The End of The “Social Media For $99” Scam

As the doomsday posts from experts calling the newest Facebook algorithm changes the “end of Social Media” echo through our Social Media channels, I realized that this change might just bring a long-awaited and needed change to the marketing world:

The end of the “Social Media for $99/month” package.

Since I started offering outsourced Social Media management services I always have had to explain why I did not want to compete with low-cost providers or even those that offered Social Media services as a free add-on to their main service.

All Social Media networks are introducing algorithms that favour real person to person content over generic “drop and run” posts. Even before the recent announcement of Facebook’s change in direction (I wrote about this in my article Keep Calm And Facebook On!) pages that posted boring content that only talked about themselves and disregarded the needs and interests of their audience became ineffective. The reach of these posts can only be achieved by paying more and more to “boost.”

Most of these low-cost packages include uploading a couple of posts per month to your Facebook page or even to several social channels at the same time. For under $100 per month.

Considering that there is a cost for administering a contract, this leaves only about less than one hour for content creation per week. There is no room to respond to comments and messages, no room for analyzing the performance of the campaigns, strategy, video production and other things you need to do to provide value to your Social Media followers.

The result are Facebook pages that include generic posts that are really only ads. Maybe a contest here or there or some generic post about an award or a copy of the newest print ad but that’s it.

These pages usually have near zero engagement because people soon find out not to expect any value beyond finding the newest sale. Even before the 2018 algorithm change, these pages had very little organic reach. To have their content seen, pages like this had to spend a lot of money on ads and boosted posts.

Because there is no real value for the business or the customers I have long called $100/month Social Media packages a scam.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Because there is no real value for the business or the customers I have long called $100/month Social Media packages a scam.” quote=”Because there is no real value for the business or the customers I have long called $100/month Social Media packages a scam.”]

With Facebook’s announcement to place focus on community, these scams will soon be discovered. When the organic reach reaches zero, and the cost for Facebook ads go up, any business owner will see that this level of social media management has no benefit for the business.

Sadly, some will give up on Social Media and will call it useless for their business.

Others will realize that they have been scammed and will either learn how to manage a successful Social Media presence themselves or spend more money on hiring a professional that can do it for them effectively.

Let me know if you want to talk about these options or a combination of both.

The time for lazy Social Media management is over! All Social Media networks have realized that they can only grow if the users have a positive experience, spend time on their platform and react to ads. To become a real resource for our community, we have to learn to serve them better. We need to spend more time, listen better and provide a seamless experience.

That brings me to the story that triggered this article.

A great example of a company that uses Social Media well and connects with their customers:

Last week we got new windows, and aside from all the work and distraction I now have a great example for my workshops.

Often business owners fail to see how they could make a connection between the online and offline part of their business. Centra Windows gave me a great example of being active and involving their staff.

After the installers had started, I posted a picture on Instagram

#mcv we are getting new windows

A post shared by BlueBirdBc (@bluebirdfrith) on

Michele had been in contact with @CentraWindows before and noticed that I had forgotten to mention the company in my post. She added the tag to her comment so @CentraWindows would get a notification. Someone at Centra is monitoring the notifications and reacted very quickly.

When the work was finished the foreman, and I did a walk through to confirm that everything was done. After I signed, he handed me a business card with the names of the installers and asked me to write a review on the company Facebook page so he and his colleagues would get a reward.

What happened here?

  1. The company used the opportunity to communicate with customers when they were mentioned.
    1. This increased the reach of the original post
    2. It encouraged us to keep promoting them
    3. It signalled that they care about the customer experience
  2. The company educated and encouraged their staff to mention the company Facebook page
  3. By asking for reviews, the company encouraged me to share my experience with any potential customer

Social Media is not about how many pieces of content you post (but that’s important too) but how you communicate with your community and customers. Social media is a customer service tool. Many forget this!

This example shows a great way to create “organic reach” for your Social Media presence.

Effective Social Media in 2018 requires a lot of time and effort. The rewards for those that succeed in capturing the attention of their customers will increase.

