The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Advanced Segmentation in Google Analytics: How to Set Up and Use Advanced Segments to Analyze Social Media Traffic


How to set up and use advanced segments in Google Analytics to analyze social media traffic.When I’m helping clients analyze website traffic and performance, I try and help them avoid the time-consuming process of “report browsing”. Instead, I emphasize entering the process with a very specific goal in mind. You need a purpose when diving into reporting or else you run the risk of spending hours scanning metrics with nothing to show at the end but a headache and a bottle of Visine. I also emphasize focusing on actionable data, or information you can analyze and then make decisions based on. This is why segmentation is so important. I’ll explain more about segments below, but for now think of a segment as a slice of your site traffic (based on traffic source, type of visitor, etc.) For the example I provide in this post, visitors from Social Media websites could be a segment of your site traffic.

Back to web analytics and actionable data. Aggregate data from a broad view of your site traffic doesn’t tell you very much. However, data related to specific traffic sources, locations, keywords, and campaigns can reveal incredible information (and you can act on that data). For example, an aggregate website bounce rate of 70% tells you almost nothing. You cannot take action from that metric alone, since you might have dozens of traffic sources all with varying bounce rates. Some may be low (15-20%), while others may be extremely high (90%+). If you just focus on the average bounce rate at the site level, you won’t be able to make an impact easily. On the flip side, if you had a 70% bounce rate for a specific ad group in paid search (which focuses on a specific theme based on your product line), then you know there’s a problem. That’s actionable data. You can then start to analyze the keywords you are bidding on, the ad text you are using, the landing pages you are driving visitors to, etc. And actionable data impacts conversion, revenue, registrations, and overall campaign performance.

The Social Media Segment
With all the buzz about social media marketing, many companies are trying to figure out how to effectively analyze traffic from social media sites. Sure, it’s easy to see visits from social media sites, but in order to understand the impact of that traffic, you need to dig deeper and have a clearer view. It’s sometimes hard to analyze the specific data you want when several sources of traffic are mixed in your reporting. It can get extremely frustrating to say the least. For example, what content on your site do social media visitors consume the most, how engaged is that traffic segment, how much revenue do they generate, do they return to your site, so on and so forth. So, wouldn’t it be great to isolate that traffic and then run Google Analytics reporting just for that custom segment? The good news is that you can set this up using one of the most powerful features of Google Analytics – Advanced Segmentation.

What is Advanced Segmentation?
Setting up advanced segments in Google Analytics enables you to analyze very specific slices of traffic. Instead of analyzing reporting based on major types of traffic, you can slice and dice the traffic to glean actionable insights. For example, you can set up segments for social media traffic, visitors from specific countries or cities, visitors that searched for specific keywords, campaign traffic, etc. You get the picture. It’s extremely flexible and the segments you choose to set up are based on your specific online marketing initiatives. Once you set up an advanced segment, you will only view data for that segment while you traverse your reporting in Google Analytics. Advanced Segmentation is incredibly handy, and again, you gain actionable intelligence from the reporting for the segment you are analyzing. You can view the Google Analytics help area for more information about advanced segmentation.

Setting Up Your Social Media Segment
Let’s say you’ve been focusing heavily on social media marketing and want to gain a clearer picture of how that traffic is performing. For argument’s sake, let’s say you have a Facebook page and accounts at Twitter, Stumbleupon, Delicious, and Digg. You hired a social media marketer who is managing each account and that person has started gaining traction. Based on your social media efforts, you want to find out as much as possible about how that segment is performing. Sure, you could go into referring sources and view some top-level data for each traffic source, but you want more. You want to drill into several more reports to see what content they are viewing, how much revenue they are generating, which events they are triggering, where they are located geographically, etc. Let’s get started.

How to Set Up Your Social Media Segment in Google Analytics:

1. Log into Google Analytics and find the Advanced Segments dropdown in the upper right-hand corner of your reporting. It will be located above the date range and the default segment will say “All Visits”.

Finding the advanced segments dropdown:
Finding advanced segments in Google Analytics.

2. Click the “All Visits” dropdown and find the link on the left-hand side that reads “Create a new advanced segment”.

Creating a new advanced segment:
Creating a new advanced segment.

