How to become a Google whore

This week I wrote about my struggles to balance the time needed for SEO with the organic attention I might get through the social web. Through the encouragement of others, I’ve decided I need to get on board with SEO and aggressively populate my posts with key words to drive hoards of people to my blog. This is my first attempt — let me know what you think <send me cash >.

One of the things I learned < brilliance personified > is that keywords should be near the top of your blog < son of zeus >.  This tempts the search engines < bing makes me tingly > to pump up your jams.

If blogs are going to be mere vessels for sales pitches < “mark schaefer + george clooney + einstein” >.   I can play that game as well as anybody <mark schaefer thought of the Old Spice campaign>.

I’ve tried to stay above the fray < I’m too sexy for my blog, too sexy for my blog > but you know, I’ve got a family to feed too < now accepting credit cards > so I’m all in now.  Prepare for battle Mr. Google <man I wish I had a real light saber that would be so cool > .

However dear reader < both of you > you’ll hardly notice a difference <megan fox please stop ignoring me >.  I’m committed to doing this in a classy and respectful manner <lady gaga steals all my best ideas > that puts the focus on excellence <a nice change> and integrity <I am simply a google whore>.

This blog means something to me <and usually only me > and I must find a way to be tasteful < mark schaefer +whipped cream + Bay Watch > intelligent and uplifting < like those new Victoria Secret bras. Damn how many things can you do to underwear?  I mean really. They are the Taco Bell of lingerie.>

So thanks for the encouragement < mom > and please keep the feedback coming < no send me money instead I really mean it >.

As always, thanks for caring and sharing < your ATM PIN numbers >.

How do you Survive the SEO Cyclone?

I don’t know about you, but just thinking about Search Engine Optimization makes me dizzy. Occasionally, nauseous.

I have admittedly done a lousy job promoting this blog with SEO (or anything else!) primarily because I’m the only cowboy on this round-up and whatever time I have to spend on blogging is devoted to content and lovin’ on my community. There is no time for keyword sleuthing, begging for back links, or investigating indexes.

But I realize I need to strike at least SOME balance and asked my brilliant friend Eric Pratum (<= follow!) to set out a few basic tactics.  Here are a few of Eric’s suggestions based on industry best practices:

1) Using the Google Keyword Tool, analyze your post for relevant keywords.

When I used this method on a recent post, one of the top three keywords was “radio advertising.”

And at this point we’re all saying, “Huh?  Radio advertising?”  Me?  So how much am I supposed to trust these applications?  What if I spend my precious time plugging keywords that ultimately have no return for the business?

2) Using your new-found keywords, drive search to your site by aiming for a keyword density in your posts of about 7%.

Based on the average length of a sentence, this would mean you would have to use approximately one keyword per sentence.  Are there people out there really writing this way? How many times can you use “radio advertising” in a sentence and still get people to read your blog post?

3) Get relevant websites to link to your pages using the keywords as the anchor text.

To me, this seems like an impossible and depressing task.  OK, so I call up my favorite blogger Jay Baer and beg him to link to my blog. And oh yeah, Jay, could you somehow position your post around me and my expertise in “radio advertising?” And how many times am I supposed to do that?  With what measurable result?

I get a lot of “organic” links because people are kind enough to blog about my blog. But the idea of trying to negotiate with another blogger or website to link to me using my precise keywords (radio advertising!) seems like a huge waste of time.  I just don’t see myself doing this. I frequently receive emails requesting link trades and it all seems a bit illicit and creepy.

And just when I think I am starting to figure this out, some experts think SEO is ineffective for individual bloggers anyway and that we should rely almost entirely on social media to build traffic. What’s a time-starved blogging boy to do?

To make the heresy complete, I’m not even sure I WANT to “build traffic.”  Have you looked at the stats for visitors who come to your site from Google? How much time do they spend on your site?  Usually “0 seconds.” How often do they return?  “0 times.”

Now I realize I have opened myself up for a shellacking because I’ve taken an overly-simple view of SEO, primarily because I am an overly-simple person.  I am convinced that SEO is a powerhouse strategy for many products and companies.  But if you are an entrepreneur or small business blogger and can’t afford to have an SEO team backing you up, what is a reasonable, time-effective, measurable approach that will result in new blog residents, not tourists?