Keep Calm and Facebook On

In a post, Mark Zuckerberg on January 11th, Facebook announced some major changes in direction that have us social media professionals buzzing. If there is one thing that has been consistent with Facebook over the last ten years, it’s the constant changes. For the CEO to make such an announcement himself is quite rare though.

It is impossible to read all the pieces of content out there that are trying to dissect what is happening.

The reactions range from the “End of times” to “Nothing is going to change”

Some of the best reactions I have seen are from:

Mike Allton:

Mark Schaefer

Don’t panic. The Facebook announcement is no big deal

And Jon Loomer

Facebook News Feed Update: Now What?

I know there are many more, please share your favourites in the comments.

I usually stay away from picking up stories that everyone else is covering and where people I admire already layed out their thoughts quite eloquently. But I have been asked about my opinion so many times that I decided to dedicate a Podcast episode and this blog post to the topic.

I invite you to listen and tell me what you think.

There is no doubt that Facebook has become part of our lives. We build it into our daily routines; it helps connect us with our friends, our community and our causes much more than ever before.

Since Facebook was launched in 2004, we have seen many changes in what the platform does, and of course, its functionality.

Even before I started advising small business owners on the use of social media tools in 2010 “everyone” was up in arms every time the platform made a change to any functionality or design.

In fact, a big part of Facebook’s success is its ability to adapt to the changes in its user’s behaviour and also shape this behaviour.

Let me begin by highlighting a few passages from Mark Zuckerberg’s post:

“But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”

Ever since Facebook grew so large that it felt the need to sort what we see in our newsfeed via an algorithm, users have been complaining that we were losing what we originally signed up for – connecting with our friends and family. Granted, the social media platform has become much more to us since then. The human connections are still the most valuable part of any social network for most.
But, ever since Facebook decided to become a publicly traded company, it became increasingly important to make money and show us as many ads as we would tolerate.

In her reaction to my call for contribution, my friend @Catester shared her reaction about too many ads in a sound bite:

Thanks Catester!

Facebook has said before that it has a real problem with the fact that the users create less and less original content.

Social Media marketers and news outlets have refined the best ways to manipulate what we see. Even very frequent algorithm changes don’t help for long.

But if you look at the past changes to Facebook’s algorithm you can see a pattern that leads to this latest announcement. Every update was limiting unnatural tactics that tried to trick us or the algorithm and was fostering real person interaction.

The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos — even if they’re entertaining or informative — may not be as good.

Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”

Social media and mobile technology is a greater interruption of our societies than the printing press or even Radio or TV ever were. While Social Media is more than Facebook, its size and importance, at least in North America, give the network a big responsibility.

What makes or breaks an online platform is the fact that people use it. All ways to inform and entertain us are in a fierce competition for our time and attention. Social Media, Blogs, Websites, TV, Radio, Email and many more.

If Facebook wants to keep growing and dominating the social media space in the future, it has to keep changing by listening, analyzing our behaviour and anticipating our next move.

What I read between the lines:

Facebook is facing more pressures that are a byproduct of dominating the social media landscape. The network has become the primary source for news for a large part of the population, at least in North America. The more we discover about how this phenomenon can be exploited the clearer it becomes that Facebook is, in fact, a “media company.” This distinction comes with responsibilities that the social network is not set up to meet. Facebook needs to get out of the “news game” if it wants to avoid government regulation.

Facebook can’t reasonably be blamed for having been used by foreign powers to influence the 2016 US election and others. However, it’s quite clear that it was too easy and profitable to do so. Without the editorial tools of a media company, Facebook can only make it harder for these attacks to occur and simply show us less news. Unfortunately, this will also limit our exposure to real journalism.

Facebook’s revenue model is based on advertising income. Just as Catester said in her soundbite advertising, in general, is becoming less and less desirable and is under immense pressure to change. The fact that Facebook is going to limit the amount of brand content we see also means that the total amount of Facebook ads is more limited, making a rise in price inevitable.

What does all of this mean for us?

Before we look into the future, I have to point out that we have seen gradual changes in the Facebook algorithm leading up to this for a while. The organic reach of Facebook posts overall has declined to 6% of people that liked the page for a while now. Pages that enjoy more engagement than average have enjoyed more organic reach, however. I will explain later in this article why I think this will continue.

Many social media experts have voiced their predictions on how the changes are going to affect business pages. At this point all of this is speculation. The only clear signal from Mr .Zuckerberg’s post is that “Community” is going to be the new focus.

If you, like me, manage a Facebook page for a small business or an organization you might be in a much better position to benefit (!) from this change. Treating your Facebook following like a community should be a lot easier for us than for larger brands. Your connection to your fans is likely much more personal than that of a brand that built their following with deep marketing pockets.

There are two directions you can go with your Facebook presence after this:

  1. You can continue to “post and run” boring, self-serving content on your page that only talks about your business and has no value to the user beyond telling us what we can buy. Pages like this are ineffective now and will become obsolete shortly. Your ad budget will need to increase significantly.
  2. You can post more engaging and entertaining content. Most of the pages I manage as well as those of my best students have seen higher organic reach than the average pages on Facebook before. This is because the content we post is rarely sales related and creates engagement.

Here are some important strategy changes you need to make if you haven’t already:

  1. It’s not about you! The primary purpose of your social media presence is NOT to sell your products and services. It’s to serve your (potential) customers.
  2. For social media to be effective, you will have to spend more time engaging with your audience.
  3. We need to change our mindset from “speaking to an audience” to “building a community.”

Here are some tactics that can help with this change:

  • Facebook Groups

    • Many marketers have already switched their main focus to groups. Depending on your business and your talents, this can be a very effective way of building a community.
    • Beware that running an effective community requires a significantly higher amount of time and attention than serving a public page.
    • Beware that Facebook groups are going to be the social media marketer’s weapon of choice and we will see significant growth in the number of groups vying for our attention.
  • Video – especially live video

    • Facebook has invested heavily in video for a few years now. Aside from taking market share away from YouTube, Facebook has also realized that video is becoming more popular, especially since mobile technology improved.
    • Live video enjoys more engagement right now but I have a feeling that we might see a decline in viewer numbers once live video becomes more common. Live video is great; it brings us closer to our community in a very efficient way. However, it also requires a lot more time for me as a user to get the same amount of entertainment and information than in an edited piece of content.
  • Messenger Bots

    • If we can harness the power of this new technology, it can have the potential to serve our customers in whole new ways.
    • The danger to misuse this power for spamming those that opt into these bots is large.
    • Those that manage to use them well will have a better chance to benefit in the long term.

Keep Calm and Facebook

This is the end of social media marketing as we know it!

And that’s a good thing! Especially because I focus on small business pages in my work I see a lot of pages that see Social Media as a pure marketing channel. These business owners measure their success by “direct new sales”, “clicks to a website or offer”, “likes”….

Many Facebook pages are a wasteland of self-absorbed posts that nobody sees. Some don’t even answer direct questions from users in any way.

Getting results from your Facebook page will require more work, a more active presence and a willingness to serve your community.

Considering that a huge percentage of your customers are regular users of Facebook the potential to serve them where they hang out is huge.

I encourage you to take up the challenge and actively build your community!

“In the business of the future, we have to become the very people we are trying to reach” ~ Brian Solis

 

While this has become one of the longest blog posts I have ever written there is a lot more we could discuss. I invite you to leave a comment or send me a message. Let me know if you are interested in discussing the topic publicly – maybe on a Facebook live session? After all, I have a Facebook page to grow 😉

An Awesome Tool That Makes People Read Your Email

Chances are your customers have email 🙂 !
The average office worker receives 121 emails every day. I know, that number seems low to me too. Often the email load seems overwhelming.

Getting too many emails is a real problem. Over the last couple of years, we have seen a lot of ways and tools appear that try to help us manage this flood of emails better. Spam filters are becoming more powerful and more ruthless all the time. Gmail and other tools have taken it upon themselves to sort your incoming mail in important and “promotional” emails.

There is a growing gap between email senders that want and need to get their emails seen, read and acted upon and email recipients that need to manage the daily workload emails create.

 

 

There are a few things we can do to improve our chances to actually end up in email inboxes. Creating value rather than chasing the next sale would be one of them. In my interview with Nicole St. Germain from ConvertKit, we went through a few more tips.

You can listen to it here:

But the number one factor for getting your emails opened is the right subject line.

With so many emails, your email inbox looks like a result of a google search. 121 emails are to be prioritized into “Open right away” “Maybe later” and “Delete.” Obviously, we want our email to be in the first category. As in the Google search, an effective headline is key to getting the email opened.

 

I found a free tool that helps with creating better subject lines:

https://sendcheckit.com/email-subject-line-tester

subjectline score

You simply type your subject line in the tester and immediately receive a score and a whole number of helpful improvement suggestions. As you can see my original subject line: “This is a great tool to get your email opened” received only a “B” because it’s not easily scannable, had a negative sentiment (?) and included the word “get” often associated with spam emails.

“An awesome tool to make people read your email” received an “A” score. It’s still not top in “scannability,” but it doesn’t include any spam words and is written on a 5th-grade level (lower is better 😉).

I invite you to try it and let me know if you see any change!

Frithjof

You Are in Charge of Your Facebook Experience

Happy New Year!

I hope you had a restful holiday break and can start 2018 recharged and ready to reach your goals!

 

Let’s begin with taking charge of your Facebook feed.

We are so used to feeling helpless against Facebook’s constant changes that many of us have given up and just take everything we are given.

Ads are often a point of complaint. We seem to see too many ads, the wrong ads…. Some are creeped out by overt re-marketing ads.

On the flip side, Facebook ads give us business owners a great opportunity to reach future customers in a very targeted manner. Facebook ads are still one of the cheapest ways to deliver advertising online or offline.

The problem is, the amount of advertising we accept as Facebook users has reached its maximum. This means that more ads are competing for space in our stream.

Few business owners know that the quality of their ads, the timing and the targeting of ads influences how many people see our ad. A Facebook ad that gets accepted in the stream reaches more users for less money.

As Facebook users, we have the power to select the ads we don’t want to see anymore. For me, this often happens if I see the same ad too often.

Hide Facebook ads

If this happens, I click on the three dots in the top right corner and check “Hide ad.” Facebook then asks me why I made the selection and I answer with “I keep seeing this.”

On the advertiser side, this negative signal reduces the relevance score, and the ad gets shown to fewer users.

We are not helpless victims!

Let’s make 2018 the year we use the power we have.

Interesting Thoughts About Facebook Messenger Bots From the Bot Boss

One of the biggest developments in the digital space in 2017 is the growth in the area of Facebook messenger bots. Since Facebook opened their Messenger platform for developers we have seen a lot of tools being developed to serve this growing market. However, this technology could open up a whole new level of spammy marketing. In this episode of the BlueBird Podcast I speak to a real expert on using bots for business.

I invite you to listen to the podcast and leave your questions in the comments.

 

I don’t know if you know me well enough yet to know that I can get pretty excited about little things like a new tool to engage my website visitors. This morning I received a Facebook message (I really have to tell my Android phone not to wake me with messages) from Stephanie Blake from Social Sparrow. I had subscribed to her Facebook messenger bot a while ago.

Stephanie from Social SparrowStephanie’s agency provides technology based marketing solutions to their clients. From building a strategy to Facebook ads to measuring results, Social Sparrow’s focus is on providing the maximum ROI (Return on Investment) to their clients. As a team that is up to date on the newest developments, Stephanie and her team are experts in using Facebook messenger bots.

 

 

Like anything that is new, messenger bots show amazing results. Apparently open rates for messages are around 90% – not bad compared to an average email open rate of 20 – 30%. But I don’t want to bore you with a rant about spamming and misusing your audience. I am confident that those that use these tools wisely will win over those that only sell, sell, sell all the time. At least in the long run.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Facebook now has 2 billion monthly users… and 1.2 billion on Messenger http://tcrn.ch/2uejnZy via @techcrunch” quote=”Facebook now has 2 billion monthly users… and 1.2 billion on Messenger http://tcrn.ch/2uejnZy via @techcrunch”]

The other development you may have noticed is that more and more websites feature a little chat window in the corner that encourages us to contact the website team with questions or inquiries. My experience with these as a website administrator is that they can dramatically increase contact requests and leads from a website. As a user I must say that my experience is between being blown away by great customer service and disappointment that nobody was there to answer my question and I was put into an email queue. Granted, in most cases I did receive an answer by email fairly soon after.

I had one of these chat options on my website before but took it off because it wasn’t used enough and slowed down my site. The other problem is that I can’t be monitoring my site 24/7 and I don’t have an international team to back me up. I’m also a little afraid to add a whole bunch of emails to my daily workload.

What Stephanie introduced me to is different though. This chat tool is linked to my Facebook Messenger account. I use Messenger more and more and have it installed on my phone. For me it’s much more convenient to answer a message than to log into my website and answer an inquiry there or by email. And it’s more likely that my reply gets seen immediately.

Stephanie wrote a short article about how to install this and you can find it here: http://mysocialsparrow.com/facebooks-customer-chat… In my case the video instructions didn’t quite work on her site so I watched the video on her Facebook Page.

What do you think? Is this a good way to use a Messenger bot?

Links

Social Sparrow’s Facebook page

Social Sparrow Website

Register for Stephanie’s course at Botboss.io . I’m looking forward to learning more about messenger bots.

ManyChat

Chatfuel

How to Pick an Awesome Domain Name

Picking the right name for your blog, your website or even your business can be a hard decision. And it’s a decision that will last for years and is hard to correct if it goes wrong.

The advice on what name to choose for your website address is changing as we users change our habits and what we accept. During the development of my upcoming online course “How to Build Your Own Website” course I came across this question and realized that I needed to touch base with an expert that is knowleadgable about domains and can help us figure out how to find the right answer.

Andy MCIAndy Mcilwain works on the content marketing team at GoDaddy, primarily working on the GoDaddy blog. Prior to GoDaddy Andy worked in-house and at agencies in roles covering front-end development and content production.
On the side he is a longtime organizer of a local WordPress meetup group, also does intro-level WordPress/web training for small businesses. Andy lives in Toronto, Canada.

[clickToTweet tweet=”When we are choosing a domain we are also talking about building a brand around that name. [email protected]” quote=”When we are choosing a domain we are also talking about building a brand around that name. @Andymci”]

A “Domain” is the part of your website address (URL) that has the name in it. For example, for my podcast address this is:

what is a domain and what is a TLD

In this episode of the BlueBird Podcast Andy and I talk about the important considerations about picking the right name for your website or blog.

We talk about TLDs (Top Level Domains) and if they are worth considering. We discuss if you should always use the .com extension or what you should consider instead.

Did you know that there are currently 364 domain extensions available and 279 are coming up soon?

We talk about how to overcome the difficulty that all the good names seem to have already been taken.

Finally, Andy reveals one of his best-kept secrets.

I invite you to listen to this episode of the BlueBird Podcast, and I would be thrilled if you let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Links:

https://www.godaddy.com/garage/ (the GoDaddy blog) and https://andymci.com (Andy’s personal site)

How Being Creative With Your Box Can Pay Off

Today on the BlueBird Podcast I speak to Ryan McKenzie who used his experience in the magazine publishing industry to build a successful subscription box business by offering superior value and a community to his customers.

Ryan published an article on LinkedIn that described his expectations and experience with starting a subscription box business. His piece triggered a lot of interest because his idea seems to be very brave and the way he openly describes what he learned is very impressive.

I invite you to listen to episode 20 of the BlueBird Podcast and let me know what you think in the comments.

Ryan McKenzie is one of the partners of My Passion Media and the VP of Canada Wide Media. You might have seen the magazines these companies publish.

They have used their experience and network in the subscription space to add subscription boxes to the mix. These boxes contain “surprise” products that are sent out to subscribers usually every 90 days.

By offering a community and added value to the subscribers, the number of subscribers to each box keeps growing and very few people leave.

Learn more about subscription boxes by listening to the podcast.

Links Mentioned:

Explore Box

BC Living Simply Beautiful Box

Ryan on Twitter

Ryan on Facebook

Ryan on LinkedIn

Cystic Fibrosis Canada


I hope you enjoyed this episode of the BlueBird Podcast! I would like to know where you found this podcast. Please leave a comment about how you found this in the comments or send me an email to [email protected].

Thanks!

To Survive In The Business Of The Future We Have To Serve Better

I am in the process of putting together my offers and recommendations for holidays sales. I had three customer service experiences yesterday that made me reflect on the reasons why I recommend one tool or service over another. Very often there are many services to choose from that do the same thing. Sometimes but not always the prices are different, or there is one or the other feature that you may or may not want. Where providers often differ is customer service.
Take website hosting for example. Yesterday I investigated an issue on a client’s website. After ruling out everything that could have been wrong, I reached out to the support chat of the hosting company. Long story short, the abilities of the support person and her scripts seemed to be less than my own. I wasted a considerable amount of time and did not even succeed in finding the reason for the error. I ended up hiring WPFixIT, a WordPress help service that solved the problems in five minutes and also told me what had been the problem. When I reflected on what had happened, I realized that I am spoiled by the customer service of my favourite hosting provider, SiteGround*. This company has live, trained support people all over the world that help in all the small and larger emergencies. Every time I have a problem the team helps with minimal wait times. Considering the cost of my time and the lost opportunity when a website is broken, this peace of mind is worth a lot more than a saving $20 per year on hosting. There are more advantages to use SiteGround, but you get the point.
The next customer service experience was with my computer manufacturer Acer. I would like to upgrade my computer and am looking for a part. I contacted Acer support and went through a lengthy process to update my customer records. The only result my inquiry had was that I now know what part I need for my computer. The customer service rep had no way to direct me to a way for me to order the part. All I got was a 1-800 number I need to call during business hours to order the (hopefully correct) part. Talk about driving your customers away!
Everyone is wondering why well-known retailers are closing their doors and businesses that are part of our lives for generations are closing. The answer is that these businesses are unable to adjust to changing consumer demands. The Internet, mobile technology, and social media have changed our lives in so many ways. This is THE chance for smaller businesses to stand out. It’s time to out-care your competition.
Coming back to the businesses I recommend to you; All of them solve a problem we have, they are competitively priced, but most of importantly the company stands behind their product and their customer service is top notch.
“To survive in the business of the future, we have to become the very people we are trying to reach” ~Brian Solis
I hope I made you think today!
Frithjof

* I like SiteGround so much that I became an affiliate

Beyond Yoast – SEO for Small Business Owners

The following is a guest post by Michael Hayes from Darby Hayes Consulting


SEO can be transformational for businesses.  Business owners know this from experience: When the phone is ringing, everyone is happy.  In an increasingly digital world, more and more customers are taking to Google to find solutions for their needs, and this includes local services and businesses.

Getting that visibility on the Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) means the difference between the phone ringing, and not so much.  That much becomes obvious after a short time serving a local market, but the everlasting question is: How can I rank in Google?

Enter SEO.  The field of “Search Engine Optimization”, which has grown to unprecedented levels in recent years, largely due to the immense value that can be attributed to search engine traffic (as well as the rising costs of advertising directly with Search Engines, i.e. Google Adwords).

Most business owners go to the services of SEO or Internet Marketing agencies to help improve their Search Engine rankings and traffic.   However not everyone is in the position to take on the services of an agency (the quality ones, i.e. the ones that deliver results, can be pricey), so they can attempt to handle it themselves.  While not easy, it’s certainly possible.

