Where Should You Focus Your Social Media Efforts?

When deciding to start a social media campaign, what sites should you set up accounts on? There are dozens of top social sites on the web, some serving a large audience and others filling niche markets. In this article, we’ll look at four different types of social sites, some examples of each, and best practices for each category.

social media blog iconAs a general introduction, the four most important types of social media sites are microblogs, social networks, media sharing sites, and social review sites.

Microblogging

The intention of microblog sites is to share what you are thinking at that moment in time. This might be a thought, a link to a website, or the answer to a question someone else posted on the web. Microblogging is designed for short messages that can be shared with others, along with following other people and gaining followers.

The king of microblog websites is Twitter, which has the largest user base in this category. Twitter has over 500 million users, and its developers support a wide range of app choices, including network integration, auto-posting, and various web apps offered by third parties. Twitter also offers users the best search functionality of any microblog site.

Another extremely popular microblog site is Tumblr, which supports longer posts but is most often used to share short messages. With over 80 million blogs and 20 billion pageviews per month, Tumblr is another great option for businesses to establish a microblogging presence. Tumblr posts are routinely image-focused or shares of small snippets of information, and the site allows for reblogs and follows.

Social Networking

In terms of social networks, the most important aspect here is the ability to hand-pick connections. People add their friends, family, and business colleagues to their social accounts and are able to put together a very personal network. For businesses, this presents a tremendous opportunity to reach into the extended networks of people, broadcast to their own social network, and receive feedback from users of the site.

The undisputed king of social networks is Facebook, with over one billion users from around the globe. Facebook is intensely socially focused through sharing thoughts, images, videos, and links. It has the largest user base, categorization controls for users and businesses, and allows for sharing of almost every kind of resource.

LinkedIn is another great choice for businesses to establish a social networking presence. For business owners and employees, this site offers a dynamic resume where they can list their experience and skills, and add connections as a type of online Rolodex. The site also features group participation based on various topics, and users can interact with companies either directly or through current and former workers.

Somewhere in between these two is Google+, a relatively new social network but one with a lot of support through other Google properties. Google+ can be integrated on sites, integrated in AdWords marketing through the use of ad extensions, and is now offering Google Hangouts and YouTube integration. Although it is not the largest social network on the planet, Google+ is one of the easiest ways to integrate a company’s website with the Google search engine.

Media Sharing

Media sharing sites are intended to share images and videos with other users of the site. They focus more on the visual media of the web, and can usually be very easily integrated into other websites, both blogs and social sites.

The largest media sharing site in the world is YouTube, with over two billion searches per day, along with universal search results from Google including YouTube videos. YouTube also allows the ability to embed videos into other sites, along with integrated social sharing on YouTube through Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. Content creator tools include advanced research methods, statistics on videos, and abilities to optimize videos on the company’s official channel.

Pinterest is a second media sharing website that is gaining in popularity. It is image-based and focused on sharing inspirational images on boards, just like a scrapbook in real life. Pinterest should be seen as a gateway site where users can find your images and then move to your website itself. Users spend an average of 90 minutes per month on this site.

Instagram is a third option for media sharing. It is more of a mobile platform social sharing site focused on images. It allows the use of #hashtags, and allows users to connect with each other based on topics, categories of images, and #hashtag campaigns.

Social Reviewing

In terms of social review sites, there are a number of websites focused on different types of businesses, including industries and geographical locations. Restaurants and retail stores will want a Google Places and Yelp presence, while local service providers will seek reviews on Angie’s List. Hotels can be reviewed on Oyster and Trip Advisor, products are reviewed all the time on Amazon, and movies and TV shows are reviewed on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.

Choosing the most relevant social media websites can be a challenge for businesses just starting out with social media. While Facebook has the largest reach, establishing a solid Google Places account may be best for local businesses, and companies that target younger audiences may want to focus on Tumblr rather than Twitter, for instance. If you know your business, then you should be able to figure out which social media websites are most appropriate to engage your company’s visitors.

PPC Campaign Account Structure

There are a number of tools and tips that marketers can use to create and run a Pay Per Click campaign, but the way to approach such an advertising effort can be very different depending on the size of the company. It is important to keep in mind that setting up PPC accounts for large and small clients is not the same, and will depend a lot on the nature of the business and the size of the website.

pay per click blog iconSmall Businesses

For small businesses, it is wise to start at the Ad Group level. A list of keywords should be organized by Ad Groups, and then landing pages should be decided upon for each group. Depending on the Ad Group and landing page, then the ad copy should be written, keeping in mind the question of whether or not each keyword fits the ad copy and the message on the landing page.