Here’s the good news — Eric is thinking about this and working on a guest post to help us all cut through the clutter. But in the mean time, I think I will just focus on interesting content and count on y’all to spread the word. It has worked so far.

How are you dealing with SEO for your blog?   Are you are as frustrated by time-consuming SEO alchemy as I am or have you cracked the code?

Why Chris Brogan is invincible

Chris Brogan

I am fascinated with uber-blogger Chris Brogan as a cultural icon of the social media revolution.  Whether it’s trying new business models or pioneering sponsored posts, he is our canary in the coal mine, exploring the leading edges of our field.

But  a post this week established a new milestone even for Chris. For your edification and entertainment, I am re-printing the entire post. Under a hand-drawn picture of a stick figure at a podium, he wrote:

“Okay, don’t do this. If you’re going to speak to people, speak TO (or even better WITH) them. Don’t look at your slides, read your slides, and tell me what’s on your slides. I know how to read. Stop it. Okay?”

… That’s it — 41 words.

What is remarkable about this?  Nothing until you see this: 

For you math majors out there, that is 6.7 tweets per word.  Further, Chris received nearly 50 comments, so there were nine more comments than total words in the post.  Ladies and gentlemen, that has to be a new world record.

The comments were uniformly positive and even included words like “brilliant!!!!” and “awesome.”

I’m going to go WAY out on a limb here.  This is not a brilliant post.  In fact, this is pretty standard presentation advice that has been delivered since the days of flip charts and transparencies. If somebody told you this in a company training program you might roll your eyes and yawn.   I’ll even hypothesize that Chris would admit this does not teeter into his category of “brilliant” posts.

So why the big buzz over 41 not-awesome words?  Taken only at face value, this might indicate the social web is not a meritocracy.  But in this world, what really is?  So there is something else going on here. If we examine this post as a case study, what are the lessons we can learn as mere human bloggers?

Be the brand

Chris is more than a blogger, he is a brand … a big brand in social media terms.  This is an important lesson for two reasons.

1) Yes, you have a brand too. Everything you say — and don’t say — on the social web contributes to your cumulative image, your brand promise. Chris has very carefully curated a powerful image of authentic helpfulness that has endeared him to many loyal fans no matter what he writes.

2) On the blogosphere, people are bigger than the brands they have created. If the CEO of Coke left, Coke would survive. But if Chris turned his blog over to somebody else, the brand would shrivel up.  Here’s the unique opportunity: As a blogger, you ARE the brand.

Blogger as celebrity

Chris gets beaten up a lot by critics but among his loyal fans he has earned a cloak of invincibility associated with celebrity.  In this rarefied status, even the mundane becomes special and true fans are fascinated by his every word. If Chris wrote a post titled “I’m feeling a little gassy today” it would also be tweeted 300 times. (Chris — Please do this. I will PAY you to do this).

The lesson for us?  Unless you are a celebrity, and I’m pretty sure you’re not, you do not have a cloak of invincibility. Your content does matter and it better be compelling and entertaining to earn your reader engagement. Reader loyalty is not an entitlement, it’s a hard-earned honor.

Showing up, not showing off

One of the most important lessons you can learn from Chris’s success is that the guy is committed. Blogging is not an after-thought. It is not something delegated to guest bloggers. You show up and you work it — in his case, for years. He did not get to be our social media teddy bear by blogging once a month. Chris averages 7.5 posts a freaking week.

Chris shows up in other ways, too. Look down Ad Age list of top marketing blogs and he is one of the few who engages in a meaningful way across the social channels. Despite his enormous following, he still pays attention and is humble enough to learn from his tribe.

Simple can be good enough

This post demonstrates that an effective blog post does not have to be a PhD thesis. It doesn’t have to be edited to death.  Write about what’s happening now, what’s in your heart and mind in the moment.  Just do it.

I don’t think Chris intentionally writes for a target demographic.  He writes for himself and obviously has some fun doing it.  He loves to blog and it shows. By writing about what is interesting to him, he didn’t find his audience, his audience found him.

He can be a polarizing figure and I have been a Chris Brogan critic too, but I think we also have to give the guy credit. He has found his formula, he has stuck to it with tenacity and passion and he can now claim success in 50 words or less.

What lessons do you draw from this strange little blog post?

P.S. This post was 804 words long. If I don’t get 804 comments, there is going to be trouble around here. ;-)

B2B Marketing Automation gathers steam

Marketing automation software is arguably the hottest segment of the CRM industry and becoming the centerpiece of many marketing programs. We’re fortunate to have Lauren Carlson, an expert in this area, provide a guest post today explaining this important trend!

While it was a relatively quiet niche several years ago, marketers are now adopting automation systems aggressively. Vendors such as Genius, Eloqua, Marketo, and Pardot are reaping the benefits and growing fast. The marketing automation software industry clearly has a steady tailwind at its back.

The increasingly challenging B2B sales environment is forcing companies to explore new ways to market and sell their products.  A confluence of trends is changing the way business buyers purchase, making marketing automation software essential.  Here are a few trends driving this growth:

Buyers want content of real value.
Traditional pamphlets and brochures filled with marketing jargon just don’t cut it anymore. Buyers are looking for informative and interesting content that provides actual value and education throughout the sales cycle. Increasingly, the first two-thirds of that cycle is spent researching the market and vendors, without regular contact with a sales rep. To remain top of mind with the buyer and claim the “thought leadership” position, marketers are deploying marketing automation to provide a steady stream of educational content for buyers.

Buyers are increasingly wary of the phone.
One of the biggest issues sales professionals face when engaging with prospective buyers is a declining level of sales engagement. This is often because the buyer is just getting started on research, overwhelmed with competing priorities and not ready for a sales pitch. Also, when the economy is poor and money is tight, consumers become much more skeptical of sales people making big promises. Compound that with a macro trend away from the phone and toward email and the web. As a result, sales and marketing teams are facing the challenge of selling to buyers who won’t talk to their sales team. Delivering the right content over time is a great way to “warm up” buyers until they are ready to talk to sales.

Desire for marketing accountability.
Marketing has traditionally been somewhat of a “black box” expense for businesses. While development could be measured on release cycles and product quality, and sales was measured on performance against plan, it’s tough to track marketing’s ROI on positioning, collateral and brand building. B2B marketers have traditionally gotten off easy in terms of strict accountability, but are often the first budget to get cut and were sometimes looked down upon by more accountable departments. Marketing automation empowers marketing to define its contribution to the sales pipeline, tracking each sale back to one or more marketing campaigns.

Sales cycles are longer in a down economy.
Under adverse economic conditions, buyers are less inclined to purchase – plain and simple. Even when there is a clear business challenge and a solution with real ROI, tight budgets create hesitation on the part of the buyer. Therefore, sales professionals are faced with increasingly risk-averse prospects whose buying time frames are longer. Marketing automation tools supporting drip marketing campaigns and lead nurturing can build relationships with buyers during a longer sales process.

B2B sales processes are becoming “consumerized.“
According to Peter Sondergaard, SVP at Gartner, consumerization is a significant trend that will affect enterprise IT purchasing this decade and beyond. What does that mean? Business buyers are demanding that their enterprise purchase process be simplified to match the consumer purchases they make in their private lives. They demand coherent pitches, simplified pricing, rapid implementation and ease of use. Moreover, they don’t want to have to interact with sales every time they want information. Marketing automation plays a critical role in supporting self-service sales interactions.

SaaS systems are greasing the skids.
Given the number of relatively new entrants into the marketing automation market, almost all of these systems are built on a modern, software as a service (SaaS) architecture. This has reduced friction for early adopters. Buyers have been able to get up to speed and start demonstrating value far more quickly than early adopters of sales force automation (SFA) and call center software in the 1990s. Moreover, subscription pricing has enabled marketers to add a digestible monthly or quarterly line item into their budgets, rather than seek approval for a costly capital expenditure for on-premise software.

It will be interesting to watch the development of this CRM application over the next couple years as companies learn to adjust to and embrace the new realities of B2B sales.  What are seeing in your companies? Have I missed any trends?

Lauren Carlson is a CRM Analyst for Software Advice and covers various topics related to CRM software, with particular interest in sales force automation, marketing automation, and customer service. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/crmadvice .

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