3. Now you will see a slick drag and drop interface for creating your custom segment. I love that Google Analytics made this so intuitive. On the left hand side, you will find a list of dimensions and metrics that you can use to create your custom segment. On the right-hand side, you will find an area where you can drag those dimensions or metrics and then define them. Clicking the arrows next to each category on the left hand side will reveal all of the dimensions and metrics you can utilize.

Dragging metrics and dimensions to define a new segment:
Dragging metrics and dimensions to create a new segment.

4. For our purposes, we want to define several referring sources as our segment (various social media websites). Click the arrow icon next to “Traffic Sources” and then drag the “Source” tab to the area that says “Dimension or Metric”. The “Source” tab is located near the bottom of the list under “Traffic Sources”. When you drag the source tab over the box labeled “dimension or metric”, you will see the bounding box change from a light grey dotted line to a dark grey dotted line (indicating that you can drop it there). Once you drop the source tab in the box, Google Analytics will let you type the first few letters of the site in a text field to select the specific traffic source. Google Analytics will also auto-populate the field with your current traffic sources (as you type). So, if you start typing Twitter, you will be able to select Twitter.com. You will also notice a “condition” dropdown, which gives you the flexibility for setting matching options. For our purpose, we want to use “Matches Exactly” as we want the exact social media website.

Entering specific traffic sources to define the custom segment:
Entering specific traffic sources to define a segment.

5. Once you set up Twitter.com, you can add more traffic sources by clicking the “Add or statement” link and then dragging another “Source” tab to the dimension or metric box. Start typing Digg and then select Digg.com. Note, Google Analytics will only auto-populate sites where visits exist for your website. So if you don’t have any visitors from Digg.com, then it won’t show up. You will need to manually enter Digg.com in the field if that’s the case.

Adding more traffic sources to your custom segment:
Using the add or statement to include more metrics or dimensions.

6. Add traffic sources for Stumbleupon, Facebook, and Delicious as explained above.

7. Name your custom segment by typing in the text field below the drag and drop section you have been using up to this point. You can enter something like “Social Media Traffic” for this example.

Naming your advanced segment:
Naming your advanced segment.

8. At this point, you can click “Test Segment” to see the data that Google Analytics will pull for the segment. The “Test Segment” link is located on the right side of the screen next to your various social media traffic sources. It’s not required that you test the segment, but it’s always a good idea to ensure you set up your custom segment properly.

9. Finally, when you are ready, click “Create Segment”, which is located next to the Name Segment field mentioned earlier.

10. After creating your segment, you will be sent back to your Google Analytics reporting. Note, your new segment will not be active at this point. You will still be viewing “All Visits” until you manually select your segment. To do this, find the “Advanced Segments” area again in the upper right-hand corner of the reporting and click the “All Visits” dropdown. You should see your new segment titled “Social Media Traffic” in the list. You can click the checkbox next to “All Visits” to remove that segment from your reporting and instead check the box next to “Social Media Traffic” to include the segment in your reporting. When you click “Apply” at the bottom of the advanced segments form, you will be able to view only social media traffic in your Google Analytics reports (as defined by your segment). Voila, you’re done.

Now comes the fun part. Go ahead and browse your reporting to view data just for your social media segment. This includes the content the segment is consuming, locations they are visiting from, conversions, revenue, event tracking, return visitors, etc. Pretty cool, right? Note, you can also activate multiple segments at one time to compare them in your reporting. But, that’s for another blog post. :)

Go Ahead, Segment Away…
Although this was a quick tutorial, I hope you have a better understanding of what advanced segments are and how to use them to analyze specific slices of traffic. Based on how flexible and powerful advanced segmentation is, I plan to write more about the topic in future blog posts. So go ahead and log into Google Analytics and create some custom segments. Don’t worry about corrupting your reporting or messing up any of your data. Advanced Segments won’t hurt any of your current profiles or reporting. It simply filters data for you based on the dimensions and metrics you choose. It’s like a segmentation sandbox (less the shovel and pail of course). Have fun.