Large Businesses

In terms of larger businesses which may have thousands of keywords, it is also good to start with Ad Groups. However, looking at the sitemap or navigation of the website can also provide information on how to structure a PPC campaign, at least at a general level. Companies that sell various brands of products can start with a list of brands, and then add in modifers to create large Ad Groups based on related keywords.

Tools for Ad Group and Ad Copy Creation

Microsoft Excel and Open Office Calc are two extremely useful tools for creating long lists of keywords. The “concatenate” formula feature can put together longer phrases from lists of words. The result is easily generating a lot of keywords for many different Ad Groups, and even creating generic ad copy. Headlines, descriptions, and destination URLs can all be put together very quickly with a spreadsheet application in a fraction of the time it would take to do manually.

Another good tip for PPC on large accounts is choosing one landing page per Ad Group and organizing this way. Destination URLs can be determined at the keyword level in some cases, if they make the most sense. Even search pages can be defined as destination URLs. It is also important for large businesses selling numerous products to keep on top of broken links as some products are no longer offered.

Match Type Campaign Structure

One final method of organizing a campaign is to set it up by keyword match types. While smaller businesses may include all of their match types for related keywords in one Ad Group, larger businesses may have the resources to track clicks and conversions by match type. The best conversion rates are with exact match, followed by phrase match, and then broad match, and it can be instructive to track the specific differences.

If this type of campaign is set up, there are a number of factors to keep in mind to avoid overlap. The exact match ad group should not have any negative keywords, as it does not need any. The phrase match ad group should include exact match keywords as negatives. Finally, the broad match ad group should list phrase and exact match keywords as negatives.

With this type of account structure, the match types can be restricted by campaign and is useful for shifting around marketing budgets, especially at the end of each month. There can be a campaign just for brands, one of exact match, one of phrase match, and one for broad match. Ideally, the exact match campaign will use up most of the budget because of the higher conversion rates, but money can be shifted to phrase and broad match depending on the budget and money spent.

HTML5 & CSS3 for the Real World Book Review

One slightly older book on HTML5 and CSS that is still worth reading is HTML5 & CSS3 for the Real World, by Alexis Goldstein, Louis Lazaris, and Estelle Weyl. This book was published by SitePoint in 2011, but still has a lot of useful and relevant information, and is a great introduction to some of the more esoteric features of HTML5.

HTML5 and CSS3 for the Real WorldAt over 342 pages, the book is packed with information on how HTML and CSS work, as well as new features that are becoming standardized and supported by the major browsers. One nice aspect of the book is an extended introduction laying out what is to be expected in the book. The authors leave the most complicated topics to the end, when they go into Javascript APIs that are associated with HTML5.

Useful asides are used throughout the book to present information that is slightly off-topic but still relevant to the main discussion. They are especially helpful for brand new web designers who may not be familiar with what an API is, for instance. Usually, these asides will have links to browser developers’ websites for a more in-depth discussion.

Code examples are also liberally provided, with new additions to previous code appearing in bold text to highlight what is going on in each exercise. This is especially helpful as the authors take a look at some more complex code throughout the book, but make it easy to follow which changes are being made with what effect on the design.

The book is structured like many of the new HTML and CSS combination books in the recent past. The authors start out by describing HTML’s semantics before going into more detail on forms and audio and video. The new forms function is especially detailed in this book, as form submissions are one of the backbones of conversion optimization on the web today.

The book is strongest in these earlier sections as the authors have a real talent for describing how HTML and CSS features work, while providing real world examples that can be used on websites. From a simple doctype to embedding a video on the site, readers should be able to follow along and understand exactly what is being done to manipulate which elements.

The authors use an old-timey newspaper site as their example for much of the book, and this gives them an opportunity to delve into various aspects of CSS3, including page layouts, canvasing images and videos, and using web fonts to display text. Geolocation, offline web apps, and web storage are also looked at in some detail.

Thankfully, the HTML5 Herald page is still available online, with all of the features still working. Not only is the code downloadable from the SitePoint website, readers can look at the finished product as they build the site throughout the course of the book. By the end of the book, readers will be able to create their own geolocation apps, drag-and-drop features, and turn color videos to grayscale.

Compared to some other HTML5 and CSS3 books, this one does not go into as much detail on optional, rarely-used attributes, instead focusing on practical applications of the features to an actual website. The asides scattered throughout the book are intended to point readers to fuller discussions of these more uncommon aspects of design.

Overall, the book is a very serviceable addition to the literature on HTML5 and CSS3, and may be the perfect introduction to the practical side of website design for newbies. While nothing beats the detail of developers’ blogs or the W3C specification pages, HTML5 and CSS3 for the Real World simplifies all of these vast topics and boils them down to the essentials needed to create a website.

