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Jody Raines, Internet Marketing Expert and Founder of WebMarCom Marketing Agency

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Social Media Safety - Beware The Invitation To Connect


istock_000021692588xsmallRecently I received an invitation to connect to someone on Facebook.  In and of itself, this is not an unusual occurance.  Since I co-host several podcasts, and am active on Social Media, there are often people asking to be 'friends' who I don't know personally, but this situation had my spidey senses tingling.  

When it comes to social media safety, it helps to be cautious and look for the red flags. 

There are some red flags that I noticed:

  1. The person's name was a "gag name".  Now this can happen, and may not be a total red flag, but if you receive a request from Seymore Bunns, or Anita Break you should most likely delve further into whether you truly want to accept this person among your connections.   In this case, the person's name was a page turner of sorts.
  2. The profile picture and background picture are not of the person.   Again, this may not be a true indicator that the person does not exist or is not real, however, if someone is trying to be overly clever and they faked the profile, then it's another way to detect a false profile. 
  3. The profile is relatively new.   If someone has a profile that was recently created and they have a ton of 'friends' then be cautious if you do not recognize the name.  

All three of these indicators were in place for this particular friend request, but... there was more.....

  1. All posts are memes and generic.  If there is no personal content, that's very odd.   Every now and then, most people will post a picture of something that they are doing, or something they are eating or even a picture of their dog.  If the only posts are third party shares, that's another suspicious characteristic. 
  2. The friends that you are also connected to are primarily from similar circles.  If you notice that the unknown person who wants to friend you is connected to several people from that same circle, you should be suspicious.   Ask your friends whether htey really know the person,or whether they friended them because others were connected.  If you have friends who are numbers people and really don't care who they accept, then it's important to discount their response to your inquiry.   
  3. Where it starts getting creepy is when the friend requester has many of your connections, but they are connected in ways that does not make sense.  For example, with this request, not only were they connected to a ton of people that I network with locally, they also were somehow connected to people that I went to High School with, and who do not live in the area.  The person also had connected to a guy I dated who now lives in another state.  The liklihood of someone knowing this same circle of people from very different points of my sphere is more like flashing beacons than red flags.   Just too much of a coincidence. 

How do you handle the situation?  I reached out to a few of my friends who were connected and asked whether they knew this perons or had met the person in real life.  No one actually remembers meeting her.   I think it's safe to say that in this instance, it's a nefarious purpose and therefore, I will not friend the person.

You may ask what difference this makes, and I will share with you a situation in my town where someone who had been allowed to connect started stalking and victimising females.   None of the young ladies who were victims actually knew the stalker, but had accepted the person because he was a friend of their friends.   

Be wary.  Be careful.  And do not post where you are going to be or what you are not going to be home. Don't indiscriminantly friend people without knowing who they are or investigating why they wish to friend you.   Sure, it may turn out to be fine, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

Want More Leads?

WebMarCom is an Internet strategy and Web Marketing Communications Agency based in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

New Years Best Practices For Website Optimization - Thanks Google!


Website Optimization BlueprintSEO is dead.  Long Live SEO.

Welcome to 2015!  SEO is a brave new skill, based upon the many changes of the last year in how Search Engines index and identify websites.  

In 2014 there were many changes to the algorithms that index and identify best websites for specific content.  In my opinion, the largest change was the introduction of Hummingbird, which made "semantic search" a household term for SEO savvy web developers.  Then there was the animal entourage, of Panda, Penguin and Pigeon, all of which stressed developing better content.  In addition, there was the slow and untimely death of authorship, which supposedly was helpful in identifying authority of authors.   

So in a nutshell, what is a Website developer to do?  I've identified website optimization best practices for "Google Love" to help clarify an approach to a healthy and happy 2015 for your website...


1. DEVELOP CONTENT - Develop content on an ongoing basis, but not just any content will do.  If you previously had hired writes to create blog posts for you, you may have had the experience of posts that were 'optimized' for specific phrases, but then were penalized for word density.  The word of today is "semantic".  Google is interested in the intent behind the content, not just the words on the page.   Content must be original and rich - that is to say it should be well written and deep enough to share some information that is relevant to the topic.  Just using words that are 'keywords' is not enough -  they have to be used in a way that makes sense to humans, not just indexing.  

2. CONTENT THAT IS ORIGINAL AND RELEVANT - Timely and well written content will withstand the test of time.  If your content is relevant to your audience, it will be shared, and sharing through social channels is another way to have your site become more credible. and have higher authority with search engines.  

3. AVOID SPAMMY LINKS - Bad links are out, good links, as always are in.  Understanding the difference is important to the health of today's website... it's quality, not quantity that matters. Websites that have inbound links from formula sites may have a short burst in ranking, but these will be discovered and then penalized by Google.  

4. PAY ATTENTION TO SITE ARCHITECTURE - Sites that are not indexible will always be a problem for search engines. Obviously it's critical that your content is able to be 'read' by the spiders.   There are best practices that should be in place for building the website and these include the meta description, alt text, a single h1 on the page, slim files to improve load time, appropriate re-directs, submitting XML sitemap files, etc.  A good web developer uses best practices in every website, and on every page.  Having a page that lands on the default babble of the software that says "HELLO WORLD" is not a best practice.  