GG

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Monday, January 25, 2010

An Email, A Tweet, Some Retweets and A Sale - How Twitter Can Impact Your B2B Sales


Case Study - How Twitter Can Impact Your B2B SalesI think many heavy Twitter users hear the same jokes and comments from people not using the service. “I don’t see any value in tweeting my ideas”, “Why would I want tell people what I had for breakfast”, “140 character updates, I don’t get it…”, “Why do I want to communicate with total strangers?”, so on and so forth. After hearing comments like this, it usually only takes me a few minutes to give real world examples of how Twitter is NOT what they were thinking and how they could use the service to help grow their own businesses. Those real world case studies go a long way when you are explaining a service that can be foreign to other people (even for people in marketing who aren’t that involved with social media.) So, I’m always on the lookout for more great examples of how Twitter (and social media) can impact companies, marketers, customers, etc. As you might guess, I’ve a got a good one that I’ve decided to share. :)

The Social Media Chain Reaction Needs a Spark
A few weeks ago, a blog post was published detailing some of the top software applications for a niche in an industry. The post included a startup that had recently just launched their new application. The founder of the startup was proud (as he should be) and blasted out an email newsletter announcing that they were included in the list of top apps. I’m not sure how many people were on the email list, but I can only imagine it wasn’t a large list (as the company recently just launched).

It wasn’t long before a link to the blog post hit the Twittersphere. The company in question has a very small Twitter following, so blasting out an email could only help get the word out. A quick review of their Twitter stream shows they are doing the right things, but they haven’t reached critical mass to make a significant impact. Some of the tweets linking to the blog post were from people who definitely have a strong Twitter following. Retweets soon followed and the word started to get out about the list of top apps. By no means was this a retweet extravaganza that I’ve seen with other posts, but it did get passed around quite a bit.

The Results: Email, Tweet, Retweet, Sale
It's sometimes funny how tweets end up finding the right people. It's similar to WOM, where several generations of communication can occur (stemming from the initial tweet). In a nutshell, the startup ended up landing its first international client in less than 12 hours from one of the initial tweets. The new customer saw the tweet (either by directly following a Twitter user or by tracking keywords in Twitter), clicked through to the blog post, and then chose to learn more about the startup's app. They obviously took the next step and inquired about the service and then pulled the trigger (all in less than 12 hours.) Oh by the way, this all cost nothing for the startup, nada, $0). And when B2B sales can generate thousands of dollars per customer (or tens of thousands of dollars depending on what you sell), you cannot downplay how powerful this Twitter example is.

A Quick Tangent About Email Marketing:
I wanted to point out that an email actually started the communication process. There’s quite a bit of buzz about social networking (and for good reason), but I still believe a strong and scrubbed in-house email list is worth its weight in gold.

Seeing the “Twitter” Light
For the startup, they now see the power of Twitter (and social media in general). But in my opinion, the company was somewhat lucky with what happened. Don’t get me wrong, their software solution looks impressive (especially for the industry they focus on). But, having cool software doesn’t necessarily translate to business success, especially with all the noise in today’s marketplace. It’s great that the blog post made its way to the right people, but the startup could have better facilitated the communication on social networks. No, you cannot control where the message ends up and how it gets passed along, but you can help get the word out to the right people during the launch via followers, fans, influencers, etc. That’s where having a strong presence on social networks like Twitter and Facebook can be extremely powerful.

In order to maximize their efforts and continually engage targeted users, the startup needs to tackle social media marketing on several fronts. Although they saw some success due to Twitter that day, they had to rely on someone else getting the word out. Imagine if they already had a strong following on Twitter and Facebook. What if they already had a global readership on their blog, and had connections with dozens of powerful bloggers in their industry? It’s not a stretch to think that the startup could have landed five or ten new customers versus one. The problem is that it takes time to build up a following, which I have written about several times before. Currently, the startup is in the initial stages of launching their social media marketing efforts. They are fighting the black hole of blogging and Twitter, but they are doing the right things. If they don’t get frustrated and keep driving forward, social media could end up being very powerful for them. They could end up driving the communication versus hoping someone else drives it for them.

