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The Future of SEO – New Google Algorithm Updates

Part 1 of 3: Google RankBrain – What does it mean for SEO?

While we’re not yet at the point where they take over and annihilate humankind, Artificial Intelligence just may be getting closer. Google recently announced the creation of RankBrain, a machine-learning artificial intelligence program that helps their algorithm determine search results. Machine-learning means that it can learn things itself, as opposed to being taught by a human or following code. Google is saying that RankBrain is the third most important “signal” they use to determine page ranks. Continue reading



10 Marketing Resolutions for 2014

It’s a new year and for many businesses, it’s time for a fresh start. It’s time to reflect on everything that transpired last year and make plans for a very prosperous 2014. With the start of the new year, we want you to be as successful as possible. To help you get 2014 off the right start, below are 10 marketing resolutions to help you accomplish all of your business goals in 2014!  

1. Use Data Hygiene to Clean Up Your Data
Keep your data hygiene in check in 2014. Many business owners fall into the trap of not cleaning up their lists – both for eNewsletter marketing and for direct mail lists. Business owners tend to not want to do the mundane task of deleting duplicates or scrubbing lists to get rid of incorrect addresses. MSI can help with data hygiene in two areas. For Data In, we will take your customer’s data and clean it up to improve the percentage of mail delivered. MSI also will purchase targeted email lists for their clients to make sure you are reaching your ideal customer. For Data Out, we will make sure that all outgoing mail is compliant with the United States Post Office mail rules. By utilizing Data Hygiene, your company will experience lower costs per sale, your audience will be more targeted and you will see a higher ROI. Contact MSI about help cleaning up your data.

2. Measure Campaign Success
As a business owner, you should always measure the success of your marketing campaigns. You should constantly track where your customers and potential customers are coming from. A simple way to do this is with online forms, where potential clients can fill out their information, along with a drop down menu on how they heard about you. Also, you can simply ask. When you spend money on direct mail campaigns, you can track visitors when they visit your landing page. Also, with many email newsletter services, you can track what links your potential clients are clicking on. Tracking campaign success can really show the return on your marketing investment and will enable you to make smart marketing decisions for your company. Always measure your results and your conversion rate.

3. Create Effective Landing Pages
Create an effective and high converting landing page that will be crucial to your online success in 2014. A landing page is a highly optimized web page for the sole purpose of selling to your potential customer. You want to make sure like all of your other marketing materials that this is professionally designed. This is even more crucial when you are selling high end products/services. Custom landing pages should be created for most direct mail and marketing campaigns. Your landing page should have a clear goal with a call to action, such as a sale on a product purchase or a free download and should be designed for a higher conversion rate and greater ROI. You can also add analytics to your page, so you can track customer demographics. Make sure your messaging is consistent and you are providing your customers exactly what they are looking for. How can you market the landing pages? You can do a direct mail or email campaign with links to the landing page. You can also buy Pay Per Click (PPC) ads on Google to drive traffic to the landing page. Ask about MSI’s new Direct Mail Cloud program.

4. Make a Customer Retention Plan
A customer retention plan is necessary to maintain relationships with existing customers and develop relationships with new ones. Direct mail is one great way to keep in touch with current and potential new customers (see below for more on direct mail). An eNewsletter is also an effective marketing tool and a great way to keep in touch with your customer base, whether on a monthly or weekly basis. Always make sure you have a way to collect your customer’s information on both your website and landing pages. Utilize social media to keep in contact with your customers and pick a platform you can use regularly.

5. Send Direct Mail More Often
If you are not using direct mail, you may consider doing a test campaign in 2014. This should be a part of your marketing strategy and a regular schedule should be in your marketing plan. Send out the mailer on a regular basis (it’s more effective than a single mailing) and carefully monitor the results. An effective direct mail campaign has the following elements: format, trackable offer and list. First though, you need to consider the following items. What is the goal of your direct mail campaign? Lead generation or product sales? What is the status of your current list? Is this a qualified list or a list that is outdated? When you consider the above items, you are more likely to have an effective campaign. Contact MSI about a free direct mail quote.

