Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing tips & ideas to help you grow your business, by Jim Connolly

Month: June 2009 (page 1 of 2)

Quick networking tip!

I was just looking at a website, where the owner has a small banner, which pleads with total strangers to join his LinkedIn network.  I checked out his Twitter profile, and he’s doing the same there too.

It’s actually a pretty common tactic among some businesspeople, who think it will help them develop their business.

If they can just get another 100 or 1000 people into their ‘network’, business will start to pick up…..right?

Wrong!

I have been building and studying commercial networks for over 20 years and have personally experienced (literally) life changing results.  In every case, the most valuable networks were always those that were built by people who focused on quality, rather than quantity.  These networks contained influential people, who had credible access to the people or organisations that the networker needed to know.

Low leverage networking

Most networking I see, especially online, is not just low leverage – it’s super-low leverage.

For example, I see web designers, SEO experts, consultants etc who are wasting stacks of time trying to get 1,000 strangers into their ‘network’, when they could get endorsed access to 10,000 or 50,000 targeted businesses or people, via just one influential, well-connected contact.

A network of just 10 highly influential, respected people is of massively more commercial value to you, than a network of 100 or 1000 people with little influence, interest or reach.

Networking tip

Focus on building a new commercial network, with just 10 people, who have credible access to thousands or more of your prospective clients.  These people can help you get the backing, the sales, traction or the audience your project needs.

My dofollow experiment – The results

Way back in November 2008, I decided to start an experiment. Against the advice of a few SEO professionals, I decided to see what would happen, if I offered ‘dofollow’ links from the comments section of this blog.

I have been able to take this gamble, because this blog is 100% free of advertisers, affiliates and sponsors.  In other words, I have none of the traffic pressures many of my fellow bloggers have.

After 6 months, here’s my experience.

What’s a dofollow link?

Briefly, for those who do not already know, when you leave a comment on a dofollow blog, the links you put in your comment are followed by Google, from the blog, to wherever your link points.  However, the vast majority of blogs and websites offer ‘nofollow‘ links, which means that Google is told not to follow the links you leave in your comments.  By offering dofollow links, it’s believed that you give a tiny SEO boost to those who comment on a blog.

The dofollow results

3 weeks ago, I removed the dofollow attribute from the blog, so that I could see what difference, if any, it made.  I thought it would take weeks to notice any real, measurable difference, but the change started after just a few days.

Here’s what happened.

Spam comments from REAL people

Sadly, this blog slowly became a magnet for people seeking to get dofollow links for their sites and their client’s sites.  This form of spammy commenting, has already all but stopped.  This is because those who make a living from targeting dofollow blogs, usually have software installed on their machines, which shows immediately if a blog is dofollow or not; (like Quirk’s popular SearchStatus plugin for firefox).

Let me make this clear – I am NOT talking about automated spam, which every blogger gets.  I am referring to spammy comments left by real people, exclusively designed to get dofollow links to their site (or their client’s sites.)

Search engine results

After just 3 weeks with the dofollow attribute turned off, search traffic to this blog from Google has increased by over 25% (and it’s still increasing.)  My Google Pagerank has also increased from 3 to 5.  I have discussed this considerable increase in search engine traffic with several SEO professionals. It seems the general belief is that I was being penalised by Google, NOT because I offered dofollow links; but because too many of those links pointed to what SEO professionals refer to as ‘bad neighbourhoods.’

In other words, people were linking to dubious sites from here and I was being penalised by search engines for allowing it.

I believe that this problem can be rectified, by manually checking the URL’s of every link left by every person who comments. However, this blog has around 4000 comments – one post alone has almost 700 comments (and growing!)  The large number of comments on this blog, made it just too time consuming for me to manually check the URL destination of each comment. Yes, there is software out there which is supposed to be able to do this for you, but I found it to be way too inaccurate – often claiming great blogs were spammy and visa versa.