Sports Betting Global

We designed this site nearly a year ago, building upon a very simple pinboard style of website, and turning that original idea into a fully operational site with multiple pages, categories, social media options, and multimedia. Now SBG is a showcase for thousands of podcasts, videos, interactive apps, and — of course — sports betting articles. Check out our re-tooling of the site’s logo and presentation in the coming months!

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106 Questions You Need to Know for the Google AdWords Fundamentals Certification Exam

2014 Update

Note: I took the AdWords Fundamentals test in June of 2013. Since then, Google has updated their exam prep material for all of their exams. I’m leaving this post up because it’s still mostly accurate, but take the time to read the official material. If you want more test prep questions, consider the iPassExam program for both the Fundamental exam and both the Advanced Display and Advanced Search tests.

Advanced Display & Analytics IQ Study Guides

pay per click blog icon

If you’re thinking of taking the Google AdWords Fundamentals Certification Exam, you need to know a ton of information relating to the advertising platform. From account setup to video ads, Google requires a broad base of knowledge and will ask questions from various areas of their Learning Center.

While this quick study guide in question-and-answer format is no substitute for reading all of the material available straight from Google, we’ve taken these questions from a number of sources: the exam itself, expensive study guides scattered around the internet, and third-party certification programs. Rather than spending $40 or $100 on a package of 200-1,000 AdWords questions, we’ve boiled down the most important concepts right here for you, for free!

Many of these questions also find their way into the Advanced Search and Advanced Display exams, so you can also use this guide as a refresher course for your second exam. Contact us with any corrections, updates you think should be included, and other topics covered by Google.

Our advice is to use Google’s material to study for the exam and learn the AdWords platform in depth. The use our guide or others to refresh your memory on the basic concepts and mop up all of the easy questions on the test so you can spend more time on the difficult ones. Finally, good luck with your AdWords Fundamentals Certification Exam!

Accounts

Q: When setting up a Google AdWords Account, why should you choose your currency and time zone carefully?
A: These can not be edited once the account is set up.

Q: Which settings are specified at the Account level in AdWords?
A: Email address, password, and billing information.

Q: What happens to the rest of your Google products if you change your password for AdWords?
A: The new password will be required to log in to all other Google products.

Ads

Q: Your ad includes the phrase, “Your friend has a crush on you. See who!” and it gets disapproved. Why?
A: AdWords policy does not allow ads to simulate email inbox notifications or fake friend/crush requests.

Q: What is the formula for ad rank on the Search Network?
A: Maximum Cost Per Click X Quality Score.

Q: What is the best way to achieve the top position in paid search results?
A: Improve the Quality Score and raise the Cost Per Click.

Q: How should you check to see if your ads are still running on Google?
A: Use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool.

Q: Why should you use the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool to check if your ads are live and running on Google?
A: By searching for keywords that trigger your ad, you can rack up impressions without clicks, which may lower your Click-Through Rate, which may prevent your ad from appearing as often as it is eligible.

Q: Why should you identify special offers before building an AdWords campaign?
A: In order to create compelling text for your ad creatives.

Q: All other things equal, if your closest competitor’s bid is $0.25, how much will you pay to show your ad in a higher position?
A: $0.26

Q: What is the formula for ranking keyword-targeted ads on the Search Network?
A: Maximum Cost Per Click x Quality Score.

Q: What are some phrases that are not allowed, according to Google Ad Policies?
A: Call To Action phrases like “Click here,” or “See this site.”

Q: True or false. “Click here” can be used in an ad.
A: False. This phrase violates Google’s Ad Policies.

Q: How can you create effective ad text?
A: Best practices include using prices, promotions, and exclusive offers in your ads.

Ad Extensions

Q: How are +1s calculated for your ad and Google+ page when using the social extension on your ads?
A: +1s from your Google+ page show in the count that is visible on your ad.

Q: What can a location extension do?
A: Assist nearby customers in finding or calling your nearest location.

Q: With the sitelinks extension set at both the campaign and Ad Group level, which ones will be displayed?
A: The sitelinks at the Ad Group level will be displayed.

Ad Groups

Q: Why is it a bad idea to duplicate keywords in multiple Ad Groups?
A: Keywords in multiple ad groups compete against each other, and the keyword with the higher performance will trigger the ad in that Ad Group to run.

Q: What is the effect of including both keywords and placements in an Ad Group on the Display Network?
A: Your ads will be restricted to only specific sites that you choose and webpages where the content is relevant to the theme of the keywords.

Q: Why is it important to group similar keywords together in an Ad Group?
A: To ensure that the ads remain relevant to those keywords.

Q: Why is it a good idea to create multiple Ad Groups?
A: You can break up keywords and ads and group them by related themes.

