Why your business should invest in SEO

This week in my Emerging Media & the Market class in the Integrated Marketing Communications master’s degree program at West Virginia University, I learned about the importance of search engine optimization. According to the lesson I learned this week, “SEO involves a group of techniques aimed at boosting the ranking of a Web site within a set of search engine listings.”

The techniques of SEO include the following:

  1. Key word/key phrase research and selection
  2. Getting the search engines to index the site
  3. On-page optimization
  4. Off-page optimization
Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 10.52.14 PM
Source: Forbes.com

Each of these activities in critical in helping a company reach a better placement on Google’s search results. But how can SEO improve help a company bring more traffic to their Web site and increase sales? Is it worth the investment? According to experts, there are several reasons why all businesses today should seriously consider investing in SEO, including:

It is cost effective: According to Forbes, “compared to the costs associated with other forms of online marketing such as PPC advertising, social media marketing, or purchasing leads for an email marketing program, SEO provides fairly good ROI. While PPC may drive more revenue and social media may be more important for your image, your organic SEO in many ways remains a bedrock of your online presence”

SEO impacts the research/buying cycle: Since a majority of consumers first research online the products and services they are interested, SEO efforts can be a powerful tool to help reach these people. According to Search Engine Land, “SEO will increase your sales without proportionately increasing your marketing costs, thereby growing profits exponentially and over time. SEO can further all your business goals at a better ROI than most other comparable forms of online marketing because of this fundamental effect of better conversions and more sales at little incremental cost.”

Your competitors are already doing it: Jayson Bayless, owner of BestSEOCompanies.com, says SEO is a never ending process. He says, “if you’re not moving forward and improving your position, you’re losing ground to a competitor who is. That’s a simple fact of how the process works.”

Do you know of any other reasons why SEO can help businesses increase online traffic and sales? If so, leave a comment and let us know!

Digital Storytelling: The new way brands are engaging consumers

This week in my Emerging Media class at West Virginia University’s IMC graduate program, we learned about how many brands today do what’s called digital storytelling.

Digital storytelling goes beyond a typical advertisement. According to Ignite Social Media, “today, instead of talking at the customer, companies are successfully talking to them, and customers are talking back. Advertising has left the rarefied atmosphere of one-way communication and entered the public arena. Companies who manage to harness the power of the public meet roaring success. The key: Company image and actions must meet the standards of the brand story. Today’s customers demand truth, and companies that can’t deliver are crucified across all platforms of social media.”

A great example of a brand that does digital storytelling well is Nike. The following four-minute video speaks directly to the daring adventurer in all of us and shows that Nike’s storytelling is empowerment and encouragement. If Nike’s slogan of “Just Do It,” didn’t already give that away, then the video below definitely shows that and even pulls the viewer into the story:

Another excellent example of digital storytelling is the Coca-Cola’s “Coke Chase” campaign. The campaign pitted three teams against each other and allowed fans to vote for which of the teams would be featured in a post-game ad. According to Mashable, the ad included a group of Cowboys, Badlanders, and Showgirls racing toward a giant Coke bottle only to find that they still needed to travel another 50 miles. At the end of the ad, it asked viewers to go to CokeChase.com to vote for the team they like the best.

Here is the video of “The Mirage” ad in campaign below, which instantly become a viral hit on YouTube and has so far received over 4.2 million views:

Are there any other brands that you have noticed that do a great job of digital storytelling? If so, leave a comment.

The power of unofficial blogs on companies today

Unofficial company blogs can be a very effective way to increase brand awareness and profitability for a company.

Unlike static corporate Web sites, unofficial blogs can build stronger relationships with consumers. They give consumers a platform where they are able to voice their concerns, give tips and advice, interact with other blog readers, and even praise the company the unofficial blog is focused on.

Companies should engage with the writers of unofficial blogs. Social Media Examiner demonstrates the importance of building and cultivating relationships with bloggers by saying, “One of the most powerful factors influencing your online success is whether you have support from other bloggers. Instead of seeing other blogs in your niche as competitors, see them as potential allies.

There are several examples of successful unofficial blogs. One is Starbuck’s Melody, which is a blog about writer Melody’s Overton’s obsession with Starbucks. She told Marketing Profs that Starbucks once contacted her about the blog. She said the company was negative towards her at first, but eventually came around.

Melody Overton at a Starbuck’s store. Image Source: MarketingProfs.com

In the article, she said, “On the upside, there have also been times where Starbucks has reached out to me in a really positive way, making it clear that they enjoy the visibility and are flattered by it.  Adam Brotman, vice president of Digital Ventures, contacted me to talk about the Starbucks Digital Network, and I was also invited to a Friends and Family event for the opening of the Olive Way Starbucks.  So, I am optimistic about the future.”

Do you know of any examples of successful unofficial blogs? If so, tell us in the comments!

