Google+ Communities: Do You Need/Want to Start?

Have you heard about Google+ Communities? Yeah… that’s a thing now. If this sounds vaguely familiar, perhaps you’re thinking about Google Groups, which is basically a forum that supports discussion groups based  on common interests. If Communities is reminding you of a Facebook service, that would be Facebook Groups.

Confused yet? Instead of arguing about who started what and who is copying whom, let’s take a look a quick look at these new Communities:

What is it?
Gather together“, “Have rich conversations“, and “Explore your interests“. No, these aren’t requirements of “The Finer Things Club”, but rather a brief description of what Communities have to offer. In short, 1) find things that interest you, 2) join, 3) invite others and 4) contribute away.

What do you do?
You can easily find, categorize and you can even participate in topics that you’re interested via Hangouts. If you’re lucky enough to find a free topic, you can even create and moderate your own Community. Remember, this isn’t your personal/business page or a place to promote yourself. I’m assuming that Communities were meant for personal social networking and actual discussions, not sales pitches.

Are you going to participate and do you need to?
If you’re an active Google + user, Communities might be the next best thing you’re looking for. Since so many people are comparing Communities to Facebook Groups, which I’ve seen used on a more personal and private level, we’ll just see what Google has in store. Will the content be publicly indexed like Google Groups or will it have the option to be more on more of a lock down like Facebook Groups?

I highly doubt Google Communities will be as mainstream as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ so depending on your consumer base, personal interest and resources, Communities might now be helpful for your business. On the other hand, if you’re in the business of mixing, mingling, learning different things and potentially opening new doorways, Communities might come handy.

Do you plan on participating in Google Communities? Check out these related articles and let us know:

Google Communities Might Best Facebook Groups, But How Long Before We Rebel?
Google launches Google+ Communities, competitor to Facebook Groups
Google+ Communities: Good for Users, Marketers, and Google

Online Marketing Lessons to Learn from 3 Scary Movies

Halloween season is finally upon us! And even though the weather is in the upper 80’s here in Los Angeles, it’s always fun to get into the fall spirit by conjuring up some scary movies and see what we can learn from them. Scaredy-cats, be warned!

1) The Exorcist
In horror movies, it’s particular disturbing to see things that are distorted from things we see in everyday life. What might seem normal in an advanced yoga class isn’t so cool when it’s in the form of a possessed, 12-year old girl spider walking downstairs! That’s why certain angles and even slight changes to regular features are so scary.

Keep this in mind when designing your website – even with the most basic things such as having a Home button towards the left-hand navigation and Contact Us to the right. It’s not smart to tweak traditional design elements that can confuse customers and cause them to leave. In some cases, it can be downright spoOooOoky.

spider walk

2) Killer Klowns from Outer Space
If you haven’t seen this cult-classic, you’re really missing out. Evil alien clowns terrorize a small town with popcorn and cotton candy guns. Did I mention that they drink their victims through a silly straw?

Much like SEO, clowns get a bad wrap. Clowns can be creepy (Pennywise from IT and clown doll from Poltergeist) and SEOs can be deceptive (hidden text and content scraping). The origins of clowns come from a  happy, positive place… which so happened to fall down a deep, dark place over the years. The same thing goes for search marketing. There are ethical ways to go about online marketing and then there are methods that are 100% designed to manipulate search engines.

So the choice is yours… are you going to be a good (whitehat) SEO or dabble in blackhat methods that could get your site penalized?

3) Twilight Zone Episode: “Button, Button”

Ok, so this isn’t a movie but it’s too good to be left out. The storyline is as follows: a couple receive an offer from a strange man – a box with a button. If they press the button, they’ll receive $200,000 but a person who they don’t know will die. They end up pressing the button, receiving the money WITH the ominous warning that the box will be reset and give to someone else who they don’t know!

As always, the lesson learned here is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of any internet marketing firm who promises you X amount of #1 rankings. Or “social media gurus” who promise you business from thousands of “fans”. When it comes to marketing your business, it’s best to use your common sense and not to be greedy. Online marketing is slow, persistent work that pays off in the long run. There are no shortcuts and those who choose them will face consequences sooner than later.

Make sure to stay tuned for 3 more scary movies and their takeaways!

Takeaways From Google’s Penguin Update

penguinYet another “surprise” for SEOs?

Google’s Penguin Update officially launched on April 24 and the overall consensus is that it’s the worst update yet.  The official word from Google is that this update is an “important algorithm change targeted at webspam” that is meant to “reward high-quality sites”. Then why exactly are so many people so upset?

As you can see from the influx of comments in related forum threads and news articles, webmasters are NOT happy with this update. The story is similar – sites with #1 rankings for months (or even years), have all of a sudden taken a drastic drop or have even disappeared. The infuriating thing is that many people are finding that spam sites, sites that haven’t been updated for years or even plain un-optimized sites are now out ranking their site. How exactly is this “rewarding” high quality content?

SEOs aside, looking at the user experience is not a pretty picture either. Imagine that you’re looking for affordable or cheap auto insurance, only to find spam at the top results. When Penguin first rolled out, some users pointed out how people would have to scroll past a couple pages before getting to a reputable, brand name auto insurance company. They argue that this update isn’t aimed completely at spam (since it is still prevalent in SERPs) but any site that is remotely optimized. Whether this is true or not, is a different story. Even one that we may not fully understand since Google hasn’t officially made a response to these reactions.

This is only day 3 after the update rollout, so we can hopefully see the changes settle down and smooth out. Whether it’s all just a coincidence or theory, Google is finding themselves in controversial waters, so get ready to read more about Google’s evil ways. Many people are commenting about Google’s motives and after reading about all the businesses that have been affected, it isn’t hard to see things from a different light. Perhaps, Google is trying to prepare their algorithm to take into account more social factors (especially Google Plus profiles.) This may make sense if you’re up to speed with the Facebook search engine news. Others feel that Google is putting less revelency into their organic search so that businesses will turn to paid ads. After all, this is where Google makes over 90% of their overall revenue…

On the less pessimistic side, the Google engineers are probably (and hopefully) taking all this feedback into consideration as they tweak the update or make note for the next update. We can’t expect algorithm changes to roll out so seamlessly and it’s important to remember that there will be some winners and losers with each new wave. It’s too early to tell how things will end up as results may take awhile to settle down, but definitely expect something to happen soon!

Facebook Timeline for Businesses Arrives

We all knew this coming. So now that it’s here, how do you feel about the new Facebook Timeline for businesses and how it changes the game for social media marketing?

No More Default Landing Tabs – The Biggest Change
Most users where upset with the changes, so how do you think businesses will feel about the new Timeline rolling out to their Pages? Most are upset that there is no longer a main landing tab where businesses can conduct contests and other promotional strategies that were also known as “Like-Gating“.

Alternatives for Promotion
But don’t fret quite just yet. This is still possible! Check out Macy’s Win a Million tab (box?). This is example of how you can run these types of contests to engage with fans. Sure, Facebook makes things more difficult and is trying to get more businesses to spend more money in their ads, but it IS still possible. This is where a website marketing firm can come handy! To keep you in the loop with new information and to help out with creating graphics, applications and whatever else your business needs.

Key Features to Utilize
The new Timeline will force businesses to be more creative – from the cover photo to new content and even displaying company history. For business owners who are worried about their Page looking empty or inactive, the Timeline creates opportunity to populate more information that will be helpful for customers. Make sure to take advantage of this and fill out:

– Company history in the About section and adding Milestones. This can be robust as you want and you can fill out as much detail as you want.
– Monitor and show or hide the “Recent Posts by Others” Section. This part reminds me of a Twitter feed that you’ll have to keep your eye on for negative or spammy comments.
– “Pin” your posts at the top of your Page. (Pinterest, anyone?) Important posts can be highlighted at the top of your page for up to 1 whole week.

Make sure to carefully read Facebook’s new guidelines for Pages – for more on what you can and can’t do. Ahem, NO promotional language in the cover photo. This is just one of many, so make sure you’re playing by Facebook’s rules!
Also, check out the Emarketed Timeline and share yours with us!

What Holiday Specials are Best for Your Customers?

online promotions

Can you believe it’s December already? If you haven’t already, it’s time to think about some seasonal specials that can help bring more customers to your business during this Christmas season. Depending on the different retail forecasts you look at, online sales are expected to rise up to 15%. What are you doing to prepare your online store for the surge of shoppers? Here are a few online promotions to think about:

Free shipping: Free shipping is enticing for customers who don’t want to actually go out to get their shopping done. Online stores also offer more variety in products than those that can be found in stores. You can encourage shoppers with free shipping after a minimum purchase of a set dollar amount.

Reward loyalty: From frozen yogurt to car washes, many businesses are taking advantage of punch cards that reward multiple visits. This doesn’t just apply to chain stores or big businesses. I visited my local jewelry for a battery replacement and was happy to find that he was giving out cards that offered 1 free replacement after 10 replacements.

BOGO: Also known as ‘buy one, get one free’ or ‘buy one, get one half off’. Customers love to see the word “free” and this will encourage them to look at other options to qualify for this special.

You can get more ideas from Stamps.com’s analysis of last year’s shopping season.


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Would Your Website Make a Worthy Thanksgiving Meal?

thanksgiving dinner

It’s almost Thanksgiving, are you hungry yet? If thinking about dinner tomorrow night isn’t enough to excite you, I’ll do my best to make things interesting by comparing it to your website!

Turkey – At Thanksgiving, we all have turkey on the brain. Do you feel the same way about your website? You can look at a turkey as it represents your site as one whole entity. From a first impression, we can tell if a turkey is going to be delicious or disgusting. And that’s how quick potential customers will judge your site. While an attractive website is enticing, you’ll have to have real substance before customers want to move on or dig in any further.

Stuffing – A turkey dinner can’t be complete without stuffing and your website shouldn’t be complete without quality content. Would you say that your content is bland and mushy, or does it have unique seasonings that showcase great textures? Trust me, it would be truly disappointing to get a great slice of turkey only to find out it was paired with something that’s essentially inedible.

Cranberry sauce – When you think of cranberry sauce, does the image of a jellied log come to mind? Think of this element like your web design. Is it a boring template that looks like it literally fell out of a can? Or is it a rich layout with original features to accommodate your small business?

Mashed potatoes – Who doesn’t love mashed potatoes? Although this is a popular side dish, it really doesn’t cut it on its own. Social media marketing is like mashed potatoes in that it complements the main event of a meal – your website. Good mashed potatoes can make a great website even better. But have you ever been satisfied with tasty potatoes with lackluster turkey? I didn’t think so.

Dessert – The crème de la crème to round off your Thanksgiving meal. Think of dessert as your reason for keeping customers interested and bringing them back. Will your customers be back for another meal or will your forgettable website give them indigestion?

An internet marketing firm doesn’t just create websites. Think of a company as a helpful tool to create an attractive gateway to your business. And like a turkey, don’t forget that your website should truly be the star of your show. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!