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Optima’s free web presence management report will provide you with valuable information on the significant components of your current web efforts, including, but not limited to:

  1. The design and usability of your site. User experience and satisfaction are critical components in the overall success of your web marketing strategy.
  2. SEO and content strategy. It is vitally important that you have a complete content strategy that utilizes the most up-to-date processes to drive relevant traffic to your site.
  3. Social media usage and integration. How well are you turning tweets and followers into revenue?

Our report will provide actionable advice, complete with our expert opinions, recommendations, and the statistics to support our analysis.

Request a Web Strategy Audit Now!

Using Infographics for Marketing – Podcast

using infographics for seo

This week, Optima’s CEO Kyle Claypool was invited to speak about infographics on the Internet Marketing Insights podcast. The subject: infographics and their impact on web marketing.

The invitation came as a result of our recent post about using infographics for marketing. Check out the full podcast below!

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Website Launch Checklist – Critical SEO Factors

Website launch checklist

A brand new website. A clean slate! Ohh the possibilities. Don’t blow this opportunity – make sure that all aspects of your marketing strategy are considered. A beautiful site that can’t generate leads or suffers in search engines is not a wise investment.

A new website can give your SEO campaign a new lease on life … or it can destroy years of work earning those search rankings. Here are a few things to consider before launching the next iteration of your company website…

Prior to the Website Redesign

Not all designers and developers remain current on SEO best practices. It’s important to discuss a few key things with them before you even begin the project:

Content Management Systems (CMS) – What CMS is to be used? How easily can you update content? Will you have control over page titles and URLs? We prefer WordPress and Drupal, simply because they are so widely used and well-supported – you’ll never back yourself into a corner if your developer uses one of these.

Blog location – If your existing blog is at http://companyname.blogger.com or even http://blog.example.com, the redesign is the perfect time to consider moving it to www.example.com/blog. Keeping your blog on the same domain as the rest of your site has immense benefits. Just be sure that if you move the blog, you redirect the posts correctly (more on that below).

URL structures – Will they be changing significantly, and what is the plan for redirecting them to prevent broken links. Consider a change from www.example.com/signup.html to www.example.com/sign-up – if old links are pointing to the former, you’d better make sure people are redirected to the latter, or you’re throwing conversions away.

Also, keep in mind that cleaner URLs are always better. Which is more clear to you? www.example.com/search-engine-optimization, or www.example.com/index.php?page=14881 – The first is more obvious to the reader, and also more easy for search engines to understand.

Domain name – Sometimes a new site design is part of a larger rebranding, even including a move to a new domain name. There are good reasons for this, but it’s one of the most dangerous things you can do, SEO-wise. At the very least, be sure to tell search engines you’re moving through Webmaster Tools.  Make sure you do it right, though:


Download Video with Vixy.net | YouTube MP3 Converter

You might also consider reaching out to major sites linking to yours to say “Hey, we’ve moved… can you update those links to our site?”

Is there enough text? – Sometimes the creative marketing types get carried away with big beautiful images, or (*shudder*) Flash animations. Just be sure you’re aware of the trade-off: the big beautiful image comes at the expense of having text that search engines can read. Once you have a demo site to review, try running it through SEO Browser to see it through Google’s eyes.

Before the Launch

The new site has been built, tested, and approved. It’s ready to go live. How will you measure success? Take some time to address a few key elements. Otherwise, how will you know if something goes wrong?

Benchmark Rankings – The day before you launch the new design, benchmark your current rankings. Make sure you know exactly where you’re ranking for your target keywords. If something is wrong with the new site, a change in rankings may be your first indication.

Note – rankings often take a dip when you make significant changes to a website. This is normal! Google is like most people – change makes it nervous. Your rankings could drop back a page or two, then rebound within a week or two. If you go from page 1 to page 10 (or completely gone), you may have a problem.

Check number of pages in index – Find out how many pages of your site are being indexed by Google. Simply do a Google search for “site:EXAMPLE.com”:

SEO search for pages of a website

This is also a good way to find pages on your site that should be removed. Are there pages showing up that should be hidden, password-protected, or deleted?

Look for indexing errors and find broken links – Checking for indexing errors regularly is a good idea, and Google Webmaster Tools is a free tool that does just that.. Most people don’t take the time, but it’s worth reviewing before and after a major site change. GWT can help you identify errors and fix them in the new version of your site:

Crawl errors can hurt SEO

The above chart indicates a problem with how this site was being managed – hundreds of pages were simply being deleted, leaving many, many broken links out there.

SEOmoz has a more robust, paid tool for tracking this type of issue:

Check indexing errors for SEO

If you launch a new website and see the “Change” metrics skyrocket, you may have screwed something up…

Confirm title tags, descriptions are unique – This is yet another opportunity to improve optimization site-wide. Take a look at the title tags and meta descriptions on each page. Are they all present, and all unique?