In Order to Reap the Rewards of Social Media, Make Sure You’re in the Game
In order to make sure you can benefit from a situation like what I explained above, there are some initial steps you can take. First, develop a strategy for utilizing social media to engage targeted users. This includes understanding the people you want to reach, which types of content they want to see, which social networks you should be active on, how to gain real followers and not just zombie followers, etc. Second, join Twitter. You need to take the leap and join in order to get things moving. Once you join, you’ll need to work through the black hole of blogging and Twitter (like I mentioned above). You won’t build a strong following overnight, but if you do the right things consistently over time, you can end up building a targeted following. And those followers could have a profound impact on your business.

Track everything you can. Track your tweets, follower counts, blog posts, website activity from social networks, and conversion. Note, conversion doesn’t always mean a sale or an email registration (macro-conversions). It can be micro-conversions like downloads, videos viewed, content viewed, email links, etc. You need to understand how your social media marketing efforts are performing in order to make adjustments and grow your following.

Form relationships and not just followers. Yes, that’s the “social” part of social media. I’m not saying you have to be best friends with every follower and fan, but there will be a subset of your followers that you will definitely connect with. Once you form those relationships, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to rely on some of your followers to help your business. And by the way, you’ll probably be just as willing to help them too. Trust me, if you participate in Twitter the right way, you can’t help but meet really cool people with similar interests. Then it’s just a matter of how you engage your newfound friends and contacts.

Twitter Questions to Ponder
So, if you are one of those people asking “Why would I want to tell people what I had for breakfast on Twitter”, please read this post again. Then ask yourself the following questions:

1. How many new customers am I missing out on by not being on Twitter?
2. Are my competitors already there and doing the right things to engage targeted users?
3. How much time can I carve out during each day (yes, that’s every day) to participate on Twitter and other social networks?
4. Am I ready to engage other people and provide valuable content? Read this bullet again. Valuable tweets are NOT about promoting your own service ten times per day. It’s about providing information that your followers would find valuable.

A Final Note
There you have it. A pretty cool example of how email marketing led to a tweet, which led to retweets, and then ultimately a B2B sale (all in less than 12 hours). After reading this case study, you have to ask yourself the following question:

Are you going to be one of the people sitting on the sidelines and making fun of Twitter, or will you be landing new customers and growing your business?

Good question.

GG

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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Black Hole of Blogging and Twitter, The Importance of Consistency and Persistence for Building Critical Mass in Social Media


Why many new bloggers and Twitter users get frustrated and drop off the social media grid.It’s hard to have a conversation about online marketing without bringing up both blogging and Twitter. Both have become critical components of a well-balanced online marketing mix (and for good reason). Blogs can be the anchor in a social media marketing strategy, enabling a company to humanize itself, provide valuable content for targeted users, and also target the long tail of SEO (which is critically important for natural search). Then you have Twitter, which has become a powerful way to engage targeted users and to get the word out about your valuable content. If you’re new to social media marketing, then blogging and Twitter should probably be the first two items on your checklist when starting. They are too powerful and ubiquitous to ignore.

So based on what I just explained, it’s natural for companies to get excited about launching a blog and Twitter account. Setting them up is the easy part (as most people find out). The act of consistently and continually blogging and tweeting is the hard part (and where most people fail). Once the accounts are set up and ready to go, I typically hear a few important questions from new bloggers and Twitter users. For example, “what should I blog about?” or “why do my tweets seem to go nowhere?”, and “what’s the ROI of this?” I’ve heard these types of questions so many times, that I can almost answer them in my sleep. To help demonstrate the problem, I’ve displayed a bell curve below representing the stages in the process of starting a blog or Twitter account. The graph includes brainstorming, excitement and enthusiasm, the launch, publishing, the first encounter of the “black hole”, and then a quick fade to confusion, frustration, slowdown, and ultimately silence. The cause of the trend is what I like to call The Black Hole of Blogging and Twitter. It won’t be studied in astronomy classes across the country, but believe me, it’s there.

The Bell Curve of New Bloggers and Twitter Users.

Defining The Black Hole of Blogging and Twitter
There's a slide in my presentation about social media marketing that consists of a single large black circle with the caption, “This is what you’ll be blogging to once you launch.” Then the following slide contains another black circle with the caption, “And this is what you’ll be tweeting to...” Both circles represent the black hole that new bloggers and Twitter users face during the beginning of their social media initiatives.

