Why a business should have a social media strategy

About a month ago I discovered Empire Avenue and since then I can’t stay away from it. Every evening I spend about 30 minutes playing the game. Or is it a game ? I suppose the best way to describe it is a game with a reason ! I do it because social media is one way of promoting a website and raising your brands profile.

I have 5 websites, at least four blogs, two Twitter accounts (one with 2,700 followers), two You Tube channels, a Flikr account, a Tublr account, two Facebook pages, a Foursquare account, a LinkedIn account, an Instagram account, and two Google + pages. I also have Audioboo and Sound Cloud accounts. All those accounts take some maintaining !

The main reason I have these accounts is to promote my travel agency, Global Holidays and also because I enjoy writing. The more writing I do the better I get, although I suppose my readers will be the judge of that !

I have been calculating the size of my audience and its fairly impressive. My websites get about 4,000 page views a day, sometimes more. Add in my blogs and other stuff and I would think my overall page views and exposure on a good day will be about 5,000 a day. I recently registered with Klout and my Klout score is 37. Klout meaures your influence through your social media efforts. The maximum Klout score is 100 but not many reach that score, and Klout tells me that I am fairly influencial, so my aim is to increase that score which will mean my influence is increasing.

Back to Empire Avenue. In a way it’s similar to Klout but far more complex. You start the game with a pot of virtual money, called Eaves and you can use this money to buy shares in others. It’s very similar to the real stock market because you have to judge whether you will get good dividends and if the share price will increase. Now here is the interesting bit. Your share price increases based upon your social media activity. Just like Klout, you register all your social media accounts with Empire Avenue and they measure your influence by looking at how many interactions you have through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc etc.

I started with a share price of 10 and 3 weeks later my share price has gone up to 43 so I am heading in the right direction. The long established players have a share price over 500 and a portfolio value of £161M so I have a long way to go to catch up, if I ever do.

The reason I like the game is because I think there is a way to make money from it. You can use your virtual currency to buy advertising and also to reward people for “liking” your Facebook page, following you on Twitter or even watching a You Tube video. This, of course, is good if you have something to promote or sell but also, Google is using social media in its search algorithm so the more influential you are in social media the better your website will do in the search engines.

So, Empire Avenue encourages you to create good blog and other content which drives more traffic to your blog and web site. Give it a go. It beats Farm Town or Farm Ville !

Social media for a business is all about creating avenues of communication with your customers and potential customers, building your brand and driving traffic to your websites. It takes hard work to make it work. I don’t see that many brands have got it perfectly right yet but it’s still early days.

There is no doubt though that if a business does not have some sort of social media strategy they risk being left behind.

Lets dig up our roads and drive at 100Mbps

In a blog post I made a few days ago about the UK economy and the recession I said that I thought that the UK government should build for the future and invest in new roads and civil engineering projects. After the 1930’s depression in the USA the government headed by President Roosevelt started a programme to build roads, dams, airports and similar other huge projects. Billions of dollars were poured into the US economy in a bid to get the economy going again and to get people back to work.

I think that is what the UK government should do as well but we should also be thinking about 21st century infrastructure building. By that, I mean we should start laying a fibre cable network throughout the UK so that the internet will run at 100 Mbps and not the average of 2 Mbps like the internet does now. There is no doubt that the internet is the new industrial revolution and we are still only at the beginning of it. The internet is here to stay so it needs to be improved so that we can all benefit from faster internet speeds which will herald a new way of working – an age of teleworking.

Our roads seem to be constantly dug up. It should be made law that whenever a road is dug up then a fibre cable should be laid as well at the same time. I read that on average our roads are dug up by utilitity companies every 7 years. That means we could probably have a nationwide fibre network in 10 years. That would put us ahead in Europe and give us an advantage for the future.

The trouble is that in the UK we talk too much about doing something and then when we do get around to doing it it costs twice as much. I realise that it needs to be decided who pays for it, but I believe that it should be a government project with private help. Reducing VAT cost the government over £12 Billion. That sum of money lays a lot of fibre cables!

I say – lets start digging up our roads and laying fibre cables, and the sooner the better !

Is Search Engine Optimization Dead?

I spend loads of my time reading search engine forums like Webmasterworld. There are hundreds of them and after a while you soon learn to pick out the good bits of information and discard the rubbish. Everyone with a website, whether its a full blown e-commerce site or a simple blog like this one wants their website to appear high up in Google and other search engines. I have been reading comments and contributing to Webmasterworld since 2002, when I first became a member and whilst I still don’t consider myself an expert I have discovered what gives you a fighting chance to make a success in the online world.

In a recent article I was reading someone asked the question “Is search engine optimization dead?” His argument was that the days when you can optimize your website through content building and link building is dead. He feels that Google is now using the Google Toolbar and Google Analytics and using this information to rank a website. I have to say that I disagree with him. Whilst I agree that Google will use information obtained from its Toolbar, like the number of visitors a website gets and how long these visitors stay on the site, I still believe that making your website the best in can be and making it Google friendly is still the best way to obtain high search engine rankings.

My opinion on how to be a success on Google

The first thing I have come to understand about SEO is that unless you have a product or service that nobody else has or sells then there are no short cuts and no quick way of making a fortune. For most of us it is a long hard road which involves hard work and commitment to writing good quality content. You can’t just write some good content and then stop, you have to write good content nearly every day and keep writing for ever !

Good Design

The next thing is that your website needs to be well designed and good to look at. Keep it simple and make sure that your navigation from your homepage to all your other internal pages is as good as it can be. In other words, link to as many of your pages as you can from your homepage. Also, make sure your pages have a structure with plenty of good content. Each of the website pages should be focused on a particular keyword relating to the topic of your website and it is important to get the keyword density correct. Don’t over use the keyword and make the page read well so that it makes sense to the reader and provides good quality information about the topic in question.

Write Good Quality Web Pages

Use images, with alt tags, on the pages if relevant and make it a page that is natural rather than made to work well in a search engine. The rule is – build a page for your readers and not for a search engine, but at the same time make it search engine friendly. Build your chosen keywords into the body of text on that page and use keyword anchor text links to other pages, if relevant, to help your readers navigate to other important pages on your site. Again, the rule is don’t overdo the links and keep the page relevant to the reader. Keep building new quality pages as often as you can but don’t build junk pages just for the sake of it. If you can’t write enough information yourself or you find ideas have dried up then ask for a contribution from somebody who knows your product, service or area of interest. They provide a useful article in return for a mention on your website is often a good way to produce good content.

How To Build Links

Once you have a reasonable amount of good content that you are proud of then you need to keep building new pages but also you need to “tell the world” about your website. One of Google’s many measures of the importance of your website is the number and quality of other websites that link to your site. Think of a link as a “vote” for your website. I often read that a website owner does not need to build links because if you have a quality website then the links will come naturally. I don’t subscribe to this opinion unless you have a website that is way above the norm. 99% of websites need promoting by the owner. I have one website that has been online over 2 years in a niche area that has not obtained one natural inbound link in that time and it is not a bad website at all. My advice is to try and get some links by asking for them or by giving something in return. You could always start by getting a few good quality directory links. Do some research to try and find some good directories which are associated with the same theme as your own website. Buy a few links if you have to.

Always remember to build links at a reasonable pace. You need to try to fly under the Google radar. Anything done to excess over a too short a time will be picked up by Google and you could be penalized if Google feels you are attempting to manipulate the rankings. Don’t obtain hundreds of useless links, you need to obtain some good quality links from other sites that have trust and authority. You will recognise these sites when you see them. One good link from a good site like a newspaper or news site is worth more than hundreds of spammy links.

Click here for more link building tips

Other Types of Website Promotion

Don’t think that making a success of your website is all about good design and links. Like any successful business you have to promote your website in other “offline” ways. Use your web address on all your stationary and try to promote it anyway you can think of. You need to build a reputation and like any business it takes time and patience. Just because you have an online business don’t believe the hype that you will become an overnight millionaire, you won’t, but if you keep adding good useful information in a way that is interesting to read then you will eventually have a website that you actually may make some money from.

How Long Does It Take To Get High Rankings in Google?

If you follow my advice then you will start to see some good visitor traffic after 3 or 4 months. If you have a 100 page website that has good content and a few good links then you can expect to be receiving 50 visitors a day after 3 months. Some people will get far more than that and some will get less. These are figures based on my own experience after launching quite a few what I consider good websites. You do, however, need to be receiving two or three hundred visitors a day if you have a website selling something, before you will start to see some income and that is presuming you have a product that is well priced and is what people want !

Have Patience And Be The Best

Don’t expect overnight success. There are lots of other web site owners who are doing the same as you so you have to stand out from the rest if you want to beat them. Also, don’t expect to get high rankings for competitive keywords in the first 12 months. One of Google’s ranking measures is the age of a website. Older websites will have an advantage over newer sites, but you can get good rankings for less competitive keywords. These are the ones you should be aiming for in the short term.

Above all, remember to keep building regular new good quality web pages, keep your site “fresh” and keep building good quality inbound links at a reasonable speed. Good luck !

The top searches on Google

At the end of every year the search engine Google publishes its list of the most searched for search terms. And, as always the list throws up some very interesting facts about what’s happening in the world and how people are thinking.

In terms of worldwide searches this is the top 10 searches in Google in 2008.

1. sarah palin
2. beijing 2008
3.facebook login
4. tuenti
5. heath ledger
6. obama
7.nasza klasa
8.wer kennt wen
9.euro 2008
10. jonas brothers

What’s interesting about the above list is that Sarah Palin, the Alaskan governor, who was John Mcain’s running mate in the 2008 US elections, came above the eventual winner Barak Obama. Maybe that’s because nobody had heard of her and we all wanted to know more.

At number 4 on the list is the word “tuenti” ! I had to look up the word on Google to find out what it meant as I had never heard of it. Tuenti is the Madrid based Spanish equivalent of Facebook !

At number 7 and 8 are phrases I have never heard of and out of all the top 10 global searches I can say that I didn’t search once for any of these.

Below are the results of the searches done in the UK

Fastest Rising in the UK

1. iplayer
2. facebook
3. iphone
4. youtube
5. yahoo mail
6. large hadron collider
7. obama
8. friv
9. jogos
10. wiki

A few surprises in the UK’s fastest rising search phrases. I have never heard of “friv”, which apparently is an online games website and jogos looks like a Spanish website for games cheats. Apart from that, we are showing how we like science as at number 7 the hadron collider was in the list.

Most Popular

1. facebook
2. bbc
3. youtube
4. ebay
5. games
6. news
7. hotmail
8. bebo
9. yahoo
10. jobs

Politicians (Most Popular)

1. gordon brown
2. david cameron
3. barack obama
4. tony blair
5. sarah palin
6. john mccain
7. george osborne
8. alistair darling
9. boris johnson
10. nicolas sarkozy

Recipes (Fastest Rising)

1. cupcake
2. meatballs
3. rocky road
4. crumble topping
5. eaton mess
6.pork belly
7. rhubarb fool
8. lemon posset
9. honey comb
10. beer batter

The top 10 recipe searches is a bit of an odd one. Cupcakes !…who on earth would want to make cupcakes ? I have no idea what rocky road is or lemon posset. Why is it that people aren’t searching for recipes for beef curry or Yorkshire puddings or beef stroganoff and other gourmet food !

Hottest tickets (Fastest Rising)

1. oasis
2. leonard cohen
3. ac/dc
4. the ashes
5. steve coogan
6. sos
7. oliver
8. gladiators
9. tina turner
10. nickleback

Oasis at number 1 for the most searched for band is a surprise too. I thought that Oasis were past their best, but obviously I am behind the times.