Monthly Archives: August 2013

Search meets Social: The new face of SEO

Over the years you’ve probably heard a lot of different advice for how to rank your website higher in the search engines.  While it’s still possible to manipulate your search ranking, a more sustainable approach to search engine optimization is to get back to the basics and focus on a positive user experience giving your visitors a reason to share your content.  This social sharing is the new face of SEO and will continue to play a larger role in the future. The following presentation provides a good framework for an optimized website.

Reliable Web Host

As you see it all starts with a reliable hosting company. You want to ensure when the search engines are looking for your content they can find it easily.  Server load times matter!  By using Rackspace or Amazon, you will have a much better page load speed than on GoDaddy or other shared hosting.

Content Management System

A content management system (CMS) is a tool used to manage the content of a website easily.  A good CMS such as WordPress can give your site a really solid framework to build an optimized site.  The following are my recommended WordPress plugins to help with your optimization efforts:

  • WordPress SEO
    Write better content and have a fully optimized WordPress site using the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.
  • Redirection
    Easily manage 301 redirections and keep track of 404 errors without requiring knowledge of Apache .htaccess files.
  • Broken Link Checker
    Search engines don’t want to see broken links.  This plugin will check your posts, comments and other content for broken links and missing images, and notify you if any are found.
  • Google XML Sitemaps
    Make it easy for search engines to find your content.  This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines better index your blog.
  • W3 Total Cache
    Speed up your site’s load time.  Improve site performance and user experience via caching: browser, page, object, database, minify and content delivery network support.
  • Google Analytics for WordPress
    Track your statistics easily and with lots of metadata: views per author & category, automatic tracking of outbound clicks and page views.

Responsive Website Design

Mobile friendly websites matter! Today it is more than just avoiding Flash like the plague, a good looking website on a desktop does not translate to a mobile device well without building it responsively.

Learn more about responsive web design here:

Attention to Detail

Remember that the search engine’s role is to serve the most relevant content with a quality experience.  You can think of a search engine like a concierge at a nice hotel when you ask for their recommendations on good places to dine.  If you have a horrible experience based on the recommendations of the concierge you probably won’t go back and ask for more advice.  This is the same for a search engine.  They don’t want to send you to a website with tons of broken links, poor grammar and poor content.  There are a number of tools available to help monitor the user experience, the two most helpful are Google’s Webmasters Tools and Google’s Analytics.

  • Google Webmaster Guidelines
    Stay up to date with best practices to help Google find, crawl, and index your site.  Google wants you to succeed and takes great effort to provide guidelines and updates on what you need to know to help them help you.
  • Google Webmaster Tools
    Strongly recommend verifying your site with Google Webmaster Tools and add your XML sitemap.  You can use Google Webmaster tools to be alerted if you have site issues ranging from broken links to malware.
  • Google Analytics
    You must install Google Analytics tracking to your website (recommend Universal Analytics especially if you have a mobile version) so you can have a sense of who is visiting your site.  The data has many uses, but one aspect is to check bounce & exit ratio to see how your content is performing.

Create Compelling Content

Now that you have an optimized platform it’s time to showcase some really great content on it.  Do not underestimate the need for quality content.  You want to  be compelling and informative (or entertaining).  The more engaging the content, the more loyal the visitors.  The byproduct of great content is that it begs to be shared.  If you create a great article, infographic or similar you will earn inbound links which directly impacts your search ranking.

Build Your Authority

It is important to build authority both as a brand and also as an author.

Claim your name

The first step to establishing your authority is to claim and connect your social media profiles.  Even if you or your company does not plan on being on each social platform, for the sake of reputation management, you really need to claim your name on all social channels.  There are a number of services such as which can help claim all of the platforms for you.

Google’s Authorship

Historically, Google’s has used their PageRank algorithm to identify authority on a website.  A big change currently happening is the shift from a domain to the author of the content.  Google has announced:

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results.”

This shift makes having a Google+ account and building your authorship critical.  Authorship is established by linking your Google+ account to the various domains you contribute content on with a reciprocal rel=”author” link back to Google+ profile.  Once this connection is made you can test the connection using Google’s Rich Snippets tool.  Learn more about the Authorship program on Google’s website.

Get Social

Harness the power of social media by sharing your content and making it easy for others to share it!

Share your content!

After you create content, leverage your social networks to promote its visibility.  If you create a blog post, be sure to post it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other relevant networks.  Leverage a featured image in your blog post so that when you share it out it will be accompanied by a thumbnail.  Open Graph meta tags allow you to control the content that displays when a page is accessed through a social channel. For WordPress, consider using the WP Facebook OG plugin or similar to easily integrate these tags into your website.  It will make it more visual when you share content out to the various social channels.

Make it easy for others to share your content!

By placing social buttons (similar to the ones on the left) sharing becomes very easy!  Really, go ahead and try it out :)   The plugin we use is DiggDigg for WordPress but there are a number of other plugins we use as well:

  • DiggDigg
    Make it easy for visitors to share your content!  This plugin creates a sexy share button to accompany your content.
  • Disqus Comment System
    Make it easy for visitors to leave comments!  Rather than requiring users to register on your site to leave comments (or getting bombarded by spam for not restricting it to logged users) the Disqus comments leverages the social media accounts you are most likely already signed into to make it easy to comment.

Leverage & Reward your advocates

In the last blog post on the power of brand advocates I discussed the importance of leveraging your customers and employees to further your reach and generate word of mouth marketing.  One feature of SurroundsMe that has helped me rank #1 in Google for “Search Engine Optimization Expert” is a tool which visualizes how many social shares each of the pages in your website have and makes it easy to validate the content socially.


As a general summary, the secret to SEO is to start with an optimized web hosting provider and content management system.  Then create quality content which attracts inbound links and reinforce your content with social shares.

SEO Pyramid

Search Engine Optimization Pyramid

The power of Brand Advocacy

In yesterdays discussion at the Social Media Club’s “Big Results, Small Budget” we discussed several topics.  My table’s topic was Brand Advocacy.   We discussed how building brand advocates is a long term and sustainable solution to empower the community to share your message, create content and develop lasting relationships.  Here are a few more notes from the event:

What is the difference between influencers and brand advocates?

Before we can discuss the difference between influencers and advocates, we should define them.

How do you determine if someone is influential?

First, the degree of someones social influence is not about sheer numbers of followers someone has.  It should be better determined by the level of engagement they can drive.   You can get a good sense of someone’s social reach by going through each of their social posts and viewing the number of times they were shared out and if the message was re-shared again and so on.  Another way is to just check their Klout score :)

What is a brand advocate?

Simply put, a brand advocate is a person who talks favorably about a brand or product creating positive word-of-mouth (WOM) messages about the brand to other people.  Having brand advocates is critical because customers are likely to make buying decisions based on recommendations, the more advocates you have the greater the WOM marketing force you have.

Comparing influencers to advocates

A fun infographic by Jay Baer on this topic depicts the difference between influencers and advocates.  In the blog post he is quoted:

True influence requires two things: audience and advocacy. Advocacy is driven by the depth of conviction, and influencers typically are less committed to the product or company than are actual customer advocates.

So the question becomes, which is more important to embrace?  The answer may be different based on which stage you are at with your audience.  If you are starting off and need to build awareness, then leveraging influencers can get you the initial visibility you need to get kickstarted.  But as you grow the relationship with your audience it is critical you start embracing and fostering advocacy

How do you uncover existing advocates?

The good news is, you probably already have great brand advocates, the question is if they are activated or not.  You can identify your advocates in three main steps:

  1. Listen.  An obvious method is to check your social review profile and see who is writing the strongest reviews.  Another powerful method is to do a search for you branded keywords and see who is already talking favorably about you.  There are a number of social media listening tools available that can help with this process.  Just remember, a social mention alone does not indicate brand advocacy, but if they are taking the time to generate positive content, that is a good sign.
  2. Ask.  Poll your customers and see if they past the ultimate test, “How likely are you to recommend us?”  Base the responses on a scale from 0 to 10.  Customers who answer a 9 or higher are your advocates.
  3. Analyze. The most tangible way to determine brand advocates is to check consumer behavior.  Identify referral sources for sales, website visitor traffic and more.

It is recommended that you add these advocates to a social CRM or even just a spreadsheet so you can classify and reach out to them.

How do you foster new advocates?

In addition to identifying your existing advocates you should also foster new advocates.  Here are a few ways to get started:

  1. Loyalty program.  Create a formal customer loyalty program to acknowledge your customers.  Take the time to recognize them for their support.
  2. Inform your audience.  Create open lines of communication with your customers keeping them up to date with your newest developments. Let your customers anticipate their next brand experience.  By letting them know what you are up to they will feel part of the process and part of the team.
  3. Give swag.  Issue swag as a reward for interactions.  Send out items they can use that remind them of your brand and can also be seen by others.  We all like to feel we are unique or exclusive and people will share this experience (and maybe even the swag) to others.
  4. Solicit feedback.  Listen to your customers, ask them for their feedback on ways you can improve your product/service or customer experience.  You can do this through in-person conversations/discussion groups or electronic methods.
  5. Make them feel special.  This is really the overarching trend on activating your customers.  Make them feel special and appreciated and they will reciprocate.

How do you activate your advocates?

Once you have identified your advocates the next step is to activate them.  Most brands are missing out by not fully leveraging the potential of their advocates.

  1. Give marketing material.  While organic WOM is very powerful, many advocates are not always clear on what your message is or how they can help you.  Make their efforts more effective by arming them with the right message!
  2. Give appropriate assignments.  One thing to realize is that all advocates are not made equally.  It is important to segment your advocates into where they sit on the social technographics ladder and what assignments they are most likely to complete.
  3. Make it easy to share. The power of social marketing is pushing for the referral.  Ensure you make it easy to share your content through social sharing widgets and tell a friend programs.

Don’t forget to reward or acknowledged for good behavior!  We all have different ways we like to be rewarded, find out how people prefer to be thanked and make sure they feel appreciated for their efforts.

What about your employees?!

Don’t forget to leverage your employees to further your communication objectives!  Check back for a full post on this topic.

Top 5% of Work 3.0 Job Creators on oDesk

Boom!  Look what just hit our inbox, oDesk recognized us as one of the top 5% of Work 3.0 job creators on all of oDesk!  Who doesn’t love accolades, even if it only means you spent way to much money getting your dream realized.  Seriously though, it is really empowering to able to scale talent easily and rapidly develop such a complex application.

Top 5 Percent on oDesk


The “Work 3.0″ movement excites us at SurroundsMe.  One of our key initiatives is our Author program which allows social marketers to easily make money through our Campaign Marketplace.  We are creating a platform where marketers have the ability to set their own rates, choose when they want to create new social campaigns and work on social campaigns that are most interesting to them.

For Brands, there is a great deal of value in leveraging freelancers from down the street to around the globe.  Our goal is to harness the collective brain of social marketing and serve it up in a structured results oriented way.  We also want to embrace social marketers and make it easy to make your fans your social marketing street team.

When hiring Work 3.0 marketers, here is some good advice from oDesk’s CEO, Gary Swart, on top five tips for  hiring social media marketers:

  1. Choose your channels. The first step, he said, is to determine which channels to use. This decision should be based on where your target audience is and what your social media marketing goals are.
  2. Identify experts in those channels. After you have identified your target social media channels and what your goals will be for each of them, you should look for social media marketers with expertise on those specific platforms, as not all social media channels are created equal.
  3. Be descriptive. When writing your job description, “be crystal clear, not just about the needs but about the wants,” Gary said.
  4. Ask relevant questions in the job post. This allows you to both assess applicants’ qualifications but also to determine if they read the job description carefully.
  5. Do a test project. Hire your top candidates for a small test project, one that will give you a good indication of their social media marketing skills. One thing to keep an eye out for, Gary noted, is that the candidates have an authentic voice in their messaging, as authenticity is key in social media marketing.

But once you hire a social marketer you need to know what to ask for and what metrics to use to determine if they are generating true value for your brand.  With SurroundsMe, not only can you crowdsource simple social marketing tasks, but also provide a framework for ensuring your in-house or contracted social marketers are meeting your business or communication goals.  SurroundsMe also gives you the measurement tools to determine return on investment by successfully meeting the target key performance indicators.

UPDATE 8/6: This was a really nice bonus and a sign of pro-active social marketing:

Wrapping Production for Beta Release

With over 3,600 commits over 5 months we are wrapping production of the beta release of SurroundsMe. Through GitHub we can easily visualize how the product matured through each commit our development team pushed. The following shows activity by month.

GitHub commits

Visualization of commits to the SurroundsMe software

As the chart indicates, the majority of the product was done by June 1st. Since then the focus of development has largely been in supporting features such as a sophisticated CRON and email system, badge logic, forum and more. A core product can not truly shine without an equally impressive supporting product so much effort has been in building out the administrative backend and supporting user features.

After pruning the code the breakdown is 1,638 Laravel PHP files, 226 JavaScript, 87 CSS, 61 Markdown, 35 HTML, 32 Less, 12 XML, 5 JSON and 1 SQL in a pear tree.

With a core team of 7 core developers and an army of freelancers we really proved how rapidly we could develop such a complicated product. Due to diverse time zones, about the only time GitHub wasn’t taking a beating by our team was 3am to 7am Hawaii time. This is also about the only time we were able to get any sleep over the last 5 months.

GitHub Punchcard

Punchcard with time and day of commit activity

It really is an exciting time as we wrap development on SurroundsMe and prepare to launch our Beta.
We are thankful to our hard working team of code chiefs, style sheet sultans, javascript junkies, interface instigators and quality control freaks who made the product possible.

Looking forward to your thoughts on our software be sure to sign up for our newsletter to be notified of the next round of beta users we bring on.

Get Big Results with Small Budgets

Social media is never a small task—from the ever-changing platforms and tools to staying on top of trends and best practices, from the daily management to targeted campaigns, social media can be a full-time job. But often times we are faced with large tasks with little resources.

Social Media Club of Hawaii

At the Social Media Club event Small Budgets, Big Results: August #SMCHI Educational Event SurroundsMe co-founder Rob Bertholf will discuss how to create and deploy advocacy strategies and harness some of your biggest assets in social media: your loyal fans and employees.  Additional questions answered at the event will be:

  • What are ways non-profits are maximizing their budget?
  • How can you extend the conversation on social media during live events?
  • How can an employee policy help make your organization more efficient?
  • How can you harness your employees and fans to create advocates?
  • How can engagement be your biggest money-saving asset?

If you are in the Honolulu area be sure to register for the event.