The miracle of short films in advertising

This week in my Emerging Media & the Market course for my master’s degree program at West Virginia University, I learned more about how companies today are using short films to creatively get the word out about their brand. The Canadian airline, WestJet, is an excellent example of a company that released a short film that was an instant success.

Watch WestJet’s “Christmas Miracle” video below:

The video was uploaded on YouTube and involved the company’s employees giving customers what they wanted for Christmas. One employee dressed up as Santa Claus and asked passengers on their departing flight via a kiosk what they wanted for Christmas that year. When the flight departed, company employees scrambled at the arrival location to buy all of the gifts at several department stores. When the passengers got off the plane at their arrival location and came to the baggage terminal, gifts popped out instead of suitcases. Santa was even there to deliver the gifts to each passenger.

The short film definitely delivered for WestJet. According to Forbes, “The company had expected perhaps 800,000 views from the video. But in the few short days since Christmas Miracle went live, it had topped 13 million views, been seen in more than 200 countries and made the news in the U.K., Australia, Japan, Poland and Malaysia.”

The WestJet short film was also successful because it used a persuasion strategy. According to West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications master’s degree program, “Sharable videos intentionally tap into specific emotions that give people a reason to share (something that expresses their identity, emotion, informative).”

“Christmas Miracle” used emotion in the video because it gave people what they really wanted for Christmas and even used Santa, which also brings emotions and brings back childhood memories for everyone. I think this short film is just brilliant.

Do you know of any other companies that have effectively told a story through viral videos? If so, what made the video successful and why?

How to build an audience on a blog and keep them engaged

A blog is an excellent way to create more buzz around a company or product. According to Entrepreneur.com, “the most powerful aspect of business blogging is the potential to generate word-of-mouth marketing from the content you publish. If you can engage your audience members and get them talking about your business, products and services outside of your website, you’ve hit marketing gold.”

Blogs are a great tool to engage visitors because they’re conversational in nature. When done right, they’re also filled with personality, which encourages readers to participate and build relationships with the writer.

One blog that is a great example is DelightedtoWrite.com. The blogger for this site, Crystalee Beck, provides engaging content on how to write and frequently interviews experts on how to write better. She adds a lot of personality on the site to build relationships. She includes a form on her blog that includes a little bit of this personality. The headline reads “Delight Your Inbox” and the button to submit your email address says, “Oh yeah, sign me up!”

Crystalee Beck's blog Delighted to Write is an excellent example of how to engage readers on your blog.
Crystalee Beck’s blog Delighted to Write is an excellent example of how to engage readers on your blog.

But how can you build an audience for your blog and keep readers coming back for more? Here are some ideas from blogging experts:

Promote your article across a wider variety of platforms

Everyone today is using Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn to promote their blog articles. According to Social Media Examiner, “you get a competitive advantage when you share your content on smaller or less well-known networks. These sites often have active, focused audiences and offer less competition for attention, so your content will stand out.”

Some examples of smaller networks to share your blog are:

Tumblr: A microblogging site whose user base tends to be younger and more “hip,” making it the perfect platform to share edgier, niche-based content.

Quora.com: A question/answer-based website founded by two former Facebook employees.

Empire Avenue: Part social network, part social media marketing tool, Empire Avenue uses gamification to enable users to broadcast content across all of the other social networks.

Make your blog content SEO-friendly

Search engines are a massive opportunity for traffic on a blog, yet many people ignore this channel due to fear and/or misunderstanding. According to Moz.com, one of the most authoritative sources on SEO, “Taking advantage of this massive traffic opportunity is of tremendous value to bloggers, who often find that much of the business side of blogging, from inquiries for advertising to guest posting opportunities to press and discovery by major media entities comes via search.”

Respond to all comments on your articles

Readers of a blog will have a higher chance of returning for more content in the future if they feel valued. Responding to every comment on a blog will help keep the conversation going and will let readers know that the writer cares and encourages feedback. In cases where there are too many comments for one writer to handle, the writer should respond to the readers who ask questions and the ones that receive the most replies, likes, or any other kind of engagement indicator.

What are some ways you use to build traffic to your blog? Tell us in the comments!

Responsive web design: Why more companies are adopting this new trend

Responsive web design has been around for several years now, but has recently grown in popularity due to the advent of mobile devices. With more and more people browsing the web on smartphones and tablets, making Web sites responsive is now more important than ever.

In fact, responsive web design is also growing today because more people are now consuming content on their mobile web browser than through an app. According to the Pew Research Center, “60% of tablet users prefer reading news on the mobile web than via an app.” 

News sites like Mashable and CNN are leading the way when it comes to incorporating responsive web design. Take a look at the image below, which shows how Mashable uses the design on desktop and mobile devices.

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According to Brian Casel, it’s not just news sites that are taking a responsive approach. He says that WordPress has made all of their newer themes fully mobile optimized. He also comments on the future of the design method by saying, “It won’t only be about folding down the design from desktop to tablet to handheld. We will also need to plan for how Web sites will expand upward, adapting to larger and different types of displays.”

Responsive web design is also becoming a crucial component to search engine optimization. According to the Search Engine Journal, “Google not only recommends RWD as the best way to target mobile users , but also favors mobile-optimized sites when presenting results for searches made on a mobile device. This is especially true when mobile users search for local services.”

Do you think all companies should adopt a responsive web design approach? Why or why not?

Emerging media marketing to children: Is it ethical?

There are many companies today that have created emerging media marketing campaigns for children.

General Mills is one of these companies and uses the SillyChannel.com site to promote its Trix brand to kids. The site features rainbow-like colors, just like the cereal and even features games and videos. One of the biggest issues with the site is that it makes an unhealthy cereal appealing to children. With the growing rates of childhood obesity in the United States, marketing a cereal like Trix, which contains high amounts of sugar, is concerning to many health officials and parents.

According to a study conducted the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, “at SillyChannel.com, Trix cereal goes far beyond its old television spot featuring a bouncing rabbit and the slogan, ‘Trix Are for Kids!’ The site gives children entry to a colorful ‘Trix World’ where they can play a bowling game at ‘Fruitalicious Lanes’ or explore a ‘Rabbitropolis’ that has a movie theater showing ‘Trix Toons.’”

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 12.53.41 AM Source: SillyChannel.com

There are many questions and concerns that be raised about SillyChannel.com and other emerging media platforms targeted to children. Research shows a majority of parents disapprove of websites targeted to children. According to a study, “Many of the techniques used by marketers and child-directed websites elicited disapproval from parents and other adults, with 80 percent opposed to allowing advertisers to collect and use information about a child’s activities online— even if the advertisers do not use or know the child’s name.”

Another concern with emerging media is how it gathers information from children. According to a study conducted by child advocacy groups, “91 percent of parents and adults said it was not okay for advertisers to collect information about a child’s location from a mobile phone; 96 percent of parents and 94 percent of adults said it was not okay for websites to ask children for personal information about their friends.”

With this information in mind, should it be illegal for emerging media platforms to retrieve data from children? If not, where should marketers draw the line?



What is emerging media and why does it matter?

Emerging media is a new and exciting way for people to connect with the world. Instead of relying on traditional media channels for information such as newspapers, magazines, newsletters and television shows, emerging media allows everyone to receive the content they need instantly on the go from anyone, anywhere and at anytime.

What is Emerging Media?

According to Ball State University, emerging media is defined as “the evolving use of technology and digital content to enhance work, play, and learning, to broaden access to information, and to enrich personal connection by eliminating the constraints of time and location.” Rather than being a one-to-many communication i.e., communication is sent from one place and received in many places by a large audience), which is a defining characteristic of traditional media, emerging media has the possibility of having many-to-many communication. This means emerging media platforms can disseminate information from many sources in the beginning and then deliver that information to many different people in the end.

SocialMediaIconcollageThere are several examples of emerging media today. Here is a list of some of the most prevalent emerging media platforms in 2014:

  • Web sites
  • Social Media Networks
  • Blogs and Wikis
  • Mobile apps
  • Podcasts
  • E-mail
  • Online ads
  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Streaming video

According to Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications master’s degree program, the primary goal of emerging media is to “connect with consumers in new and exciting ways that are much more evolved and personalized and interactive than the standard television, radio and print mediums that make up the traditional media landscape.”

Why Does Emerging Media Matter?

The advent of mobile technologies today such as smartphones and tablets are enabling anyone to update their social media profiles, write a blog post, send an email, and more at anytime. These technologies are also rapidly evolving to more of an anyone, anytime focus, which means professionals will need to make sure to stay on top of which emerging media platforms are trending and which ones are dying out.

Professionals also need to make sure all communication channels can be accessed by anyone at anytime from anywhere. It’s important to have user-friendly mobile sites, viable mobile advertising options and a robust and engaging social media presence, to name a few.

Why-children-should-not-have-smartphones-and-tablets-before-age-12Social media is one area of emerging media where this rapid change is clearly evident. Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, says mobile usage will exceed the growth in usage through personal computers for the forseeable future” and social media “networks that make engagement on the go easy—especially visual platforms like Instagram—are at a significant advantage.”

Emerging media also allows everyone to be producers of content. Consumers can now create their own news, advertisements, messages and videos to share with anyone they know from anywhere in the world. It is crucial for marketers today to understand how their target audiences are creating as well as consuming digital media. Without this information, it will be difficult for marketers to make their campaigns successful.

It is clear that emerging media has a tremendous effect on everyone today. How have emerging media affected your life?