Q: What should Ad Groups be organized around?
A: Common themes.

Q: True or false. Placements can be controlled at the Ad Group level.
A: True.

Q: What impact can poor landing page quality have on an Ad Group?
A: Keywords in the Ad Group may be given a lower Quality Score.

Q: What should you use Ad Groups for?
A: To organize ads by common themes that you want to advertise on.

Bidding

Q: What is the maximum CPC?
A: The highest amount of money an advertiser is willing to pay for a click on their ad.

Q: What does Smart Pricing mean?
A: Google may automatically reduce your CPC bids on pages on the Display Network that are less likely to turn into an actionable business result.

Q: When is Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM) bidding not available?
A: If your campaign is opted in to the Search Network.

Q:What is the main goal of automatic Cost Per Click bidding?
A: To generate as many clicks as possible within the advertiser’s target budget.

Q: What is one effect using setting a daily budget lower than the recommended amount?
A: Ads will not show every time that a user searches for the keywords that could trigger the ad.

Q: What is important to keep in mind about manual Cost Per Click bidding?
A: The average profit derived from a paid click.

Q: Which bid methods are used for image ads on the Display Network?
A: CPM or CPC bids.

Q: When a CPM and CPC bid compete against each other, how does Google determine each ad’s position?
A: Google estimates how many clicks the ad might receive in 1000 impressions to get the comparison.

Q: What is Enhanced Cost Per Click?
A: A CPC bidding features to automatically bid more aggressively in auctions more likely to result in conversions.

Campaigns

Q: What does a “Pending” Campaign in AdWords signify?
A: It is Inactive, but scheduled to begin at a date/time in the future.

Q: What is one main benefit of using Google AdWords?
A: Ads are displayed to users who search for your particular products or services.

Q: With a new campaign, what effect can the AdWords average daily budget have on achieving positive ROI?
A: It can keep costs and exposure limited until profitability is achieved.

Q: What does the Optimize ad rotation setting do?
A: It allows the AdWords system to show the better performing ad more often than lower performing ads.

Q: You have a new product line and want to allocate additional budge to promoting it. What’s the best way to do this?
A: Create a campaign with a separate daily budget to promote just the new product line.

Q: What can the Opportunities tab be used to do?
A: Find keyword, bid, and budget ideas to improve campaign performance.

Q: Why is it important to monitor ad campaign performance?
A: In order to determine if campaigns meet business marketing and conversion goals.

Q: What is one benefit of not using a predetermined budget for AdWords advertising, compared to radio, print, and TV advertising?
A: Online campaigns are highly measurable and may be able to generate an automatic positive ROI. As long as ROI remains positive, it can be strategic to capture all traffic without a predetermined budget.

Q: Which budget delivery method should you use to distribute ads evenly over the course of a day?
A: Standard.

Q: True or False. With the Accelerated delivery method of ads, ads are shown as frequently as possible until the daily budget is spent.
A: True.

Q: With an ad serving option set to Optimize, how will AdWords handle multiple variations of text ads in the same Ad Group?
A: AdWords will try to show the best performing ad more often than lower performing ads.

Click-Through Rate

Q: How does a low CTR on the Display Network affect your Search Network Quality Score?
A: It doesn’t. Your ad performance, including CTR, does not affect your rank for search ads. A low CTR on the Display Network does not affect your Search Network Quality Score.

Q: If you have a keyword with a low CTR, what can you expect?
A: A lower Quality Score on the Search Network.

Q: What is one way you can increase CTRs?
A: Add negative keywords to the ad group to reduce irrelevant impressions.

Conversions

Q: Why does a lower Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) not indicate a higher profit?
A: A lower CPA may be accompanied by lower sales volume, reducing overall profit.

Q: What can you expect if you raise your bids?
A: More conversions and a higher CPA, in general.

Q: What can you expect if you lower your bids?
A: Fewer conversions and a lower CPA, in general.

Display Network

Q: How does a low CTR on the Display Network affect your Search Network Quality Score?
A: It doesn’t. Your ad performance, including CTR, does not affect your rank for search ads. A low CTR on the Display Network does not affect your Search Network Quality Score.

Q: What effect does using managed placements have on your campaign?
A: Your ads will show on webpages, videos, games, RSS feeds, mobile sites, and apps that you have specifically selected.

Q: What does Smart Pricing mean?
A: Google may automatically reduce your CPC bids on pages on the Display Network that are less likely to turn into an actionable business result.

Q: What is the effect of including both keywords and placements in an Ad Group on the Display Network?
A: Your ads will be restricted to only specific sites that you choose and webpages where the content is relevant to the theme of the keywords.