5. MAKE THE OFFER CLEAR - Often I'm asked to evaluate why a website is not working... Not working may mean it's getting a ton of traffic, however the traffic is not converting into sales.  That's where a marketer is different than a web developer.  Having a clear idea what the website is about makes sense, and yet, surprisingly there are a ton of websites that I see that obfuscate the message with clutter and trying to say too much at the same time.  I see the same thing when someone is blogging a lot, however the cute blog titles have nothing to do with the offer or the business, and therefore, will not help the search engines identify what the website is about.  Sometimes having a third party take a peek to see whether they "get it" when they read your copy is very helpful. 

If your website has a clear and relevant offer,  you have articles that appeal to your audience,  and you have clean, original, well-generated content, your site will rise to the top... Be the "cream of the crop", and you will rise to the top... and don't waste time worrying about the competition - let them worry about you!  

Hire A Ghost Blogger

WebMarCom is an Internet strategy and Web Marketing Communications Agency based in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

Social Media Best Practices: How To Use Linkedin For Leads


building linkedin networkRecently, several of my friends have requested some guidance with regard to using Linkedin for business development.  My concern was that Linkedin can be powerful when used correctly.  Linkedin can also be a force to demotivate sales and alienate potential customers. 

Social media, and particularly Linkedin, are networking tools that when applied correctly, can grow your business.   For some reason, the people who use it incorrectly will stop reading after this last sentence and go on to make the types of mistakes that have people opting out and disconnecting from them.   

Here are the three biggest Linkedin Mistakes that I see made over and over by sales and marketing pros who are too eager to "use" social media to generate leads.  Frankly, any of the following mistakes would result in not connecting, disconnecting or opting out. 

Three BIG Linkedin Mistakes:

First mistake - if you met someone at a networking event, chamber meeting, or family barbeque and you exchanged business cards that's not always the best way to add to your network. When you establish a rapport with someone, and you feel that you can confidently recomment their services or refer business to them, then you should add them to your network.  A great thing to do when you add someone is to mention how you met them or something from that conversation.  I cannot tell you the number of times I have not accepted a request to connect because I didn't remember whether I knew the person or how we met. 

Second mistake - if the person connects with you, please, do not send them a note immediately trying to share what you do and why they should work with you.  Unless that's continuing a conversation where the person indicated that they were interested, slamming someone that way will not endear you to the new connection. 

Third mistake - if you think it's cool to send your 'newsletter' or 'announcement' to all your contacts through Linkedin and that your going to get a ton of business that way, thing again. It's actually somewhat disrespectful to send a blanket email to your contacts that way.  No one wants to be addressed as "Dear Contact".  The power of Linkedin is that it gives you some great information, and you have the opportunity to make the connection more personal.

Best practices - Linkedin 

Here's a recipe to utilize the power of Linked in that can work for you. Let me know if you have other tips that work well, and we can share them. 

  1. Fill in your entire profile. Linkedin represents an opportunity to share your resume online.  Be complete and share relevant information that can be searched for keywords.  
  2. Use links to your website and change the description for SEO. The links in your profile use default descriptions for "my website" and "m y blog". You can change these to a phrase or company name for improved search engine optimization.
  3. Ask for Referrals.  If one of your contacts is connected to someone you would like to know, there is an appropriate way to request a referral.  Be sure to explain how you can HELP the recipient contact.  If you only want to connect to sell them something, or if you do not add value, you should re-think wasting your contact's time.  
  4. Connect with your former associates.  Think about high school or college - each of your friends there has gone on to different organizations or companies.  Adding them to your network can expand the strength of your network considerably.   People you used to work with, for example, most likely have moved on to other positions within other organizations.  Adding them to your network gives you the opportunity to connect with their connections or ask fro introductions...  Very powerful when used correctly!
  5. Join groups.  A little known feature of groups is that it adds the ability to connect with other members of the group.   If you want to meet people or add to your network, joining groups and participating in group discussions is a great way to get your name out there.   
  6. Ask questions.  Withing groups and within Linkedin, asking questions can help you to identify others who can utilize your services.  A well worded question can expose motivations and vulnerabilities that you have the ability to help with.   For example, a client who does vehicle wraps could ask a question regarding the top issues for wrapping a fleet of vehicles. If answered, the person has now identified the fact that they have a fleet of vehicles and that they are having a problem.  Based upon the problem, this could be an amazing prospect... Think about it! 
  7. Connect with other group members. Other group members have networks too - and their network could be greatly different than yours.  By connecting with others in your group, you now have new contacts that are just a couple of degrees of seperation from you, and those numbers increase algebraically. 
  8. Use Search to connect with company. If you use the search function within Linkedin, it helps you discover who, within your network, may be connected with someone at that company.  Try it - it's very cool!  
  9. Ask for introductions.  If you share how you can help the person you are requesting an introduction to, and if you have a good relationship with the person from whom you are requesting the introduction, this can be a powerful tool. 
  10. Post periodically.  Recently LinkedIn introducted the ability to have articles posted.  It's wonderful exposure - you never know who you may reach!  If your post is intelligent and has good content, you will get some attention.   
There are many new and exciting ways to utilize the power of LinkedIn for connecting and generating new leads.  What are some of the ways that you have had success?  Have  you tried any of these ideas?  What was the result? 
New Call to action
WebMarCom is an Internet strategy and Web Marketing Communications Agency based in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

How Social Media Marketing Fueled The #IceBucketChallenge


Viral Social Media CampaignHow do you raise over $100 million dollars with a bucket of ice and a smart phone?

This past summer, you had to live under a rock to miss the fundraising phenomena #IBC or #IceBucketChallenge that raised fundraising levels by over 3,700% for ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Whether you participated in the challenge or not, you have to admit that it was pretty effective at becoming a phenomena, increasing donations, and to some extent, improving awareness of ALS.

