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Google+ Business Pages - Thriving or Dying?I recently wrote a post about Google+ launching their business pages – after 4 months of businesses kicking their heels and waiting, Google+ business pages were finally announced on 7th November. As with Facebook, you needed to have a personal profile first, but with that set up you could then quickly set up a business page.

On the 16 November, BrightEdge released a report with some interesting Google+ pages stats…

  • 61% of top brands had created a Google+ page in the first week – 93% of them have Facebook pages.
  • Only 12% of the 61% had linked to their Google+ page from their website homepage – compared with 53% who link to their Facebook page.
  • Over two dozen of the top 100 brands have over 1 million fans on Facebook – no brand other than Google has over 50,000 fans, and over two dozen have no fans at all.

This tells us two things –

  1. There was a stampede to get a Google+ business page; and
  2. Not much else seems to be happening – engagement is very low.

Google+ has been called the Facebook killer, and while it may grab a slice of the pie, it is a long way from threatening Facebook’s near total monopoly. Many marketers have said that the primary reason they set up a Google+ business page is to take advantage of the positive affects having a page is bound to have on their SERP ranking, rather than as a way to engage with fans. The fact is that although there are over 50 million users on Google+ most of them are not using the platform regularly, nor engaging with brands at the same level as they do on Facebook. Whether usage and engagement will grow, or Google+ will die a death like Wave and Buzz remains to be seen.

I still feel it is worth having a Google+ business page as it will help improve SERPs, but whether it will ever become the main way you communicate with your fans online looks doubtful right now.

Takeaway Message…

Set up a Google+ business page, but don’t consider abandoning your Facebook page for it.

 

facebook iconIf you’ve logged into Facebook recently you’ll have been greeted with a lot of change. In the last week they have rolled out the following:

  • Subscriptions;
  • Smart lists;
  • Top news; and
  • Ticker.

I previously wrote a post on Google+ and the great features it contained that I felt had been lacking in Facebook. Then last month I wrote a post on how Facebook had rolled out some changes in response to the competition from Google+ and Twitter.

But now, only a few weeks later, here are yet more changes. It would seem that the arrival of Google+ has kicked innovation into high-gear in Facebook with developers pushing out Facebook’s answer to some of the popular Google+ features, as well as some brand new features as well.

Nothing like a bit of competition to make people up their game!

Subscriptions

Facebook says the new subscribe button can be used to:

1.    Choose what you see from people in News Feed.
2.    Hear from people, even if you’re not friends.
3.    Let people hear from you, even if you’re not friends.

The first use can be particularly handy if some of your friends play Farmville a lot, as you can choose to just not see these updates any more.

The subscribe button also allows you to follow someone you are not friends with – similar to following someone on Twitter. The user e.g. President Obama, has to enable subscriptions on his account, but once this has been done anyone can subscribe to follow Obama’s news feed and anything that he posts publicly will show in subscribers’ news feeds.

This is somewhat similar to liking a Facebook Page, however Pages are supposed to be for businesses, brands or products only (although there’s a lot of misuse), so the subscribe button now allows you to follow people as well.

Friend Lists and Smart Lists

Facebook has also rolled out improved lists.

There are smart lists which you probably saw immediately when you logged in. These are created automatically based on something you have in common with a group of friends e.g. the city you live in or the university you went to.

You will also have close friends and acquaintances lists which separates your best friends from those you’re not as close to, allowing you to catch up with your closest friends quickly through one list. The lists are empty so you need to populate them yourself and from now on if you friend someone you will have to decide whether they are a close friend or an acquaintance straight away – however people will not know which list you have placed them in.

Any lists you have created yourself will now also be easier to access, as you can just add them to your favourites and they will show up in the left sidebar.

The lists are all completely optional, but as someone who was using the previous, clunkier version of lists, I find the new set up much nicer and easier to use.

Top News

Just announced today the news feed will now show you top news based on what has happened since you last logged into Facebook. So if it’s been a week you will see a summary of the top stories first…

but if its only been a few hours you’ll see the most recent news…

All top stories now feature a blue corner on them.

