Email Marketing/ SEO for Small Business

So, in case you would like a whole quasi-lecture on book marketing in general, head on over to Rachel Thompson’s excellent website, where I wrote a guest post for her last Friday.   It covers the “secret” to book marketing (spoiler alert—the secret is hard work) and tells my “overnight success” story of getting my first book published. (where “overnight” takes four years and I cry a bunch of times).

Today I noticed something that I think should be very heartening to anyone who is trying to manage their email marketing or generally maintain a website for their business.  Small business people especially seem to have the impression that big corporations have it all together, like the small business people should not even bother trying because the big companies got there first, the small business is never going to be able to succeed, and so on.

I bring this up because I get a fairly large volume of email every day.  Today I happened to get one “sale” type email from a big corporation, only to find that the “shopping cart” function of their site was pretty much not functioning at all.  I buy a lot of stuff online, so it is not unheard of for me to respond to an email notice from a store, especially if they have a decent sale going on.  In fact, I have stuff sitting in my shopping cart of the big company and was excited to save money with a reward redemption/ promotion they sent out, so as soon as I received the email, I tried to go over there and do just that.  I was dismayed (that might be too strong a word, I was more amused) by the fact that this site’s entire shopping cart system seemed to be down, directly following the sending of an email to a list that I would guess is at least several million people on it.

So, in case you are following along in your head, that is not a great day for that company.  It is not cheap to send an email to a list that big, and every time they do that, they do it with the knowledge that they are going to make a certain return on the investment they are putting out by hitting “Send” on that email.

As it turned out, several things were going on with this website.  For one, I in fact did NOT have any rewards left, so I should not have received that email in the first place.  This is the same functionality failure that you can observe in this silly email I received from Rite Aid & American Express’ weird “Plenti” collab, which looked like this:

img_0126-2

 

Yeah, there was no need to send that email, and it would have been so easy to just code a simple “opt out” script that would have eliminated any user that had zero points.   Rite Aid/ Plenti isn’t sweating it, though.   They send plenty (pun intended) of emails, and a mistake like that is not going to stop them.

The email I got today was the same idea, only it went one step further—not only did I have no points (so, by that logic, I should never have received an email that I had “Three Days Left to Use My Points!”), but in fact, the entire ecommerce portion of the site was down, so I was unable to check the status of other orders, unable to see how much of an old gift card I had left, unable to see when my payment was due, and so on.  Basically a “Fail, Fail, Fail” scenario for that store.

Here is why big stores don’t care about stuff like this—they send out so many emails and make so much money, they can afford to screw up like that and have it barely impact their average ROI.  If you are a small business and you rarely email your list, the stakes are MUCH higher for you, and you cannot afford to have this happen.

My overall point is this—that moment, while far from ideal, is probably a rounding error for a big online retailer like that.    They are constantly adding to their list and their website, testing new content and sending out emails about promotions.  They sell so much product, they are probably going to have one meeting about today’s bad email/ ecommerce coincidence, and then send out two more emails first thing tomorrow.     Their strategy is to constantly be adding people to their list (they do this by providing a discount code for your first order when you sign up), having a lot of sales, and mailing the list frequently.  Did they hit this one out of the park?  No, they most certainly did not.  Will they get back in there and start swinging again tomorrow?  Yes, they absolutely will.

You may be waiting to regularly email your list when you get more people in there, or you may be resisting incentivizing growing the list, or you may not even have a list (if that last one is the case, please stop what you are doing, go sign up for an email capture service, put the code in your website, and start collecting those user emails.  It really is that important), but in order to become one of the “big guys,” you are going to have to start acting like them.  That big company was not mortified that their website didn’t work.  They have probably already fixed it and moved on.

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How to Make a Website (fast and cheap!)

One thing I emphasize to ALL clients (and blog readers, and authors I work with, and everyone else who will listen) is that these days, you really do need a website that you own and control.    After much planning and many requests, I have finally finished the video that will hopefully help you (no matter who you are or what skill level you have) take the plunge and make your website.