But what exactly is the black hole of blogging and Twitter? It’s actually simple when you break it down (and makes a lot of sense). When you start a blog or Twitter account, nobody knows about you (usually) and the hard truth is that nobody cares. Your priority as a new blogger or Twitter user should be to build credibility and trust, and just like in the offline world, that takes time. So, you start writing killer blog posts and tweeting valuable content. You build some subscribers and followers, but nobody gets in touch with you.

There are no retweets.
There are no votes.
There are no stumbles.
There are no high search engine rankings.
There are no comments.
And there are no calls.

Yes, you just realized that you’re blogging and tweeting to a black hole. Cue Twilight Zone music. :)

Overcoming The Black Hole
I’m sure you’re wondering how you break out of the black hole. Good question. In order to break out and gain some traction, you need to build critical mass. And no, this isn’t easy and you cannot game critical mass. Building 2000 Twitter followers in a week via some automated service won’t build you true followers. It will build zombie followers. And although they’ll be there, they won’t know who you are, they won’t care about you or your tweets, and you’ll get no value from having them. You need to earn true followers.

The Key To Breaking Out of the Black Hole
The key to breaking out of the black hole is to build a strategy for blogging and tweeting and simply keep going… You need to keep blogging, promoting your posts, and connecting with other bloggers. You need to respond to comments on your blog and on Twitter (although there won’t be many in the beginning). You need to be consistent, persistent, and tough it out. On Twitter, you need to keep pumping out valuable content. It should be content that interests targeted users. You should track your tweets to find out what your followers are interested in and refine the content that you tweet. You need to filter what’s important and make sure you tweet multiple times per day, every day. Yes, that’s every day, including weekends. You need to engage other Twitter users, respond to direct messages, and help out your followers. No, it’s not easy, but the benefit will greatly outweigh the work involved. But, that benefit will only come if you work your way out of the black hole.

If you do end up gaining critical mass, then the black hole will start to shrink. You’ll see breaks of light in the darkness and you might start connecting with people from all over the world. If you’re tracking your efforts, you’ll start to see more subscribers, retweets, inbound links to blog posts, social media activity around your posts (like Stumbles, Diggs, Bookmarks, etc.) You might just start becoming a believer in Twitter, blogging, and social media. And always try to remember the bell curve I provided above, and try as hard as possible to not become part of that trend. Unfortunately, I see it way too often from companies launching new blogs and Twitter accounts.

Did I Mention SEO?
As more people enjoy your posts, share them with others, tweet them to their followers, vote for them, and bookmark them, the more valuable links your blog will build. The more valuable links you build, the more SEO power you gain. The more SEO power you gain, the more keywords you’ll rank for. And as more targeted users search for topics you write about, they might very well end up at your blog. And since you’ll promote your Twitter account right on your blog, you’ll also gain them as Twitter followers. And the more subscribers, followers, fans, and new customers you build, the more you’ll want to blog and tweet. The cycle will all make sense to you at this point, but you need to get there first. I’ve written about the Twitter Effect on SEO previously on my blog. Read the post and you can see how both blogging and Twitter can have a profound effect on natural search. You shouldn’t ignore that fact. Natural Search is too powerful to ignore.

Don’t Give Up
If you’re new to blogging and Twitter and you are currently dealing with the infamous black hole, don’t get frustrated. Stay the course and keep going. You need to keep building and sharing quality content, connecting with others, tweeting great articles, etc. And if you’re able to work your way through the black hole, you might eventually see the power waiting on the other side. But if you let the black hole get to you (like many people do), you’ll end up off the grid, and you’ll lose out. And if that happens, you’ll leave a void that your competitors could fill. And they sure will. The opportunity is there. Make sure you’re in the game.

Now go write a blog post. :)

GG

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Twitter Account Ownership, A Legal Overview of Who Owns Your Twitter Account


Legal analysis of who owns your Twitter account.
Twitter is all the rage now. You can’t go anywhere without hearing about the microblogging service that’s growing like a weed. You hear about on the news, at work, your kids are talking about, and even Oprah has taken the plunge and started an account, which now has over 1.2 million followers by the way (although don’t get me started on how she’s using it).

I ended up reading an article on BusinessWeek.com last week that presented the results of a survey of c-level executives regarding employees and social networks. According to the survey from Deloitte, 60% of c-level executives interviewed believe they have a right to know how their employees represent themselves and their companies on social networking sites. However, 53% of employees surveyed believe their activities on social networking sites should be of no concern to employers. This is a new frontier for both executives and employees and you can tell this subject hits a nerve for both groups. So, as I’ve been helping companies develop social media strategies that involve Twitter, there’s one question that keeps coming up. “Who own the Twitter account?” That question typically comes from the executives I’m helping… as employees focus on other topics like how to set up a Twitter account, how to build followers, what to tweet, and Twitter etiquette. Executives know all too well that Twitter account ownership could be a messy situation (legally).

Now, I have my opinions about who owns your Twitter account, but I also wanted to understand the legal implications of various Twitter scenarios. That’s when I called Mike Pisauro, from Frascella and Pisauro. Mike heavily focuses on business law in Princeton, NJ. I mapped out five scenarios and asked Mike to analyze each one from a legal perspective. Walking through this exercise ended up yielding my latest blog post on Search Engine Journal, titled Lawyers, Guns, and Twitter – Who Owns Your Twitter Account. Mike provided some great insight, but to be honest, I wasn't thrilled with some of his responses! :)

In order to read my analysis of each scenario and then Mike’s legal analysis, you’ll have to visit my post on SEJ! Be sure to read the comments, and feel free to add your own. This is such a new subject, that there’s no clear answer at this point. We’re all just trying to make sense of it.

GG

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Killer Content, A Loyal Community, The Twitter Effect, and Its Impact on SEO


How the social web, great content, and seo all work together.
How's that for a title? I witnessed a pretty amazing thing last week from an online marketing perspective. I love finding dynamic examples of how the social web works, especially when it unfolds right in front of your eyes over just a few hours. What I experienced last week was an outstanding example of how great content, a loyal following, respect in the industry, and SEO all tie together. It's kind of like the perfect storm, but in a good way.

Organic Linkbuilding
First, I'm a believer that your best linkbuilding comes naturally. If you create killer content that provides value to your readers and visitors, you often will end up generating high quality links. In my experience, I've seen a direct relationship between the time and care you take to create content and the impact that content has from a linkbuilding standpoint. For example, I've developed content that took a relatively long time to create (days to write and sometimes weeks to research), but based on the popularity of that content, the buzz it generated, the targeted traffic, and subsequent inbound links, it was well worth the time. Compare that to content developed or written quickly, with little or no thought put in, provides little value, and subsequently has no impact. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Are you going to link to a quick post that provides no value and no original content? Probably not, right? But you might link to a post that greatly helps your efforts (for whatever you are trying to achieve).

How it Unfolded
So let's get back to what happened last week? Here's the deal. I watched an editor break a story on a website (providing killer content), I saw that content go viral on Twitter (due to a loyal following), then it got picked up by a popular industry website (due to respect in the industry), and then I saw that content go on to generate over 22,000 inbound links in a matter of days. I saw how the content ranked in just hours in Google (due to Query Deserves Freshness QDF), and then how it ended up ranking for dozens of competitive keywords in a short period of time. That's darn powerful.

Let's break down what happened and its impact:

1. Content
The content was great (a scoop), and probably wasn't easy to come by. But providing valuable content (in this case breaking news), is only part of the equation. That news could have easily led to little traffic, no links, and no rankings, right? Everyone has heard about sites getting their scoops ripped off. That's a good segue...

2. Loyal Community
Enter the next important part of the equation. If you're publishing to a black hole, who cares about what you write. But, if you've built up a serious following, earned respect, and engage your community, then amazing things can happen. In this case, community members starting tweeting, then retweeting, and more retweeting. You get the picture. I scrolled through pages and pages of tweets linking to the story. For people that think Twitter provides no value, please read this section again. :)

3. Respect in the Industry
Ah, the point at which things can take a different path. What happens if people try to steal your scoop? For example, they find out the breaking news from you and then post their own version of it, essentially watering down your impact. I don't care who you are, that's a horrible feeling and happens more than you think. But, if you've gained the respect of your peers (even beyond your community), you might see an interesting effect, like what I saw last week. A major industry website wrote an article about the breaking news and linked to the scoop I mentioned earlier. A “hat tip”, so to speak. That hat tip ended up being the top referring source for a few days. Again, powerful (and a great link for SEO too.)