Real-Time Friend Activity

Also announced today is the ticker which shows up in the top right corner of the screen and shows your friends’ activity in real time, including their comments on other people’s status messages. To see more details simply hover over the update.

Change Is Good

There has been a lot of grumbling about all these recent changes, but I think people forget that Facebook is a free service, and no one is forcing them to use it.  Facebook is changing in response to its competition, and also in response to requests from users, all in an effort to give us a better experience…sure sometimes they get it wrong, but at least they’re trying to evolve and improve, and not just standing still!

Watch Facebook’s Video On The Changes

The below post was originally published on Bloggertone.

Too often businesses decide that they want a new website for no particular reason. Often this decision is made because the owners of the business themselves feel the current design is tired and they want something ‘new and fresh’. This is where the trouble begins.

A website revamp should be approached with care and attention, and there should be definite reasons for heading down this, usually very expensive, path.

Who Is The New Website For?

Your website is for your potential and current customers – not for you. You spend far more time on the website than anyone else does, and just because you are tired of the current ‘look’ doesn’t mean anyone else is.

The desire for new aesthetics is not a good reason to throw away thousands of euro on an unnecessary redesign.

Know Your Reasons

Your website’s purpose is to help others find the services / products you provide, and to help you convert them from browsing visitors, to interested prospects, and ultimately, to new clients.

If you want a new website because you want to attract more leads, and you want to convert more leads into customers – and your current website doesn’t allow you to do this – well then you should look at getting a new website.

Website redesign is sometimes necessary, but it is important to have good reasons for making that decision.

Know Your Objectives

Have a clear plan for what you hope to achieve from a website redesign.

Research has shown that 37% of marketers did not measure any metrics for their last website redesign and 1/3 of marketers were unhappy with their last website redesign. Seems to me that those statistics are related.

If you don’t know what you want to achieve, how will you know if you have achieved it? Those with a clear plan and actionable list will know whether they have achieved their goal, and are therefore more likely to be happy with the finished result.

Avoid Pitfalls

Make sure that the company you employ to execute your redesign knows what your objectives are, and that they are capable of meeting them. A good website designer will know that what your customer wants is a clean, simple, easy to navigate website (with no flash!).

Ensure as well that they know how to retain the vale of your existing website during the change over e.g. 301 redirects to avoid losing SEO rankings and inbound links.

Take Control

It’s your business and you make decisions every day, based on the circumstances, to make it the best business possible. Your website should be run the same way.

You should be able to make decisions every day, adding and editing your website content to suit the circumstances. You should be able to add a new blog post, or a new landing page for a special offer you’re running, or even add a page about a brand new product or service. You should not have to run back to your website designers every time you want to add in a comma, never mind new content.

Make sure that your new website puts the reins in your hands. Ensure that you have a good content management system that is easy to use; this will allow you to make changes so that your website is a living, breathing part of your business which will grow organically over time.

So, rethink . . . why do you ‘need’ that redesign?

Sharing Changes To Fend Off Google+

I recently wrote a post on Google+ and its features. I specifically commented on the Circles feature, which allows you to easily share posts with specific groups of people, meaning I can share an article on running with my runner friends, and one on social media with my marketing friends, without sharing photos of a family holiday with everyone. This was a great feature and one I had said Facebook had been missing out on.

But Facebook heard us and has made a change…

Now posting different status messages to different groups of friends can be done quickly and easily with the click of a button.

However, it’s still not as good as Google+ Circles….yet…

In the new Facebook set up you can post  messages to Public, Friends, Friends of Friends or else specific people. So not quite the same as dragging-and-dropping all your friends into different circles and being able to post specifically to them. With Facebook you will still need to type in each friend’s name individually in order to post to a particular subset of peeople.

But I don’t doubt that Facebook will make further changes to make it easier for us to create and share with different friend groups.

If Facebook implements the great features of Google+ it will be harder for Google+ to lure users away – most people already have all their friends on Facebook, so it’s easier to stay there than move away.

Places Changes To Keep Pace with Twitter

Facebook has also updated its Places feature.

Now instead of going into Places for a separate ‘check-in with message’, you can use the normal status posts to add a location to your message – similar to what Twitter have been offering for a while.