Map all old pages to new – If you’re building a brand new site, sometimes content gets lost in the transition. Pages are added, deleted, and renamed. You can really sabotage yourself if you don’t redirect all these pages properly. Consider using a flowchart or even a simple drawing with arrows showing old pages and their corresponding new pages:

301 redirects for SEO

Note that even if you remove a page from your site, it should be redirected to the most closely related page, preserving the value of any links that may have been pointing to it. In this example, signup2 and signup3 are being redirected to the new widget-newsletter page.

Create 301 redirects – There are many ways to redirect a page to a new location, but the only one that won’t hurt your rankings is a 301 “Permanently Moved” server redirect. If you’re running on a Linux server, as most sites do, you will perform all the above-mentioned redirects in the .htaccess file in the root of your website. LionSEO wrote a great post about the technical details of 301 redirects. Using the examples above, you’d have a number of lines that look like this:

Redirect 301 /about.html http://www.example.com/about

Redirect 301 /contact.php http://www.example.com/contact-us

For large numbers of redirects, we use an Excel spreadsheet that automatically generates the necessary code. Download the 301 redirect generator and try it out.

If you’re changing a lot of page URLs, you should have an .htaccess file filled with these redirects prior to launch.

Pause and update ad campaigns – If you’re doing any online advertising, make sure all of your ads point to pages that still exist. If you eliminate a page, or change its URL, you could be sending a bunch of ad traffic to pages that don’t exist. Not only are visitors getting a bad first impression, but you’re paying to give them a bad first impression! Double ouch.

I usually suggest putting ad campaigns on hold the day you launch your new site. That way, if there happens to be a catastrophic issue with the launch, at least you’re not paying for ad clicks leading to a broken site. Once you’ve verified that the launch went well, you can turn the ads back on. Just monitor their performance closely the first few days to ensure things are going as planned.

After the Launch

Check robots.txt, sitemap – It’s not uncommon to place something in the code of a site in development that essentially says “Hey, search engines! Don’t read any of this. Just leave, right now.” The logic makes sense – you don’t want people stumbling across your half-finished site when searching for your business.

Sadly, sometimes this code is forgotten, and even after the site goes live, you’re still telling the search engines they’re not allowed in. Awkward.

Robots.txt can prevent ranking

Once live, make sure all robot instructions are set to index and follow, or risk having massive amounts of egg on your face.

Test page redirects – All those page redirects we talked about? Better make sure they’re working. Try going directly to the URL of an old page, and make sure it sends you to the new location. Again using an example above, www.example.com/about.html should redirect me to www.example.com/about. If it doesn’t, something’s wrong!

Check for indexing errors – Go back to Webmaster Tools 1 day after launch, and again 1 week after launch, and again 1 month after launch. These errors may not show up immediately, so it’s important to keep an eye on the site for a few weeks. If you see a major spike, something’s wrong.

While you’re at it, do another “site:example.com” search on Google. How many pages were indexed? Did you lose any?

Test for speed problems – Occasionally, when launching a new site or moving to a new server, performance will suffer dramatically. This can be a serious problem for both rankings and conversions – Google hates slow websites almost as much as visitors do. Use a site like WebPageTest.org to see how your site is performing:

Slow websites can impact SEO

If it takes a long time for the “first packet” to be sent, that’s an indicator of a bad server. You should also be on the lookout for missing files (i.e. missing images or CSS files being called) and extremely large files (big, beautiful images?).

Benchmark rankings - Just like checking for indexing errors, you should benchmark rankings for the first few weeks after launch. As I mentioned, expect a minor dip in the first week or two, but know that it should all bounce back pretty quickly.

If you see a major drop in rankings, ask yourself why. If a keyword was performing well before, what has changed? Did you remove a lot of content with that term? Did you add a Flash intro to your site? Were pages not properly redirected?

Monitor traffic and conversions – The goal of any site redesign should be to generate more business. If the new site doesn’t generate more traffic and/or better conversions, what have you accomplished? Keep an eye on site traffic and goal conversions. If conversions (i.e. contact form submissions, newsletter signups, purchases) are dropping, take another look at your design. Have your calls to action become less obvious? Have you done anything else to make it more difficult to become a customer?

Closing Thoughts

Launching a new site can be nerve-wracking. With a solid process and a checklist to follow, you can remove nearly all of the worry. As you are planning for a launch, consider these last few details:

  1. Since a site launch can be stressful and can impact your rankings, it’s best to plan for a slow time of the year. Don’t launch during what should be your peak month for traffic!
  2. If you’re planning a major change – i.e. changing your CMS, design, hosting company, and content – consider rolling it out in phases. If you do it all at once and your rankings tank, it’s very difficult to determine what caused the drop. Instead, move to the new host a month or two in advance. Smaller steps are less likely to lead to catastrophic meltdown.
  3. Consider having a complete SEO audit performed on your new site BEFORE it goes live. When it comes to something as critical as a site launch, a second opinion never hurts. Launching under the assumption that SEO was “taken care of,” on the other hand, can be painful.

