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Lee Odden

Online Essentials All Small Business Marketers Should Know

Thursday, March 28, 2013

As new businesses are started every day across the U.S., many of those entrepreneurs are grappling with the realities of how to market their ideas, products and services.

Limited resources and an overabundance of options requires filtering and prioritization when it comes to where marketing investments are made, whether it's content, blogging, social media, or SEO.

Common questions include: What to measure? What if it fails? What should we outsource?

Here are a few answers to those questions that I was asked as prep for an interview:

What advice do you have for business owners or entrepreneurs who are staying out of blogging and/or social because they don't feel they can produce enough content on a regular basis to keep things interesting?

I often reply to that by saying, “If a company doesn't have anything interesting to say, they have bigger problems to solve than where their next blog post is coming from.” That's a bit of a jibe, but it does reflect the need for a change in perspective. Many companies see themselves as a vessel, with a finite number of ideas and pieces of information. In other words, their view of content is fairly static and self-centered. Once they've said all there is to say about their own products and services, the well goes dry.

This is in contrast to what many successful business owners and entrepreneurs are doing with blogging and content creation. They create a blogging plan with topics and ideas to write about that customers would actually be interested in. They look at blogging as a byproduct of the ongoing listening and engagement that occurs between brand and customers, between brand and prospects and the community at large.

A change in perspective that allows the brand to see things from their customer's perspective with empathy can reveal many opportunities for making observations, answering questions and interacting with the community through blog content. Just checking for commonly asked questions that customer service and sales people hear can be a rich source of blogging ideas.

In addition to a customer perspective and leveraging ideas that come from prospect and customer interactions, social media and web analytics data can provide ongoing information to inspire blog content. Social media monitoring tools can suggest topics related to areas of interest around products and services being tracked. Web analytics can reveal questions people most often use on Google that send them to the company website. Blog posts can be planned to answer those questions.

Ongoing engagement will mean a never ending source of things to blog about.

The key to persistent blogging in a productive way, and I've been at it myself as a business owner, is to have a plan, be adaptable and use blogging as a platform to share useful information that provides value to readers but also reinforces sales, referrals and social shares.

When it comes to optimizing websites that have been neglected in terms of adding content and ongoing optimization, where should SMBs even begin?

A site evaluation through audits can help determine how much of an asset the website is currently and can be in the future. A SEO audit will cover keywords, technical/code, SEO copywriting, the linking footprint and social presence. Through the audit a sort of GAP analysis can be conducted to identify where the site needs attention for most impact.

This is an area where we've developed a lot of expertise at TopRank Online Marketing and it speeds up the time to see results when there are good processes in place for auditing and benchmarking.

As an example, a site that has thousands of pages with a simple SEO error of duplicate title tags might be updated using basic programming to extract content off the page (like product names) to dynamically populate title tags. If the site has many, many articles that are frequently found through search and have a good number of social referrals, then embedding social share functionality can increase social distribution of those articles just by making it easy.

In most cases, the low hanging fruit identification comes from having an evaluation of the website and expertise to determine where to apply resources in order to reach business goals.

What do you recommend for an SMB that has tried a particular social network out and discovered that it just wasn't working for them? Is it better to delete the account, continue without much of a presence, or is there another alternative?

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About the Author:
Lee Odden is the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a provider of innovative Internet marketing consulting for progressive B2B companies ranging from Marketo to PRWeb to McKesson. Odden has been recognized for his expertise with enterprise social media, SEO and content marketing strategies by The Economist, Advertising Age and Mashable. He writes a monthly column called Social Media Smarts for ClickZ and his blog at TopRankBlog.com has an active community with over 46,000 subscribers, 12,000 Facebook Fans and has been rated the #1 Content Marketing blog 3 times by Junta42. He is also the Author of "Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing" published by Wiley.
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