Again this is easy to use, and is built straight into the status update bar.

The iPhone app does not yet appear to have been updated to keep inline with the new web version, with Places still showing separately. However no doubt an update will be rolled out soon.

Facebook Video On The Changes

 

With new features constantly being rolled out on all fronts, the battle of the social networks continues, will you pick a side? or embrace them all?

 

I recently published a guest post with the Ireland-based, blogging community, Bloggertone, on the important steps to take after you have published a new post on your blog. Below is a slightly updated version of the article, to include recent developments and new information.

4 Important Steps To Take After You’ve Published A Blog PostYou’ve just written a blog post and it’s absolutely perfect; beautifully written content that has the ideal balance of valuable information with easy-to-read conversational language, not to mention those catchy headlines and witty imagery. People should be lining up to read this post, and share it with their friends and colleagues … but how to make that happen? How do you ensure that once you press publish your content will get found and spread by others?

1. Before You Hit Publish

Remember that perfectly written post? Did you include keywords? Do a quick keyword search on Google to see what words people are using to find content like yours. Then go back and make sure that those keywords are included in the main content, the headings, the page title and the image titles. All this will help your post get found organically through the search engines.

2. Syndication

Ensure you have an RSS feed set up for your blog. This will allow people who use RSS feed readers, such as Google Reader, get your content automatically the minute you hit publish.

3. Email List

Allow people to sign up for your blog via email (not everyone uses RSS readers so this is still an important option). Once you have a mailing list many blogs will allow you set up an automated email to go out to your list, advising them that a new post has been published. If you can’t do this automatically just send a quick email to your list manually, the blog title and a link to the page is plenty, although you can include the opening paragraph with the tantilising ‘read more…’ as well.

So you’ve got the keywords, the RSS feed and the email list. That means the post will get indexed by Google and your existing readers will be notified immediately once you publish.

But what about sharing on social media?

This is a huge part of the process, and I have, both personally and professional, seen massive changes to visit counts as a result of social media activity.

4. Social Media Sharing

As with sending an email, it is possible to set up a post to automatically publish out to your various Social Media accounts, however I caution against this. While it takes some of the effort out, people do interact with social media differently and at different times. Research has shown that blogs published in the morning get the highest traffic, however blogs posted on social media in the afternoon get shared the most, with the peak being around 4pm.

So ideally, you would publish your post in the morning, all your current readers will get it via email / rss, and then you would head over to your social media sites later on in the day and share it with your followers / fans there.

On Twitter you should aim to share a link to your blog post several times, as this medium moves fast, followers who log on an hour after you’ve tweeted may not see it. Make sure to use different taglines each time you tweet, this allows you see what works best at grabbing people’s attention (and also avoids the wrath of Twitter who frown on the same tweet being repeated ad nauseam). Be sure also to use a url shortener such as bit.ly or ow.ly, as this gives you more of those precious 140 characters to play with, and also provides you with great analytics such as how many clicks, and from what countries – valuable information for future targeting.

On LinkedIn you can share your post via your status message, but you should also seek to become involved in different groups. Check out what groups there are that might be relevant to you. 81% of LinkedIn’s 100 million members are part of at least one of the over 800,000 groups available (the maximum number of groups a member can join is 50). Join groups and then be sure to share your blog post with each group. This can result, not only in massively increased traffic, but also in some very interesting dialogue with like-minded members. LinkedIn have a great learning centre where you can learn more about groups.

On Facebook you can again share your post, however Facebook has a less frantic pace than Twitter, so sharing the post once is sufficient. Depending on your audience this could result in great engagement with your fans, as well as driving traffic to your site.

On Goolge+ you have the option to share your post with specific circles (learn more about circles). Make sure to share your post only with those who will find the content to be of interest and / or of value – this is much better than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Again this is a slower paced platform, so sharing once is enough.

Make sure as well to have social sharing buttons on your blog so that anyone who comes across your post can share it with their own networks, thereby driving even more visitors to you!

It’s Worth It

While all of this might seem like a lot of effort, once you’ve done it a few times it will become second nature, and it will become quicker. It will also result in your post getting a LOT more traffic.

