4 Quick Google Adwords Strategies

Google Adwords are a great way to reach your potential customers and make up for the deficit you may be encountering with search engine optimization.  But, it’s also an easy way to blow through your online marketing budget if you are not careful.

Here are a few quick strategies that will help you get the most from your Adwords campaign:

Target Languages

One of the simplest things you can do to focus your ads is to make sure you have selected a language preference. It really comes down to the languages you are ready to support through your website.

There’s no sense in having ads that will drive German-speaking consumers to your site if your site is strictly in English. Similarly, it isn’t very practical to have ads in English displaying in people’s browsers who speak German.

I’d venture to guess you won’t get a whole lot of clicks, so you may not be wasting money in a direct way, but you’ll be missing out on valuable ad impressions that could bring business your direction.

Target Regions

Along the exact same lines is choosing a region for you ads to display. You might think that setting English as your target language would take care of everything else.

What if someone in Kazakhstan who speaks English, and has his or her browser set to display English, comes across one of your ads. They click through to your website and attempt to buy what you are selling. If you aren’t prepared to ship to or provide your service to Kazakhstan, you just spent money on an ad and click through without getting a conversion.

Make sure your ads are targeted to a region where you are fully capable of doing business. Google is great at letting you drill down not just into a continent or country, but you can even select a state or city.

Depending on the nature and targeted reach of your ads, you may want to split them into different Adword campaigns according to region. This will allow you to track click through and conversion rates for each, which can prove especially useful when budgeting for future campaigns. I mention this because it is actually quite remarkable how different online shopping conversions can be for different regions of the world. People in the USA are, for example, much more likely to convert quickly as opposed to shoppers in the UK.

Graphic Ads

Most people assume that Google Adwords are just that, word ads. But, the fact is, Google serves up a huge amount of graphic or image ads through its Adsense program and the Google Display Network.

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Anyone with a blog or website can sign up to be part of the Display Network and Google pays them to run ads, both text and graphic, on their website. You can actually choose to have your text ads included with those served in the Adsense program.

But, not all websites participating in the Adsense program allocate space for text ads, or the space in which they do is likely to be anything optimal (crammed with a bunch of other ads in a side column).

Graphic or image ads will be displayed through the Display Network at a higher rate than text ads and normally have a much lower cost-per-click and outperform text ads with clicks by a huge margin. In some cases, I have seen graphic ads get 300-400% more clicks than text ads, at 50% cost-per-click.

Google also makes it very easy for you to see the websites where your Display Network  ads are being displayed. Make sure you look through the list on a regular basis and if any seem unlikely to bring good, quality traffic, move them to the Exclusions list.

Quality Score

Another thing Google provides is a Quality Score warning. You’ll see this appear when it has been determined the ad and landing page are not in sync to make for a good conversion.

In other words, Google has scanned the ad and the landing page and found the keywords you’ve used in the ad are not relevant or found in the page where you are directing the traffic. It’s like having an ad that says “Sweaters Now On Sale” driving people to a page featuring running shoes.

Make sure to pay attention when Google gives a Quality Score warning, since you’d likely be wasting money on people who make clicks on that particular ad.

That’s it for now. The tips I have outlined above should help you to refine your Adword campaigns and reduce unnecessary clicks (and expense).

Happy hunting!

15 PR Experts to Follow on Twitter

I personally find Twitter to be a bit of an annoyance.

Sure, it’s a great place to engage customers with real-time customer support, but it’s also crowded, distracting and filled with nonsensical ramblings.

If you’re selective, however, you can find some excellent resources.

That’s how I use Twitter. I follow the select few who share informative, educational and insightful ideas, and links to relevant content.

Here are 15 Public Relations experts and contributors that I think are truly worth the follow.

