Monthly Archives: September 2013

How Google Sees Website Content By Professionals

The Google Spider Google looks for great content marketing

Search engine “spiders” trawl the web 24/7 looking for content (in case there is anyone out there who might be confused about this, it’s not a real spider – the “spider” is a little piece of code). Importantly, they also return to check on “changes” to sites since their last scan. How often? Who knows – it depends on lots of subjective factors. The results are stored in enormous databases – this is called “indexing”.

So what is Google looking for? The list of factors they consider in their algorithms is enormous (around 200) and arcane, but if there is one thing we can say for certain, they want high quality content. More so all the time. That means the content is driven by the best interests of your readers, not an often misguided attempt to guess what might rank well in search engines. As well, the days of trying to trick Google – so-called “black hat” techniques (link buying, content farms, keyword stuffing and much more) or “gaming Google” – are over (avoid like the plague SEO consultants who make claims about placing you “number one” on search engines). Penalties apply, so be very wary.

As a service professional, what you need is to provide value for your readers. Have you written original content in plain English? Is there a clear interest in the interests of your clients (or prospective clients)? Have you provided a comprehensive FAQ section that addresses the potential anxieties and pain points of clients? Is the biographical information more than a mere recitation of a CV (boring!) – does it instead provide a narrative that is founded on the understanding that this information is usually the first point of contact for prospective clients? Is it humanising? Do you have a unique selling proposition that is well established?

Write content in your client’s shoes

Most Australian professionals are in the relationship business. If I take my own profession, the law, and especially for smaller suburban lawyers, the success of a law firm depends almost entirely on word of mouth. It’s really no different for accountants, superannuation advisors, financial planners, insurance brokers or whatever – the relationships you create are most of the story of your marketing. This is where your website content and content marketing – high quality website content that is optimised for the internet  – must reflect the word of mouth that sustains your firm. In part this means you should communicate with clients in a way that is respectful, helpful, informative and (hopefully) egalitarian. This must be the guiding principles of your online content.

To write great content you must be able to step into the shoes of your clients and prospective clients and speak to their needs. What can you tell them that will help them in their day to day lives? Do you have an angle on a common problem they have not considered? How do you differentiate yourself from other professionals?

While you may have given enormous resources to your online content, remember it is not for your benefit but your readers’. Your readers are the first and only judges of that, and so you must always work to engage their interest. You know these people – they are your clients, the ones you meet (or hope to meet) every day. Have you focused on their needs? Yes? Then Google will love you too.

Where to start

If you want a lot of ideas about building content  then check out our fee eBook on the introduction to content marketing, or just get in touch for a chat (free) or ask a question.

photo credit: Frans (3Djavu.nl) via photopin cc


Australian Professionals Must Use LinkedIn

LinkedIn for Australian professionals Why should professionals join LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is all business. In a suit and tie (that’s a metaphor – you can use it in the comfort of your home in pajamas). We call it “social media” but really it’s not. It’s networking pure and simple. Not interested in networking? Really? Then don’t bother to read on, but you are missing out. LinkedIn costs you nothing, will not be resource intensive, and can be productively built over a long period. It pays you back in spades, but most importantly, it’s almost a first stop for fellow professionals and business clients when they’re checking you out. Think of it as your online business card.

What is LinkedIn?

Linkedin is there to help you find people who are valuable to your profession and business, and then find others who have connections to those people and so on. Let’s say you meet Ms. Accountant at a get together. You check out Ms. Accountant’s LinkedIn profile, like what you see, and send her an invitation to “join your network”. She accepts (this is almost a pro forma if you have had any association with the invitee, they’re almost certainly going to accept). This is where the networking effect of the social network takes over. It’s a cascading mechanism that is best explained by signing up and using it. The system creates a network for you, it is well tended by the LinkedIn administrators, and it is information rich. Most of all it is highly pragmatic. You will “meet” fellow professionals.

Understand the LinkedIn network

The best way to understand LinkedIn is to look at the networking levels. On LinkedIn, people in your network are called “connections” and your network is made up of your 1st-degree, 2nd-degree, and 3rd-degree connections, together with fellow members of your LinkedIn Groups.

1st degree – These are people with whom you have established a direct connection because you have invited them to join your network, or because you have accepted their direct invitation to join their network. You’ll know this is so because a “1st degree” icon attaches to their name when you search it. You can contact them directly on LinkedIn any time you like. In other words, having accepted your invitations to connect, you now have free access to each other.
2nd degree – These are people who are connected to your 1st degree connections. They have a “2nd degree” icon next to their name. You cannot contact them directly unless you have signed up for the InMail system (you pay for this).  However, you can still invite them to join your network and become a 1st degree connection, but to do this you must have an introduction e.g. you know their email or you have worked together.

3rd degree – These are people who are a 1st degree connection to your 2nd degree connection (LinkedIn describes this as a “friend of a friend”). They have a “3rd degree” icon next to their name. However, you can still invite them to join your network and become a 1st degree connection, but to do this you must have an introduction e.g. you know their email or you have worked together.

Group members – They’re in your network because you’re members of the same group (more about groups later in this Chapter). They have a “Group” icon next to their name. This alone makes it worth joining a Group, because you can send fellow members a message anytime. Let’s say you are a self managed superannuation fund professional – yes, there’s a group for you, the SMSF Professionals’ Association of Australia. There you will meet accountants, auditors, financial planners, lawyers, risk providers, actuaries, administrators and educators who are involved in the self managed superannuation industry.

How to begin

That’s easy – just do it. Go to LinkedIn and follow the instructions. The process is straightforward. They have a very useful Help Centre – the link is at the bottom of each LinkedIn page. You can read about LinkedIn in our MatureMedia Guide Introduction to Online Content Marketing. 

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Why Professionals Don’t Need A Big Social Media Budget

Websites for Professionals What Is Social Media – And Not

First, let’s be clear that “social media” is a big term with many interpretations and interpreters. For some people (usually high priced consultants) it means building lots of backlinks, looking at algorithms and lots of options about getting your website on the first page of Google search results. This is really search engine optimisation (SEO) which can be very expensive if it is done by professionals (here’s a tip – if it’s cheap, be very very wary).

So if you ask a consultant about improving the content of your website, and you’re soon asked to sign up to an SEO program, don’t do it until you first understand what it all means. How do you independently acquire this knowledge? What you need is basic research and a level headed approach (which is why you do the research!).

A Definition Of Social Media That Makes Sense

Social media is an umbrella term that includes blogs, social networking programs such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+, and professional networks like LinkedIn. Now some might argue with this classification, but abstract debates are unhelpful in the real world of professionals. This description happily encompasses hundreds of internet applications, but you only need to learn the basics of a few to develop your online strategy. Intrinsic in this is targeted website content and SEO (search engine optimisation). Yes, it’s not “social media”. But this is where you can begin to look at an online strategy, and it won’t be a large expenditure.

Ask yourself: what is my most immediate marketing goal? If you are a smaller professional firm, perhaps in the suburbs or a regional area, and already have a well developed website, with plain English information that has been optimised for the internet, well written biographical text and an informative FAQ section, then indeed it is time to move on to more sophisticated social media and SEO. If you are in this group, then congratulations, because you belong to a very small proportion of Australian professionals.

In other words, before you jump into big ticket items of more advanced SEO and social media (especially if you hire a consultant) first ensure you have optimised your website content. For most professionals in small firms this will already represent a significant effort. Professionals are aspirational, and that’s true for mature professionals as well. But we are too ready to accept our websites as little more than a brochure, perhaps a well designed brochure, but a brochure nevertheless. It ignores the reality that the quality and depth of your website’s content is going to be the major determinant of it’s success, and that includes SEO. There. I’ve said it.

 Where to start

All beginnings are hard. If you want a lot of ideas check out our MatureMedia Guides, or just get in touch for a chat (free) or ask a question.

photo credit: James Cridland via photopin cc


Do Australian Professionals Need An Online Marketing Strategy?

Do you have a social firm?

Brian Solis is a brilliant observer of all things social media and content marketing. He has co-authored a report into the evolution of “social business” for the Altimeter Group.

Here are some of the findings:

– 34% of businesses do not see the connection between their social strategy and their business outcomes;

– 28% of companies believe their business has a holistic approach to social media throughout the business functions work together under a common vision;

– Only half said that top executives were “informed, engaged and aligned with their companies’ social strategy.”

Could the same be said for professional firms in Australia? What this Report would raise for Australian professionals – lawyers, accountants and other financial advisers – is intimations of the same disconnect. This would be especially so for smaller suburban firms. Ironically, perhaps tragically, it is these smaller firms who would benefit the most from a holistic strategy. Why don’t they have one? Simple. They have no real idea where to go to begin, and fear spending big dollars on something they don’t really understand (in my opinion a legitimate fear). Let me be self indulgent for a moment – perhaps take a look at our MatureMedia Guides, you’ll find plenty there to get you started.

What is a social firm?

It’s not Facebook and Twitter and Linkedin (although any professional in Australia who does not have a Linkedin account would be foolish indeed). And it’s not a social media strategy, especially the grand plans that would be offered by high priced consultants. It’s the understanding that there should be a start – not a major overhaul of your firm’s strategy, especially if it’s functional – but a start, a couple of small steps, and the best place to start is to get a handle on a content marketing strategy.

In some sense what is required now is to develop a social business philosophy. Have you ever tried to follow a diet (I have, believe me). What is it that sends you batty and (unfortunately) headed straight back to the freezer and a few scoops of ice cream? It’s the rules of engagement, the technical instructions, the complicated recipes that seem to require a culinary degree and diminish a real desire to simply get on with it. Instead what you really need is a simple philosophical basis that underlies the process combined with straightforward principles – it’s no different with your firm. At this stage you don’t need convoluted rules to integrate into your thinking, you just need to make a start. My advice is to begin with the online content on your website, and make it more it attractive to clients, prospective clients and Google. If you don’t have a website, then the first step is to get one (if possible use one of the many available WordPress themes).

What’s stopping your marketing strategy?

Solis suggests that many businesspersons “…see social media as a novelty or a distraction for young adults and kids”. That rings true for me in my discussions with Australian lawyers, accountants and financial planners or brokers, especially those from smaller firms. It’s an understandable view, but it’s wrong. You don’t need to have a full working definition of social media or a comprehensive view of digital marketing. A social attitude towards your firm is just an acknowledgement that:

– consumerism has changed;

– people will gravitate towards better written online materials that use plain English and avoids hype; and

– you can make an easy beginning.

Where to start

All beginnings are hard. If you want a lot of ideas where to begin check out our MatureMedia Guides, or just get in touch for a chat (free) or ask a question.

 

 

photo credit: lastquest via photopin cc


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