6. Think About Marketing Automation
Many business owners get tied up doing mundane, repetitive, non-profit generating tasks and if you fall into this category, you should really think about marketing automation. While there are several services out there that can help, you want to find the best one to help your business. Whether this is having products automatically being sent out from your company (wouldn’t it be nice to make money while you are sleeping?) to lead generation tools to help increase your business. Marketing automation is the new buzz word in the marketing industry and you will probably hear much more about marketing automation in the upcoming year. Ask MSI about what time saving and cost effective tools are available for your business.

7. It’s Time to Update Your Website
Many business owners struggle with updating their own website and if you haven’t made this happen in 2013, make this a goal for 2014. Whether you need a complete overhaul or minor updates, an Internet Marketing consultant can review your website for you and make recommendations. Major updates include a complete overhaul on a different platform such as WordPress. Minor updates are updating content (you should always have fresh content), adding a features section or an events/press page, and adding new products/services. Many business owners are missing out on a lot of business from an outdated website or landing page. And, if you do not have a mobile version of your website, you will need a mobile website in 2014.

8. Add Internet Marketing, SEO and Social Media to Your Business Plan
If you are a business owner, you should already have Internet marketing, SEO and social media in your business plan and if you do not you should make this a priority for 2014. SEO business plans revolve around one basic idea: search engines attract enough attention to be considered to be a viable marketing platform. Also, 80% of all people 14 years of age and older use search engines to purchase products and services online. Keep in mind that Google constantly is changing Internet search rules and this is why it is important to hire an Internet Marketing expert to evaluate all of the above. The last thing you want is to have Google penalize, or possibly ban your website. MSI has an Internet Marketing expert with more than 17 years of experience helping website owners with SEO, blog marketing, social media marketing and other online marketing services. Request your free website consultation from us today.

9. Follow up
Always follow up with potential clients after events and put a follow up plan in place. Many business owners attend events and fail to follow up. This may sound absolutely basic, but it is the truth. If someone gives you their business card, send an email or make a phone call. A coffee meeting can turn into a prosperous business referral relationship or your new potential client may even hire your company for your services. When you do not follow up, you have not only wasted your time at a networking event, you are also basically flushing dollars away.

10. Do a Marketing “Check Up”
Make sure your marketing materials are up-to-date and do reflect your brand. Many business owners tend to not take the professional route and do these items on their own accord, which results in a poor representation of their company. Hire a marketing professional. If you are not a graphic designer, chances are the flyers you made on your own are not going to pull in new clients. MSI can help you with our full service marketing capabilities including direct mail, print, Internet marketing, fulfillment and may other marketing services.



6 Things You Can Fix to Increase Your SERP Rankings

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Thinking about hiring an SEO company? Before you do, here are 6 things which you can fix in order to increase your search engine rankings within the next few weeks:

1. Bad Content

Bad content is probably the worst thing for your rankings. If your content isn’t great, people are going to leave your site after reading a few sentences. Most will leave sooner. If the content is bad enough, you can bet they won’t ever come back. Don’t have the money to hire a good writer? Hire one anyway and have them create only one or two posts a month. It’s better to have one or two strong articles created a month than to create dozens of mediocre ones.

2. Profile Links

Stop building profile links. If you’re paying someone to do link building for you, find out what kinds of links they’re building. While profile links have been harmful to SEO for years, many SEO companies and linking companies are still using them. If you’re working with a cheap link building company, you can bet they’re using either profile links or social media links. Either way, ask for a linking report and if they’re using profile links or junk social bookmarking, consider hiring a new SEO company.

3. Slow Load Times

Try your site out on a few different browsers and pay attention to how quickly your site loads. It should be nearly instantaneous. If it’s loading any slower, something needs to change. Dump the fancy graphics and the flash and focus instead on well-focused calls to action and good content. A site which is easy to navigate and which has great content has a much better chance at ranking higher and getting you conversions than a site loaded down with fancy designs.

4. No Privacy policy or TOS

You need a link to these on your home page and the link needs to be in a relatively easy to find place. Sites which don’t publish their privacy policies and terms of service are considered to be less credible in the eyes of the search engine companies. If you don’t have these written, you can easily get them done for only a few dollars. Chances are, no one will ever read them so they don’t have to be written perfectly. You just need to have them in a visible place on your website.

5. Hard to Find Contact Information

If your contact information is hard to find, you’re going to lose conversions and lost conversions equals lost rankings. Marketing research reveals that this is the leading cause of abandoned purchases. Include your address, your phone number and your company email on your contact page and place a link to the contact page in an obvious place, preferably your main navigation bar.

6. Broken Code

Broken code might not show up when your visitors land on your site. But it creates confusion for the search engine spiders and makes it hard for them to crawl and index your content. Have a good web design company diagnose your website and find out where your code is broken and get it fixed. Have them move your CSS to external style sheets and your JavaScript’s to external files.

With a little bit of work these six fixes will quickly bring you closer to your SEO goals.



What Will Happen if Google Stops Ruling SEO?

What’s wrong with us?

Everyone is trying to get on the first page of Google as if that’s all there is to internet marketing. But have you ever stopped to think about what Google really is? It’s a website. Of course, they have Google+ and YouTube and a ton of other influential platforms online. But think of all that money you’re investing in getting on the first page of Google. What will happen if another search engine knocks Google off their high place over the next two years?

It could happen, and when it does, what will happen to your web traffic? Maybe Google will be around for a long time. Maybe they’ll eventually rule the entire internet. But it’s unlikely, so it might be smart to prepare yourself for what might happen if Google becomes second (or third) in the SEO game…

Authority Trumps Visibility

This is the most important thing to remember in SEO. If you become a known authority in the mind of the public, you’ll never have to worry about what’s happening with Google. Do you think Apple is worried about where they rank in the Google search results? What about Disney, McDonald’s or Starbucks? These giants are more interested in where they rank in the mind of the public. They’re creating authority and credibility with ALL their marketing practices. Your dedicated audience can carry you through SEO trends as long as you treat them well.

I doubt any of those famous brands will bat an eyelid if Google goes down in flames. So how about you? Are you more concerned with getting to the first page of the Google search results than you are with creating an authority website? If so, it might be time to change your priorities. It might be time to stop worrying about what Google is doing and start trying to creating the best possible experience for the people who land on your website.

If you do this, you’ll get higher Google rankings AND you’ll be less dependent on them because your customers will bypass Google and go directly to your website.

Google is Just a Messenger

Google is really just a media company. They bring people credible content and that’s why they stay on the top of the heap when it comes to search engines. If this ever changes, or if someone comes along who does a better job at delivering quality content than Google, Google will be replaced pretty quickly. Just look at how quickly Wal-Mart ousted K-Mart. Look at how fast Borders bookstore went belly-up because of Amazon.

Of course, Borders tried the online thing, but they didn’t stand a chance against Amazon because they didn’t’ give the public what they wanted. The same thing is happening to eBay now… more and more people are buying on Amazon because the site is easy is to use and delivers great prices on new and used materials. Facebook took over MySpace and forced them to become a network for musicians instead of a social media hangout space. How many other stories can you think of where the king of the mountain was brought down by a newly emerging company? What did all those little David's have in common against Goliath? They knew where to throw their stone for maximum impact; they knew how to deliver to their customer base.

In the new economy, things can change in the blink of an eye. Google is no exception, so remember this when you’re working on your online visibility. Focus on authority and on connecting with your loyal visitors and getting more of them. SEO is good to keep in mind, but some of this will come naturally if you focus on visitors. If you focus on your authority, you’ll never have to worry about Google, or anyone who takes their place in the future.



Alta Vista Closing

This is a sad time for fans of Alta Vista Search. Many readers of this post are probably asking, "What is Alta Vista?" Alta Vista is not a place to go fishing with your friends or the name of a fancy resort or a trendy restaurant. For all of us that were using computers in the late 1990's, Alta Vista was the Google of the 90's.

I remember the excitement of using Alta Vista to search the web even though I was thoroughly aggravated by the snail slow speed of dial-up. But now Alta Vista will be closing forever on July 8, 2013. What happened to the search giant of the 90's?

Alta Vista was founded in 1995 by Digital Equipment Corporation and it was one of the first search engines. But Google started in 1998 and after the Dot Com crash in 2000, Google not only survived but became the search engine leader by becoming one of the best brands in history - you know the rest of the story.

So after 18 years in the search business, Alta Vista is closing. What is the lesson for Google and the other successful Internet giants of today? It's not how you start but how you finish!



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