Isn’t it worth the bit of extra effort to ensure that your perfectly polished post doesn’t languish forgotten and alone in the internet ether?

Increase Website Traffic by 30% With LinkedInCurrently there is a lot of dialogue regarding Google+ and how it compares to Facebook and Twitter, implying that these 3 are the social network Titans.

But What About LinkedIn?

In June 2011 LinkedIn became the number 2 social network in the US, with 33.9 million visitors that month, up 63% on June 2010 (Facebook had 160.9 million US visitors and Twitter 30.6 million the same month).

As of 4 August 2011 LinkedIn had over 120 million members worldwide; with 26 million of those based in Europe. All 2011 Fortune 500 companies have executives on LinkedIn and 75 of the Fortune 100 companies use LinkedIn’s hiring solutions.

While Google+ is growing rapidly and the rankings are likely to shift in the coming months there is no denying that LinkedIn is a popular networking site for professionals, and especially for B2B companies.

But What About Sharing?

On 30th November 2010 LinkedIn announced their ‘share button’ which, when added to a webpage, allowed readers to easily share that content to their LinkedIn profile and/or LinkedIn groups. Many business oriented sites added the button quickly, including Forbes and Bloomberg, and others slowly added it in the following months.

By day I look after online communications for an Ireland-based, B2B professional services company and in April of this year I added the LinkedIn share button to the company blog, and started our senior managers actively sharing company content on LinkedIn.

The Result?

A 30% jump in traffic over the same period in 2010, purely from LinkedIn!

And, people were not only reading and sharing content, but sticking around to learn more about the company, and complete online forms – meaning not only are we seeing a huge jump in traffic, but we are also generating more inbound leads!

LinkedIn A Superstar For B2B

Of course, not all companies are guaranteed to see this kind of result, it will depend on a number of factors, including the industry.

But what if you did see this kind of result? Or an even better one? Isn’t it worth trying?

Add the LinkedIn share button today, it can’t hurt, and it could be the best decision you make in 2011 for website traffic…

L’Oréal Ads Banned In UKUK advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), has just banned ads by L’Oréal featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington.

The Complaint

The ads for Lancôme and Maybelline, companies owned by L’Oréal, were accused of having images that had been manipulated to an extent beyond which could be reasonably held up as achievable results obtained using the products they were advertising.

MP Jo Swinson, who has long fought against the overuse of post-production techniques, such as airbrushing, in advertising, made the complaint against L’Oréal and has said “we should have some honesty in advertising and that’s exactly what the ASA is there to do. I’m delighted they’ve upheld these complaints.”

L’Oréal has admitted both images were retouched, but has denied that the ads were misleading. In an attempt to have the complaint overruled L’Oréal supplied pictures of both Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington on the red carpet, showing that they are both naturally beautiful women. L’Oréal lost out against the complaint because it is a requirement that companies be able to show exactly how much retouching has been done to an image, which L’Oréal did not do, saying that it was against their contracts to release pre-production images.

Not The First Time

This is not the first time the ASA has found against the beauty industry.

Last November an ad featuring Georgia May Jagger, advertising mascara for Rimmel London, was banned due to the use of false eyelashes. In 2009 an image of the model Twiggy, used to advertise an Olay product, was also banned due to excessive airbrushing – Jo Swinson was also involved in this complaint. And in June 2010, L’Oréal was again under scrutiny for a hair care ad featuring Cheryl Cole which prompted complaints from the public, as Cole is well known for having hair extensions. On that particular occasion the ASA did not ban the ad, concluding that it was not misleading, however future runs of the ad included a line advising that Cole was wearing hair extension.

Will The UK Stand Alone?

It is encouraging to see the ASA stepping in and letting advertisers know that the images they use need to be reasonably achievable using the products advertised.

It is not healthy for younger people in particular, to be bombarded with these images, believing them to be accurate, or something they are expected to emmulate.

We have all become a little too found of the retouch buttons on our computers in this digital age and as Jo Swinson has said, we need to “get back to reality”.

Hopefully the UK will not remain alone in this fight against the use of unrealistic imagery, and other countries will step up to the plate as well.

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