I’ll leave you with an example from a new client. They had a new website built by a designer who admittedly didn’t know much about SEO. Their site launched, and things went downhill:

Redesign hurts SEO

Don’t throw away years of progress! Make sure there’s a process in place to preserve your rankings through any major transition.

What Makes a Great Infographic?

Using Infographics for Marketing

If you spend much time on the web, you’re probably familiar with infographics -  those big, long images that creatively represent quantities of data in a visual format. Infographics have become popular because they are easy to share – Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter are riddled with them – and because they break complex ideas down into easily digestible bites.  As a result, people want to know how to use infographics for web marketing.

What makes an effective infographic?

Why do some infographics take off, while others die a quiet, lonely death on their owners’ blogs? We have a few theories. Great infographics tend to have the following:

A compelling story

What’s the point?

I’m not being facetious. There should actually be a point to your infographic – a story you’re trying to tell, a message you’re bringing to life.

Treat it like a school paper – start with a thesis. Gather information and build an argument that supports your thesis. With the right data (see next point) and a good story, you’ve got a shot at a decent infographic.

In a business setting, this story should tie into your broader marketing message. Are you educating clients on the need for your product or service? Demonstrating your expertise and deep industry knowledge? Just be careful not to make it too salesy – nobody likes to share advertisements.

Great data

The best infographic takes otherwise complex data (spreadsheets, for instance) and simplifies it, allowing for faster comprehension by the target audience. This works especially well for data with elements of time (line graphs and timelines), location (maps), and scale (bar charts and visual comparisons).

 

Visual Style

If you want people to share something, it better look great. People will form an opinion about the quality of the infographic, the information it represents, and the company behind it, in seconds.

The style should support the story, while appealing to the target market. If you’re trying to scare people, use shades of red and menacing imagery. One of the most successful infographics I’ve ever seen did this beautifully:

sitting-kills

Source: http://mashable.com/2011/05/09/sitting-down-infographic/

At the very least, it’s important that the visual style add to, rather than distract from, the message you’re trying to convey. Amy Balliett said it best in her fantastic SmashingMagazine article about infographic design: “If infographics were as simple as laying out a bunch of standard charts and graphs on a page, then clients would not need to search out great designers.” She speaks from experience:

http://killerinfographics.com/portfolio

Daniel Dannenberg, infographic designer, says “Bottom line: choose the right designer. Find an infographic designer that has experience, possesses sharp design skills, handles data accurately and shows variety and growth through their work.” Case in point, here’s a recent infographic Daniel created:

http://www.verticalmeasures.com/vm-news/mix-96-9-interview-with-vertical-measures-daniel-dannenberg

Shareworthy, and easy to share

Generally, people only go to the effort of creating an infographic because they want it to reach the widest audience possible.

What makes an infographic shareworthy?

  1. It’s timely, or in the news. Take a look at your news feed around the next holiday – you’ll probably see a bunch of holiday-related links being shared. Likewise, if a major event is in the news, and you can create the most authoritative infographic on the subject, you’ve got something worth sharing. Why does this work? You don’t have to convince people the topic is worth discussing – you’re simply adding value to a conversation that’s already taking place.
  2. It has a catchy title. Who are we kidding? We’re a superficial society. We judge a book by its cover, and we judge a post by its title. If you want widespread sharing on Twitter, your title better stand out. In the last 10 minutes, there have been 31 new tweets in my Twitter feed. 25 of them contained links. How do you stand out? With an awesome title.
  3. It has broad appeal. Let’s use the above example, “Sitting Down is Killing You.” 99% of people who saw that infographic were likely sitting when they came across it. It’s instantly relevant to the masses (Some good old-fashioned fear mongering helps, too…).

What makes an infographic easy to share?

  1. Easy embed code. Above or below your infographic, you should include a box with the HTML code required to easily add the infographic to another blog. Take a look at our Facebook usage stats infographic. To embed in your own site, you click inside the textarea (Javascript automatically selects the contents of the box), copy, and paste into your own site. The image will appear on your site, linking back to the original on our site.
  2. Easy social sharing. Rule #1 of getting anyone to do anything: make it as easy as possible. Sharing the post should require about as much work as closing the page – the option you’re competing against. Make those social sharing buttons super accessible!
  3. Easy to find in search. You can’t share it if you don’t know it exists. Make sure you optimize your blog post for keywords relevant to the infographic so that people find you when doing a Google search. Because of the Facebook infographic mentioned above, we’ve got top rankings for terms like “Facebook usage stats.” It demonstrates our expertise in an area that’s important to our business.

What makes a bad infographic?

Alright, we’ve covered the critical parts of a good infographic, but it’s equally important to see bad examples to learn what not to do. Here are a few things that’ll ruin an infographic…

The wrong format

Ask yourself – “Is an infographic the best storytelling device for this content?” Sometimes, marketers try to force content into the form of an infographic. After all, infographics are cool! Everyone loves them. Clients ask for them, account managers promise them, and suddenly you’re turning what should be a blog post into a lengthy infographic:

Source:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/04/10/president-obama-sends-congress-his-fiscal-year-2014-budget

Not only is this not really an infographic, search engines are not able to read any of the text contained within the image. You’ve abused the concept of the infographic, while robbing the page of the possible SEO value of that text!

Confusing visuals

An infographic should reduce confusion by elegantly boiling a concept down to its simplest form. At their worst, infographics can actually make concepts seem far more confusing or complicated than they need to be. Timelines typically start in the bottom left corner and go up, right? They thought so:

Source:  http://pinterest.com/pin/506162445590162643/

Even if you’re trying to present something far more complex, if you can’t come up with an elegant way to present it, you might as well skip the infographic altogether:

Source: http://agbeat.com/business-marketing/piktochart-simple-infographic-creator-online-for-the-busy-professional/

The mass of tangled, overlapping lines is virtually impossible to follow. I don’t know what they were trying to accomplish, but now I have a headache and an irrational fear of healthcare.

No reason to exist

Remember the elements of a good infographic? A compelling story, good data, and a solid design? If you try to come up with an infographic purely to drive shares and traffic, you will eventually find yourself in this category. If you find yourself in a conversation like the following, you’re on dangerous ground:

1: Easter’s coming up. We should create an infographic about it.

2: What should it be about?

1: Dunno. Let’s just find a bunch of facts and throw them together. People will share it because it’s Easter.

The end result: “10 Things You Need to Know About Easter,” an infographic which is devoid of anything you actually need to know about easter (see #4 above).

Don’t waste your time creating something so meaningless. Don’t waste your audience’s time by sharing it. Just don’t.

An infographic case study

We recently launched an infographic for a media buying agency about the history of advertising.

Media planning

Story - We wanted to create an authoritative visual history of advertising and the various modes of mass communication. It was also intended to be a bit tongue-in-cheek. We realize wall paintings were not intended to be billboards, nor were smoke signals really “over-the-air” ads, but they were milestones in communication.

Judging by the feedback we received, the research paid off. We got some great comments, including this one: “As someone with an advertising degree, this infographic is awesome! It’s amazing to see how long it’s been around and how far technology has come. It will be interesting to see where it is in 50+ years.”

Catchy title – A Brief History of Advertising. Simple. Short. Clear. In retrospect, we might have gotten more action from a title such as “Advertising: A 4,000 Year History” or “Advertising: Not Quite the World’s Oldest Profession,” but we opted to keep it simple.

Visual Style – How do you visually represent 4,000 years of history? We chose to go with a long, winding timeline with silhouette representations of important milestones.

As for the artistic direction, we decided to mimic the Mad Men color scheme and typography. Mad Men was getting a lot of attention in ad circles, and since that’s the audience we were trying to reach, it seemed appropriate.

Shareworthy - We timed the release of this infographic with the season premier of Mad Men, and structured our outreach accordingly. We also put a whole lot of work into the research, compiling one of the more comprehensive timelines of advertising you’ll find anywhere on the web. If we had phoned it in with shallow content and minimal creativity, it wouldn’t have been particularly shareworthy.

The results?

The infographic was picked up by a few authoritative sites. From there, social sharing really took off:

Since then, it has been spread to to many, many more sites. Most of them link back to our client, which has generated a steady stream of referral traffic from relevant sites.

Better yet, because of the links from major websites, search engines will view Ocean Media as a more authoritative source. This will lead to improved search rankings for terms related to advertising and media buying, and more traffic for many months.

It’s still early to quantify the value of this infographic, and I can’t share specific metrics, but referral traffic is up significantly over the last three months.

Feedback?

What are some of the best and worst infographics you’ve seen? Any killer tips we’ve left out?

The Perfect Blog Post

The perfect blog post – is there such a thing? Not exactly. If there were a formula, marketers would abuse it so thoroughly that it would become ineffective in a matter of weeks.

What’s more, blog posts serve different purposes. Depending on the audience and objective, the definition of “perfect” may change. As a rule, blog posts should improve search rankings, encourage social engagement, demonstrate your expertise, and get visitors to engage with your company in some meaningful way. The “perfect” blog post is structured to accomplish these goals as effectively as possible.

4 Elements of the Perfect Blog Post

1. It’s written for skimming, not reading

Many people will read the headline above and skip right over this sentence. Culturally, we have an absurdly short attention span. Keep that in mind when you’re writing.

Perfect Blog Post

This cultural attention span is the reason memes are so popular: you see it, recognize it, read it, and get a laugh within about two seconds. So how do you write for our ADD culture?

  • Use lists *cough* likethisone *cough*
  • Use images to make your point – nothing sends people running quite like a long page of text.
  • Use sub-headings and bold text for main points. Some people won’t stop to read anything else – what’s their takeaway?

The perfect blog post is written for the culture it targets. In our case, that means it can convey the message without forcing readers to do much reading.

2. It’s worth sharing

The perfect blog post has content that is worth sharing. If your blog post doesn’t educate or entertain, you might as well save yourself the time and skip it. Self-promotion is not a good reason for a post – nobody retweets a blatant advertisement (unless it’s particularly entertaining!).

Ask yourself – “Is there anything unique about this post? Or is it just a rehashing of ideas that have been covered thousands of times?” Two million blog posts are published every day – why should someone read yours, let alone share it?

3. It follows a keyword strategy

Many outstanding bloggers drop the ball here. They say “I just write – I don’t know anything about SEO.” If that sounds familiar, you’re in luck! Everything you need to know about blogging with a keyword strategy can be found in this presentation:

Just start by asking yourself “What search terms would I like to lead people to this post?” Simply by emphasizing that term in your post (title, subheaders, etc.), you’re doing real live SEO! (Yes, there’s more to SEO than this, but it’s an important step).

Need an example? The presentation above actually references this blog post. Whoa. Scroll up. Can you tell what keyword I’m targeting? In this post, I’m trying to demonstrate my point by emphasizing “the perfect blog post.” With any luck, a Google search for this term will lead back to this post.

4. It aligns with your business objectives

Educational, entertaining, share-worthy, search-friendly content is useless if it’s not supporting your larger mission. Try asking yourself these questions:

  • What are you trying to achieve with your blog?
  • Does the post fit with your brand’s identity?
  • Does the post help to position you as an expert or leading voice in your space?
  • Does it have a call to action that gets people to engage with you on some measurable level?

Without this, items #1-3 on this list are wasted.

Want Some Feedback?

So… how do your blog posts stack up? Post a link to one in the comments and we’ll send you some feedback!

Web Marketing and the Icarus Deception

Photo by BrianBloom

Photo by BrianBloom

Fans of Seth Godin are no doubt aware that he recently released a new book, The Icarus Deception. Here’s the premise: Industrial society has trained mankind into the safe, the comfortable, the mundane. Study hard, get good grades, and maybe you’ll get into an elite school. Once there, study hard, get good grades, and maybe you’ll get a job at an elite company. Work hard, keep your head down, and you may work your way up to management and retire a little better off than your parents did.

In this book, Godin argues that the comfortable path is no longer safe. He argues that now, conformity and predictability are liabilities, and that we should all be taking the path of the artist, no matter what our vocation. He’s not arguing that we must all paint, sculpt, dance, or create music. Instead, we should approach everything we do with the creativity and courage of an artist.

Sounds great, but what does that really mean for those of us in the corporate world? Here are a few characteristics of the true artist:

  • He ships. Art isn’t art if nobody else sees it.
  • She creates an emotional connection. With human beings. You can’t do that if you don’t ship.
  • He doesn’t pander. Growing and evolving because of feedback is part of being an artist. Selling out to give your audience what they think they want is not.
  • He keeps trying. Great art comes from passion. Passion will not be extinguished by a few failures. The artist learns from those failures and refines his craft.
  • She takes risks. Art worth remembering defies convention and traditional classification. If there’s no risk, she is pandering, imitating, or hiding. Even the best books, movies, restaurants, gadgets, and brands have critics.

Why am I writing about this?

I read this book, as I do most of Godin’s books, looking for new insights or ideas I could bring to the work we do for our clients. I was pleasantly surprised to find that what he describes is what we strive to do every day.

Our industry is hitting an incredible level of saturation.

Web marketers have adopted a formula: write enough blog posts, tweet enough, post to Facebook enough, and you’ll succeed. Comment on enough blogs, exchange enough links, and your search engine rankings will improve. The problem is, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people doing this, and the definition of “enough” keeps growing. Comfortable is no longer safe.

Most of us like to play it safe. We don’t go out on a limb because limbs can break. We can fall. This applies to marketing strategy as well. “Create more content. Good content. But stick to what we know works.” To do otherwise is dangerous. We risk failure, scorn, loss of a client, being fired.

What we’ve found, though, is that some of our biggest successes came from the most risky, creative, unorthodox ideas. Allow me to share a few examples:

The Sweetest Sixteen Recipe Tournament

Web marketing contest

What began as an idea to generate new recipes using pie filling turned into something so much larger and more powerful for the brand. We recruited 16 of the top baking bloggers in North America to participate in our tournament. We mailed care packages of Solo’s products to each one of them. Yes – a web marketing company mailed physical things to real people via the US Postal Service. The outcome?

Web presence statistics

Oh, and we got 16 spectacular recipes out of the bargain, while making friends with some seriously talented bloggers.

To get the most mileage out of this, we’re taking it a step further. We’re compiling all of the recipes from the contest into an e-book. We’re partnering with No Kid Hungry, selling the e-book for $1.99, and donating 100% of proceeds to their mission. Now all of those tasty treats will help feed hungry children!

Devops Application SupportDevOps – A Valentine’s Day Fairy Tale

It started with a conversation that went something like this: “This will either be the dumbest thing we’ve ever written, or it’ll be an amazing story that people will want to share.” It’s a story about two people finding love. It also happens to be an analogy for Development and Operations working better together when it comes to application support and server monitoring. Sounds insane, right?

DevOps and Server Monitoring

This post resulted in a massive traffic spike on Valentine’s Day due to dozens of retweets and enough votes to make it to the front page of HackerNews (a prominent community site in the IT world).

Visualizing Facebook Activity of TV Shows

Ocean Media provides media buying and media planning services for major brands. They’ve recently ventured into social media as well, so they wanted to showcase an expertise at the intersection of TV and social media. So, we created a data visualization tool. Every day, our tool pulls Likes and Talking About numbers for 30 prime-time TV shows that debuted this season. That data is then charted over the course of the season so you can see the popularity of each show on Facebook, color-coded by network:

Media planning for primetime TV shows

To get the full experience, click the image above and try it out for yourself. We’re taking public data, using a free visualization tool from Google, and creating something interesting and unique.

The success or failure of this project has yet to be seen. We’re still building and gathering data. We’ll find out soon whether it resonates with the public or not!

Fortune Favors the Bold

There’s still a place for “safe.” Safe will still generate incremental gains. You might see 1-2% growth in traffic each month by playing it safe. But safe never goes viral. Safe doesn’t get many retweets. Safe is unremarkable. Occasionally, you need to mix it up with the risky, crazy, quirky, weird ideas that will knock people out of the flood of mundane and say “Wow, that’s different.”

To our clients, current and future, we’d like to make a few requests:

With your permission, we’d like to take more risks.

With your permission, we’d like to try things that might fail.

With your permission, we’d like to fly a little closer to the sun.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to receive emails about posts like this (roughly once a month), Subscribe to our newsletter.

How to Brainstorm Successful Blog Posts

coming up with blog post ideasToday in the web marketing world, everyone knows the importance of a blog. It keeps your website fresh, creates new content for outside sources to link to, and encourages readers to frequently return to your site. In order for your blog to be successful, you need creative topics, keyword-heavy text and titles, captivating images, and a strategy. One of the most difficult things about blogging is coming up with creative blog posts after you’ve already used the obvious topics. This is where brainstorming comes into play.

Brainstorming can take up time and energy, but often the most unique and linkable ideas come from a dedicated brainstorming session. If you’re a beginner to brainstorming ideas or looking for news ways to tackle brainstorming, read our basic tips on how to brainstorm:

Blog Post Brainstorming Tip #1 – Get out of the Workplace

Sometimes a change of scenery can really boost inspiration and change your outlook. If you’re typically stuck in an office all day, take a brainstorming trip to the park or local coffee shop. New environments can quickly change perspective and jump start conversations.

Blog Post Brainstorming Tip #2 -Diversity

While brainstorming for posts, include people from all backgrounds and viewpoints. By having a wide range of experiences from people to bounce ideas off, you can get ideas that appeal to all types of people. You may also find new things about a particular demographic that you didn’t know before.

Blog Post Brainstorming Tip #3 -Think Big

If you theoretically had thousands of dollars to do a large project or post, what would you create? Getting these big ideas out in the open can inspire scalable ideas of similar grandier. Plus, others may know of tools or resources you aren’t familiar with. If there was an easy way to complete a large project would you do it? Explore all options during brainstorming for the best results.

Blog Post Brainstorming Tip #4 -Be Quick

While sometimes you want deep conversations, there are other times where it’s appropriate to just start shouting out ideas. Set down a timer for 3 minutes and come up with as many crazy ideas as possible. Once you’ve stopped, you’ll surprise yourself with original ideas that you would have never come up with. Now take these ideas, modify them, and make them happen.

Blog Post Brainstorming Tip #5 -No Room for Negativity

Never shoot down a “crazy” or “silly” idea. Encourage them! Once you shoot down someone’s idea they are automatically less likely to speak up with others. Plus, those “crazy” ideas can spark the imagination and deliver unique content that no one else has. Hearing out every idea has a positive effect on the brainstorming session and on the people participating.

Brainstorming for blog posts and content creation is as important as ever. There is always something new and hip going on online, and your best chance to be a part of it comes from your updated blog. So get creative and get to brainstorming!

Facebook Usage Stats Infographic

Facebook usage continues to rise since launching in 2004 as “thefacebook.com”. By 2005, Facebook, launched and funded by Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, was valued at $98 million and had received a $13 million venture capital investment from Accel Partners. 2005 also saw the purchase of the domain “facebook.com” for $200,000.

In 2007, Microsoft bought into facebook for $240 million (receiving a 1.6% stake in the company). Fast forward four years, and Facebook was now raking in a billion dollars in profits. Facebook continues to bowl forward, buying Instagram for a billion dollars, and also holding its IPO. The IPO was deemed a “fiasco”, but the company remains worth more than $100 billion because of its amazing user base.

More than 1 billion people use Facebook, with more than 1.1 trillion Likes since 2009. Enough photos have been uploaded to circle the earth an obscene number of times, and more than 200,000 years of music has been streamed through the site. There’s even a recognized psychological disorder centered around Facebook addiction!

Check out our infographic below for all the Facebook stats you desire! (We’re proud to introduce the internet to “Winking Zuckerberg” as well)

facebook usage stats infographic

Facebook Usage Stats Infographic Embed Code:

Top 8 Reasons To Use Google+ For Business

 

Since its launch in June 2011, Google Plus has been ridiculed for being the desperate social media platform that nobody uses.

Google Plus Hangouts Meme

 

We think that might be a little harsh. Google plus is the desperate social media platform everyone NEEDS to use. Google has leveraged its social media platform into one of the most appealing web presence management tools for businesses.

In fact, you might already be on Google+ and not even know it! Remember Google Places for Business? Google+ and Google Places are now rolled together, and each business is listed online as a Google+ page. If you haven’t optimized your local listing for Google in a while, do so immediately.

 

So, why exactly do you need a Google+ page? Here are the top 8 reasons.

 

Unrestricted Data – Facebook and Twitter restrict Google from accessing much of their data. This means your profiles on Facebook and Twitter won’t rank very well. Google Plus eliminates any restrictions and streamlines your company’s data directly to Google results.

 

Followed Links – You can embed a followed link into your Google+ profile. Better yet, you have full control over the link anchor text.

Google Plus Followed Links

 

Instant Indexing – Google indexes a webpage instantly when shared on Google+. Otherwise, it might take days or weeks for Google bots to come crawl your site.

 

Optimized Sharing – When sharing a link on Google+, your entire first sentence of text is considered the title. This method is easy and accurately indexes your links.

Google Plus Optimized Sharing

 

Integrated Google Accounts – Gmail, Youtube, Google+, Calendar, Drive, etc. are all combined accounts. Optimizing your Google+ page will flow over to each of these Google tools making it easy to manage each one.

 

Circles – Similar to Linkedin, you can filter your friends, colleagues, and family members by posting in certain specific groups called circles. This has proven to be beneficial for professionals.

Google Plus Circles

 

Improved Google Places Page – Google+ will create a Places page for your business if you don’t. If you claim your business on Google+ you’ll be able to update your businesses profile with better pictures, store hours, directions, and a sales pitch.

 

High Ranking – Since Google likes itself so much, Google+ pages will often outrank all of your other pages with far less effort. Not only that, but click-through rates are significantly increased using the rel=”author” tag and specifying a Google+ profile. Your picture will appear beside your article, making it stand out among the rest!

Google Plus increased click through rates.

 

So, call Google+ desperate, needy, and overly attached if you want to. The fact still remains Google+ has a place in web marketing – a very big one. If you have any questions about Google+ give us a shout on Twitter and Facebook or leave us a comment below!

Facebook Advertising for Valentine’s Day

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Many businesses see a nice boost shortly before or on Valentine’s Day, and not just those that sell flowers and chocolate.

So, if you’re looking to increase sales around this holiday, how do you find these lovebirds? Luckily, Facebook offers a solution by way of advertising to specific demographics. Consider the following possibilities:

 

Advertise to Young People in Relationships

Facebook advertising demographics for young guys

Try targeting people under 20 who are in a relationship. Chances are good this is their first Valentine’s Day with their significant other. A 16-year-old guy wants to impress his girlfriend, but probably has no clue what to get her, where to take her, or where to even begin to plan a date.

 

 

Targeted facebook ad to young males for valentines dayHelp him out! Show him an ad that offers a solution to his problem. Create a how-to guide or resource on your blog. For instance, “A Ten Step Guide to the Perfect Valentine’s Day.” Of course, this works well if your product or service fits into one of those ten steps. Bonus points if you can tie it into your company’s larger marketing message and brand - consider cheap date ideas
(extra popular for teens!), geeky date ideas, foodie date ideas,
or anything else that relates to your brand.

Facebook advertising demographics for young ladies
The same applies for girls, of course; they probably don’t know what to get for their boyfriends.

 

 

 

Advertise to Young SinglesFacebook advertising demographics for young singles

Two options here: take the sympathetic approach, or try the “who needs Valentine’s Day?” approach. Use your web marketing personas to decide which will resonate best with your target market. Here are a few possible options for this audience:

 

Facebok ad targeting lonely singlesTargeted Facebook ad to singlesValentines day ad targeted to singles

 

Facebook advertising demographics for old married couplesAdvertise to Old Married Couples
Target your ad to married people over the age of 64. Try a tagline like “Make love new again” or “Remember Your First V-Day?” In the US, there are over 5.3 million Facebook users who are 64+ and married. That’s a big audience for the right message!

 

 

Advertise to People Who Are Probably Sick of Valentine’s Day
Maybe your business has a very hard time connecting with Valentine’s Day in any meaningful way. Why not identify groups of people who are likely so tired of hearts and Cupids that they’ll welcome a different approach?


Targeted Facebook ad for Hallmark EmployeesFacebook identifies 5,860 people in the US who work at Hallmark.

My friends at Hallmark get pretty tired of this holiday in particular. Perhaps you could grab their attention with an ad showing Cupid with a big red line through it? (Disclaimer – we haven’t actually tried this one. It may be a long shot, but we love the ability to target such a specific demographic niche)

Closing Thoughts

When creating your Facebook ads, keep these tips in mind:

  • Make sure your picture grabs attention. Bright colors, contrast, and faces are good. Your company logo is probably not the best choice.
  • When writing ad copy, try to include a call to action, as well as an incentive. Take a look at the sample ads above – “Meet someone today… Free Trial;” “Celebrate your independence… 15% off classes.” These ads also introduce a sense of urgency – do it today! This week only!
  • Get creative when thinking about Facebook advertising demographics. Do you have a product or message that will appeal to a specific age range, education level, or interest group? You can probably target them with an ad.
  • Test multiple options. Even with considerable experience, it’s difficult to guess what text or image will perform best. The only way to know for sure is to test and measure the results.

Love is in the air! With any luck, Facebook users will love the special deals you’ve prepared just for them.

Facebook Tricks, Tips, and Cheats

In October, Facebook reported it had one billion users. By now, Facebook is among the most recognized brands across the world. Everyone and their cats (literally) have Facebook accounts. In the United States, you’re just as likely to come across a citizen that doesn’t participate in presidential elections as you are a non-Facebook user!

Now that our friends, siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and even grandparents are using Facebook, we have to keep our accounts tailored and neatly groomed or things could get messy. For example, are you getting five Facebook game invites a day from your Great Aunt Rose and can’t figure out how to block them? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. That’s why we’ve created a list of Facebook tricks to help you master your profile.

 

Here are 6 Facebook Tricks, Tips, and Cheats

 

Block Game Invites

 

1. On your Facebook home page, you’ll notice this block of notifications in the upper-right corner. Click the “app requests” notification.

Remove Facebook Game Invites

 

2. Scroll to a game invite you want to block, and click the “x” button.

Blocking Game Invites on Facebok

 

3. Block all invites from a certain game, or ignore every invite from that friend by clicking the respective option.

Blocking Facebook Game Invites

 

Hide A Friend’s Updates From Your News Feed

 

Tired of seeing a fan page or friend clutter your news feed? Ignore their posts without actually “unfriending” them.

1. Hover over the top right area of the post you want to hide until this down arrow appears.

Hiding a news story from your news feed

 

2.  Click “Hide…”

Hide a picture from your news feed

 

3a. For a fan page, click “Hide all stories from (Fanpage)”. You can also choose to unlike the page from here if you wanted.

Hide all stories from news feed

 

3b. For a profile page, hover over “Change what updates you get from (Friend)”.

Change what updates you get

 

Uncheck any notifications you don’t want to see, or press “unsubscribe” to ignore that friend completely without “unfriending” them.

Unsubscribe from a Facebook friend

 

Tag someone on Facebook using only their first name.

 

Many people don’t know that you can friends in statuses using only their first name. This also works for comments and pictures as well!

1. Tag your friends as you normally would by inserting the @ symbol followed by their name and clicking on their profile on the dropdown menu as shown.

Tag first name in status update

 

2. Insert your cursor directly after their last name and begin deleting their last name.

Tag only first name in status update

 

3. Your friends first name will remain highlighted in gray as shown, meaning it will properly tag them in your status.

Tagging status update with first name

 

Titling your Facebook Post

 

You can change the title tag and descriptions of any post you share on Facebook to suit your needs (Especially useful for SEO purposes). This will ensure you’re getting the right message off to your friends.

1. After you pop the link into your status box, you can hover over the title of the post. (Highlighted in yellow)

Customizing Facebook Titles

 

2. Click on the title and it turns into an editable box.

Change title on Facebook share

 

3. Enter your desired text and press enter.

Facebook Title Changing

 

4. Customize the description using the same steps.

Customize Facebook Descriptions

Facebook description customizing

 

Proper Facebook Sharing Optimization

 

Facebook only indexes the first 18 characters of your post when you share it. Make sure those first few words are optimized for full SEO value.

For example, Facebook would associate this share with “Brand new blog pos”, which isn’t fully optimized.

Optimizing facebook shares

 

Facebook would associate the same share with the optimized phrase “Social Media Icons” which is much more valuable.

Optimizing Facebook Shares

 

Hiding Your ‘Online’ Status For Chatting

 

Not the chatty type? You can appear offline to your friends by using the following steps.
Note: Even if your chat is turned off, your friends can still personal message you.

1. Hover over the settings icon at the bottom right of your Facebook home screen. Click “Turn off Chat” to always appear offline.

Turn off chat for Facebook

 

2. You can appear offline for only certain friends by clicking the “Advanced Settings” button and adding exceptions to your lists. Click save after adding names to either list.

Facebook chat settings

 

 

Are there any other Facebook tricks you would like to know? Let us know in the comments section below!

Have a Merry Christmas!

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