Was the challenge a success?

In terms of sheer participation and fundraising, yes. The purpose of this post is not to point out the percentage of the funds that actually went to research or not, but to simply identify the components that lead to its success to help non-profit and not-for-profit organizations consider similar tactics when contemplating their fundraising campaigns.

The challenge has been hailed as a social media phenomenon. The fact that ALS has become an afterthought adds some credibility to the theory that the same generation that has popularized the selfie has delighted in presenting itself as a heroic victim for a good cause… Even if they don’t know what the cause is, or where the money is going. It’s really more about the ice being poured over their head than the funds being raised.

Some of the reasons the ice bucket challenge became such a hit include:

  1. Narcissistic stroke to the ego. What’s better than posting pictures of yourself having fun? Posting pictures of yourself dumping cold water on your head, while tagging your friends and stating that you are doing something philanthropic. Sure, that moment of water cascading over your head may not be the most glamorous, but the fact that you did it, proves you are a ‘good’ person, right? 
  2. It’s for a “good cause”. It’s for a good cause. Many of the IBC’ers may not know much about ALS, or have any clue how the money they raise would be spent… they just knew it was for a ‘good cause’ so let the cold water and ice flow!
  3. Short, yet creative selfie. Yep, it’s a selfie. Some of the ways that people chose to have water dumped on their head proved their creativity. From a simple glass of cold water at an amusement park to having a helicopter dump cold water, it really didn’t matter as long as there was a person you know and some very cold water being video-taped then posted to the nearest social media channel.
  4. Power of geometric progression. Each challenger was tasked to come up with three people to challenge. As long as this progression continues, the speed and vitality of the campaign became explosive. 
  5. Elements of peer pressure. Your friend has publicly tagged you. You know your other friends have seen this too. Now the pressure begins. The desire to “look good” and “do good” are powerful – in fact, social media has the ability to influence our moods, as was demonstrated last summer by a Facebook experiment.
  6. Cool factor – you‘ve been tagged. What’s neater than being personally identified by someone on a popular social platform? Hey, you must be cool too, then, right? 
  7. Wow, celebrities participated too. From Justin Bieber to Jimmy Fallon, Governor Chris Christie to former President, George Bush, everyone wanted to jump on the Ice Bucket Challenge hit parade. It’s fun to see our celebrity icons take a dunk, and the clamoring to outdo each other and then upping the stakes by naming other celebrities continued to ignite and fuel the viral nature of the campaign. No sooner did someone get tagged, but within a short period of time, their video hit the Internet, and the people they tagged were then challenged. 
  8. Simple, easy to duplicate. What could be simpler than dumping a bucket of ice water over one’s head? Not much – except maybe jumping matchsticks. The ease of duplication, including the script was part of the reason that every man and celebrity could participate. 
  9. Humorous, slapstick element. For some reason, we think its funny when someone trips and falls or has a bucket of ice water poured over their head. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s universal. I also never could understand the popularity of the Three Stooges, but slapstick seems to work in many instances, especially when it happens to your friends. 
  10. Not to be ignored social proof. Once you’ve been tagged its your turn. Not only do you tag the person who challenged you, you then tag others to make sure they see you, as well as tagging the people you’ve challenged. And since each person is supposed to tag three more (or more) the progression increases exponentially. 
  11. Video is fun. The visual of the ice bucket challenge is so much better than just listening to the audio! With video through mobile phones and ease of updating social media sites, video is a great tool to share the moment. 
  12. Effective use of social media. Utilizing multiple platforms in complementary ways, the #IBC was a great way to use cross-platform to optimize the campaign. Images and videos were posted on YouTube, and Facebook, made into Vines, Instagrammed, and even Pinned! For ALS it was a great way to gain exposure. 

Was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge a success? In amount of money raised, there is no question, however it’s still open to conjecture whether the public was more enamored with images of pouring buckets of ice cold water over celebrities than with understanding what the charity was, or about the underlying premise. Whether it was ALS or another foundation was irrelevant in my opinion.

What do you think?  Was the #IBC a success?  Is it duplicatable?   And do you think it raised awareness for ALS, or was a self-contained viral social media marketing phenomena?

WebMarCom is an Internet strategy and Web Marketing Communications Agency based in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

Do It Yourself Websites: Are They Effective?


Do it yourself websiteA friend recently posted on Facebook that her new 'business website' has launched.  She proudly asked for all of her friends to come and visit and share what they thought.  The well-meaning friends who complimented her on the site fueled her enthusiastic response that she created the site herself using a free service.   She then offered to 'create' websites for her friends who may need a website as well. 

While well-intentioned and visible as a website, most small and micro businesses do not realize that there is a mountain of difference between having a website and having an effective website.  Even in discussions with clients, we run into discussions of what constitutes an effective website versus having a brochure online. 

If you simply want a place that you can point a prospect to by giving them the web address or URL, then by all means, save money and use a free service.   For the most part, getting a website as a DIY project will save you money, and possibly time if you are working with an inexperienced or slow web designer.  For many businesses who have gone the budget route, they have wound up with a site that was poorly thought through, has non indexible content and pages, and cannot be easily updated.  If you are hopeful to develop a clientele through prospects finding your website online, this is not likely to happen with a Do-it-yourself website.