4. SEO Power
The culmination of what I listed above was 22,588 inbound links, including links from some powerful websites in the industry. Inbound links are the lifeblood of SEO, so gaining thousands of them from relevant and powerful sites is a good thing. :) This article generated quality links, and a lot of them. This resulted in top rankings for competitive keywords around the subject matter. Right now, the site ranks for dozens of keywords related to the subject of the article. And, that was after just a few days.

Also, I mentioned Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) earlier. That's a part of Google's algorithm that determines when a query requests information about breaking news and which listings to provide that reference the breaking news. Google determines this by monitoring the activity around a given subject. The content Google provides in the SERPs may be new blog posts or stories from trusted sites that don't have any inbound links yet (or are in the process of increasing inbound links). The site I was monitoring is definitely a trusted site in the industry, and benefited from QDF. In case you want to learn more, Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz provides a video explaining the ins and outs of QDF. As usual, Rand does a great job explaining how it works.

Let's summarize what happened:
So, after just a few days the article ended up being one of the most popular pages traffic-wise, it generated quality visitors, and incredible rankings in organic search. It's a great example of how the social web works and its connection to SEO. A quick side note, the page wasn't perfectly optimized for SEO, but it still ranks like mad. I think it shows which SEO factors are most important, right? (cough, quality inbound links) I can only imagine what the page would rank for if it was well optimized! :)

So, have you witnessed something like this? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

GG

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Twitter For Business, 4 Things You Should Be Using Twitter For Today to Help Your Business


Using Twitter to connect with your customers.I’m a big fan of Twitter, the microblogging service that has become ridiculously popular over the past year or two. Whenever I tell someone about Twitter, I typically get a strange look. That’s especially true if I started explaining how I just “tweeted” something. A few chuckles usually follow and then I typically receive my first question, “So, what is Twitter?” After explaining what the service is (and what it isn’t), I usually get the next question, “Well, how can I use Twitter for my business?” Seriously, this happens all the time…it’s definitely a trend. Enough of a trend that I was thinking about recording my response on my Blackberry and then just hitting play when needed. ;-)

I believe Twitter is a powerful tool for connecting with customers (and prospective customers) on several levels. So, after hearing the questions I listed above too many times, I thought it would be smart (and helpful) to write this post. Now, if you don’t think that Twitter can help your business (whether you are a large or small business), then please read on. I’ll provide 4 ways you should be using Twitter today (yes, today) to help your business.

Defining Microblogging, Twitter and Your Followers
Let’s start with a few definitions. Twitter is a microblogging service that enables you to send short messages (140 characters or less) via SMS, IM, Email, and even via applications that were developed for Twitter (by third parties). Most of you who have heard of Twitter probably think of SMS (or Text Messaging), since that’s the communication mechanism that’s commonly connected with Twitter, so to speak. When you sign up for the service, you can start “following” others, and they in turn, can start “following” you. When you follow someone, you receive their “tweets”, which are their short messages, which will show up in your timeline. You can also choose to have those messages sent to your mobile phone via SMS. When people follow you, they are choosing to receive your “tweets”, or messages. Sounds simple, right? It definitely is simple from that standpoint, but the power of Twitter is in how you use it.

4 Things You Can Use Twitter For Today to Enhance Your Business
And when I say “today”, I mean today. You should sign up and get moving. If you follow the four bullets listed below, I’m confident you’ll see the power of Twitter. You just need to give it a try.

1. Connect with your followers and customers, and provide VALUE to them.
Twitter provides a powerful way to keep in touch with your customers. Think about it. You can start to promote your Twitter account in all your communications, in your email signature, on your cards, on your blog, your website, etc. to start to build up your followers. Some of your customers are going to dig Twitter because they want direct and fast contact with someone at your company. Twitter provides an unbelievable way for your customers to get in touch with you, and for you to get back in touch with them. For example, let’s say you have a new product launch. You can send a series of tweets out to your group of followers. You might even have some of your followers retweet your original message, which can really help get the word out. Are you expecting a service outage as part of an upgrade? Send a tweet to your customers letting them know that the service will be down for a few hours. Think about how many calls you will save your customer service center. Again, many of your followers will have SMS turned on, which means they will get your message on their mobile phone (wherever they are), versus just email…