Conclusion

Just offering dofollow links shouldn’t have any negative impact on a blog – providing you have the time to be able to manually check out the URL of every person who comments on your blog AND you are able to correctly identify what is a good or bad neighbourhood.

This causes a REAL dilemma though.  That’s because the temptation is to delete any comment from someone, with a link that you are not 100% sure about.  This inevitably means you run the risk of deleting comments from great, genuine people.

Dofollow clues

There’s an old saying in marketing, which tells us; “success leaves clues.” So, this weekend, I checked out the 50 most successful blogs that I read and NONE of them offer dofollow comment links. By the way, these include; scobleizer.com, techcrunch, mashable, ducttapemarketing.com and veronica belmont’s blog.

Over the past 6 months, my dofollow experiment has been really interesting.  My conclusion is that dofollow is a GREAT idea, if you have the time to check out the URL of every comment and the ability to call it right each time.

If you only get a few comments a day and can afford the time to check them out – Go for it!  However, if you get a lot of comments to your blog and you want to avoid a lot of extra work, I think you have a call to make. 

Ironically, the dofollow benefits you give your commenters will make very little difference to their SEO anyway.

This post covers my unique, personal experience with dofollow links.  I would like to hear your experiences with dofollow links or nofollow links.  What kind of impact did they have on your blog; positive or negative?

Join me on Twitter – Don’t follow me!

With marketing and business development, it’s all too easy to focus only on the BIG issues. However, small things can make a massive difference and totally change how people think about us.

I decided to write this quick post, after receiving the comment below from one of my readers, Joni Mueller. Here’s what Joni said:

Excellent article and excellent case study. I also like the little subtleties on your web site. For example, I’ve never seen anyone invite me to “join” them on Twitter, it’s always follow me or find me. “Join” me implies there will be a two-way interaction. That’s great. Glad I stumbled onto this site from Twitter.

One small word

A marketing professional knows there’s a massive difference between the phrase ‘join me’ and the phrase “follow me.” By changing just one word in that phrase, you dramatically change the meaning of the phrase.  Asking someone to follow you sounds incredibly arrogant!  It suggests you are referring to your readers as if they are fans.

Pop stars, movie stars and professional sportspeople have followers / fans – not people like you and me.

We have friends and contacts. People don’t follow us, they join us.

Customer service and social media

This is a quick update to a recent post.

I wrote here last month, about the added importance of customer service these days – because of the growth of social media and the massive reach this now gives your customers.  My blog post detailed the poor experience I had with o2 customer service – my mobile / cell phone provider.

I explained how a disgruntled customer today has access to thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people, via social media tools like; blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed, FaceBook etc.  Just a few years ago, an unhappy customer typically had very little influence or reach. The power was all with the provider – but that’s all changed now!

Update

Since writing that post, I started noticing lots of people arriving here from Google, after searching for the term “o2 customer service.” At the time of writing this, my o2 post appears on page 2 of Google for that search term!

o2 customer service 02 customer service

I have no idea how many people have since read about my experience, but it certainly shows the influence consumers have right now and why great customer service is more important than ever.

I would like to give o2 the chance to respond, but I have heard nothing from them since publishing the original post.

What if Twitter suspended YOUR account?

I was just telling someone about a chat I had a couple of weeks ago, with a VERY stressed out Twitter user.  This person, who shall remain nameless, had (for no reason) seen his Twitter account suspended.

He was absolutely distraught and called my office (here in the UK) from his office in San Francisco.

twitter micro blogging networking

He introduced himself to me, explained what had happened and then told me that he relied on Twitter for 75% of the traffic to his company’s website and most of their sales enquiries.

If I can’t get my Twitter account back Jim, I don’t know what I will do!

In case you don’t already know, the reason he asked for my help, is that I write a very widely read Tech News Blog, have a few influential friends and almost 20,000 people following my Tech News Blog on Twitter @thetechnewsblog .

The reason I mention this guy’s predicament, is that it’s a PERFECT example of two common marketing mistakes.

Too many eggs in one basket is a bad idea

Firstly, he was relying too heavily on just one marketing activity.  It’s always better to have a broad marketing mix, with at least half a dozen, high leverage marketing activities.  By the way, I recommend you take a look at FriendFeed and add it to your marketing mix!

Your house, your rules!

Secondly, he placed his company’s primary source of new business, directly out of his control.  This blog is owned by me and I have a community of brilliant people, who comment here, email me and recommend the blog to their friends.  So, as long as I work hard to provide interesting content, the success of the blog’s community is within my control.  It can’t be suspended in error, like this poor guy’s Twitter account.

If you are in business and have developed an online community that you value, I strongly recommend you encourage them to engage with you on YOUR TURF!  Get a blog or add a forum to your website – or do both.  Don’t allow all that hard work and value to go to waste, just because some third-party screws up your account or goes broke!

More traffic to your site in 2 easy steps!

If you own a website or blog and you want to dramatically increase the number and quality of visitors you get, you need to encourage people who visit your site, to share what they find with their friends.

Thankfully, we know that when people find material on a website, which they believe will be of interest to their friends and contacts, they are more than happy to forward it to them.  This is why websites like FriendFeed, StumbleUpon, YouTube, Twitter and Digg have become so popular. They allow people to easily share things with their friends.

In order for you to benefit from the viral power of the Internet, there are two things you should consider.

1. Content

Firstly, you need to have content on your site, which is worth sharing.  This means your content has to be better and more valuable than the typical material, which people find on your kind of site or blog.  Many blog owners feel compelled to write ‘something’ every day; indeed many so-called “social marketing gurus” even write posts telling people to do this.  The challenge this presents, is that very few businesspeople have the time required to write new, valuable content every day.

Post only when you have something worth sharing and focus on quality, not quantity.

2. Make it easy to share

Secondly, you need to make it super-easy for people to share your material with their friends.  I use a free plugin for this blog called Sexy Bookmarks, (see below), which allows people to share what they find here, on most popular networksg – quickly and easily.  Just a few mouse clicks and that’s it!

As a result of focusing on what I believe to be valuable content AND making it as easy as possible for people to share it, I get thousands of new visitors from sharing / bookmarking websites every week.

A quick tip!

Take a moment to look at the last few websites, articles, videos, blog posts or whatever; which YOU have passed on to your friends.  Now ask yourself this question: “What was it that motivated you to share that material and how can YOU use that same kind of motivation, to get others to share YOUR content?”

Your answer to that question is a good starting point!

The right choice or the cheapest?

During a recession, some people are very fee or price focused.

The next time someone tells you that they would love to use your services or buy your products, but they have found a cheaper alternative, ask them a version of the following question:

“If someone you loved needed heart surgery, would you go for the best surgeon you could afford or the cheapest surgeon you could find?”

This type of question is superb for focusing people’s attention on the importance of quality over ‘cheap!’  Obviously, you can use less emotive alternatives to the one used above.  The key is to focus them on the importance of value.

Apple iPhones & MacBooks launched – An amazing marketing lesson

Apple launched a range of new products yesterday.  There’s a marketing lesson behind this launch, that’s of huge value to the rest of us, if we take a leaf out of Apple’s book. (or notebook!)

Apple iPhone, Safari and MacBooks – FREE advertising & publicity

None of the information I have about the new Apple iPhones, the new Safari browser or the new Apple MacBooks came from paid advertising.  All of it, including hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of coverage on the BBC, was gifted to Apple – 100% free of charge!

Apple have managed to cultivate a relationship with their customers and tech journalists, which motivates them to tell everyone about whatever Apple are doing.  This reaches a frenzy whenever a new product is launched!

Many of Apple’s customers even write fan blogs, where they discuss Apple products with their readers.  Can you even imagine how powerful that is – to have YOUR customers investing their own time, telling everyone how great you are?

If you are interested in learning about viral marketing, you could do a lot worse than study what Apple are doing!

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