The difference between a DIY website and one that is professionally produced are manifold.  For example, a web designer will help you determine the navigation for your website.  This is one of the most critical phases and will determine the "user interface" -  in other words, the way that a visitor to your website will navigate to find what they need. A good web design can help the visitor find what they are looking for in the least amount of clicks.   Web dev's understand that too many clicks will result in a lost opportunity, particularly if the individual cannot find the information they are seeking.

Another problem with DIY websites is that they are not created with an eye to optimizing load time and images.  Certainly pretty images look great, but if the image file is too large, it will increase load time, and if you've ever had to wait for a website to load,  you understand that most people won't!  Check your "bounce" rate using Google Analytics and you will see that there are some pages that have high bounce rates.  One reason could be that the page takes too long to load... Another reason is that the keywords that brought the reader to that page may be inconsistent with the content the prospect is seeking. 

One of the most frequent problems I see with DIY websites as well as with professionally created websites is the content.  Most businesses tend to think of their business in terms of the lines they offer.  Most customers think of the busines in terms of how it meets their needs.  The problem is when the website navigation is organized in terms that the business thinks makes sense, but becomes difficult to navigate and investigate when it comes to the customers needs.

A good example that comes to mind is a sign company that I worked with.  The owner of ths sign company was frustrated after working with many SEO companies, and spending a lot of money. His website was still buried and not coming up, plus his sales were not coming from the website.   We took a look at the site, and the HOME page was so broad and general that it really did not do a good job of presenting anything.  We discussed the types of businesses who are most profitable for him, and then reworked the navigation to appeal to the customer's perspective.   Upon re-launch of the site, he saw a huge improvement in inbound leads and business, and was so excited about the transformation of his online business that he became an "inbound marketing consultant" to help others learn what he felt was a winning strategy.

Another example is a small company that manufactures compartmentalized handbags.  The bags are geared towards two different markets - they are oversized and help to organize a lot of items, so they are great as a designer diaperbag, and they are also terrific for the working woman executive to carry a notebook or tablet and other office essentials in fashion.  The navigation did nothing to help these two audiences find the section that appealed to their needs because the navigation was organized by the colors of the product.  Since the product could be used differently regardless of the color, women executives may have been turned off by the diaperbag images, and the mommy buyers could not relate to the business photos.   The solution was to create a navigation that would divide the site by customer use and present the appropriate and compelling images and content for those audiences.  

If you've ever searched for Homemade Dog Food recipes you may have found this next example client.  When I first started talking with them, they had a website that was so technical I wasn't sure what they were trying to sell. It turns out it was a supplement and recipes for a feeding system if you wanted to make homemade dog food.  The product makes sense, but if you didn't know what it was, it would have been difficult to acertain from the picture of a beautiful clean kitchen.  The HOME page now features rotating graphics about the benefits of a great home-made diet from healthy glossy coats to renewed activity and vigor and directs prospects to free recipes that all explain the benefits of adding the nutrients in correct proportions... 

Evaluate Our Website

If you are creating your own website, you may save a few bucks at the outset, but in the long run, if you are serious about your business, you will find that the value of having an inbound marketing professional's insights can make the difference between having a website and having an effective website.

WebMarCom is an Internet strategy and Web Marketing Communications Agency based in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

Why I Unsubscribed From Your Email Marketing Campaign


smart email marketing campaignsEmail marketing can be powerful and effective.  It can bring prospects closer and nurture leads.  It can also be a deadly way to lose contacts and potential connections. 

Today I unsubscribed from an unsolicited email announcing a web-based radio show that for some reason I need to know about.  The announcement came from a person that I exchanged cards with at a networking function.  The announcement was all about him, and his new wonderful radio show - with no logical reason that I would want to listen to it.  In fact, it featured a big picture of him, right in the middle, and some jargon about when the show will be recorded.  

In addition, the email had a description that read something like "this is where you should describe your offer".   Seriously.  Not even changed.  

In today's digital marketing environment, that's just not good enough.  If you expect to be accepted as a professional business person, you need to realize that the name of the game in digital marketing is personalization.  It you are doing business the old way and sending out a blanket one-size-fits-all email to everyone, you are appealing to no one.  

This must be my day for unsubscribing because I also unsubscribed from a Linkedin contact who sent a blanket email to everyone she is connected with on Linkedin.  That's not the way connect, nor are Linkedin contacts supposed to be used for overt solicitation.   Frankly, this tells me a couple of things; one is that the person just does not understand why we connected, and two that I am not important to the person who sent these. 

If you treat your connections indiscriminately, you deserver to have them disconnect from you.  The first step is to opt out of your email blast.  Too many opt outs, and you will begin to see that the mail services are not going to like handling your outbound email campaigns.  In fact, you may wind up being booted.

Ever try to put together a program to increase your subscribers?  It's not that easy.  So, when you have a connection or you have a subscriber, treat them like gold.

Here's a few rules to review before you send that next blast:

  1. Does the recipient want to recieve the information?  If you met at a networking event and exchanging cards is the sole basis for sending th email, you haven't earned the right to include that email on your sending list.  Before including them, send a special PERSONALISED email that reminds the person of how you met and explains the type of email you will be sending and ASKS if the person would like to recieve these types of emails.  Better yet, give them a choice of topics and let them pick the topics that would be best for their needs. This means that your emails will be much more targed and less likely to be reported as SPAM.   (This is called "opting in").
  2. Is the email targeted content, or is it a broad announcement all about you?  By targeted, what I mean is that the information contained is applicable to the industry, to the role, or in some way could be construed to be focused on the need of the person who is receiving it.  Just to send out a blast all about you is really as dull as dating someone who only wants to talk about himself.  Really dull.  Don't expect a second date and don't expect that the recipient is actually going to read your pablum!
  3. Have you completely filled in the template and tested it? Twice!  The worst thing is to have an email blast go to your most treasured list of prospects and have it undermine your professionalism because it has a section that's "greeked in".  Wow.   I see this sometimes on website as well, where its funny text that is supposed to be replaced. Why should I spend my time reading it if you didn't spend the time to put it together correctly.  Send it to yourself.  Send it to someone else.  Make sure it's correct.  
learn social media marketing
WebMarCom is an Internet strategy and Web Marketing Communications Agency based in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

Jody Raines - The True Story


describe the imageJody Raines. That's me.  The reason I am writing this blog article is simple. I want people to find me, and know who I am and what I do.   It's funny that one of the least recognized things that we try to rank for are the principals of our organization.  If someone is searching for your President, your CEO, you Board Of Directors, what will they find? 

My recommendation is to truly evaluate what you want people to find when they search for your organization.  Sometimes they may have met a representative at a trade show, or a Chamber of Commerce meeting, but if they try to find that person online, will they find you? 

Not only should you make a list of the many ways you hope that your prospects will find you, but also to create a blog where you write about them, and then be sure to monitor them as well. That's what we used to call keywords, but with semantic search, being a subject matter expert is really more important than the old SEO tactics of defining keywords and then creating content.  

The best content is original, shares relevant information, and is helpful.  After all, if you areJody Raines, harley just writing for the sake of writing, how much will that really help your prospect.  May as well just give them a link to your competition.

How do you monitor your brand?

One way to determine what is being said about you is to schedule Google Alerts.  This is an easy thing to do, but if you don't have a way to monitor your name, it may wind up that things are being posted that you are unaware of. For example, what would you want to thank someone who wrote a wonderful article that mentions you?  Of course you would.  Also, wouldn't you want to know if someone was saying something derogatory about you, or your organization?  Only by knowing what is said and monitoring it on an ongoing basis are you able to determine what the value of your marketing efforts may be. 

Jody Raines, Marketing ExpertWhen evaluating information that you discover online, be sure to evaluate the source.  Most people recognize that there is a big difference between Encyclopedia Brittanica and Wikipedia.  The first is an authoritative source with vetted information, the latter is a compiliation from multiple sources that may or may not be reliable. 

Since Google introduced Hummingbird, it's enabled the more credible sources to improve their standing.  The goal is for black hat marketers to be left in the dust, and to have the true, and credible source rise to the top.

Who is Jody Raines? 

So, when you ask who Jody Raines is, I think I would be a credible source since I am JodyJody Raines, Speaker, Social Media Raines. I founded WebMarCom in 2009 in to help businesses use the Internet more effectively.  The old ways of marketing didn't seem to work as well, and as the Internet blossomed, the way we search and research became more and more important.    The concept of Inbound Marketing resonated with me.  New media and traditional marketing were beginning to overlap more and more, and I was well positioned to see this happen.  With a background in traditional marketing and management (double major, Bachelor of Science from Rider University), plus Masters degree (MBA) first attending Fairleigh Dickenson, then University of Phoenix (MBA in Technology Management) coupled with work experience at notable companies including Canon USA, Oki Data America, and The Rouse Company, Homart Development and Sears Financial Group, and Macy's, I've had ample opportunity to practice what I preach.  Then, working with one of the foremost web companies in the Philadelphia, South Jersey area, I learned more about the power of the Internet and how a well designed website should work.   Coupling the tools of the Internet, including searchable and indexible websites, Social media marketing, and search engine optimization through strong, well written and informative content, I've been able to help companies large and small to improve their bottom line.  

Generating leads through being discovered when your customer is looking for what you do is the first tenant of inbound marketing.  Not every marketer has the background to help a company determine the appropriate marketing goals.  What is most edifying to me has been to be a trusted resource and guide, helping as a partner to improve the messaging and the content. 

How Does Jody Raines Help With Business Marketing?

Some of the greatest adventures have been identifying niche markets that a client did not recognize, then helping them to position their offer.  An example is an organization that thought it was a wood refinishing company that also reupholsters.  Now they are getting business from movie theater seating repair, office furniture maintenance, elevator cabinet refinishing, restaurant furniture restoration, and the list goes on.  Or another situation where a business that did printing and marketing now is positioned for direct mail communications for each of several clearly identified vertical markets, in real estate, finance, and healthcare.   Another example is a sign company who expressed frustration that they were not coming up for searched for vehicle wraps.  Based upon working with the owner and his company, he reorganized his business, we revised his website, and now he is even helping other small businesses by coaching them on the types of marketing strategies I helped him with. 

So, if you want to know who Jody Raines is, come to the source and I'm happy to fill you in. And in the mean time, be sure to identify who your principals are for your company and be sure that you are generating content either about them, or under their byline and protect their brand.

learn social media marketing

WebMarCom is an Internet strategy and Web Marketing Communications Agency based in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

Web Marketing ROI: How Do You Determine The Value Of A Lead?


Hummingbird SEOWhat is the value of a lead?  And do all leads convert to customers in the same relative ratio? 

Inbound marketing is the art of creating a web presence, including the website, search engine optimization, social media metrics that enable potential customers to find your business for the right reasons.  It also includes creating content and offers that are designed to be helpful and informative for your prospect with the ambitious goal of nurturing the sales process.   

While that is a helpful objective, the reality is that there is a lot of noise on the Internet, and cutting through that noise with clarity has become more and more difficult as the channels multiply and morph.  Social media has evolved into a "must" instead of a "want" - in fact, if you are not on Facebook, your customers may wonder why?  And you must listen as well.  An unanswered tweet can do a lot of harm.   So can responding to a derogatory post in a way that incites an argument. 

With so many new rules and even new updates to Google's search (Hummingbird), it's important to fundamentally understand what the goals are for your marketing efforts, regardless of channel.  The foundation of this is understanding what the value of a lead is.

Building an inbound marketing plan requires a blueprint for success, and part of that blueprint is understanding what the value of a lead is...

Not All Leads Are Created Equal

When building the marketing program, an experienced marketer understands that there are many more leads who are at the beginning of the buying process and that those prospects have different informational goals than those who are closer to the buying decision. There are many many more people searching for general information than those who have figured out what they actually want, and it's fascinating to realize that the words used for search will parallel that progression. 

You've heard of long tail keyword phrases?  Well, even with Hummingbird, and the evolution of semantic search, it's hard to believe that a fundamental understanding of keywords is no longer necessary to create effective marketing campaigns.  Understanding that the purchasing search may progress along from a general term like "digital camera" to a more specific search like "SLR Digital Camera", to an even more specific search "Canon 18 megapixel dslr" to become even more specific "Canon Rebel T5i" as the customer understands the options and gets closer to making the purchase. 

So, its fair to say that the number of leads to equal a sale may be greater at the top of the funnel and smaller as the funnel gets narrower. 

Matching Offer To Sales Funnel

Developing a process and the information that your prospects are seeking is essential to your marketing effort.  Whether you are creating an advertising campaign or an online marketing program,  a website design, mapping the customer journey is critical to your program's success.  So often, I find that new clients come to me with the idea of enhancing their website and "optimizing the website for Google search", but that's of little value if the traffic that comes is not converting.   By converting what I mean is that ultimately, the prospect should become a customer.

Understanding your customer's journey to the purchase decision is based upon a clear understanding of your customer.  Creating a buying persona, and then evaluating the offers as they may be enticing to that persona is a good way to determine what the offers should be, and also,  where they should fit along the selling spectrum.  For example, at the top of the funnel, your customer may simply want to get information and would be unlikely to be willing to share their contact information.   As they become more informed, your offers have more value, and matching the request for information to the funnel stage is a great way to optimize lead generation.  If you ask for too much information at the beginning of the sales cycle, the prospect is less likely to submit the request.  Starting off with a simple request for an email address (so you can email the report) is a much easier first step for a prospect to indulge in. 

Also important to note is that you will have many more prospects than you will have true leads.  As your prospect moves along the sales funnel, they become close to being a customer.  There is a likelihood that there is more than one form this potential customer has filled in, and by utilizing smart forms, or by asking for more information as the value of the offer is greater, you can build a decent amount of lead intelligence before the sales call is made.  Knowing what the prospect downloaded definitely improves the ability for a sales professional to direct the conversation to the needs of the prospect. 

Calculating The ROI Of A Lead

While a formula to determine the absolute value of a lead is open to conjecture, there are some statistical ways that we can use to determine what the value of a lead may be.  In fact, if you evaluate your leads by where the Call-To-Action may be within the sales funnel, you can determine the return for each of the landing page opportunities on your website. 

Number of Leads adjusted for Conversion Rate

The first variable you should take into consideration in your calculation is how many leads it takes to convert a customer.  Most sales teams can share how many cold calls they have to make in order to talk to a person.  Of that number, on average they can also share how many they need to actually talk to to make an appointment.  So, if you need to reach 10 people to make appointments with 4, you should also realize that of those four, perhaps only one will buy.  So, if you worked, let's say at American Express, you may have to make 100 calls to reach 10 people to talk to, then of those ten, schedule 4 appointments, then of those 4 appointments, one would be a sale.  If you need to close one sale a week, you need at least 100 calls.

The conversion ratio works similarly.  If you need 1,000 leads to get to 10 sales, then ultimately you either want to improve the number of the leads you are getting or the quality of the leads.  The conversion of visits to leads to sales can be an important metric when evaluating the landing pages and offers for your website.

Multiply by Average Sale

Most organizations have an idea what the dollar amount of the average sale would be.  If that is not the case, then use your sales logs to determine the total sales and then divide by the number of sales.  The resulting number will give you a good idea what your average sale would be. 

Adjust for Profit Margin/Cost of Sale

There is typically over head and expense that has to be accounted for.  If you are using a keystone markup, you should figure that roughly 50% of your average sale goes to your cost of goods.  If you did any additional marketing efforts then that should also be added to the cost or deducted from the profits.  

Divide by Total Number of Leads

Now, take a look at the total number of leads that your website produces.  If you took the first example of 100 leads to equal one sale, then this denominator would be 100. 

Result = Lead Value

When you evaluate the result of the equation, you should have a good idea of the value of a lead.   Keep in mind that this can change over time - as your marketing improves and your website improves, and you utilize A/B testing, you can actually increase the value of the leads because you are working towards a better system to aquire those leads.  

Are All Leads Equal? 

Generally, the leads at the top of the funnel taken independently of the entire funnel will turn out to be less valuable than the leads that are at the bottom of the funnel.  Want to hazard a guess why?  If you've correctly configured your landing pages and call-to-action offers, then you should have a stronger candidate or prospect for the offers at the bottom of the funnel than at the top of the funnel where they are kicking tires. 

Inbond Markting ROI Formula 

I'm curious if you have a system in place to evaluate your marketing efforts and if you know how the ROI of your leads has improved or deteriorated over time. Do you periodically take a look at your landing pages to continuously improve them?  Let me know in the comments if you use this type of analysis or if you have a different formula that you find works for you.

WebMarCom is an Internet strategy and Web Marketing Communications Agency based in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

Inbound Marketing: The Signs SEO Is A Waste And Marketing Stinks


SEO guinea pigRecently a business owner who is a friend of mine shared with me that he is has a "great" website which is doing great with SEO. Of course I am curious because I am always interested in meeting and sharing with others who study positioning on the web.   For example, David Amerland is one of the best, and his book The Semantic Web is something of a bible for anyone interested in Google's algorithm.   I also follow Ann Smarty, Barry Shwartz, Glenn GabeMark Traphagen and few others.

Apparently my friend's SEO genius is not aware of any of the folks just mentioned, but has a new twist to how he performs SEO.  Not only does he not follow the aforementioned sources, he has his own "formula" to optimize a website.

My friend boasted that he is using a company that only charges him if they rank him #1 on Google for agreed upon phrases!   Wow.   I always thought you should run like hell if anyone promises you first page ranking!  Apparently, this "SEO" genius is someone my friend met at a local networking group, and therefore he must know his stuff!

I asked my friend exactly how he and this company determined what the important keywords would be for his website - remember, the SEO is compensated only if they come up number 1 in Google.   He said they just sat down and made a list.  After all, this SEO guru suggested that he knows what people are searching for better than anyone.  You guessed it, there was no analysis, no evaluation of existing analytics, no metrics, no studies.  I was beginning to realize that my friend was an "SEO's" guinea pig... because other than coming up with his own ideas, there was no rhyme or scientific reason with regard to the keyword selection.

Keep in mind that the keywords, obviously, had to be geocoded... (Long tail phrases - are you catching my drift?).   Many of them were the same word or phrase with a locality at the end.  A small locality...

Honestly, they have no idea whether the list is good or not, or if people even refer to them for the phrases they have identified, however, this new SEO guy is doing a heck of a job "optimizing" the website for these phrases.

To explain to my friend that there are minimal searches for any of these terms may be in order, but he is so enamored with the fact that he is #1, that it falls on deaf ears.  So, I took a look at the Analytics...

Disturbing Google Analytics Trends

Upon a review of the Google Analytics, I discovered some disturbing trends among the sudden throngs of visitors to the site.  

  1. A disproportionate amount of traffic was visiting 1 time for just a few seconds.
  2. Pages with high traffic were internal pages, but theBad SEOre was no trail of how they got there - they simply landed on an internal page.
  3. While the area and city that the company was located within is a major metro area, many of the visits were from overseas. In fact, they were from Japan.
  4. Traffic did not gently ramp up.  It suddenly appeared one day and then remained fairly high and there was little traffic for the words that were not on the "list". 
  5. Click throughs to landing pages were few and far between. In fact, there were no landing pages to speak of, just a contact us page.  No calls to action, no offers of additional information.
With this in mind, I wondered how the marketing manager would allow this to happen?  After all, isn't the marketing manager the "keeper" of the inbound marketing plan? 
Outsourced Marketing Manager
Further investigation lead to another dilemma.  To save money, the company did not have their own staff, but they have an outsourced marketing manager. While the marketing manager had some experience working for legal firms, and she began her own "marketing" firm, when asked,  admits that she does not know SEO or web or Internet Social Media.  She claims that she does know PR and branding.  While no one can be adept at everything, having a grasp of what is going on with the web presence is no longer a "nicety". It's a must.  In fact, if you are not monitoring the conversation, you are an open target.  The marketing manager leaves the "web stuff" up to the "web guy" and because she is outsourced, she is not privvy to the terms of the agreement with the web guy.  
However, if the client is happy with the brochures and literature and ads she is creating, all is well as far as she is concerned. 
Keep in mind that there is no survey or analytics or way to determine the ROI on any of the activities that she is so busy organizing.  And she has no idea if anyone is talking about the company, or bad mouthing them. 
Who Is Handling The Social Media? 
Of course, following inbound marketing practices, there have to be social media accounts.  Apparently, the HR Director "loves" social media, and after finally figuring out how to add herself as an Admin to the Facebook page, she is posting on behalf of the company. Yes, you read that correctly, the "HR" director, not the marketing manager.   She took over the social media accounts and over the last month, there has been one Facebook post, that indicates that there is an job opening that the company is looking for fill.   No engagement, no interactions, no links back to the website, no calls to action.
In fact, the marketing manager says they do not need calls-to-action because the content on the website is so good. She, of course, is an expert writer who wrote most of the copy of the "new website" herself.

Wait, you said "NEW" website?  Oh yes... 
Blew Up Existing SEO
One of the easiest ways to spot an SEO fraud is that they always try to get you to create a new website. This means that they get paid to create the new website and they also will get paid if they "optimize" for the phrases that were agreed upon.
The company's former website had built using Google Best Practices and had gained in authority and ranking keywords over time.  The "new" SEO (yes, the one who only charges if he gets the number one ranking - that just sound wrong on so many levels) decided that the old website is no good, so he built a new one on a template on Wordpress. That would not have been awful, had he preserved the URL's or had done 301 re-directs, however he blew up the old website and created an entirely new one.  In conjunction with the marketing manager they ditched the old content and rewrote the pages...
The new website, well, it has huge graphic files that create long load times for large file images.  When I first looked at the site, even though it was live, the images were housed on the development server and that was part of the reason there was an incredibly long load time.  According to the SEO, it was due to Rackspace, which is just silly.  Of course after I pointed out the issues, they were corrected.  But they were not the only issues...
Website Errors
When I look at the site utilizing any of the SEO tools, I see all kinds of errors - no meta-description, no h-1's, missing alt text...In fact, there are warnings all over the place, despite this being a template on Wordpress site.  Using SEO tools, I saw there were various warning and errors for Code violations, CSS errors in addition to the obvious re-directs missing...
But a strange tale was being told to the client...The site was doing incredibly well for visits.  Huge numbers.  And the visits for the selected keywords were through the roof.  This, despite it being a new website.   
Seems Too Good To Be True? 
The client seems to be delighted. He is happy to pay for the placement he thinks he is getting on Google. 
What Are You Willing To Accept?
Unfortunately, this is a situation that does not have an easy fix. In order to correct the damage that has been done, the owner must first realize that SEO is not the cure to what ails him.  SEO is great, but it's only part of an equation.  Without everything working in sync, he has a website that has a lot of traffic, but it is not the best traffic for his business. As a local company, he will never see business from the many hits he gets from Japan and from far geographic areas.  He is paying this "SEO" for results, but the metrics are all wrong!  And the sad news is that the person who is overseeing his marketing doesn't know any more than he does that this type of marketing activity is never going to have the types of results that will turn into conversions for the business.
It's not about SEO, it's about Conversions.
Bottom line is that it is about the bottom line. Chasing a number one position on Google is not going to result in anything if the traffic is not representative of potential consumers.  With analytics, you can twist the numbers into showing that you are number one for something on Google, and the longer the keyword phrase, the more likely it is that you can rank number one for that more easily. 
WebMarCom is an Internet strategy and Web Marketing Communications Agency based in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

Inbound Marketing: Why "Smarketing" Makes You Sound Stupid


smarketingWhat is "Smarketing"?   Recently at the Hubspot Inbound Marketing conference Ellie Mirman did a presentation where that term was bandied about.  Honestly, it makes me grit my teeth every time I hear it.  It's a mashup of two terms, which, dependent upon who you listen to, can either be 'sales' and 'marketing' or can be 'smart' and 'marketing'.  In any case, while I am a Hubspot Certified Partner, and I am a true believer in the power of inbound marketing, this is one case where I feel that creating a new term and then trying to make it sound cool just falls flat.

The concept of combining and streamlining the goals for sales and marketing is not a new concept.  For years, the supposed battle between sales goals and marketing's goals was discussed as a barrier for marketing to support sales.   But that kind of philosophy of silo-ed corporate departments has been dead for a very long time.  For organizations to survive, there has to be communication between sales and marketing, and especially in these days of streamlined, lean staff, for many organizations marketing and sales are synonymous.

Recently I saw a tweet by one of the newly indoctrinated Hubspoteers, a "new marketer" who not only drank the Kool-Aid, but now is proselytizing every new acronym he heard at Inbound.  While I do believe that Hubspot is an awesome software, and I am a partner with them as well, this "smarketing" thing is kinda awful.  It's like taking peanut butter and jelly and then trying to create a new word to describe that combination along the lines of "Peabutjelly".   No thanks, I won't have any of that.

If you are an organization that still does not 'get' the concept that marketing supports sales, and sales provides valuable information to marketing, please identify yourself.  In my humble opinion, the only organizations that are still living under that rock have been downscaled to the point of closing their doors.  And that was over ten years ago!

The concept of aligning sales and marketing can be defined in a four step process:

  1. Speak the Same Language - align marketing and sales and share dialogue.  This is not a new concept - we were doing this at Canon and at Okidata and at Avaya years ago.  The sales team has direct communication with the customer and is an incredibly valuable source of information for marketing.  Marketing can be a powerful source of leads.  The alignment of marketing goals and sales goals is a no-brainer.
  2. Set Up Closed-Loop Reporting - if you don't measure what is working by the most important metric (actual sales) then you are missing the opportunity to continue to refine and redefine marketing efforts to drive sales.
  3. Implement a Service Level Agreement - What are your goals and what commitment are you prepared to make for the good of the team.  Creating a service level agreement is a step in memorializing the commitment to improvement and to each other.  Sales makes a commitment to marketing, and marketing makes a commitment to sales. This does not have to be onerous, but defining expectations can be advantageous in the long run.
  4. Maintain Open Communication - sales and marketing departments that maintain silos are ineffective.  Unification of these two activities leads to better and more productive efforts by each.  It's a gestault effect.
  5. Rely on Data - Not dissimilar to the closed loop reporting concept - truly you need to determine what is working and what is not working.  Having the data is only part of the equation, though... correctly interpreting the information is equally important to moving in the right direction.

So please, people, and especially you 'new marketers' or 'Internet strategists' out there, please do not use that word "smarketing" with me.  It's not a new concept, it's not a new approach.  If the buzzwords work for you, that's great.  If it happens to make it easier for you to understand that sales and marketing must work together, then it's done it's job.  But please don't use the word with people who already live and  understand this concept.   To "old school" marketers who have been around the block and who have lived working with disparate teams, using a phrase like "smarketing" sounds dumb and identifies lack of experience.

WebMarCom is an Internet strategy and Web Marketing Communications Agency based in South Jersey and Philadelphia.
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