Q: How does adding placements to an Ad Group affect its Quality Score for the Search Network?
A: Placements are used on the Display Network, so they do not affect Quality Score on the Search Network.

Q: Should you use plurals, misspellings, and other variants of words in Ad Groups in the Display Network?
A: Since the Display Network considers broad match only, plurals, misspellings, and other variants are unnecessary.

Q: Which bid methods are used for image ads on the Display Network?
A: CPM or CPC bids.

Q: By including keywords in an Ad Group, how does Google automatically determine where ads on the Display Network might show?
A: Automatic placements would be used to target sites by context whose content shares the same themes as the keywords in the Ad Group.

Q: How do Managed Placements work?
A: Advertisers can manually specify which websites their ads appear on throughout the Display Network.

Q: What is used to determine Quality Score on the Display Network?
A: The quality of the landing page.

Q: How can the Contextual Targeting Tool help you?
A: It can show you potential webpages where your ad can show up based on your keywords.

Keywords

Q: Why is it a bad idea to duplicate keywords in multiple Ad Groups?
A: Keywords in multiple ad groups compete against each other, and the keyword with the higher performance will trigger the ad in that Ad Group to run.

Q: From which AdWords tool can you get ideas for negative keyword and placement exclusions?
A: The placement performance report.

Q: What is keyword contextual targeting?
A: It is when themes of keywords are matched by AdWords to relevant content on various websites that run Google ads.

Q: For a direct response campaign, which keywords should an advertise delete or consider not using at all?
A: Keywords that generate a lot of impressions with very few conversions.

Q: Under the new match type policies, if you use the exact match keyword [red shoe], will your ad appear for plurals and misspellings?
A: Yes. This is a new change in Google AdWords policies.

Q: Does the Display Network take into account match types like phrase and exact match?
A: No, the Display Network uses only broad match.

Q: Why is it important to group similar keywords together in an Ad Group?
A: To ensure that the ads remain relevant to those keywords.

Q: What can you use the Keyword Tool to do?
A: Find new keywords for advertising campaigns.

Q: If you have a keyword with a low CTR, what can you expect?
A: A lower Quality Score on the Search Network.

Q: True or False. Negative keywords can help you refine the targeting of your ads.
A: True.

Q: True or False. Negative keywords can increase the CTR of ads.
A: True.

Q: Even with an unlimited budget and a positive ROI, what can limit the amount of money you can invest in a campaign?
A: The amount of profitable traffic available for the keywords that your campaign is targeting.

Language

Q: How does the AdWords system decide which ad language to target?
A: Language of ads is determined by the language setting of the Google interface the client is using.

Q: If someone in Russia sets their language preference to English, will they see ads targeted to people in Russia? Will their ads be in Russian or in English?
A: They will see ads targeted to people located in Russia with the ads in English.

Q: What language setting should you use to target a Spanish speaker in the United States?
A: Spanish.

Q: True or False. In order to target Spanish speaking users with Spanish language ads in the United States, adjust the language targeting settings.
A: True.

Location

Q: Where can an advertiser change the location targeting of an ad?
A: Location targeting is set at the campaign level.

Q: What is a primary benefit of location targeting?
A: The ability to target combinations of countries, territories, and regions.

Q: True or False. Google can use the IP address of users to target ads based on location.
A: True.

My Client Center

Q: What is one benefit of My Client Center?
A: A dashboard that provides summaries of different metrics for all of your clients’ accounts.

Q: What is the primary function of the My Client Center account?
A: An umbrella account for access to individual accounts with a single login.

Q: What is one way to limit a user’s access to only a specific number of accounts in the MCC?
A: Create a new MCC account linked to the original MCC account. Move the specified number of accounts into that MCC and grant the user access to the sub-MCC account.

Mobile Ads

Q: How can you get greater exposure on mobile devices?
A: Enable bid adjustments and bid higher on mobile devices.

Quality Score

Q: How does a low CTR on the Display Network affect your Search Network Quality Score?
A: It doesn’t. Your ad performance, including CTR, does not affect your rank for search ads. A low CTR on the Display Network does not affect your Search Network Quality Score.

Q: What is the formula for ad rank on the Search Network?
A: Maximum Cost Per Click X Quality Score.

Q: What are some recommendations for increasing Quality Score for a keyword?
A: Edit the ad associated with that keyword and direct users to a landing page that is very relevant.

Q: What happens when the Quality Score of a keyword is increased?
A: The ad may earn a higher average position.

Q: When are Quality Score and Ad Rank calculated?
A: Every time someone conducts a search where your ad is eligible to appear.

Q: What does a higher Quality Score typically lead to?
A: Lower costs and higher ad positions.

Q: How often is Quality Score evaluated?
A: Each time someone does a search that triggers your ad.