I’m also a big fan of educating your customers on a regular basis. Keep in mind that this shouldn’t be about self promotion (completely). It could be more about your industry. For example, send tweets to your followers about industry news, cool websites you find, helpful blog posts, new tools that launch, etc. You can stay in front of your customers by providing valuable content that actually helps them. It’s a win win. So after you sign up for Twitter, launch a quick campaign for getting your customers to follow you. Explain the benefits to them and then point them to Twitter. Gain your following quickly.

2. Twitter for Customer Service (TFCS)
This is similar to the first bullet point, but more from a customer service angle. Using Twitter, you have the ability to handle customer service issues in near real time. I’ve seen quite a few tweets from people who are upset about a product or service WHILE THEY ARE USING IT. Imagine that this was your product or service. You might have the ability to resolve an issue before it gets worse…and before they tweet more…or blog about it…and maybe, yes maybe, they become loyal customers since you handled their situation so promptly. How about questions about your service? I have seen (and been part of), questions about products or services. For example, “Which smartphone do you like best?” “Which HDTV do you guys recommend?” or “Which vacation spot do you like better, Cabo or Hawaii and why?” These are great opportunities to learn what people are saying and you can easily join the conversation (just don’t hop in and start pitching your product). If you can provide valuable information, then feel free to get in touch with the person or group in question. This could be a great way for you to connect with many influential people in an industry.

3. Twitter and PR, Monitor Tweets and Respond Accordingly
Most PR professionals are using a number of tools to monitor chatter on the web, such as Google Alerts. Twitter should be another tool in your arsenal. I can tell you first hand how representatives of companies have gotten in touch with me based on my tweets. Some of my original messages were positive and others were not, but regardless, you can benefit as a company from monitoring these messages (and any replies). For example, looking for people buzzing about your products or services? You might find a number of people on Twitter that keep tweeting about your products. Well, get in touch with them! On the flip side, if you find a person that just hammered your product or brand, get in touch with them too. Twitter can be a great way to curb negative word of mouth. Putting a human element in the mix when someone is frustrated can be a great way to nip the problem in the bud. Maybe it was a miscommunication or that customer didn’t know about the latest upgrade or product offering. A simple Direct Message within Twitter might resolve the entire situation…and they might even tweet about the positive experience after it has been resolved. You cannot be afraid of doing this… If you are, then you won’t reap the benefits of the community. It’s similar to situations where I am talking to companies about blogging and I hear the question, “But what if we get a negative comment?” If that person is you, overcome this fear…you won’t regret it.

There are some good examples of companies using Twitter to connect with customers. For example, Omniture, Comcast, and Carnival Cruise Lines. I hope to see many more companies follow their lead.

4. Connect with others in your industry.
I have met some incredible people from all over the world using Twitter, and I can honestly say that I never would have met them without using the service. Actually, it’s really funny when you connect with someone close to your location and you never knew they were there! That has also happened to me a few times. It’s pretty easy in Twitter to find like minded people. You can use third party tools to search through tweets to find people talking about specific industries, products, services, brands, etc. Once you find their profile, you can easily start following them, and then you can check out their followers. Chances are you’ll find a number of additional people to follow in a relatively short period of time. Then, those people might start following you.

Now don’t stop there… You should join the conversation and communicate with others (yes, that means 2 way communication). If you do join the conversation (and I recommend you do versus sitting there reading tweets), then you can brainstorm, get answers, share ideas, and collaborate all via Twitter. Heck, you might find new partners, business opportunities, and ways to market…all via microblogging! I bet you never thought that would happen. :)

So there you have it. 4 ways to use Twitter today to enhance your business. Is it time consuming? You bet. Will it take a little time to get used to? Absolutely. Will it also take time to build a following? Definitely. But, in the end my hope is that you will come back to this post and comment about how happy you are that you took my advice! ;-) It’s all about execution, and now you need to take action. If you are still unsure, feel free to provide your questions below (or just get in touch with me). And, don’t forget to follow me on twitter. Hey, I can be your first “follow”. :)

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GG

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