So, what is a business owner to do when they want to take their SEO into their own hands?  One of the most common bits of advice given to business owners:

“Optimize your title tags and meta descriptions.  Use a WordPress plugin like ‘Yoast SEO’ to do this.”

And that’s about it.  That’s the limit to most peoples (well-meaning) advice.  But there is a lot more that business owners can do.  This article will go over some common tactics that business owners can take advantage of to benefit their SEO initiatives.

But first, let’s go over some SEO fundamentals to make sure we are all on the same page.

SEO Google crawlers

The 3 crucial elements of ranking in search engines are:

  • Crawling and indexing – Search Engines consume your site by “crawling” it, i.e. loading pages like a user might, and following “links” throughout your site to all your content. Once it has crawled the pages, it can choose to include them in the “Index”, i.e. it will become searchable on Google.com/Bing.com/etc.
    • If you are using WordPress and have your pages linked via a navigation menu, chances are you will be fine in terms of crawling and indexing.
  • On-Page Ranking Factors – This is where Yoast comes in handy. Each page will be relevant for a specific topic (and a topic can include many different keywords).  Formulating the correct on-page factors can help Google see what the page is relevant for, and return it for relevant queries on Google.com.  Ranking factors include:
    • Naturally written, long-form content.
    • <title> tags, Meta Descriptions.
    • Images with proper alt text.
    • Outbound links to relevant resources.
  • Off-Page Ranking Factors – This is where Yoast can’t help you. Off-page ranking factors generally come in the form of “backlinks”, i.e. a 3rd party website that is linking to your website.
    • Think of backlinks as a “vote” for the relevance, authority and/or trust of your website/webpage.
    • While on-page factors tell Google what you think about the page, backlinks tell Google what an impartial 3rd party thinks about that page.
    • This is how Google separates the mediocre from the good, and the good from the great (and ranks them accordingly).

So, what can a solo business owner do, besides writing title tags and meta descriptions, to help improve their SEO?  Let’s take a look!

#1 – Leverage Partners

Virtually everyone that runs a business is going to have regular partners and vendors that they maintain positive relationships with.  It’s possible to leverage those relationships by getting listed on your partners’ sites.  This could take the form of:

  • Vendor Lists – Do your partners/vendors have a place where they list their reputable vendors or dealers? Get listed, along with a nice, do-follow backlink, and if possible your Name, Address, and Telephone Number.
  • Blog Posts – Being in the same industry you probably have some helpful insights that could be put together in a blog post. Pitch a few topics to your partners and see if they take you up on it.  You’d be surprised how many people are eager for quality content.
  • Reciprocal Links – Old school, but still worth it. Get listed on your partners “Links” pages, and chances are they will ask the same from you.  Albeit this isn’t the most creative approach (blog posts are better), but take what you can get.
  • Reviews – Reviews can really help your Google My Business rankings (but not your organic rankings). Reach out to your partners to get them to say a kind word.

#2 – Local Events

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here:

A lot of what SEO’s call “white-hat link building” is just a nerdy word for “getting press coverage”.

Stop thinking about websites and HTML code for a sec, and just think about what it takes for a small local news outlet to cover a story.  They aren’t swimming in content opportunities, so are always open to pitches.  They also aren’t into advertorials promoting your company for no good reason.

This is where a local event makes a lot of sense.  Whether it’s industry-specific (networking events, for instance), location specific (block parties or neighborhood events), or for a good cause (fundraising for charities), these are all newsworthy events that can get picked up in local newspapers.

Now, don’t go crazy and spend time and money on organizing an event to just get links.  You should be looking to leverage it for all types of benefits, like networking, fundraising for charity, building a good rapport with your community, AND on top of all that you get links from local newspapers that will help you crush it in the SERPs.

Pretty good deal, eh?

