Launching and promoting a web site and building an Internet presence require more than a development effort.  Here are eight other elements that will likely figure into your online presence:

  1. Your niche and perhaps micro-niche - What specific need or needs will your products or services fill?
  2. Positioning and branding - What distinguishes you from your competition? How can you position your brand so that it’s at the top of it’s own category?
  3. Targeting - Who will use your brand and how can you connect with them online and offline?
  4. Your keywords - What terms are people searching for that are relevant to your brand and which are the best ones to compete for?
  5. Content - What do you say on your site? How do you communicate your ideas, and how do you weave in the keywords indicated by your keyword research?
  6. Contextual linking - Creating meaningful hyperlinks within your site content that help the reader and the search engines.
  7. Link building - Getting the best sites to link back to you and other SEO strategies to attract search visitors and drive referrals to your website. Listing your site in appropriate directories. Submitting your site and content to social bookmarking sites, and writing press releases and articles that will also link back to you.
  8. Web promotion and list building - Leveraging video sites, social networking sites, e-zines and PPC ads to drive even more people to visit and register at your website or your blog.

To build a successful web presence requires a team of marketing, design and development professionals to tend to each aspect of your online campaign. In many organizations, some people will assume several roles.

If you’re a small business owner, I recommend that you let a marketing consultant bring together and manage the expertise and skill sets that will be required.

If you have more time to invest than money, Site Build It! is an inexpensive option. You learn each phase as you go and are guided step-by-step through your project.

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