Here it is!  I would recommend that you start here if you have a site that you know you want to build out.  This one video will save you about $500 in setup fees, plus (to me) it is essential that you have control over your own domain and hosting, so this will get you there.

To answer your question, yes, I think you should do this even if you are going to hire someone to design or develop your site.

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Online Reputation Management 101

One part of my business that I like the most is “reputation management,” which in some cases, boils down to being “crisis management for the internet.”

I have been called in to help with the reputation management of companies (large & small), business people, famous people, and even individuals who find they are not satisfied with their search results. This is much more common than you would think!

To boil it down, online reputation management is the active management of search results for an individual or company. By “search results,” I just mean “what you find when you search for yourself online.”

Build Your Foundation

In reputation management (as in most things in life), the best defense is a good offense. If something negative about you happens to go viral, it is much (MUCH) easier to counteract this if you already have a structure in place that you control. By “structure,” I mean:

n Your website. FirstNameLastName.com if you’re a person, or YourBusinessName.com if it’s your business.

n Social media profiles. Facebook.com/YourName, Twitter.com/YourName, Pinterest.com/YourName, etc.

Most search engines (like Google or Bing) will show ten results, so I recommend that my clients have at least ten properties they control. Before you get overwhelmed and think “I don’t have the time to maintain ten profiles/ properties,” you actually don’t really need to do this-the important thing is just having something up that actively links back to your main “hub” site.

When the Sh%t Hits the Fan

So, it’s happened. Something you did (or didn’t do) went viral, or there has been a lawsuit filed against you, or someone said something bad about your business, or you did something you’re not proud of, and suddenly it’s on Page One of your search results. Depending on the severity of the problem, it can take awhile for things to die down and / or for your search results to go back to normal.

Generally speaking, news stories are going to pop to the top of the search engines. This is part of the normal news cycle, and will most likely not be part of the permanent search results for you. You do need to actively work on the situation, though, to keep this negative stuff from becoming all people see when they search for you or your business.

I am the “person you call” when things go south and your search results are less than favorable, so I will tell you a couple of things you can do if you have an active crisis and don’t want to bring on myself or someone like me.

— Make sure your foundation is intact. By and large, the people I see who are hit the hardest with this problem are people who have little to no online presence to begin with (like doctors or business people). This is when things can get expensive, because I have to start from the beginning, building up a website/ social media profiles and waiting for the search engines to organically pick them up and show them. If I can give you one piece of advice, it would be “start building these things now, even if you don’t need them.”

— Apologize/ address the problem. The second largest problem I encounter when something bad happens and your search results are impacted is that people want to stick their head in the sand and wait for the problem to go away. I hate to tell you this, but this is the internet, where things last forever. If there is a problem, the best thing you can do is own the airspace for that problem, and by that I mean “issue a statement to put the issue at rest once and for all.” Say what you’re doing about it, apologize (if taking responsibility is warranted), or just say you’re sorry for the results. SAY SOMETHING, because saying nothing makes it possible for people to keep talking about you. What you want is to control the clicks for your name/ that news story. Address it, and eventually it will go away.

–Take out a Google AdWords ad. If you’re at the center of a maelstrom, the best thing you can do is to divert searchers’ eyes from the search results. The way I would do this is to take out one or more Google AdWords/ Bing ads that point users over toward your website so they can find out good things about you/ your company. You can’t control news stories, but you certainly try to influence people’s first impression of you.

— Stop looking at the internet. In some cases, I will put clients on “internet restriction,” meaning they are not allowed to Google themselves for a certain period of time. It is easy to get sucked in to what people are saying about you, and at a certain point, you are going to snap, lash out, and make the problem worse. Do not let yourself get to this point, even if it means giving up the internet for a month (or two). Check your email and Facebook on your phone, and stop Googling yourself. DO NOT ADD TO THE PROBLEM.

With these things in mind, go forth and create your foundation! Remember, things like bad publicity happen. The best thing you can do is stay positive and grow what you already have. Don’t panic!

If you have a reputation management that you can’t solve by yourself, I would be happy to help! My company offers t online reputation management for many prominent people and companies.

Speed is key when managing a crisis. If you have an issue, fill out the Contact Us form and I’ll get back to you ASAP with a confidentiality agreement so we can get started. I have handled many of these crises before, so while your issue might seem overwhelming, I have a plan and know where to start. Don’t panic!

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How Do I Make My Own Website?

I always emphasize to small business owners (and authors, and everyone else) that you can absolutely make your own website if you have the time and patience.   With that in mind, here are the steps I recommend for you to build the absolute barest-bones website you can get (without it being free).  Remember, what I want is for you to actually own the domain and the hosting so Big Website Company America can’t arbitrarily take away all of your work or otherwise tell you what to do.

OK, now that I’ve given you my reasoning why I think you (and your business) are worth more than a free website, here are the steps I would recommend to get yourself a paid site.  And by “paid,” I only mean “you own it,” not “you will have to pay a designer $4,000 to make it all fancy for you.”

I will describe the process below in detail, but here is a quick video where I show you how to set up a whole site in 6 minutes:

Here is the barest-bones way I can recommend for you to make your website so that you have ownership over it:

1.Get Your Domain.   You can do this wherever you want.  I use GoDaddy just so I have all my domains in one place, but you don’t have to if you don’t like them).   If you’d like to ask questions about what I think the best domains are, feel free to leave those in the comments.  I usually recommend a .com, as long as you can get it for a regular price, which is around $12/ year.  I have heard great things about NameCheap, and Domain.com is also up and coming, with great prices.

2.  Get Hosting.  You don’t have to go nuts with this—just get whatever basic plan is going to meet your needs.  Here is a whole breakdown of hosting services that I have used, in case you want an opinion.   If you’re doing one website, this should run you about $3/ month, maybe $5.  If you’re doing multiple sites, I would recommend HostNine’s reseller package, because I do not recommend putting multiple WordPress installations on one hosting service.  One day, I will tell you the horrible story of how I had to rebuild THIRTY FIVE WEBSITES, but for now, just take my word.

3.  Install WordPress (.org)—the software onto the back-end of your website.  You will need to do this through the hosting company. This is the CMS (content management system) you will be using to build your site.   Your hosting company will either install this for you, or they will make it extremely clear and simple for you to do so.   You should absolutely contact your hosting company and have them walk you through this– that’s what you’re paying them for!

4.  Pick a theme.   Can be free or paid.  This is my current favorite paid theme maker, but feel free to use any free theme that floats your boat.  There approximately four million free themes in the WordPress.org library.

5.  Play around with WordPress.  Cry.  Put your head on the desk.  Watch YouTube tutorials.  Break things. Try again.   Yes, I know that learning new things is frustrating, but think of it this way- at least you’re not putting your valuable time into learning a free platform that could go away at any time.

This is a lot of information to absorb at once, so let me just encourage you to consider it before starting up a free website.   With this breakdown, if you chose the cheapest option on each item and you were willing to watch YouTube tutorials and put in a little “elbow grease and frustration” time, your cost would be approximately $10/ year for the domain, and $36/ year for the hosting.  That’s a grand total of $46/ year for a website to call your own, which gives you complete freedom from fear of shutdown or arbitrary policies enacted by free website companies.

Questions?  Leave them in the comments.  I hope this has been helpful.

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How to Download YouTube Videos

This is a question I get quite a bit, and I finally have a good answer!

First, I think I need to clarify: if you’re trying to download YOUR videos from YOUR YouTube account, there is a simple solution for that. You’ll need to log in to your YouTube account, then go to the “Video Manager,” then to “Uploads.” From there, you go to the Edit button of the video you want to download, click the arrow, and choose “download MP4.”
Here is a screenshot of the exact location where you need to be (inside the Video Manager), with the download button circled.  Please excuse my totally weak PhotoShopping skills (thus the weird-looking circle).

youtube

OK, that’s the solution for your OWN videos (meaning, videos you made and uploaded). You would want to download your own videos if you are switching computers, for instance, or if you are closing one YouTube account and starting another for whatever reason.

If you find this unclear, let me know and I will turn this explanation into a video!
The other scenario where you might want to download videos off of YouTube is an external video (meaning, not your own).

For this kind of thing, I have tried many different solutions, and the one I’ve found that works best is YouTube downloader software. This downloader works on PCs that have Windows 8, Windows 7, and Vista.
Here’s how that goes:

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 10.27.35 AM

1. Click here, then click the big green “Download it for FREE now” button.
2. Install the software that has just been downloaded.
3. Open up the YouTube downloader software.
4. Find your video / song that you want to download, hit the “download” button, and you’re good!

Posted in youtube videos | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Indie ReCon is On! SEO/ Metadata/ Keyword Research for Authors (Part 2)

IRCHeader6Just an update today—the IndieReCon conference is still
going on, my giveaway is going to close in about eight hours, and generally speaking, people are
asking great questions and saying nice things to me about my posts, so that’s
always good.  I’ve answered all the
questions people have posted so far, and will continue to do so at least
through the end of the conference today. 
As you might know, I’m on a life mission to make complicated concepts
more simple and accessible and to provide tangible action steps that can be
taken right away.  

 

Here are my two posts, again:

 

http://www.indierecon.org/2013/02/importance-of-seo-and-metatagging-part.html

 

http://www.indierecon.org/2013/02/importance-of-seo-and-metatagging-part_20.html

 

Here are some of the nice things people said about my
IndieReCon entries, in case you need more enticement to go over there and read
them.

 

“I’m going to do my first keyword search right
now! Thank you for this helpful post!”

 

“Lori, this information is so phenomenal. Thank
you for sharing it. I have been completely clueless about SEO. I just signed
into free keywords and am already starting to feel enlightened. THANK YOU!!!!!”

 

And, the nicest Tweet of the day:  

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 2.17.53 PM  So nice!!!  Thanks Ali!!

 

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Indie ReCon is On! SEO/ Metadata/ Keyword Research for Authors

OK, so—today I am participating in an online literary
conference. I wrote two posts for it, and they are both live as of NOW, so I’m
actually not cheating on my resolution to write every day of 2013.   You should definitely go over there and
check out IndieReCon.  There is some
awesome information over there, PLUS they are giving away free stuff all day.   DO IT!

 

Here are the excerpts:

 

Importance of SEO and
Metatagging, Part 1 by Lori Culwell

 

Part I: 
Keyword Research

If you’re a writer,
you write all the time, right?   You’ve got your book (or books) out,
you’re updating a blog on a regular basis, and you’ve got some kind of social
media presence, and your website is up to date.

These are the things
I’m assuming you have, because they are the basics you need to be a writer in
2013.  Writers are creative types, but they also need to be
organized.  I wrote a whole book that walks writers through doing this,
step by step.   However you get there, you need to have some kind of
network going where people can get to know your writing, buy your work (if you
have some to sell), and get in touch with you to offer you multi-million dollar
book deals. 

The bulk of the work is going to be done by
you.  Today, I’m just going to tell you about a couple of things you could
(should) be doing to make it more possible for people to find your work.  Read the full post, comment, and enter the
giveaway!
 

 

Here is the second post:

 

SEO and Metatagging
Part II
:  Where to Put Keywords!

 Now that you’ve done
your keyword research (and wasn’t it so interesting?), you’ll need to go back
and put these keywords into your website so that the search engines will
associate your site with these words, with the ultimate goal of having your
site pop up when people Google those words.  The words are the demand,
your site is the supply.  Got it?

These instructions are
for people with sites based on WordPress, which gives you the easiest access to
your metadata.  If your site was built using html, you will need to
actually crack open the back-end with a program like Dreamweaver or have your
designer/ developer do it for you.  This is another reason I recommend
that authors switch over to WordPress. (.org, not .com). 

To put your keywords into your site, you’ll need
an SEO plugin…..   
Read the whole post
at the IndieReCon website
!

Posted in Tech Moment | Comments Off on Indie ReCon is On! SEO/ Metadata/ Keyword Research for Authors

Does Google consider SEO to be spam?

Because we do Search Engine Optimization (SEO), clients often ask what Google thinks of this.  Here is a YouTube video from the Big G!

 

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