Be sure to prospect out all your link opportunities and send them a pitch way beforehand.  Journalists and bloggers will love to get the inside scoop ahead of time. After that, you can leverage the news for a press release, which has some moderate SEO impact as well.

#3 – Industry Associations

Being a real company has some advantages over the standard SEO spammer.  You can get listed among other real companies on very relevant industry associations and organizations.  From the generic Better Business Bureau to the very specific associations (both local and national), these are all great exposure and link opportunities for your website.

Some might come with a hefty cost, but most hover around $300 a year or so.  I would recommend leveraging them for more than just your backlinks.  Just like the events above, make sure to squeeze whatever benefits you can out of these memberships, including networking opportunities and “social proof” (i.e.: BBB Accredited badge on your website).

#4 – Become an Expert Contributor

This one isn’t an easy “trick”, it’s more of a long-term and work-intensive strategy that has long-term pay-off.  BUT, it will also get you links which is what we are aiming for in this post.  Here’s how it works:

  • As a business owner, you have the experience and knowledge that is valuable to other people in your industry.
  • Lots of outlets are eager for experts to provide them with content, these include:
    • Local newspapers
    • Industry/Niche Specific Blogs
    • Niche forums
    • Quora and other “ask the expert” style sites
  • Get a few writing samples published online (use your own blog and/or ask your partners to publish articles of yours on their sites). This gives you proof that you are a “published author”.
  • Approach owners of sites with a friendly and honest pitch to write for them, for free.

This can end up being as simple as a few “guest posts” on blogs (which are an effective link building method), all the way to a regular contributor to local newspapers (I have a lawyer friend who did this for years, writing a legal column for the local newspaper).

This strategy sounds great, and it is, but it’s also a lot of work.  Writing articles that are well thought out and provide real value takes time and significant effort.  However, once you’ve done it, it pays off for long after it’s been published (both from the link value and from the exposure you get as an industry expert).

Of course, if you have knowledgeable people on your staff, you can always attempt to delegate this.  However, make sure you are willing to put your name on anything they write.

Conclusion

SEO can be frustrating and confusing, even for the most experienced marketers.  However, if you face it with some fundamentals in place and the right mindset, you can make headway, especially in local niches (which are generally lower competition).

However, you will make absolutely ZERO progress if you don’t take any action.  So, if you remember just one thing from this post, it’s that you should shake off whatever is keeping you from taking immediate action and JUST DO IT.  Whether you “succeed” or “fail” is irrelevant, you will have learned something about your situation and strategy, and you can’t put a price on that kind of experience.

One Amazing Contest is Not Worth Losing Your Facebook Page Over

In this episode BlueBird Podcast, I talk to my colleague Dawn Swick-Renshaw. We are talking about one of my Facebook pet-peeves, “like and share contests” and why it is important to follow Facebook’s rules even if you don’t want to.

Dawn started Stoney Creek Social Media 9 years ago and her big passion is helping small business owners to use social media for their business.

The reason we connected for this call was a post by Dawn warning people to stop using “like and share” as ways to qualify for winning a Facebook contest. Despite the fact that “everyone” is doing it, it is clearly against Facebook’s own Terms of Service (TOS).

“Promotions may be administered on Pages or within apps on Facebook. Personal Timelines and friend connections must not be used to administer promotions (ex: “share on your Timeline to enter” or “share on your friend’s Timeline to get additional entries”, and “tag your friends in this post to enter” are not permitted).” facebook.com/page_guidelines.php

Aside from violating Facebook’s TOS you also can’t really use the shares to determine a winner because, depending on your fan’s privacy settings, you may not be able to even see their share.

There are very good reasons for these rules in the TOS – without them, Facebook would be a very spammy place and would lose users. In the end, the rules are there to protect all of us Facebook users.

One common misconception is that we can contact Facebook to rectify or explain individual cases and have decisions reviewed. Even social media professionals like Dawn and I don’t have a way to “call up Facebook”.

Facebook contests are a great way to engage and grow your audience. But you have to follow the rules to avoid losing the community you built over a long time.

Links:

Find Dawn here: