Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Simple SEO Tips for Good Search Engine Rankings

Making simple changes to your website in order to improve search engine rankings and drive traffic is not as complicated as it sounds. Below details the elements that can be simply manipulated yet produce big improvements if implemented correctly.
These are worth book marking and/or printing so they can be used in the future as a checklist when creating new pages or reviewing your website.

1) Key Phrase Research
Before you can begin implementing any of the optimization techniques, you will need to know which key phrases you are going to optimize your site for. Once this is decided, everything will become much clearer.

You should be able to get a general idea of target key phrases from the content on the pages within your site. If there's not any content upon which to target optimization, achieving good search engine rankings will be extremely difficult and ultimately futile! Visitors will leave promptly if they are not provided with the content they are searching for.

A common mistake is to target the key phrases that drive the largest search volumes. It's more important to target key phrases that directly relate to your websites content, and the more defined the key phrases are the better.

Using key phrases that may drive 125 high convertible visitors to your site each month is likely to be much better than targeting a highly competitive broad key phrase that is only vaguely related to your business, even if it does attract 25,000 searches each month.

2) Page Titles
This is one of the key elements that can be optimized. Each title should be different, and full of key phrases related to the content of its individual page. Search engines often only display the first 65 or so characters of the page title, so it's imperative to get the most important key phrases at the beginning of the page title. In addition, the characters near the front of the page title are given more weight in algorithms.

The page title is displayed in the search engine results, so it must make sense and encourage searchers to click the link. Finding a balance between readability and key phrase concentration is a challenge but something that will improve with time and practice.

3) Meta Description
The Meta description is not actually included in search engine algorithms, although as it is displayed in search engine results pages, it is vital it is optimized. Similar to page titles, the Meta description should be specific to every page and contain text that is relevant to the key phrases that page is designed for.

The Meta description is limited to approximately 160 characters, so it can often be difficult to fit all the required info into such a small space. However, if no Meta description is entered, search engines are inclined to grab a indiscriminate chunk of text from the page, despite if it makes sense or is useful to the searcher. You can avoid this from happening; by making certain every page has a Meta description of some form.

4) Page Content
Page content is viewed as the best way of attracting visitors and incoming links to a website, so it's essential that it is given sufficient time and resource. Search engines thrive on content, so the more content on your site the better for your search engine ranking.
Content is less important now in search engine algorithms than it has been previously. However, it is suggested to make certain every key phrase that is being targeted is mentioned about every 100 words or so.Beware - don't fall into the trap of key phrase stuffing (being non-specific and just trying to cram every word imaginable in)! Search engines employ advanced techniques to track this and will more than likely pick up on it immediately and you could end up with a blacklisted site that is impossible to rank.

Social Networks as a Customer Service Tool

I confess, at first I did not understand or realize the power of blogging sites like Twitter and Facebook. While other professionals have raved about the contacts, referrals, etc. that they have obtained from Social Networking sites, I initially did not see its true value or potential. However, a recent news story and my own experiences have shown me the power of these Social Networking sites.

If you have any misgivings about social networking’s business value, let me dismiss them for your now. Although social networks and online communities may not drive instantaneous sales, they can absolutely help you build customer retention - through gathering feedback, responding to concerns, sharing informational content, and more. In the case of responding to customers’ concerns, social networking is turning out to be a powerful retention tool. Many companies today are surfing online communities and social networking sites for customers’ comments and following up as a result. So, if you have a complaint many businesses are actively listening and willing to resolve the issue.

In this week's publication of BusinessWeek (March 2, 2009), there is a short article called "A Social Networker's Story: Zappos CEO and UPS Step In.“ The story describes how Tara Hunt, a marketing executive with Intuit, initially contacted UPS regarding the tracking of a delivery package and received a generic response from the customer service representative explaining that packages sometimes aren't delivered until 9 p.m. during the Christmas season. Not satisfied with the response, Tara called upon the power of Twitter and posted a message (known as a "tweet") describing how she wanted to walk her dog and was waiting on UPS to deliver a package. The message or tweet was relayed to the CEO of Zappos who was having dinner with UPS's President for the Western Region, who then mentioned the tweet to the UPS exec. The Zappos CEO replied to the tweet "someone will call." The UPS exec contacted the operations manager who then was able to schedule a pre-set delivery time. The UPS driver arrived not only with the package - but also flowers, chocolates, and dog toys. It was an excellent example of customer service. The question is though; did it pay off? Absolutely! Ms. Hunt now goes out of her way to use UPS and even purchased a pair of shoes from Zappos.

As word spreads of these types of stories, customers will increasingly want to experience it themselves—and may actually go to online communities before contacting a customer service department directly. (Or may look to see if they can contact a customer service team through their Social Network site.)

So here is what I’ve learned from the BusinessWeek article and my own personal experiences:

~Customers don’t like automated replies or generic responses.

~Customers love good information.

~Customers can accept mistakes and problems if they know what is going on with their problem or complaint and obtain timely updates.

~When blogging or posting, remember that others are or may be listening (including friends, family, employers, competitors, etc.).

~If you are a company, you may just want to listen in on Twitter to see what your customers are saying about your company and the service it provides.

~A satisfied customer is more likely to be a source of repeat business and referrals.

~An unhappy customer will shout (louder than the happy one) from the rooftops the bad service they received.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What is Kijiji? (Free Classifieds)

What is Kijiji?
Kijiji is a free, person-to-person local community classified site. You can use the site to post and find Ads for electronics, furniture, jobs, cars, pets, services, housing and much more. Kijiji is simple to use, local, completely free, and lots of fun!

Where does the name "Kijiji" come from?
The word "kijiji" (pronounced like key-gee-gee) means "village" in Swahili. This name was chosen because it captures the essence of what we are creating - a site where people can connect with others in their community.

Is Kijiji really free?
Yes, Kijiji is completely free. This includes both posting an Ad and replying to an Ad. You will not be charged if your item sells through a posting on Kijiji.

See our ad here: Real Vision Studio Virtual Tours

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Plum Card® Gives You A Choice Every Month

I found out about this card and the great benefits being a BzzAgent. Saving money while using credit is definately frugal.

"Cash flow management" are three very important words for small businesses. But glexible and powerful trade terms that make it easier to manage cash flow are generally only available to larger companies.

That's why American Express Open created The Plum Card. It provides flexible trade terms - like and Early Pay Discount or a Defer Pay Option - virtually everywhere, so you can do what's best for your company's cash flow each month. Ad in all the other benefits you'd expect from American Express, like no pre-set spending limit, and your business has got itself a card!

If you apply before March 30, 2009, you can get $100 back when you spend $1000. See site for details.

The Plum Card® Gives You A Choice Every Month
Plum Card® from American Express OPEN

Early Pay Discount

~Pay your balance in full within 10 days of your statement closing date and receive a 1.5% discount on all eligible charges

~Discount is delivered on your next month's statement

For example: Charge $10,000 worth of supplies and inventory — when you pay it all off early you can get $150 back.

Defer Pay Option

~Take up to two months from the closing date on your monthly statement to pay your balance in full, without interest or finance charges

~Just pay 10% by the Please Pay By Date on your statement to extend payment on the rest of the amount until the next month's Please Pay By Date

For example: Charge $5,000 worth of materials and pay off at least $500 by your Please Pay By Date to receive 30 additional days to pay the remaining balance.

In addition, the Plum Card also provides these benefits:

~No pre-set spending limit

~You can choose the time of the month your bill is sent: beginning, middle or end

~To make it even easier to pay early, you can choose to pay bills online and OPEN will send an e-mail reminder when your statement is ready

~The first year has no annual fee, with an annual fee of $185 for subsequent years

~You can give an employee an Additional Card for no annual fee (extra Additional Cards come with an annual fee of $45)

In addition to the flexibility of the Plum Card®, you also receive a host of other benefits courtesy of American Express OPENSM, including:

Purchasing Power

~OPEN Savings®: Save even more at select partners, including FedEx, Delta, JetBlue, Hertz and Hyatt

~Worldwide ATM Access with Express Cash6: Use your Plum Card to get cash at over 600,000 ATMs around the globe

~Worldwide Emergency Check Cashing: Cash personal checks for up to $10,000 at over 2,200 American Express Travel Services locations

Management & Reporting Tools

~Account Alerts: Get free notices on account activity and updates

~American Express Bill Pay: Set up automatic payment on recurring bills

~Track Business Spending: Track, analyze and control spending on your company's Plum Card

Security & Protection

~Baggage Insurance Plan8
~Extended warranty mirrors manufacturers' warranties for up to one additional year9
~Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance10
~Customer Service
~Emergency Card Replacement
~Fraud Protection Guarantee
~Identity Theft Assistance
~Manage Your Card Account Online
~Purchase Protection
~Return Protection
~Travel Accident Protection

For full details on all Card benefits, visit

Those who might particularly benefit from the Plum Card:

~Wedding and event planners, caterers and photographers
~Restaurant and food business owners
~Financial consultants
~Print vendors
~IT contractors and consultants
~Businesses that rely on raw materials or online advertising
~Businesses that have seasonal business cycles (flexibility is extra important for them!)

What is BzzAgent? We're an international network of consumers who voluntarily participate in word-of-mouth (WOM) programs for a variety of products and services. Basically, we're a community of communicators.

What's "Bzz"? It's what we call word of mouth. It's what we all do every day. It's the sharing of honest opinions about a product or service between two or more people.

What do BzzAgents do exactly? You get to learn about new stuff and influence some of the biggest companies in the world. You try products and services (often for free) and share your honest opinions with people you know. Then you fill us in on those conversations to help companies improve their products. There's no obligation, no nonsense and no pressure.

Is there a cost to join? Nope, there's no cost to join BzzAgent.

Become a BzzAgent here!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Newsletters Turn Buyers Into Customers!

Will They Buy From You Tomorrow?
So they bought your product yesterday, but will they buy it tomorrow? In many markets the differences between products has narrowed to the point of insignificance. For this reason, your ability to build a relationship with people who buy your products is more critical than ever. And newsletters can help build those relationships. They can show customers how to get more value out of your product or service, perhaps by showing how other customers are finding new uses for them.

You want customers to know as much about your products and services and your company as they possibly can. And you want to keep your name fresh in their minds. If you can do this, they are going to be much more likely to do business with you again, even if a competitor is offering the same product or service at the same price.

Creating Product Leaders!
When Apple dominated the emerging market for personal computers, it was phenomenally successful at creating product leaders. These were people who not only liked Apple computers, they loved them, and they loved them so much they told everyone they knew to go buy one!

Newsletters can help create product leaders by building a connection with your product/service users. You may also want to send newsletters to key influencers - people that are in an unusually good position to be able to recommend your product to many others. In the Real Estate industry these key influencers could be brokers, high-producing agents, office managers or board of director members.

Avoid The Hype!
One of the reasons many newsletters work is that people read them, no small deed when you consider the typical mail volume at most businesses. The reason people read them is that they think they might find something useful, interesting or possibly free, not just a blatant sales pitch.
For example, the leading publisher in the book trade, Random House, has a newsletter that is well read. People love the chatty, casual, informal style. The newsletter has tremendously added to the company’s credibility and readership popularity by occasionally recommending books published by competing firms. Like a lot of other newsletters, the Random House newsletter is available free of charge on the Web.

Cracking The Tough Accounts!
A marketing manager I know loves newsletters because in her earlier twenty-year career as a retail store buyer, newsletters got her to place orders, but extravagant brochures and flyers went quickly into the trash basket.

I've had varied results mass-mailing newsletters to cold contacts, acquiring just a few new clients. I do find however, think that newsletters work well as one part of the sales mix, when you are already calling or visiting a significant, but difficult, new account.

Side Benefits Of Newsletters
Newsletters are great not just for customers, but also for getting employees, contractors, commission sales associates, the media, and others excited about your company.

Tricks for the Frugal Budget!

Small start-up businesses don’t usually have the money to launch huge advertising campaigns in multiple media formats. In fact, even if you are already in business, chances are you don’t have an extensive cash allotment set aside for promotion, or you’ve tried many different advertising approaches and haven’t hit on a really successful campaign yet. Believe me, you aren’t alone!

Advertising can be extremely expensive. Despite ample funding, even large national companies often find it difficult to develop successful advertising campaigns. And, with an increasing number of companies advertising through every imaginable communication outlet, it is becoming increasingly hard to attract the attention of consumers.

There are other approaches to promotion. They generally require less money to apply and are often more effective. The only catch is that they require time and imagination to develop.

You don’t have to distribute coupons in print advertising or in big direct mail campaigns. You can hand them out on the street corner, at trade shows, real estate offices or just about anyplace else. You can send a few to your best customers, or you can include “next purchase” coupons in customer orders.

Coupons are easy to design and print because their selling point is price, not image. To assure your chances of getting an additional sale or establishing an ongoing relationship with your customers, make your coupon offer extremely generous.

People love contests. They even love to see other people win! Just check out the extraordinary success of game shows on television. If you choose to develop a promotional contest, make it with fun, make it silly, and don’t forget to really talk it up. If your contest is crazy and different enough, you should be able to get good media coverage—and remember, this is essentially free advertising!

People love to receive something for free, even if they have to pay a premium price for a more expensive item to get the freebie. Don’t ask why! It doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t have to, as long as you make money. While this technique has been used most successfully in the beauty and cosmetics industry, it can be used in almost any business endeavor. It isn’t unheard of to see deals such as a free computer desktop with the purchase of a higher-priced notebook computer or, even a free subcompact car with the purchase of a full-price luxury sedan!

Frequent Buyers
Frequent-buyer programs can be very powerful tools for building loyal customers for both retail and service businesses. The more widespread approach is to give customers a card that is marked after each purchase and results in a free or reduced-price product or service offering after a specified number of regular-priced purchases. For example, ten haircuts may gets you one free haircut. Another approach is to give regular customers a discount on purchases upon presentation of their “Frequent Buyer” discount card.

Some businesses charge a small fee for their frequent-buyer cards. Others tie freebies or discount levels to purchase volume. For example, after buying 5 tours from a virtual tour provider the agent might receive a free tour. After spending $250 you might receive 10 percent off your next purchase of $25 or more.

Hosting a special event in your business establishment, such as a celebrity appearance or a charity fundraiser, is a terrific way to introduce people to your business or maintain contact with existing customers. It also will create an aura of excitement and goodwill. You may even obtain media coverage! You can also sponsor a local event to gain exposure. For example, Real Vision Studio of Metropolitan Detroit sponsored a client appreciation event for Coldwell Banker at the Woodward Dream Cruise. They gained new clients due to that exposure.

You don’t have to be a movie producer or own an international fast-food chain to cross-promote your product with another business. You might consider offering free tickets to the local theater with each purchase of a particular item or price level. Another great business-to-business cross-promotion might be to offer free tickets to a ball game to any business willing to invest fifteen minutes of time just to listen to your sales pitch.

Ever notice the ads for car washes on taxi cabs? Car washes don’t pay cash for these advertisements! They get the exposure in exchange for cleaning the taxis every so often. If you are absolutely sold on developing an advertising campaign, remember that smaller media venues will sometimes accept products/services in lieu of payment. Barter Perk: Ever wanted to take that awesome vacation at that little Bed & Breakfast or that fabulous houseboat trip, but could never afford it…. Barter your product/services for the trip or stay. For example, the owners of Real Vision Studio of Metropolitan Detroit wanted to take a houseboat trip in Tennessee. They contacted several companies and offered their services (virtual tours) in exchange for a trip. Low and behold, they had some takers. To date they have been on 3 bartered houseboat trips which in turn gained them new clients due to the exposure of those virtual tours.

You’re probably wondering how you can make money if you give away product! It’s really a lot easier and less costly than advertising. In actuality, giveaways have their place in just about every type of business.

Selling business-to-business, you can generate goodwill with the people you choose—your best customers or a select roster of potential clientele—by intermittently giving them a small gift when you call on them. The giveaway should not be so expensive that a feeling of bribery is conveyed, but nice enough that it doesn’t end up trashed the minute you leave.

For consumer service businesses, you may want to offer your product for free trial periods, or offer free estimates if you are in a service-oriented business.

New customer offers
Attracting new customers is one of the most difficult marketing challenges to achieve. That’s why different businesses—national manufacturers to local delivery services—offer incentive pricing, freebies, or extra advertising allowances for new customers. Even lawyers customarily offer a free first consultation.