Q: What is used to determine Quality Score on the Display Network?
A: The quality of the landing page.

Q: How does a low CTR on the Display Network affect your Search Network Quality Score?
A: Ad performance on the Display Network does not affect rank for Search Ads or Search Network Quality Score.

Search Network

Q: What is the best bidding option for clients that want to spend the least amount of time setting and managing individual keyword bids?
A: Automatic Cost Per Click (CPC)

Q: What is the formula for ad rank on the Search Network?
A: Maximum Cost Per Click X Quality Score.

Q: How is advertising cost accrued on the Search Network:
A: Costs are accrued when someone clicks on an ad that is displayed on the Search Network.

Q: What is the formula for ranking keyword-targeted ads on the Search Network?
A: Maximum Cost Per Click x Quality Score.

Q: What effect do negative keywords have on Ad Groups in a Search Network campaign?
A: The ad will not show if the negative keyword appears in the user’s search query.

Q: What happens if a Search Network campaign consistently reaches its daily budget?
A: There will be missed potential ad impressions.

Q: True or False. You can pay for specific placement in top ad positions in the Search Network.
A: True.

Q: True or False: You can pay for specific placement in top positions in the natural search results.
A: False.

Q: How can Search Network marketing help you reach your advertising goals?
A: By acquiring potential qualified customers.

Q: What are the minimum requirements to run an ad on the Search Network?
A: Text ad, keyword list, and a default bid.

Q: How often does AdWords run an auction to determine which ads will be shown on the search results page?
A: An auction is run every time a users enters a search query.

Video Ads

Q: You want to pay when a user views your video ad through a cost-per-view advertising model. Which of Google’s services would be most appropriate?
A: TrueView video formats would allow this model of payment through YouTube advertising.

Did you make it all the way through these questions and answers and still need some help before taking the exam? If so, take a look at this Study Guide review.

What Types of Videos Are Worth Sharing?

A huge number of people online watch videos and share them with others, either through email, posting links to Facebook, or writing blog posts with embedded videos in them. This means that videos that are worth sharing will often get shared and watched. However, the majority of videos still get under 500 views, so what makes a particular video worth sharing?

video marketing blog iconThere are at least four different types of videos that will get some sharing action. The bottom line, though, is that videos worth sharing must provide some intrinsic value to online users. If a user gets some value out of a particular video, they may use their judgment and decide to share the video further into their own social circles, either through social media or on their own website.

Inspirational videos are a huge draw for users and can spread like wildfire. One obvious example is the skyrocketing popularity that Susan Boyle experienced after singing “I Dreamed a Dream” on Britain’s Got Talent in April 2009. Another couple of popular inspirational videos are “Christian the Lion” and “The Last Lecture.” All three of these videos have millions, tens of millions, or over one hundred million views.

Another type of video that encourages sharing is ones that are simply entertaining. The “Bed Intruder Song” video is an example of this, as Antoine Dodson became a YouTube sensation after his local news appearance was remixed into a song by Schmoyoho. The “United Breaks Guitars” song series was another popular entertaining video, as was the “Gangnam Style” song and music video. In fact, the “Gangnam Style” video is the most popular online video of all time.

Topically enlightening videos are also extremely popular, as they draw attention to an issue that might otherwise be overlooked by many. The “Kony 2012” documentary became one of the fastest spreading online-to-offline phenomena in recent history, and Facebook groups were used to share the YouTube video and organize local meetups. In fact, YouTube is a goldmine of free documentaries, both short and long, and it should be remembered that the Egyptian uprising was broadcast globally on internet video sites, including YouTube.

Finally, let’s consider the old standby, how-to or education videos. These are more practical than enlightening videos which may want to educate and bring attention to an issue. Educational videos, though, teach users how to do something, like for a T-shirt in two seconds. The Khan Academy has hundreds of YouTube videos on any number of subjects, all of which are free and have thousands or hundreds of thousands of views. People are using YouTube as an educational tool more and more by the day.

These four types of videos are more likely to be shared because they bring something of value to viewers. They can either inspire them, make them laugh or move them emotionally in some way, educate them about an important issue in the world they were not aware of, or teach them how to change a flat tire. In any event, these types of creative videos are more likely to be shared than a simple promotional corporate production.

Make Your Blog Your Social Media Home Base

Most companies, especially small businesses, have begun to realize how important it is to have a social media presence. Facebook check-ins can drive foot traffic to a store or restaurant, while a Google Places Page can generate reviews and allow companies to have an official presence on the largest search engine in the world.

social media blog iconBut why should a company have a blog? That question is much more difficult to answer, and for good reason. Establishing a blog means that content has to be written and published on a consistent basis, where Google Places and a Facebook Page are a one-time setup and forget about it deal. Blogs also require longer posts than a simple Facebook status update.

However, a blog is potentially the most important piece in a social media marketing strategy, and it ties everything else together. In fact, the blog should be seen as the home base of the entire social media plan, as it is a central location for company news and content, a way to push consistent marketing messages to readers, a response channel, and an analytics opportunity.

Blogs allow much deeper analysis of the analytics than a simple social media profile. There are a number of powerful web analytics program available for free, from Google Analytics to Yahoo! Web Analytics. Blogs also allow for direct traffic and links to the company’s main website, where a social media profile may revolve around participation just on that social site. Blogs can also be a central location to promote subscriptions to email newsletters, RSS feeds, and social media accounts.

The big lesson to learn from using a blog as a home base for social media is not to give all of that content and links away to the social media sites. Instead, businesses should use the visibility of social media to drive traffic and links back to their own blog, and then to their main website. All of these should point back to various social media profiles, but the focus should be on the company, rather than the social site.

One tip for engaging content on the blog home base is to diversify. Show images of the company at work or the latest products and services. Create videos interviewing employees or promoting new offers and discounts. Audio interviews can be very popular, as is an ongoing series of podcasts that can be featured on iTunes and on the blog. And text posts are always a good idea for creating links and educating consumers.

Thus, the blog should be seen as the most important part of a social media strategy. Remember that websites with blogs have a larger number of pages indexed by the search engines, more visitors in general, and more inbound links from around the internet. Even more important, all of your best competitors already have a blog and social media strategy. Why don’t you?

Be Greedy for Social Media Traffic

When companies create content, they usually try to push it out to as many websites and social media profiles as they possibly can. This is a symptom of doing corporate press releases for too long: in the world of actual content, more distribution is not always going to lead to more engagement or traffic for the website, as it would with traditional media coverage.

social media blog iconThe problem is that many of the websites that a company pushes its content out to, whether it be a news release site, an article or ezine website, or a social media profile, are completely independent of the actual business. Those third-party sites want the the traffic, and if they can get it by publishing a company’s content with its permission and encouragement, they will.

In terms of search engine optimization, this is a good strategy. Pushing content can result in links back to the website, which will result in better rankings in the search engines. All is well in search engine marketing land.

But all is not well in social media marketing land, where a company’s blog should absolutely be the home base for all content. Snippets of content and teasers should be shared on social sites, but long articles with a lot of informative, educational content should show up on the official company blog and nowhere else.

Companies should be trying to get traffic back from social media websites, rather than directing that valuable traffic to them. Facebook, Google+, and Digg do not need more traffic than a local pizza place, barber shop, or chiropractor’s office. Publishing a lot of solid content for consumption on those sites and others misdirects traffic that should otherwise be used to promote a smaller website.

The purpose of using social media marketing is to channel people from social media to the blog. If they go back to other social media profiles, that’s fine because it is one more way they can follow the company. But it should be the social sites that are delivering traffic to the business blog, rather than the other way around.

Consumers will easily find their way back to Facebook after consuming the content on your website. Don’t give them extra incentives to spend time on social media while completely ignoring your company’s little piece of real estate on the web.

Twenty Years of So What! The Metallica Club Magazine

This past weekend, I received the newest magazine from the Metallica Club, Vol. 20, No.1, a special Cliff Burton issue.

(Yes, the MetClub is notorious for late releases of its magazines and has poked fun at itself over the years for publishing all four yearly volumes somewhere between August and December each year, so it’s no surprise to receive the first of the 2013 volumes in the middle of May.)

I’ve been a member of the Metallica Club since the second issue came out in the middle of 1994, and have every single one since the beginning.Someone handed my dad and me a “Join the Metallica Club” pamphlet in Chicago on July 3, 1994, during the band’s summer tour.

From a web design and marketing perspective, it is enlightening to view how the professionalism and layout of the magazine has changed over the years, as the club transitioned from a focus on insiders and collectors to a more family-friendly, marketing and promotional venture.

The first issue and the latest.
The first issue and the latest.

Take a look at those two covers, will ya? The magazine has actually shrunken slightly in size since the first issue came out, but is now printed on much higher-quality paper. The logo has changed a bit over the years, but the overall layout of the covers has typically been fairly minimalist (although some issues have definitely taken risks). It’s inside the old and new issues that show how far the Club has come in terms of professional design and technology.

What's with all that pink and pastel?
It’s like, how much more pastel pink could this be? And the answer is none. None more pastel pink.

