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3 Simple Ways to Make Email Marketing Work for You

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 06:04

No matter what your business, email marketing can work for you. Whether you sell office widgets or offer a carpet-cleaning service, every business can benefit from this affordable marketing option.

“The return on investment for email marketing is high, about $40 for every $1 spent,” says Jill Bastian, our Community Education and Training Manager.

“This is not only a fantastic number to see, but it’s also held pretty steady over the years,” she adds. “Email marketing is very inexpensive, usually just pennies per email. It reaches lots of people and can bring in sales/donations very quickly.” 

The return on investment is one of the main reasons so many businesses turn to email marketing, but how can you make it work for your business? Read on for three simple ways!

1. Select from professionally designed templates
When you’re ready to create and send an email, you can select from, for example, dozens of professionally designed templates. With just a few clicks, you can upload your company logo, add links to your website, and create a must-read message for your recipients.

No need for graphic design or coding skills; these are drop-and-drag templates that are a snap for any business owner to create. Time is money. Great templates keep your time commitment to a minimum.

2. Integrate your emails with social media channels
Email and social media marketing can work together to boost your business. That’s why you should link your social media accounts to your email marketing campaigns. Every email you send out shouldn’t just have your logo and a call to action; it should also include a one-click link to your social channels like this:

3. Send a variety of emails
From coupons to product advice, you want to offer email recipients a variety of content. Keep your email marketing fresh and valuable. It’s one of the best ways to keep your customers opening, reading and engaging with your email content.

“Keep sending interesting and beneficial info and your readers will in turn make a purchase, donation or attend an event,” Bastian says. “It’s one of the best ways to get customers to interact with your email.”

If you need a little email inspiration, check out “Nine Emails Your Business Should Be Sending.” In fact, our blog is chock-full of great tips to help you send an array of great emails.

A few tips to get you started
Now that you know how you’ll integrate email marketing into your day, here are a few tips to get your email engine running:

  • Write creative, specific subject lines
    Your subject line should entice the reader to open your email. It should explain what’s inside. Give the reader an idea of what to expect.
  • Keep it short
    Your recipients get hundreds of emails, so make sure you write a short, captivating message.
  • Have a clear call to action
    Each email should have a clear call-to-action. What do you want the reader to do? Make a purchase, read a blog post? Whatever the desired action, make sure there is a link or a call-to-action button that takes the reader to the right spot on your website.
  • Have fun
    Have some fun when creating and sending emails. Recipients respond to humorous, out-of-the-box content.

For more information, grab our free guides, How Email Marketing Helps Your Business and The Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing.

How does email marketing work for you? Tell us in the comment section below.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 3 Simple Ways to Make Email Marketing Work for You appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

4 Steps to Creating Advantageous Advertorials

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 06:00

If you’ve ever found your Internet browsing disturbed by a pop-up or flashing display ad, you already know that engaging content is much more likely to pique your interest than something that’s interruptive. But because only a small portion of your clients or prospects read your blog or visit your website, it sometimes takes a little bit more to reach them where they are.

Enter advertorials, a type of content marketing that is seamlessly interwoven into the editorial content of news sites, or even print media. Although advertorials are clearly labeled as such, both for legal reasons – as mandated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – and ethical ones, research shows that readers are as engaged with native ads as with pure editorial content.

Advertorials, also known as native ads, are viewed more than four times as often as banner ads, according to IPG Media Lab. Advertorials also build brand loyalty and improve purchase intent.

Many people consider advertorials, native advertising and so-called “branded content” as synonymous, but according to Reuters’ Felix Salmon, there is a slight difference – “native content tends to aspire more to going viral” and to win social media shares by readers. Aside from occasional controversial ads, or particularly interesting super bowl ads, readers sharing ads is a rare phenomenon. Advertorials or native advertising, when done appropriately, has much more viral lift. Consider Virgin Mobile’s content on BuzzFeed, or Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” infographic in The New York Times. These native ad examples are both highly shareable.

Ready to get started? Check out these four tips we’ve come up with to help you navigate the process.

1. Find a good fit
A sponsored post from the Church of Scientology in the Atlantic is one classic example of an advertorial gone wrong. On the other hand, IBM’s native content in the same magazine fared much better because it matched both the design and the type of editorial content typically seen in the magazine.

Basically, the trick is to pick a publication that will resonate with the message you’d like to send out, or the type of content you’re interested in creating. Take a look at the types of newspapers, magazines and websites your prospects are already consuming. One of those may well be a great fit. Just make sure that readers know your content is paid, even if it’s very similar to the editorial content on the site … which brings us to the next tip.

2. Make sure your ads are clearly labeled as such
The FTC requires all content paid for by a business or brand to be disclosed as such. Of course, you’ll want your content to be well-written, engaging and similar in tone to the editorial articles surrounding it. However, it still needs to be clearly and conspicuously labeled as an advertisement.

The International Advertising Bureau (IAB) has the following recommendations for native advertising: “Use language that conveys that the advertising has been paid for, thus making it an advertising unit, even if that unit does not contain traditional promotional advertising messages.” In addition, IAB states: “… be large and visible enough for a consumer to notice it in the context of a given page and/or relative to the device that the ad is being viewed on.” Native ads that don’t fit these stipulations can create distrust from readers.

3. Stop selling
It’s worth repeating that the purpose of native advertising is very different from that of a display or banner ad. Think of advertorials more like blog posts, where your goal is to actively engage readers and build brand recognition. Native ads should provide value to readers, whether they choose to purchase a product or service or not. The more they get out of it, the more favorably they will view your brand.

Sometimes it’s best to work with a freelance writer rather than an on-staff copywriter who’s better versed in creating marketing copy rather than telling stories. However, versatile copywriters and marketers can oftentimes create an advertisement one day and what would read more like an article the next. Just make sure the focus is on creating highly remarkable content that’s valuable in its own right, rather than content with a call to action that’s similar to what would be a call to action in a bonafide advertisement.

4. Consider promoting content on social media
If you don’t have the budget to use native ads on a website or in a newspaper or magazine, or just want to tip your toe in before taking the plunge, consider reaching clients and prospects by promoting your own blog content on social media through services such as sponsored Tweets, promoted Facebook posts, Promoted Pins, or sponsored updates on LinkedIn.

For best results, just make sure to follow the guidelines above, and provide truly valuable content rather than a pure advertisement. Readers are much more likely to click through to an article, blog post, infographic or video than to a storefront or landing page.

Have you tried native advertising or paid content? How well does it work for you? Share with us below.

Craving more marketing tips and advice? Get the VR Buzz delivered daily to your inbox.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 4 Steps to Creating Advantageous Advertorials appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Google Unleashes New Unsubscribe Feature for Gmail

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 09:39

Google has significantly simplified the unsubscribe process for Gmail users. In a recent Google+ post, Google announced that when you email a Promotions, Social or Forums message that includes an unsubscribe link, they’ll automatically place an unsubscribe link front and center next to the from address above your message.

Image courtesy of Gmail

What does this mean for your business?
Gmail’s recent update shouldn’t be cause for panic. Google notes that “making the unsubscribe option easy to find is a win for everyone,” and we agree. If a recipient is interested in your content, this update shouldn’t matter. However, if someone does choose to unsubscribe (hey, it happens), he or she will be much more inclined to click an easy-to-find unsubscribe link rather than clicking that dreaded spam button. This improves your delivery rates and your email engagement.

What do you think of Gmail’s new change? Is it the win-win Google says it is? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

To get more marketing news, tips and advice delivered daily, subscribe to the VR Buzz.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Google Unleashes New Unsubscribe Feature for Gmail appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Advice from a Social Pro: Is Twitter a Viable Small Biz Social Network? [VIDEO]

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 06:00

In this episode of “The Magic @ Ball of Social Media,” we sit down with Zena Weist, Strategy Director at Level Five Solutions. Weist shares her perspective on the viability of using Twitter as small business.

 

A key takeaway that Weist shares: Twitter allows small businesses to listen and learn from their customers, then respond in real time.

Want more marketing tips and advice? Get the VR Buzz delivered daily.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Advice from a Social Pro: Is Twitter a Viable Small Biz Social Network? [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Tips to Get Social with Your Customer Serivce

Thu, 08/07/2014 - 06:00

Today, people want, love and expect businesses to have an active social media presence. This also means having an active social presence that can help satisfy customer service needs with real-time responses.

If you’re not using social media to assist your customer service needs, or if you’re looking to make improvements, here are 5 tips to get your social customer service off the ground.

1. Answer customer questions and concerns in a timely manner.

We live in an instant gratification world and people desire quick responses. Check your social networks consistently to monitor and respond to questions and/or complaints, and build this into your daily routine. Responding quickly goes a long way when it comes to making people feel heard and valued.

2. Don’t erase complaints.

Often, issues will arise and someone will air their grievances on your social network for all to see. Your first inclination may be to erase. But, this can do more harm than good. If other people see this issue, but also see that you’re doing everything in your power to resolve it, the upside can be incredible. Most people understand that problems come up, and when you handle it in an open forum, it allows all your customers know that service is your top priority.

3. Create a dedicated social channel on Twitter.

Twitter has become a customer service mecca. People flock to Twitter to voice their concerns, ask questions, and gain resolutions to their issues. While you can and should have a single Twitter handle for your business, it’s also nice to have a dedicated support-only Twitter handle. List your support Twitter handle on your “contact us” or support page on your website, blog and/or Facebook, link to it from your main Twitter business handle, and link up both sites so you can monitor them equally. If you have a support person or team, give them access to manage that account specifically.

At VerticalResponse, we implemented a support handle several years ago and it’s very effective for handling issues, which also keeps our main business Twitter feed open to share news, content, etc.

4. Check your Facebook Messages and Posts to Page.

Facebook has made a lot of changes to their page layout over the last several months, so it’s important to know where and how customers can contact you. Two features you need to stay on top of regarding customer service are Messages and Posts to Page. Anyone (whether they like your page or not) can reach out to your business with a question or concern via Messages. If you’re a page administrator, Facebook will notify you of any messages. You can also click on the messages link in the “This Week” box on the right-hand side of your page to access them. Any comments made in the Posts to Page section are public on business page. It’s important to note that these don’t show up in your news feed, so keep a close eye on them in the lower left-hand side of your page.

5. Play nice.

Playing nice sounds simple, but isn’t always followed. A good attitude and pleasant demeanor can turn around almost any situation. If you remain nice, and it’s clear you’re doing everything in your power to answer a question or get a resolution to a problem, most people will respond accordingly.

Have any social media customer service tips to add? Share in the comments!

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 5 Tips to Get Social with Your Customer Serivce appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Slapped with a Google Penalty? Here’s How to Bounce Back!

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 06:00

Your traffic has plummeted and your business website has been slapped with a manual penalty from Google. Well, you can quell your doomsday thoughts, as we have actionable tips to help your site bounce back.

First, there are four major areas in which a penalty can be classified:

1. Unnatural links penalty

Majority of sites that receive a manual penalty (95%), receive an unnatural links penalty. It means you have a variety of links pointing back to your site that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. You’ll know you have one when you receive a notification in Google Webmaster Tools. It’ll look like this:

2. Hacked site penalty

This penalty is exactly what it sounds like: Your site has been hacked. Follow these tips from Google to help get your site back in your own hands. 

3. User generated spam & other “black hat” tactics penalty

If you have this penalty, you probably know you were doing some risky black hat SEO tactics. Most people who receive this penalty typically rebuild their website from scratch.

4. Spam penalty

There are three different types and reasons as to why you’d receive a spam penalty: A) If majority of the pages on your website are hosted by a spammy site, it’ll be labeled a spammy freehost. B) If you’re using deceptive or spammy markups, it’ll be labeled as a spammy markup, and C) If your site is pure spam, which is self explanatory. Spam is pretty high on Google’s “do not do” list. Most site penalties don’t fall into this category. 

How to undo the past:
     
The cause of the Google penalty needs to be unraveled in order to recover. This is tougher than untangling your iPhone headphones. It takes several months-to-a-year to do a full clean up job, and sometimes longer depending on the severity of the bad links. Go into the process with the right mindset, as there aren’t any short cuts. Here are the best recovery steps:

Clean up unnatural links up using the Google Disavow Tool

  1. Download “Most Recent Links” from Google Webmaster Tools. You can use other backlink services, like Moz’s Open Site Explorer, but Google has stated their “Recent Links” should be good enough to get a penalty removed.
  2. Upload links to a Google Drive (online Excel like platform).
  3. Work some Excel magic to remove duplicates, sort by root domain and keyword.
  4. Label domains as “remove” or “keep.” Yes, label domains rather than individual links. You’re going to be disavowing the whole domain, so if you find one bad link, the whole domain will be disavowed.
  5. When labeling bad links, don’t worry about getting every single link, look for trends instead. For example, look for the same keyword linking to a specific landing page. 
  6. Email all web masters a link removal request and track the contact in your spreadsheet.
  7. Once you have your bad links identified, disavow them. We recommend disavowing the whole domain, not the individual links. Odds are, if you have one bad link from that site, you have more.

*Pro Tip: If you have to validate if or why a link looks “ok-ish,” get rid of it.

Note: The Google Disavow Tool can be dangerous. Here’s a great resource from Google about how to use it properly.

Ask for Reconsideration
     
After you’ve cleaned up your links, you’ll want to file a reconsideration request with Google. These requests are read by actual humans at Google. The biggest mistake many people make is not including enough information in the request. You can’t give Google too much information. Be sure to include your Excel/Google Drive spreadsheet in the request along with the number of links you removed and disavowed. Along with making SEO strategy changes for the better, we recommend saying “I’m sorry,” as it does go a long way. Powered by Search has a great example of a reconsideration request

Rinse and Repeat

Unfortunately, the reconsideration request process isn’t always a one and done deal. It may take a few attempts and requests to get everything cleaned up. Usually Google will also be kind enough to give you a few problematic link samples causing the penalty. Take these links and do the following analysis on them:

  • Do they have exact anchor text matching?
  • Are the links from an article directory or link farm? Determine what’s wrong with these links and that should help point you in the right direction for further clean up.

We also recommend downloading more links from Google (and maybe even another source like Moz) to make sure you have the best data set. Once you label and reexamine the links, be sure to add that to your reconsideration request. Don’t delete anything from your first request because a new Googler might be looking at it without context regarding your situation. Even though you’ll be tempted to hustle through the “rinse and repeat” process, it doesn’t send the right message to Google. Leave a good chunk of time between requests as well, somewhere between 3 weeks to a month depending on how many backlinks you are dealing with. Also, be sure to continuously email webmasters to get your links removed from their sites. Google likes to see that you’re making an effort. 

Recover

Once you’ve filed your umpteenth reconsideration request, waited on pins and needles, and obsessively checked your Google Manual Action Viewer in hopes of some good news, the day you dreamed about will finally arrive. You’ll receive a message that reads, “No Manual Spam Actions Found!” You’ll jump for joy, pop the bubbly and rejoice that your efforts were successful!

Not to burst any bubbles, but there are some realistic expectations that you should have after this experience. It would be safe to assume Google has a close eye on you, so don’t go back to your old ways! We can assure you the second penalty will be even more unpleasant. You should also not expect your keywords or site ranking to be back in its old position. Don’t forget, you removed or disavowed most of the links that were giving you those rankings, so it’ll take time to gain your rankings back the right way. 

Getting through a manual penalty can be a frustrating process, but it’s certainly rewarding. Have you worked towards getting a Google penalty removed? We’d love to hear about your process in the comments.

Now you can go back to high-fiving everyone in your office.

 

Gif courtesy of Saturday Night Live

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Slapped with a Google Penalty? Here’s How to Bounce Back! appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

4 Reasons Email Marketing and Your Business Are Not like Oil and Vinegar

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 06:07

Image by David A. via Yelp

On a recent Sunday, I was shopping and happened upon a store selling a huge variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. I decided to go in because I’ve got to admit, I love a good olive oil. I was impressed by the massive variety of oils and vinegars on display, but what really blew me away was Mike, the owner of The Olive Crush.

Mike immediately came over and asked me about my favorite oils and vinegars. Upon hearing my answers, he served up some incredible tastings. Mike also shared a simple but impressive recipe I could make with blueberry balsamic, and a marinade recipe made with Tuscan olive oil. He was brimming with ideas, recipes and tips. His excitement about his products was contagious, and before I knew it, I was lining up bottles on the cash wrap to purchase.

Then I asked Mike this question: “You have such awesome products, and you’re a wealth of information, where can I sign up for your email list?” Here’s what I got in response: Crickets. Be still my beating heart. Say it ain’t so… That’s right, olive oil Mike doesn’t have an email list. He said he doesn’t “do” email marketing. I stood there flamboozled. I pleaded with Mike to start an email list so he could send out a newsletter to share all this good olive oil and vinegar mojo he had going. His response? “I’m too tired.” Little did Mike know, he was talking to an email marketing content marketer and advocate. I shared with Mike four simple reasons as to why he pour himself into email marketing, and reap the rewards. Now, I’ll share them with you:

1. You Have Great Information

Like Mike and his pairings, recipes and olive oil fun facts, your business, products and services have stories of their own and there are lots of people interested in hearing about it, but if you keep it all to yourself, how will they know? Email marketing gives you a quick and easy way to reach a broad audience and provide them relevant and targeted information they desire.

2. Keep Your Biz Top of Mind

Even though I bought a bunch of stuff at The Olive Crush, what’s going to keep the company at top of mind once my products are gone? I could forget them and move on to the next olive oil and vinegar that strikes my fancy. But, if I receive an email in my inbox once a month with some great recipes, tips, and maybe a coupon, I’m more likely to remember the shop the next time my oil and vinegar supplies run dry. I may also be more likely to recommend the shop to my friends and family.

3. Invite People to Your Events

Does your business host events, conferences or special invitation-only activities? Wouldn’t it be much easier to get people to attend your event if you told them about it, and even invited them to it? You could even offer people a special incentive or reward for attending. Email marketing makes this super simple and easy. Mike mentioned he was having a doctor from Stanford speak at his shop to discuss the medical benefits of olive oil. That’s super cool, but not if Mike’s the only one who shows up! Use email marketing to get the word out – It works.

4. Keep People Coming Back

Do you have a special offer or promotion that you use to keep your customers coming back? Mike gives customers one dollar off their next purchase when they return their glass bottles. Wouldn’t it be great to remind customers of this offer a month or so after their purchase, when they might start to run dry? By sending an email like this, Mike could keep those bottles, and his customers coming back again and again.

I’m looking forward to getting my first email from The Olive Crush. Do you have any other reasons as to why or how email marketing has helped your business? Share away in the comments.

Ready to get started with email marketing? You can do it free with VerticalResponse

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 4 Reasons Email Marketing and Your Business Are Not like Oil and Vinegar appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

3 Easy Ways to Increase Site Conversions

Mon, 08/04/2014 - 06:00

Whether you’re looking to convert blog or website visitors to subscribers or prospects to clients, working to increase conversions on your site is never a wasted effort. Here are three easy ways to optimize your site in order to do just that.

1. Make sure your content is targeted
A common mistake is to create content that will appeal to your colleagues (read: competitors) rather than the people you most wish to serve. Not only does this mean that you’ll want to keep your tone accessible to all of your prospects, it could also impact the type of content you choose to create and share.

For example, while your creative process as an artist may be interesting for people who want to buy paintings, a detailed critique of various types of paints may or may not be as riveting. And how-to videos may not convert as well as other types of content, since they’d be viewed by other artists who may not be in the market for your paintings since they are trying to sell their own.

A good rule of thumb is to simply ask yourself if the person who would buy your product or service would be interested in the topic you’re considering for an upcoming blog post or series. Having someone in mind – a typical customer you speak with or may run into – can help you target them more specifically. Many companies create “personas” of the types of customers they are trying to attract and create content that will appeal to them. 

2. Be useful
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: The key to content marketing is to provide real value. Your posts may lead readers down the conversion funnel, but they should be useful enough to stand on their own. Once you’ve identified your audience, make sure to address their biggest issues. Writing about topics you know well in your industry can help you create good quality content.

This isn’t to say that you need to be 100 percent focused on your industry. An occasional funny article or post you found online (cat videos, anyone?) can add a little personality and help your conversion a bit. It adds a human aspect and can encourage interaction with your readers. If you can tie it into your industry and what you’re trying to sell, all the better.

It’s possible that humor won’t apply for your industry, so make sure to find out for yourself by experimenting on your own site, social networks or blog. This leads us to the next tip.

3. Always remain in testing mode
The web is awash in e-books and templates offering conversion secrets: the most profitable keyword combinations, best times to post, and so forth. But, as our Director of Marketing Communications, Alf Brand points out, this doesn’t negate the need for testing. You could follow these rules verbatim and get the opposite results of those you were expecting because every blog, industry and audience is different. “Everyone’s conversion would be 100 percent if there was a winning recipe that was going to work every time,” he says. “It’s a case-by-case type of thing.” 

The only way to know if something will work is to test it.

“You should always be testing,” Brand says. “You should never stop and say, ‘this is it.’”

That’s because trends change, and people react to things differently over time.

Trying to figure out what to test? Here are just a few options:

  • The length of your forms or blog posts
  • The color of call-to-action buttons
  • Various headline options
  • Different keywords or phrases
  • Human faces versus graphic design on your home page
  • Varying language for your call-to-action

Determining which of these leads to higher conversions can help you come up with a conversion optimization strategy that is specific to your website and your readers. This is more valuable than following cookie-cutter solutions without analyzing the results.

Want to get started with split testing? A couple of low-cost options are Optimizely, which starts as low as $17 to $19 a month, and Visual Website Optimizer, which costs $49 or $59 a month with a 30-day trial period.

For a free option, you can set up Content Experiments directly in Google Analytics. (This is a little different than the A/B split test in that you can test as many as 10 versions of a single page, with each one being delivered to users from a different URL).

Although testing conversion rates can at first seem a bit scary, Brand recommends getting past this obstacle. One way to mitigate your fears is to test just a small portion of your traffic. And if a test isn’t going well, ending it prematurely is always an option. Just remember that the benefits of testing outweigh the risks. “Even an incremental gain in conversions is huge over time,” Brand says.

Have any additions of your own? Let us know in the comments!

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 3 Easy Ways to Increase Site Conversions appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Advice from a Social Pro: How to Tie Social Media to Your Bottom Line [VIDEO]

Fri, 08/01/2014 - 06:00

In this episode of “The Magic @ Ball of Social Media,”we sit down with Scott Gulbransen, Vice President of Global Communications & Digital Marketing at DSI (Data Systems International, Inc.). Gulbransen shares his advice on how small businesses can tie social media efforts to the bottom line and ROI (return on investment).

A key takeaway that Gulbransen shares: Instead of thinking about what you’re spending on social media, think about what savings you might be realizing due to your social media marketing.

Want more marketing tips and advice? Get the VR Buzz delivered daily. 

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Advice from a Social Pro: How to Tie Social Media to Your Bottom Line [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Guest Blogging is (Really) Dead! 4 Things to Do Instead

Thu, 07/31/2014 - 06:00

It wasn’t too long ago, (a year or so) that nearly everyone working in the field of search engine optimization (SEO) would suggest using “high quality” guest blogging as part of a link building strategy. Well, in January of this year, Matt Cutts, Head of Webspam at Google, put a dagger in the heart of guest bloggers, calling it, “the decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO.

In March, Google took action against several guest blogging sites in the form of a manual penalty. In June at SMX Advanced, Cutts said again, “some people still don’t get it [that guest blogging is dead] and we [Google] are willing to take action against that.” So if you didn’t see the clear writing on the wall back in January, and missed the huge penalties in March, listen to us now: Stop guest blogging. You could put your site(s) at risk of receiving a manual from Google. So what do you do instead? Here are some great ideas:

1. Write awesome content for your own blog

Why would you spend blood, sweat and tears writing content for someone else’s blog, just for one little link back? Seems kinda silly now that we look back on it. Spend that time writing some booty kicking content for your own site! Once you post it, don’t just let it sit there. Share your post on social media and get creative. If you have an awesome image in the post, try pinning it on Pinterest, while also repining similar content. You might get some repins for your own post.

2. Create videos

Before you start thinking that video creation is going to cost you some serious coin, check our post here (hint: you can get started for a few hundred bucks.) If you feel the content on your blog has been a bit stale, try mixing in some video to engage your audience with a different medium. Don’t forget that YouTube is the second biggest search engine, so if you aren’t sharing your videos there, you could missing out!

Some quick tips: make the videos short and sweet, around 2-4 minutes with some actionable take-aways. Have a good outline of what you’re going to say beforehand so you can limit it to one take.

3. Contribute to sites in your niche 

Since you’re an expert in your niche, you should become a staple member of a few online communities. These could be a local online forums, monthly meet ups or even one of the many niche forums (which are called subreddits) on Reddit. Don’t just drop your most recent videos or blog posts in the community and leave; become an actual member. Leave valuable comments, help members with their questions, and contribute overtime. Once you get a feel of how it works, start submitting your own content. When you do post, it should function similarly to your expert level blog posts and videos.  

4. Give Google+ the old college try

By now you have a pretty good handle on Facebook and Twitter, but have you branched out to Google+ yet? If not, now might be a good time to dive in headfirst and join some of the awesome communities in Google+. We wrote a handy guide to help you get started. Try circling up with some thought leaders in your industry and interacting with them. Share some great content and start building relationships. Want to take it a step further? Use that new video equipment from above and host some Google Hangouts to answer some questions about your topic of choice. Google+ Hangouts are a great way to be an authority in your industry or niche.

There you have it, 4 useful ways to spend your time now that you’ve stopped guest blogging. If you have any other great ideas, please share in the comments. 

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Guest Blogging is (Really) Dead! 4 Things to Do Instead appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

10 Winning Ways to Keep up with Industry Trends

Wed, 07/30/2014 - 06:01

Staying up to date in an industry that’s constantly shifting isn’t easy, but being aware of changes as they’re happening can keep you ahead of the curve. To help stay on the ball with industry challenges, opportunities and trends, check out our recommendations below.

1. Subscribe to trade journals
What better way to be in-the-know about specific issues in your industry than to subscribe to a journal that’s devoted to covering them? But subscribing alone isn’t enough; you have to actually read the thing – albeit in print or online. I prefer print. My monthly ritual is to take a stack of trade journals to a local cafe, turn off my phone, grab my highlighter and notepad, and read all of them at once. Others prefer to consume magazines and journals in bite-size chunks. Whatever your approach, make sure the information is getting in your brain rather than simply lining your shelves or taking up space in your inbox.

2. Keep up with consumer magazines
Even if you’re reading a magazine that’s not specific to your industry, you’ll be looking at it through a very different lens than other readers. And if you see something that’s very relevant to your line of work, you can get even more insight as to how your field is viewed from an outsider’s perspective.

3. Scan and engage in forums and discussion boards
Perhaps scanning an applicable subreddit each day is enough to pique your interest and get your brain buzzing about possible changes in your industry. Oftentimes, engaging in discussion in a relevant LinkedIn group or a private forum from a professional group can be more enlightening. Even though discussion boards can be difficult to sort through unless they’re heavily moderated, you can sort through the rubble for real gems of insight. Make sure to participate, rather than just standby and take in all that you are learning from others. You’ll get more out of it that way.

4. Scour websites and blogs
As a health writer, I look at SciDaily each morning to see if there are any new studies that might interest me. I then look at analyses on various blogs, which help me frame the information better and keep it in context. Although the quality of blogs can vary, many are a great source of current information. If you see the same topic on every site in your industry, such as the plethora of posts on making marketing mobile, then yes – it’s a trend you’ll want to follow closely. Blogs and news sites will also often analyze key statistics and research that’s relevant for your industry, and break it down into bite-size chunks, in a form you can understand.

5. Read newspapers and news sites
Although newspapers and news sites are sometimes overly simplistic, and journalists sometimes cover industries they’re not knowledgeable in, beat reporters can spot industry trends as well as anyone. My personal favorite news app is Circa, which is free in the App Store and on Google Play. The tech section, edited by the former Deputy Editor of The Daily, Nicholas Deleon, is one I scan regularly for industry news. Circa allows users to “follow” certain areas they find intriguing for regular updates.

6. Listen to/watch podcasts and videos
Listen to an hour-long podcast, or even a 20-minute one, and you’ll have a deeper understanding of the topic at hand. Video and audio interviews with industry leaders can be especially enlightening. Even if you find yourself disagreeing with the information being presented, having a common vocabulary can help you better communicate with others in your field, and express your reasoning in a way they’ll be able to understand. We recently wrote a post about 9 business podcasts we recommend giving a listen.

7. Network
Discussing your industry face-to-face with colleagues can be particularly enlightening. Get out to conferences or local events, and sign up for trainings. This is an easy way to keep up-to-date with what’s happening. Make sure to speak with colleagues as well as expert panelists. These two groups often have very different perspectives.

8. Talk to your customers
In the past few years, I’ve gotten phone calls from both FreshBooks and Basecamp to help their customer service or sales teams better understand how people are using their products. Although scanning social networks and sending out surveys can be insightful, talking to people one-on-one is invaluable. Discussing concerns with prospects can be equally enlightening.

9. Observe your competitors
Sometimes you’ll want to zig when others zag, but looking to see what your competitors are doing can sometimes help you figure out if they’re responding to what you see as an emerging trend. Though you may sometimes be unable to decipher the method to their madness, it can’t hurt to take a look.

10. Track trends in your own business
Got something that used to sell well that people are barely looking at now, let alone buying? Noticing clients and prospects asking specific questions that they never used to ask? Puzzling over these changes can help you predict potential threats – and opportunities.

Have any other additions to add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 10 Winning Ways to Keep up with Industry Trends appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

6 Tips to Creating an Ideal Landing Page

Tue, 07/29/2014 - 06:00

Having a well-designed landing page will go a long way when it comes to bringing in conversions. You could have the best product or service in the world, but if you don’t communicate that effectively, you could be missing out on new business. Follow these tips and best practices the create the ideal landing page for your business.

When creating a landing page, one of the first things you need to take into account is your purpose. According to Wordstream, some of the questions you should ask yourself include, “What is my end goal? Who is my audience? Where are they coming from?” How you set up or structure your landing page will be largely directed by what you want it to accomplish, such as new subscribers, to sales, and everything in between. With your purpose in mind, let’s dive in:

1) Keep it Short and Concise

Regardless of what your end goal is, you’ll want to keep your landing pages brief and concise. In today’s Internet age, you have a very limited amount of time to keep users engaged. By eliminating clutter and keeping things brief, you have less of a chance for users to be turned off or distracted and there’s a higher chance of having them complete the action that you want. Make users focus on what you want them to focus on by using design principles to guide them through the process you want them to take.

2) Stay Relevant

Maintaining relevancy and message consistency throughout your ads, landing page, and/or website is important. A visitor wants to see messaging that’s relevant to what they were looking for. If a visitor comes to your page and sees something they’re not expecting, they’ll quickly move off your landing page, may possibly  search your site to find what they were looking for, but are much more likely to just leave your site all together. You’ll want to create a positive experience for anyone who comes and visits your site or landingpage.

3) Catch Attention with Your Headlines

You want your landing page to have a powerful headline or statement that gets a visitor’s attention. Generally, this is the first thing they see, and it should be used to draw them in. By stating your unique selling proposition, visitors should get a sense of what they can get out of your product or service. Additionally, you want to follow up that proposition with additional benefits as to why they should choose your product or service. If you choose to focus on features, describe the benefits versus just what your product does. 

4) Make it Easy to Convert

You’ve gotten a visitor to your landing page, they’ve read your unique selling proposition and like what you have to offer. Now you need to lead them down a path with your purpose in mind. This starts with a clear call-to-action. By making the call-to-action prominent, perhaps by using a button or certain colors, visitors will know exactly what you want them to do. Eliminate distractions by limiting the number of options or decisions a visitor has to take. For example, if you want a visitor to sign up for a free trial, have a clear and prominent call-to-action such as “Sign up for a Free Trial Now.” In addition, it may be a good idea to offer some kind of promotion to further entice them to take the action you want. Keep all your important information and calls-to-action above the fold.

5) Be Mobile-Friendly

Make your landing pages mobile-friendly. Everyone searches and browses the internet from their smart phones and tablets, so it’s essential to create a positive experience regardless of the device. Whether you choose to create two separate landing pages for both mobile and desktop, or one landing page that works well on both is up to you.

6) Test!

After all is said and done and you’ve created your landing page, it’s time to test. No tips or advice should be followed blindly, as what works for one business doesn’t always work for others. You know your customers best, and therefore, landing page creation should always be followed up with continual testing. Whether you only test specific parts of your landing page, like the call-to-action, or you test two very different messages, your landing page will be better for it. By testing, you’ll be able to maximize the effectiveness of your landing page and will hopefully bring in more conversions.

Use tools like Optimizely to run a true A/B split test, or use a heat map product like Crazy Egg to get an idea as to what visitors are really focusing on.

Extras:

Trust – It’s important to build trust with your visitors. If you have positive testimonials or awards, it’s good to include them on your landing page so visitors can see that you have a reliable product or service.

Videos – Also a nice thing to have to showcase your products or services, but be careful not to distract users from the end goal. Also, if your video isn’t getting much interaction, change it with something more valuable.

Fast Load-Time - Make sure your landing page doesn’t take a long time to load. As mentioned, you have a limited time to get your visitor’s attention and if he/she has wait for your page to load, they may just leave.

These are 6 tips and best practices to consider when building your landing page. If you’re looking for some great examples of landing pages, check out KissMetrics‘ “Anatomy of a Perfect Landing Page” as well as this Unbounce list.

Have any other tips to add to our list? Share them with our readers in the comments. 

 

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 6 Tips to Creating an Ideal Landing Page appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

A 3-Step Plan for Writing Back-to-School Subject Lines that Get the Grade

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 06:00

Reading, writing and … subject lines. Yes, it’s time to start sending back-to-school emails, newsletters and offers. To brush up on school-themed subject lines, we’ve created a mini lesson plan just for you – So take notes.

Here are three steps to capitalize on the back-to-school season along with examples and takeaway tips for the perfect email subject line.

1. Offer savings
Sending kids back to school isn’t cheap. Have you seen the list of school supplies that they need these days? Pencils and paper is only the tip of the supply iceberg; now kids need $100 geometry calculators and fancy laptops. And let’s not forget the stylish new clothes that go along with a new school year.

In your emails, help parents out by offering a discount. Mention the savings right in the subject line. For example, JCPenney sent an email to its subscribers with a subject line, “Get Down With Our Low Prices-School Styles Starting at $6.99.” Any budget-savvy parent is going to jump at the chance to save money.

Even if your business doesn’t sell back-to-school necessities, you can still have a school-themed sale. A car dealership did.

Email marketing specialist Laura Baugh with Team Velocity Marketing specializes in automotive marketing. She says people expect back-to-school sales. To capitalize on the anticipation of the season, she created the email below with the subject line, “Back to School Specials This Weekend Only!” 

Subject line takeaways:

  • Get to the point. Tell recipients that you’ve got a good deal for them.
  • Be specific. Don’t just tell recipients about an offer, tell them exactly how much they can save.
  • Mention back to school. In some way, you need to connect the school season with the deal.
  • Create a sense of urgency. You want recipients to open your email and act now; so use active language to get a reaction.

2. Market to college students
College students are headed back to dorm rooms, too, and they buy entirely different items than those in grade school. College students need small appliances, bedding, groceries, car supplies, electronics, etc. The email below, for example, works for college students. Tiger Direct’s subject line, “5 New Laptops Under $500” grabs attention and gives recipients several choices in one email. Try creating a shopping guide that highlights your college appropriate items. 

Subject line takeaways:

  • Be creative. Think outside the text book and market items that are relevant to college students.
  • Offer deals.  Many college students have a shoestring budget, so appealing to their wallet won’t hurt.
  • Be hip. You’re marketing to a younger crowd, so make sure the words you use reflect that.
  • Mention college. Your subject line should mention a college buzzword like “campus” or “dorm.”

3. Educate your recipients
Promotional emails are a great way to capitalize on the back-to-school season, but you can do more than offer $10 off a purchase. You can also educate your recipients, by creating subject lines that promote stellar school-related content. For example, a craft site sent out an email with the subject line, “18 Dorm Décor Ideas.”

It’s an easy way to educate your readers and promote various products without seeming overly salesy.

Subject line takeaways:

  • Tease the title. If you create a “Top 5” list that’s connected to a back-to- school theme, you should mention the title of the post in your subject line.
  • Mention back to school. Again, you have to use the appropriate back-to-school buzzwords so the recipient knows the purpose of the email.
  • Keep it short. Tell recipients what the article is about without getting too wordy.

What kind of subject lines are you planning to use this back-to-school season? Tell us in the comment box below.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post A 3-Step Plan for Writing Back-to-School Subject Lines that Get the Grade appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Back-to-School Shopping is Bigger Than You Think! [Video]

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 06:00

You may already be planning your upcoming holiday season sales, but don’t miss a big opportunity that could have a huge impact on your business. We’re talking about back-to-school, and the stats from the 2014 Back-to-School National Retail Federation Survey we share in this video may surprise you. Take a look:

Some key highlights:

  • The average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5% from last year. 
  • Combined spending for back-to-school and college is expected to reach $74.9 billion.
  • For the first time, the National Retail Federation asked school shoppers about their plans to shop at local/small businesses for their needs: 17.4% will support local/small retailer to buy school items.
  • Millennials plan to spend $913 million of their own money on school items.

Back-to-school has positioned itself as a prime shopping season that businesses need to pay attention to.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Back-to-School Shopping is Bigger Than You Think! [Video] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Digital Coupons Drive Sales [Infographic]

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 06:01

Everyone loves a deal. This infographic from the folks at Vouchercloud outlines the growth in digital coupons, who’s using them and how they’re being used. Here are some highlights:

  • The use of coupons during a shopping experience has risen from 63% to 92% in just the past five years, and a lot of this growth has been driven by online coupons.
  • Consumers have greater access to online coupons through email, shared through social media, and online via a plethora of coupon-specific websites.
  • 93% of coupon users say they’ll be very likely to use a coupon they receive in an email.
  • Not only has their access to coupons grown significantly, but how they fulfill them has changed as well. It’s estimated that 74.1 million consumers will use their smartphone and 68.7 million will use their tablet to present their coupon to a business.
  • Who are these people that using are using coupons? It’s really not a specific group. It’s split almost 50/50 between men and women. The age of users doesn’t vary much whether they’re 18, 30, 40 or 60 years of age. However, there are some coupons that are more popular than others.
  • Groceries, personal care products, and dining are the most popular coupon searches, followed closely by clothing, entertainment, pets and electronics.

So, we’ve got more people using coupons, using them in different ways, and across a variety of demographics, but do they work? The short answer is YES!

  • The vast majority of coupon users say that they’ll visit a retailer again because of being offered a coupon.
  • More than half said they would not have made that purchase unless they had a coupon.

Check out this infographic that explains how digital coupons can attract new customers and encourage existing customers to return.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Digital Coupons Drive Sales [Infographic] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

4 Picture-Perfect Photo Editing Tools

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 06:00

Nothing makes an email, social or blog post, or any marketing materials pop like a picture. To promote your business, you want images that stand out. You want pizzazz. To achieve that, you need to add some stunning images.

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take and edit your own pictures. With the right editing software, you can turn a so-so photo into a poppin’ picture that’s fit for your audience.

We asked Tom Clarke, a commercial product photographer, to help us come up with a list of picture-perfect photo editing tools. We’ll start with the most simplistic tools and work our way to the more advanced options.

1. Paint.NET
If this is your first crack at editing pictures, try Paint.NET It’s easy-to-understand software that helps you do basic editing functions like crop, rotate, adjust color and add effects. The interface is self-explanatory, which is helpful if you’re not an editing pro. Plus, there are a bunch of tutorials to guide you along. You’ll need a PC to use this software, however, since it’s a window-based program.

2. PhoXo
PhoXo is easy to navigate and offers the standard editing tools along with 50 special effects, which makes it a perfect option for beginners. Like Paint.NET, the design and layout look a lot like Microsoft Word, so there shouldn’t be a steep learning curve.

You can add basic text or clipart to photos, improve the quality of the image, and check out tutorials to guide you through the editing process.

And, did we mention, it’s free?

3. GIMP
If you have some editing knowledge, GIMP could be the right fit for you. This tool is often compared to Photoshop except for one very big difference – it’s free. Clarke says it can do 75 percent of what Photoshop does, which means you can do some fairly advanced editing.

It’s also a portable app, which means you can store it on a thumb drive and only use it when you need it. Other photo editors can take up a lot of storage space.

4. Photoshop Elements
Whether you’re a PC or Mac user, Photoshop Elements is another option for the editing professional. Photoshop has a lot of name recognition, so it’s no surprise that it’s on our list. Photoshop Elements is a simpler and cheaper version of the full Photoshop package. It runs about $100.

You can do all sorts of advanced editing with this software. From teeth whitening to removing an object from a picture, the options are endless. For those with a little photo savvy, this could be a great addition to your editing toolbox.

Once you pick editing software, play around with it. The best way to learn is through experimentation. When it comes to editing images for emails, there are a few tools that you’ll want to know how to use. While you’re learning the editing ropes, familiarize yourself with these specific tools:

  • Crop
  • Exposure
  • Saturation
  • Contrast
  • Text
  • Straighten
  • Red eye
  • Effects

Do you have a favorite photo editing tool that we didn’t list? Share it in the comment section below.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 4 Picture-Perfect Photo Editing Tools appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Facebook Introduces “Buy” Button – What It Means for Your Biz

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 13:37

Facebook is trying to take the e-commerce bull by the horns by introducing and testing its new “buy” button. With the release, Facebook, the world’s largest social network, is determining whether it can help businesses drive sales. The new button, which will be seen in the news feed and on business pages, will allow people on a desktop or mobile device to easily purchase a product directly from a business with a click of a button. And without ever leaving Facebook. Here’s how the new advertising product will appear on Facebook:

Image courtesy of the Facebook blog

According to Facebook’s blog, the buy button is currently just a test and is, “limited to a few small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S.” They plan to share more information as they gather feedback from the test.

Facebook knows there may be concerns with security and privacy, and released the following statement via their blog to address these fears:

“We’ve built this feature with privacy in mind, and have taken steps to help make the payment experience safe and secure. None of the credit or debit card information people share with Facebook when completing a transaction will be shared with other advertisers, and people can select whether or not they’d like to save payment information for future purchases.”

This new Facebook feature comes on the heels of an announcement from Twitter about three weeks ago, in which they introduced their own “Buy Now” button. With two of the largest social networks jumping into the e-commerce space, could this provide some unwelcome competition to e-commerce juggernaut, Amazon? We’d love to hear your thoughts and wonder if you’ll try these new social “buy buttons” for your products or services?  

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The post Facebook Introduces “Buy” Button – What It Means for Your Biz appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Pinterest Tactics + Back-to-School = A+ Sales

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 06:01

Think it’s too early to utter the words, “back-to-school”? I’m with you, but guess what? Shoppers aren’t.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2014 Back-to-School survey, 22.5% of consumers will begin shopping for school items at least 2 months in advance – That’s right now! Almost half (44.5%) of consumers shop one month before school starts (which could be right now for some), and 25.4% shop two weeks ahead of schedule.

The NRF states total back-to-school and college spending is expected to reach $74.9 billion this year – Talk about opportunities! Looks like it’s time to jump on the back-to-school bandwagon, right now.

And what better way to reach those back-to-school consumers than by using the “visual discovery tool” known as Pinterest. Stats from ShareThis show that Pinterest has now become the third most popular shared social channel. The NRF’s survey also found that one-third (33%) of consumers will do more comparative shopping online, and nearly six in 10 (57.8%) will use their smartphone in some fashion as they shop for college items. According to new data by Gigya, Pinterest is also the number one sharing destination for ecommerce – A playground for all things back-to-school.

With that, here are 5 Pinterest tactics, ideas and inspiration for anyone wanting a slice of those back-to-school sales:

1. Create Back-to-School-Specific Boards (from your business account)

First, ensure you have a business Pinterest account. Then, do a simple search on Pinterest for anything back-to-school-related. The search functionality is similar to Google in that it’ll automatically populate popular searches including the following:

  • back-to-school
  • back to school bulletin boards (for teachers)
  • back to school gifts
  • back to school outfits
  • back to school activities
  • back to school crafts
  • back to school college fashion
  • back to school lunch ideas
  • back to school gadgets
  • school organization
  • school supplies
  • school hairstyles
  • college dorm life
  • college DIY
  • college organization
  • college tips, and the list goes on.

These results should give you an idea as to what people are searching for, and how often. Create your boards and pin ideas around these topics, and be sure to include these keywords in your descriptions when applicable. Create and pin your own content around these topics, any of your own related products or services, and/or any useful third party content.

The NRF also states that Millennials are playing a major role in back-to-school spending, as families with high school students plan to spend the most. According to the survey, teenagers also plan to spend an additional $913 million of their own money on school items. A surprising find: Man plan to outspend women – So keep these audiences in mind as well!

Have several other Pinterest boards? Rearrange them so your back-to-school boards are up top and above the fold like Bed Bath & Beyond does here:

Not a retailer? Think outside the box. Back-to-school can be stressful for parents and kids, so businesses like spas, wineries, travel companies, and acupuncturists can create stress-free back-to-school boards. College and/or high school kids may need tune-ups and auto repairs. An automobile repair shop can create back-to-school auto safety and preparedness boards. Food companies and/or bloggers have an endless number of options: Quick and easy breakfasts for kids, Top Ramen 10 ways, eating healthy on-the-run, creative school lunches, etc. A dance studio could create and promote after-school extra curricular activity boards for both kids and parents, emphasizing the importance of exercise.

Browse other back-to-school Pinterest boards for inspiration. Below are examples from various businesses utilizing back-to-school boards. They range from photo publishing services, product inventors, education unions, food brands, blogs, to children’s services, craft stores, crayon brands, TV shows, auto associations, historical societies and comedy sites.

2. Include valuable Pin descriptions

Pin descriptions are some of the most important, yet overlooked aspects to a successful, traffic-driving pin. Here’s what you should include:

  • A concise pin description in 200 characters or less. According to research from Dan Zarella, “The Social Media Scientist,” pins with descriptions written in 200 characters or less receive the most repins.
  • Hashtags (occasionally) but don’t go #crazy.
  • A link! Yes, the image links back to the original source, but that also requires 2 clicks of the image. Including the URL directly in the pin description requires just one click. You can also now add UTM tracking codes to your URLs, as they were previously stripped out, to monitor your traffic in Google Analytics.

3. Post Rich Pins

Rich Pins include additional information on the pin itself such as item pricing, availability, ingredients, movie ratings, and even maps. There are five different types of Rich Pins: movie, recipe, article, product and place. According to Shopify, Rich pins with prices get 36% more likes than those without. And, according to Brandon Gaille, pins including recipes get 42% more clicks.

In order to post Rich Pins, however, you must place meta tags on your website, test your Rich Pins and apply to get them on Pinterest. Pinterest has all the details on their website.

4. Create Your Own Images/Visuals

You don’t have to purely rely on product or stock images to reel people in on Pinterest. Creating your own images or visuals is especially helpful for anyone with a service, rather than a product-based company, or anyone trying to promote a blog post, article, guide, video, how-to tutorial, checklist, free trial, and more. Keep it simple, clean but still visually appealing. Your visuals don’t need to be complicated, and you can create any of these on a free, easy-to-use photo editor like:

  • Aviary – A free photo editor you can use on iOS or Android
  • PicMonkey – A free online photo editor
  • Pixlr – A free online photo editor (I made the featured image for this blog post using Pixlr)
  • Box Shot King – Allows you to upload images and project them onto eBook covers – No design experience necessary!
  • Placeit  – Allows you to insert images, videos, checklists, etc. onto images of computer screens, mobile phones, iPads, etc.

Below are two simple but effective examples of visuals including checklists that link back to blog posts. Note: They have several repins and likes; yet don’t include any pictures of products.

5. Collaborate!

The great thing about Pinterest is that you don’t have to go it alone. If you noticed, some of the boards up top aren’t just created by one company. Several companies have either collaborated with multiple related companies, popular bloggers or even personal employee accounts to contribute to their back-to-school boards. This allows for more widespread visibility, new audiences and a robust board.

The Food Network’s “Let’s Go Back to School” Pinterest board has 22 contributors ranging from websites like CNN’s food blog, Eatocracy, the Cooking Channel, various chefs, cookbook authors, to local food bloggers/photographers, gluten and dairy free websites, and more.

Check with local small businesses, bloggers within your industry, and even your employees to see who can help contribute to building valuable back-to-school boards.

Are you using or planning to use Pinterest for back-to-school? If so, share a link to your boards with us below!

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 5 Pinterest Tactics + Back-to-School = A+ Sales appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Listen Up: 9 Amusing, Info-Packed Business Podcasts You Should Hear

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 06:00

You face unique challenges and opportunities as a small business owner, so why not tune into a podcast to help you navigate the waters and learn from other people’s successes and challenges? Tuning in to the right ones can make all the difference in the world in how you address challenges, grow your business or keep up with industry trends. Here are nine podcasts we think can help. 

1. Accidental Creative: Creativity, Innovation, and Doing Brilliant Work

The Accidental Creative podcast is hosted by Todd Henry, author of Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day and the Accidental Creative. He’s also a speaker and consultant. Episodes include interviews with artists and industry leaders, and delve into the stickier aspects of living in a create-on-demand world. The show is thoughtful yet practical, providing useful information on ways to stay creatively engaged and thrive despite real-world issues. Episodes are on the shorter side, often only around 20 minutes or so.

2. Back to Work

Back to Work is an award-winning talk show hosted by Dan Benjamin, a developer, UX designer and writer; and Merlin Mann, a writer, speaker and broadcaster. In each episode they discuss productivity, barriers and constraints at work, communication, tools, and more. Episodes typically last over an hour and include a lot of humor.

3. Duct Tape Marketing

Each week, the Duct Tape Marketing podcast features interviews with thought leaders, authors and creative entrepreneurs. It’s hosted by author John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, the Referral Engine and the Commitment Engine. Podcasts are usually about a half hour long and include a guest.

4. HBR IdeaCast

Harvard Business News hosts a weekly podcast with analysis and advice from the leading minds in management. Episodes, including interviews, typically last around 20 minutes or less. Guests have included the likes of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Recent topics have included decision-making, risk management, motivation, management and even gender. While the podcast is always professionally produced, HBR IdeaCast explores sticky and sometimes controversial topics.

5. The Lede

The Lede is a short-form broadcast hosted by Jerod Morris, the director of Content for Copyblogger Media. (Disclosure: I also write for Copyblogger.) In true Copyblogger fashion, topics include copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, and more. The show features special guests as well as a rotating lineup of Copyblogger staff. Recent topics include finding ideas, link building, content curation, and so forth.

6. Mixergy

Not only does Mixergy provide a virtual who’s who among successful tech entrepreneurs, Andrew Warner is the best interviewer in the industry. His probing, insightful questions and genuine curiosity turns what could be a podcast where guests simply promote themselves to one that provides value to the listener. Interviews are posted multiple times a week. Some are available free of charge, but a premium (paid) membership includes access to all 1,028 interviews as well as 138 courses designed to help you in various aspects of marketing, sales, copywriting and more. Yearly memberships also allow readers to download interviews instead of simply listening or viewing online.

7. Six Pixels of Separation

Six Pixels of Separation is put on by Mitch Joel, author of Ctrl Alt Delete and president of Twist Image. He’s a master of digital marketing. In his long-running (more than 400) podcast, Joel presents key insights about the state of marketing through interviews with industry leaders. His podcasts run about 45 minutes.

8. Social Media Marketing

This podcast, hosted by Social Media Examiner, is created for busy marketers and business owners who want to know what works best with social media marketing. They are hosted by Michael Stelzner, the author of Launch & Writing White Papers (as well as Social Media Examiner). Each episode has one specific theme, such as social media mistakes or Instagram marketing, discussed with a guest.

9. Social Triggers Insider

Derek Halpern’s podcast, Social Triggers Insider, is intermittent, but definitely worth the wait. He is a voracious reader, has an excellent grasp of psychology and human behavior, and uses that knowledge to help entrepreneurs learn how to attract leads and make sales through cutting edge research and insights about life and business. Halpern’s also highly energetic and shoots from the hip, so his podcast provides instant insight without skirting around the issues. His guests include New York Times best-selling authors, researchers, professors and more. Halpern plans to podcast more frequently, but for now, you can catch up with the 21 episodes he has already broadcast.

Have a favorite podcast of your own? Tell us about it in the comments.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Listen Up: 9 Amusing, Info-Packed Business Podcasts You Should Hear appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Advice from a Social Pro: Are Facebook Promoted Posts Valuable? [VIDEO]

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 07:00

In this episode of “The Magic @ Ball of Social Media,” our video series where experts answer small business social media questions, we sit down with Tim McDonald, Director of Community at Huffington Post. He is also on the social council of No Kid Hungry and is the Co-founder of CreatingIs. McDonald shares his perspective on Facebook promoted posts and the value they can bring to small businesses.

A key takeaway that McDonald shares: Small businesses should focus more on listening to their customers rather than talking to/at them on social, especially if your business is new to social media. 

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Advice from a Social Pro: Are Facebook Promoted Posts Valuable? [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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