  1. Bill Stoller – 25-year PR Pro helping others get their share of publicity; Editor & Founder, Free Publicity Newsletter.
  2. Joan Stewart – Publicity and PR expert, journalist, author, biker chick, gardener, foodie, Weight Watchers devotee, Sopranos junkie & proud Cheesehead.
  3. Paul Hartunian – World renowned free publicity expert, 1st person to REALLY sell the Brooklyn Bridge, making worldwide news.
  4. Deirdre Breakenridge – CEO of Pure Performance Communications, speaker, author of Social Media and Public Relations & PR 2.0, adjunct professor.
  5. Todd Defren – Principal at SHIFT Communications, and a PR blogger.
  6. Danny Brown – Chief Technologist @ArCIntel. Co-author Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing
  7. Barbara Rozgonyi – Public Speaker * Corporate Trainer * 3D Social Media * Photographer * SMCChicago Founder
  8. Pam Perry – Award-winning Social Media Marketing & PR Pro, Radio host, Author, Community Manager, Content Curator, Wife, mother & Branding Superstar!
  9. Dan Janal – Publicity speaker and PR consultant. I help people become thought leaders with effective and affordable services. Author of Reporters Are Looking for YOU!
  10. Petri Darby – Brand marketing, digital & communications strategist for Make-A-Wish America. Did agency, corporate and political gigs too.
  11. Dan Keeney – President of DPK Public Relations, baseball and cycling fan and beer enthusiast.
  12. Heather Whaling – Communicating … Connecting. PR & SM small biz owner (@GebenComm). Love nonprofits, sports, politics, news, pop culture, vino & my iPhone. Blog: www.prtini.com
  13. Sarah Evans – @SevansStrategy, non-profit, social good, fashion, #journchat and MediaOnTwitter, community mgr @Pitchengine, dog lover.
  14. Valerie Simon – SVP BurrellesLuce Media Monitoring and Measurement; Public Relations Columnist/ Freelance writer, Suburban mom of 2/still a NYC girl @ heart.
  15. David Meerman Scott – Marketing speaker and bestselling author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR and the new book World Wide Rave.

Which PR experts on Twitter do you think should be added to the list?

Why Invest in Social Media

It wasn’t but a little over a year ago when I had the CEO of an online retailer tell me that they wouldn’t be “wasting” any time whatsoever on social media.  Of course, considering they made the majority of their money online, I didn’t let that go without some sort of back and forth. But, the day ended with him firmly entrenched in the notion that time spent on Facebook and Twitter was a frivolous use of resources.

The truth of the matter is, social media marketing is hardly a waste of time.

According to the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 85% of marketers report that with just 6 hours a week invested in social media marketing they have had a positive increase in brand awareness, and 74% say they have experienced a significant increase in web traffic.

For those who have been using social media for more than 3 years, 58% say it has definitely helped to improve sales. And, nearly half of those who spent 11 hours per week or more on social media efforts saw an overall reduction in other marketing expenses.

When it comes to acquiring a loyal fan base, social media truly plays a big role. Of those who have been using social media for at least 1 year, 65% found it useful for building a loyal fan base. Time invested made a significant difference with results. Sixty percent of those who spent at least 6 hours a week found benefit, compared to 46% of those spending 5 hours or less.

Even with those who spent as little as 6 hours per week, 61% reported a positive uptick in lead generation.

In the long run, each company’s social media strategy will be different—with unique results. But, the statistics show even a little effort will prove worthy in building a brand, finding leads or establishing a following. I’d say with the relative low-cost of investment, and almost guaranteed return, it is hardly a frivolous use of resources.

As Michael Stelzner, the author of the Social Media Industry Report and Founder of the Social Media Examiner has said, “The old mantra of ‘be everywhere’ will quickly be replaced with ‘be where it matters to our business.’…It will be essential to focus on where you’ll see results.”

5 Tips to Success Using a PR Firm

There’s no real question, a concentrated public relations (PR) effort can benefit any company.  PR not only builds recognition but can increase sales, strengthen customer loyalty and set companies apart from their competitor in crowded and oversaturated markets.

A successfully deployed PR business-building strategy can yield significant and lasting results. “Two of our clients measured [return on investment] from PR and calculated it at $4 in new business to every $1 spent,” says Amy Bermar, president of Corporate Ink in Newton, Mass.

It all sounds great, but a good deal of success lie on the management of the PR agency. Otherwise you can find the focus of the effort shifting to their vision and your company suddenly redefined by their goals and expectations.

Here are a few guidelines that I recommend you consider when hiring a PR firm:

Make Sure There’s a Good Fit

Don’t get sucked in by fancy pitches and exquisitely furnished offices. If they don’t get the essence of your company or understand your market and its challenges, you are in for a wild ride. At the end of the contract you may feel like someone tried to force you into a tutu and turned you into a ballerina. Everything you’ve come to love and believe in your company will be redefined into something you can’t recognize and your budget will be blown.

There are a zillion agencies out there specializing in as many industries. Take the time to find the right one for you. Do your homework and interview carefully. It doesn’t hurt to visit their offices to get a feel for who they are and how they view themselves. And, don’t hesitate asking them to detail specific successes, then ask if you can call those companies for a reference.

It’s probably a good idea to make sure they have accreditation from the industry’s largest association, the Public Relations Society of America. Plus, you’ll want to make sure they have specific and comprehensive journalistic experience. PR is, after all, primarily about dealing with writers, editors and publications.

Finally, ask who in the agency you will be working with. It’s not uncommon to sign a contract with a big, well-known firm only to find you’re working entirely with junior staffers.

Phase in the Fees

Just about every agency is going to want to set up a retainer, and in most cases they’ll want a one-year contract at a minimum.

It will be to your advantage to start on project with a fixed price tag. That’ll allow you to, as the saying goes, date them before marrying them. It provides you with the opportunity to evaluate both the relationship and results.

You can always try the paying for customized services option. This allows you to use the cafeteria approach and only buy what you need/want. For example, you could hire a publicist to write as-needed press releases on an hourly basis.

Here are red flags to watch out for that usually indicate you’re in for trouble and won’t get what you pay for:

  1. A firm promises guaranteed results. Seriously, who can really guarantee anything?
  2. A firm spends too much time doing research. This is an easy way to build up the charges while staying away from the actual doing (where the real results can be measured).
  3. They don’t go into specifics. You should know exactly what is planned and how they intend to make things happen.
  4. You continuously get status reports, but they never seem to show ongoing results.
  5. You find a typo in anything they present to you.

Define and Measure Results

In many cases, agencies will promise a specific number of media placements over a given period of time. Normally it’s over a month. If they don’t, you’ll want to either hammer that into the contract or look for a different firm.

Tell them what you expect, such as:

  • A certain number of column inches, air-time, sound bites or web hits.
  • A feature in an influential journal.
  • An measurable increase in customer awareness of your brand.
  • A specific number of sales leads within a designated timeframe.
  • Invitations for your executives or thought leaders to speak at events or seminars.
  • Specific industry awards.

“Develop a survey before the publicist starts to set a milestone,” says Vince McMorrow at RMD Pubic Relations in Albany, Ohio. “After their work has had a chance to be absorbed by your market, re-survey to find if the needle has moved.” This will allow you to gauge and measure results.

Manage the Process

Managing the firm will be a big part of the overall success. Ask for regular reports, status memos and update presentations. All of them will be happy to send over progress reports but getting them back into your office, or scheduling meet-ups at theirs, forces a deeper back and forth, and allows for a more comprehensive discussion of tactics and results. It’s also smart because it gives you and the firm an opportunity to consider adjustments as you move through your initial strategy.

Be Realistic

And, finally, it is incredibly important to have a realistic outlook for your intended goals. Lea Conner, at Conner Dudley Communications in Spokane, Wash., has the perfect example of a client who lost touch with reality, a self-published author who wanted to appear on TV talk shows to publicize her book. The two agreed to build up to major media over several months by creating marketing materials and having the author gain local media experience. A month later, the author grew impatient, wondering why she hadn’t yet been booked on The View or Oprah. “It’s easy for clients to get so caught up in their own dreams,” Connor says. “They fail to realize the amount of work it takes to achieve major results.”

I hope these guidelines will help you charter the sometimes murky waters of public relations and build a great relationship with the perfect agency.

Happy hunting!

Design for People, Not Awards

Truly inspiring and insightful TEDtalk by Timothy Prestero, founder and CEO of Design that Matters, a nonprofit that collaborates with social entrepreneurs and volunteers to design products for the poor in developing countries.

Not only does he discuss determining the right solution from every standpoint (“…figure out who will choose, use and pay the dues for your product”), but he provides a great perspective around “requirements gathering” in the face of true obstacles, behaviors and needs.

How to Get Your Ideas to Spread

Here’s Seth Godin‘s TEDtalk about a world of too many options and too little time. Godin is the author of Purple Cow, as well as other de rigueur marketing guides that address marketing in the digital age.

While the video is from 2003, it is still, and maybe even more relevant relevant in a world marketplace overwrought with social media.

Godin expresses the importance of marketing mixes and consumer outreach, and emphasizes the  need to stand out in the crowd. But the main point, and what I like best, is the idea that it’s not what we produce (product or service) that has to be remarkable. WE must be remarkable. That other stuff will follow.

Inbound Marketing

51WgPVrnY-LInbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs by Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah is a pretty decent  marketing starter book that isn’t dry and dull like so many of them seem to be. It has plenty of anecdotes from the likes of Whole Foods, Zappos and Barack Obama, is well written and even has cartoons!

The premise is basically that the old marketing rules are dead or, at the very least dying. The days of  throwing money at print or radio advertising and having some semblance of guaranteed success are in the past.

Today, companies need to engage their customers, which basically means getting them to the website and making sure it is sticky enough to entice multiple return visits. I like that it goes into detail about the essential components for being successful online, such as content marketing, search engine optimization and social media. Plus, it’s not just a bunch of high level stuff but includes some good strategy ideas and to-do lists to help get your started.

There were a few things I didn’t like or think held much relevancy. One would be a section on “Driving Traffic With Digg.” The other is the unabashed advertising for the author’s Hubspot Marketing Grader, which is too bad since it seems to bring into question the bias of the content as a whole.

It’s available at Amazon.

Rebranding Made Easy as Pie!

Of course the title of this post is ridiculous.

Rebranding is never easy. It involves a great deal of planning and strategy, a whole lot of hard work and some fantastic collaboration on a million different levels..

But, having gone through a major brand refresh and several small rebrandings, I have come up with these tips for, at the very least, making it just a little easier.

Define Objectives

The first step is defining drivers and key objectives. That means answering questions like, is this a brand refresh or a brand transformation?

Once you understand your drivers, you can focus more clearly on the objectives and deliverables.

For example, a transformation may included a new company name, logo, positioning, messaging and brand identity, whereas a refresh builds on earlier brand progress. That’s not to say that a refresh is easier. In nearly every case, a refresh is going to have a whole series of challenges built in that cannot simply be ignored and likely includes the creation of an entire brand system and architecture. Many times a refresh is needed because a company has not previously established a systematic approach to brand identity, architecture, or brand management. In that case, a color palette, graphic style,  naming convention and brand personality will need to be either created or changed.

Knowing what you need to accomplish, and clearly establishing that as a focus, will save you a lot of headaches during the next steps and the final implementation.

Determine Approach and Scope

The second key principle is agreeing on how to approach your objectives. What is the scope?  Over what time and at what cost?  Who will make decisions besides the CMO, Vice President or Marketing Director (depending on company organization)?

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What is Marketing?

Seth Godin, the marketing genius behind bestsellers like Purple CowTribes and Linchpin, was asked to define marketing on Copyblogger Radio’s Internet Marketing for Smart People (podcast available on iTunes).

His response was, “the easy answer is that marketing is not advertising.”

Godin then went on to define marketing as: “the art of telling a story that resonates with your audience and spreads.” And, he added, “that story better be true, which means that, implicit in marketing is making something for which or about which you could tell a story that resonates.”

I really like that definition. It goes completely hand in hand with what Jay Baer has described on his blog, Convince & Convert, as YOUtility marketing. It is the act or process of becoming more than just a purveyor, but rather a valuable resource. “Sell something,” Baer explains, “and you make a customer. Help someone, and you make a customer for life.”

This is especially insightful in a world where the balance of marketing power has swung dramatically in favor of the customer. People, as consumers, are not only more connected and savvy then they ever were before, but have reduced attention spans as they are pitched, cajoled and bombarded by millions of messages across billions of mediums simultaneously.

Therefore, Godin emphasizes, marketing should be brought in even before you have your product, service or idea. The hard part of building a business in this modern age isn’t the implementation (you can literally source anything from China in no time at all), it’s creating the the story that people will choose to listen to. And, as such, the purest form of marketing starts from scratch, where you spend your time designing products or services that don’t need advertising.

The art of telling a story that resonates with your audience and spreads — Nothing could more sufficiently describe the process around marketing and the methods for connecting and communicating with existing or potential customers.