The first question you may have is what is all that pastel blue, yellow, and… pink(?!)… doing in a Metallica fanclub magazine from the Black Album days? Obviously, the first attempt at a cool, “metal” fan club magazine fell a little short of the goal. However, I still like that original “The Metallica Club” logo far more than any of the newer ones over the years. They’ve also done a better job with Tables of Contents over the years, clearly.

Similar layouts, upgraded artwork on the News page.
Similar layouts, upgraded artwork on the News page.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Still a three-column layout for the News section, but the generic (and occasionally hilarious) clip art has been replaced with a slick header image, an actual, consistent color scheme, and a full-color picture. To be honest, I kind of miss Mariachi band clip art in my Metallica-themed news, though.

Riding the Lightning, by Steffan Chirazi
Riding the Lightning, by Steffan Chirazi

Another constant over the years has been Steffan Chirazi, who started out as a simple “freelance rock journalist,” as he writes in this “Riding the Lightning” article, but who is now the editor of So What! This was his first column in the first installment, and it’s well worth reading these old columns for Metallica Lore. Some of my favorite articles in the earlier issues had James and Kirk giving advice for guitar players!

Steffan Chirazi on Cliff Burton
Steffan Chirazi on Cliff Burton

Of course, Steffan’s latest columns are also well worth reading.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed after Chirazi took over was his answering nearly every “Enter Mailman” (letter to the editor) messages that gets included in the magazine. I’d rather have more fan letters posted in place of his commentary, which usually consists of just a second or two, but maybe other subscribers enjoy his commentary along with his columns. The editor comments aren’t a bad thing, but I always enjoyed reading actual letters from other Club members. In internet terms, I suppose that translates into liking comments from website visitors, rather than one- or two-sentence replies from article authors.

Magazine proofs and a T-Shirt, or a Metallica tour jacket?
Magazine proofs and a T-Shirt, or a Metallica tour jacket?

Look at all that white space in the old magazine’s contest! I wish the club would do more caption contests like this one, but that’s what Facebook and Reddit are for these days, right? The new contests are much more creative, with the new issue’s requiring a visual representation of Cliff Burton’s “(Anesthesia)… Pulling Teeth” song. I can’t draw at all, but I can occasionally come up with a funny comment for a picture. In fact, in the second or third installment, my friend and I actually sent in a caption for the contest (although we didn’t win). Regardless, putting all that white space to greater use is one of the nicer changes from earlier magazines.

Our brains are on fire, with the feeling to sell, and it won't go away, til you buy all our shirts!
Our brains are on fire, with the feeling to sell, and it won’t go away, til you buy all our shirts!

Does anyone remember Seek and Buy? Did anyone use it? The Metclub always had its own merchandise that could be ordered, but some space in the magazine was dedicated to people listing their own Metallica gear and hoping to find another fan to purchase it. Remember, this magazine came out a year before Ebay even existed, let alone was popular! With 23,775 current listings for Metallica on the auction site right now, it makes the Seek and Buy section of the first issue seem so quaint. Of course, once people started listing their stuff in the magazine, I wanted almost every bit of it.

These days, the Club dedicates a couple of pages at the back of each issue to displaying new or interesting items that can be ordered online directly from the Club. I still have some of the original mail-in order forms from the first few issues. We actually ordered about a dozen shirts at once back in the 1990s, too, and the Metallica-Woodstock shirt is still a favorite of mine I got from the club. It took so long to order a shirt back then, sending a money order through the mail, then waiting another week to get the package.

Kirk, Lars, Jason, James, and now Cliff joins them.
Kirk, Lars, Jason, James, and now Cliff joins them.

After the first issue, the Metclub dedicated their subsequent issues to each of the four (at the time) current band members, starting with Kirk, Lars, Jason, and finishing with James. After twenty years of putting out four magazines between August and December since 1993/1994, it’s fitting that Cliff Burton is given a special issue. I’m definitely not leaving Rob out here, but rather contrasting those twenty-year-old episodes with the newest one. Rob joined the band after the Club had transitioned to slicker layouts and a more professional design.

This post isn’t focused on website design or internet marketing per se, but I hope it’s been illustrative to look at how the design, focus, and intent of this one fanclub magazine has changed over two decades in terms of presentation and skill, even though some designs and people are still present from the very beginning.

Disclosure: I would have scanned more of the old/new issues, but I didn’t want to 1) ruin the magazines by sending them through a scanner, and 2) am aware of Metallica’s views on recreating perfect digital copies of copyrighted content. Thus, degraded pictures taken on my phone were the compromise I settled on. Join the club if you want the actual issues!

Collection of Traffic Motion PPC Articles

I just wanted to let everyone who reads this blog know that I’ve got a handful of PPC-related articles posted over at EzineArticles.com.

EzineArticles Diamond Author IconHere are the links to them: