What’s in a name? Everything! 10 reasons why naming strategy is crucial for your brand.

DownloadedFileI was talking to a client the other day who wanted more visibility. They had a hideously long URL for their company website.

I rolled my eyes. I immediately knew they were doomed to failure unless they changed their name.

I asked: “Is there any way you can find a shorter url?”

My prospective client hemmed and hawed about how attached he was to his ridiculously long company name.

There’s a reason why Google and Yahoo succeeded — and a host of other earlier search engine contenders like NorthernLights and AltaVista bombed.

There’s a reason why YouTube won the video wars and early contenders like, “uh, um, uh, whats their name, I forgot” failed.

Because YouTube is a freakin’ awesome brand. It says what it does. It has attitude. It’s memorable. You can spell it. It rhymes with things. It’s unique. It works in other languages and other cultures.

When I named my business, I spent an entire rainy day on Go Daddy typing things in at random until I found “Visibility Shift.”

Even though it’s not short, it’s memorable, it says exactly what it is.

And it’s relevant to my consulting practice, which is about shifting your visibility to a new level. I was absolutely floored when I discovered such a great website name was even available — and for $7.99.

Here are 10 reasons you want to take time to find a truly memorable stand out URL:
  1. It’s easier to type a short, memorable name – a long or unmemorable or hard to spell url just discourages people
  2. It’s memorable - (One word is best. Two words are ok. Three is just too much. Say it out loud. Can you pronounce it?)
  3. Searchability (SEO) - A name that isn’t unique is going to bring up millions of search results in Google. You want a unique URL so you are the first and only hit in Google, without having to pay $$$$ to Google for adwords.
  4. International localization - remember the web is global and your name has to translate easily into other languages — so it’s better if it’s not a word in any language.  Run your name past some friends who speak other languages and some translation software and make sure it doesn’t translate into something embarrassing. (The Chevy Nova flopped in Mexico because “No Va” means “Won’t Run.”) Say it out loud again. Does it sound like something obscene in Chinese?
  5. Put less words on your site, more pictures. Especially remember that the web is international and words need to be translated.  So the fewer words, the more universal your message is.  Learn from the success of big brands like Apple and Google who take a less is more approach.
  6. It doesn’t have to be a .com — You can be successful with a .us, .tv, etc. For example, Delicio.us. And that’s even shorter.
  7. Groupon is successful in large part because their name rocks. “Group + coupon.” Brilliant. Memorable. Unique. Short. Tells you what it is.
  8. Get your name first before you spend time and money branding it. Changing your name later is very costly and it means you are undoing all the work you did on public relations, marketing and social media outreach.  (Did you know that AirBnB was originally called “Airbed and Breakfast”? Seriously! The airbed rental idea flopped so they shortened it.)
  9. VCs look at your brand and name as a big reason to invest. A great logo, web design, business card, brand and name are almost as important as the product or technology behind the brand.
  10. Think about web branding when you name your products — and your kids, too. I’m grateful that my mother, very ahead of her time, gave me a name that is so unique that I go to the top of Google. Check that name out in Facebook, Twitter and Google and make sure it’s available. (The reverse applies if you want to protect your privacy — then John Doe is the way to go.) Consider adding a unique middle name to your name that describes what you do so you stand out. (ie: David “Avocado” Wolfe is a speaker in the health food field.)
This advice applies to any personal or corporate brand — a musician, band, artist, writer, book title or film. Choose your name carefully and snap up the URL as soon as you can, even if you end up sitting on it for years before you get your project started.
For more information about naming, visit Name Wire a blog about naming.

Is Facebook fan page advertising useless?

You can reach 1,000,000 people within a few minutes with great post on Facebook -- if it gets shared and syndicated. Only a few newspapers can reach that many readers (such as the New York Times or LA Times.)

This week, a controversial Gallup poll declared that social media was all but useless, and that nobody was influenced by social media ads and it was all a bunch of hooey.

I was immediately suspicious that results from the Gallup survey were skewed by the print and TV media. Mainstream media are late to the social game and totally threatened by the amazing reach of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and You Tube — now reaching millions and even hundreds of millions–numbers that vastly exceed print media.

They’re also probably very threatened by Facebook advertising, which is much cheaper than print/broadcast, and reaches that oh so desirable Millennial demographic that doesn’t read or watch TV anymore.

Since I live in Facebook stats all day long, I know the truth — one post can reach more people than an article in the New York Times. Sure, Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner are no doubt losing sleep over that.

Facebook ads, and Yelp, also, can be targeted with laser-like focus on extremely niche local demographics — something print media can’t do quite as well because print is either niche and national or broad and local . Print media and TV are rarely niche and local.

Internet radio still does a lousy job of targeting its ads to any meaningful niche. Local radio still thrives because it’s both targeted and local.

I’ve been doing PR (press relations) since the days when we used fax machines and FedEx — before the Internet existed. Back then, print media was king. Getting an article that reached 100,000 readers in a national print magazine was a big deal. I think some people are still attached to the “prestige” of Print but do not realize that they can actually reach bigger numbers with social media, with far more control over their message.

Print is still very valuable — but now more because it drives traffic to your website and gives you SEO rank in Google.

In the good old days, it was an even bigger deal to end up in a big newspaper like the New York Times and reach 1 million readers. If you got on TV you might (woo hoo) reach an aggregate of 2 million people through multiple TV news stories and a video news release after spending $250,000 on a press conference and a product launch.

Times have changed. Now you can reach just as many people in a few minutes with a single Facebook post or self syndicated blog post — or half a billion with a You Tube video.

PR IS DEAD — LONG LIVE SOCIAL MEDIA?

I’ve been saying “PR is dead,  long live Social PR” for a few years now. I was a little ahead of the curve. I was also sitting around listening to the phone not ring from PR clients, and watching stories not appear in publications that were disappearing, so I was ahead of the curve and got into social media.

Now it’s clear that shift has happened.

Social media is not optional anymore. If you’re not leveraging social media to amplify your message, it’s as if you don’t exist.

Social media is now the front line of most successful marketing programs. Social media is where you distribute your message first — and later it’s picked up by the news media.

(The exception is if you are a publicly-traded company. If so, then SEC regulations require that you announce news on the newswire first, and your key media are pre-briefed under a non disclosure agreement.)

Traditional PR is still very important, but it serves a different role now–in tandem with social media. After your story appears in the news media, they use their larger networks to “syndicate” your message to their networks. You then in turn amplify the message further by syndicating their content on your networks.

Articles and reviews in mainstream media also provide credibility and great content for your website and social media to leverage, and they will boost your search rank (SEO) in Google forever.

WITH SOCIAL MEDIA, YOU MAKE YOUR OWN NEWS

Social media is the “information hub” of your marketing wheel — and your personal social networks at the “hub” that links to other social networks and communities worldwide. The press and publications are some of those networks–but no longer the primary one.

In the old days, you sent press releases to actual members of the press for distribution. Newswires were only available to the press.

Nowadays, you are the press and you syndicate your news over social media, in addition to the press. A press release on the wire now reaches everyone on the planet at once.

Here’s an example of the reach a press release typically gets now on the Internet. As days go by, this number increases, infinitely, and many of these impressions remain on the web forever.  A press release mentioning a company traded on NYSE or NASDAQ would get much more impressions — this was what I got for a small business — 32,000 in two days. This doesn’t include the amplification from self syndicating this story on the client’s social networks. It would be difficult for a small business to get out the word that fast with traditional media.

Example of the traffic generate in two days from a well written, key word tagged press release.
Example of the traffic generate in two days from a well written, key word tagged press release for a small business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL MEDIA CONNECTS COMMUNITIES GLOBALLY

Here’s another example of that from the Unify.org campaign that illustrates how the Unify Facebook fan page links to other Fan pages and organizations, creating huge amplification for each post. (A single Unify post is often shared more than 5,000 times, reaching literally millions of people worldwide with no advertising.) Even with Facebook’s new restrictions, by utilizing this kind of networking, you can spread your message very rapidly and globally.

Illustration of overlapping social media communities. This strategy helped build Unify.org into one of the largest communities on Facebook. I helped write the strategic plan for Unify and was part of the core group of social media experts behind Unify.
Illustration of overlapping social media communities. This strategy helped build Unify.org into one of the largest communities on Facebook. I helped write the strategic plan for Unify and was part of the core group of social media experts behind Unify.

This strategy helped build Unify.org into one of the largest communities on Facebook. I helped write the initial strategic social media plan for Unify and was part of the core group of social media experts that helped ramp the page up. This is now one of the most viral social media communities on the planet.

As you can see in the screen shot above, it’s very possible to reach 1 million people with a single post if it’s shared, tagged and amplified with well targeted paid Facebook “boosting.” 


 

Is your Facebook fan page a cocktail party, a barbecue, a conference or a drum circle?

Social media is a virtual party.  Is your fan page a backyard barbecue, a formal cocktail party, a corporate conference or a drum circle?
Social media is a virtual party.  Is your fan page a backyard barbecue, a formal cocktail party, a corporate conference or a drum circle?
Social media is a virtual party. Is your fan page a backyard barbecue, a formal cocktail party, a corporate conference, a yoga class or a drum circle?

The funny thing about social networking is…we often forget that it’s just a virtual party. It’s not about amassing tons of “fans” so you can have the biggest party — it’s about inviting the right people and serving tasty snacks and drinks.

It’s about playful banter, music and laughter.

You know what happens when you talk sex or politics at a party — dead silence.

A cocktail party is NOT the place to pull out a gigantic billboard and say HEY BUY MY PRODUCT! (Unless you are a paid sponsor with a table or booth.)  And imagine if you pulled up your shirt and showed off your appendix scar?

But people do this all the time on Facebook! They forget it’s a party.

A great Fan page is an authentically engaged community where you have a conversation — even better if your tribe cares about what you have to say and shares it with their communities. At a party this is called gossip and word of mouth. On Facebook it’s called sharing and viral marketing.

Remember — a great party is not about QUANTITY it’s about QUALITY. Be selective. Invite the right people. Dress to impress — or stand out in the crowd. Serve good spirits and keep the music upbeat and the conversation as bubbly as champagne.

We are not collecting fans or contacts for Ego — we are collecting real human beings and we should care about them as much as we hope they will care about us.

Think about the real world equivalent of your Fan page. How would you interact in these different real world parties or events?

50 friends or less = backyard barbecue, workshop,  a drum circle.
150 friends or less = a tribe, a retreat, a big party, wedding, etc.
1000 friends or more = a conference
2000 friends or more = industry trade show, music festival
10000 fans or more = sporting event or concert
100,000 fans or more = gigantic stadium event
1 million fans or more = broadcast on television

And here’s a great metaphor for Fan pages from #socialmediamixology:

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15 free tips to boost your “organic” SEO and get more traffic for your website in the new year.

SEO? It's all about storytelling. Today people discover you through your stories. Make yours worth sharing.
Can anyone find your old static website?
Use the right words so people can find your blog in Google.Advertising, as the saying goes, is the awareness you pay for.

Advertising is the awareness you pay for. And PR is the awareness you pray for.

Today, “PR” includes social media and “content marketing” — and that means “the visual stuff with words on it.”  But to make people aware of your content, they need to be able to find it in Google. And this is why “organic” reach or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is so important.

Great traffic means a lower Alexa rank. The lower your Alexa score, the more people are visiting your site, and the more “relevance” it has in the search engines like Google. (Alexa.com is the site that ranks other websites according to their popularity.) My Alexa rank continues to soar, and has surged from the top 12 million sites in the world, to the top 4 million.  (I started the blog about two years ago.)

This is pretty amazing considering the fact that I am not specifically trying to drive traffic to this site, which is primarily a personal blog to promote my consulting practice.

My traffic is 100% “organic” reach — that means I get these visitors without paying for for advertising, Google Ad Words, Facebook ads, banners or link exchanges.

Here’s what I do to boost my SEO — and how you can use these techniques to boost traffic on your own site.

1. Content, content, content.

That is, just write interesting stuff. Write well. Be opinionated. Be a little controversial. Controversial, emotional, engaging content will get read and spread.

2. Teach and inform. Don’t just talk about yourself.

Create “how to” articles that teach others how to do what you do. Share information and don’t just promote yourself all the time. In fact, don’t promote yourself, ever, except in your bio and “about” section. Tell, don’t sell.

3. Use WordPress.

Build your website on WordPress — not a static website. If you already invested in a static website, add a WordPress blog tab to your site.  Why? Because WordPress is very well optimized for search engines.  WordPress also automatically syndicates your stories to other WordPress sites, and it also makes it very easy to tag your stories, videos and photos with juicy keywords.

4. Use lots of words on WordPress.

I know the current fad is towards “visual” websites and not a lot of words — but the fact is, Google and other search engines search for words, so use lots of them, and use the right ones.

Also make sure to write captions and search-worthy tags for every photo you use, so these photos can be found in search engines.

5. Think like a search engine.

What phrases do people search for? What questions do they ask that apply to your field or product? Answer those questions with your content.

7. Syndicate to all of your social media pages.

You can set this up in WordPress to syndicate your posts automatically when they are published so your posts go to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Services like Networked Blogs also help amplify your reach. A new service, Thunderclap can dramatically amp up posts for cause-related content and non profits.

8. Feed your social media pages into your site.

Syndicate the content into your page — and out of it. The more it flows, the more traffic you might get.  There are free widgets that make this simple to add a fan page, Instagram or Pinterest

feed to your blog.

9. Add easy to find “share this” buttons to make it simple for others to share your content.

Sounds obvious, but you would not believe how many businesses bury these icons on the bottom of their website. Bring them to the top and make them big, easy to see and find if people are reading on a small screen mobile device.

10. Comment on other people’s blogs, especially major news sites.

Once a week or so, while reading the news, make relevant comments as an authority in your field on other blogs and news sites — particularly if they are comments on topical news of the day. This brings curious people to your page and builds links to your site.  Share these stories with #hashtags that refer to the Trending Topics and news of the day.

11. Discipline yourself to post at least once a week.

The more you write, the more you post, the more you share — the higher your Google rank and relevance and the more traffic you get.

12. Send out press releases

Press releases are the most amazing traffic generator, period. Ever. You can use free press release sites if you can’t afford a professional news wire, but I recommend paying for PR Web which is highly SEO optimized.

13. Get mentioned in “real” media. (That is, do PR.)

One fantastic article in a major newspaper like the New York Times can permanently shift your business to a new level, boost page rank — and generate traffic to your website forever.  Yes you will need to hire a professional PR agency (like me) to get this kind of coverage. Be patient as it can take many months, and be prepared to pay through the nose. It’s worth it.

Or try this yourself — some people naturally have a gift for PR and can do it themselves.

14. Use Pinterest to generate permanent links back to your site.

Publish your WordPress photos from your WordPress articles as Pinterest posts — and then go back in and “tag” the posts with keyword-rich phrases and URLs so the pins show up in Google. Tremendous traffic builder.

15. Make your website worth coming back to.

I know this sounds obvious, but why are you wasting your time driving traffic to a website unless it’s going to close the deal and make the sale once people arrive? Make sure you have a way to sign up subscribers to your newsletter, capture visitors’ emails and lead them to follow your Social Media pages so you can bring them back again and again.

SEO? It's all about storytelling. Today people discover you through your stories. Make yours worth sharing.
SEO? It’s all about storytelling. Today people discover you through your stories. Make yours worth sharing.

Will you please focus your personal brand?

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4e4600ec6ef691d22f0693843b29dbe0If there is one thing I could ask all of my clients to do it’s this:

Please focus your brand.

I know, I know. We’re all wearing many hats now.

Multiple revenue streams are one way people cope with the challenge of today’s economy. We’re afraid to turn down business so we try to be everything to everybody.

But people don’t hire generalists, they hire experts.

You need to focus and specialize now more than ever.

Each business or revenue stream you take on in your life must be focused with it’s own, separate social media presence or you’re going to confuse your customer and they’ll run away.

The Solution: The Umbrella Brand

Umbrella branding” is a strategy that huge multinational businesses use — it’s the umbrella that covers all of their smaller brands. For example, GE is really a defense contractor when you get down to it, but their brand focuses on light bulbs: “We bring good things to light.” GE’s umbrella branding tags include: “GE: Brilliant Machines,” for their hospital equipment and “GE: Imagination at Work” for industrial equipment.

Or consider Hewlett-Packard, (HP). Did you know HP makes LED light bulbs for cars, components and about 10,000 other products?

I know, because I worked for HP for several years and sat in meetings where we wrestled with this problem. Every one of those 10,000 product managers with a product at HP wants a press release and a press tour for their product, but only a few, select, “front runners” and stars get chosen to represent the overall brand. In other words, the products that are most interesting get the PR. When we think of HP, we usually think of the front runner products like: “Ink Jet Printers.” Or: “Innovation in the historic HP garage.” This was condensed ino one word, the HP brand: “Invent.” This is the HP umbrella brand.

Image representing GE as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Now if HP and GE can’t afford to be all things to all people in their branding, you, Joe Schumuckatelli from Pocatello, Idaho sure as heck can’t afford multiple brands.

But small businesses and start-ups almost always try to have multiple product lines, spin off new stores, create new catchy taglines for all of their offerings, address multiple markets and even have multiple websites and logos. What a mess.

If you can’t remember all of your brands, products and taglines — do you think the customer can?

In my personal experience, any business brand (or personal brand) trying to be too many things is doomed to failure. I have see this in the high tech industry where start-ups with less than $1 million in funding will attempt to brand multiple products and serve both the B2B market and the consumer right out of the gate–confusing the investors, press and customers alike.

Do one thing and do it well — then launch more products once you’re Google or Yahoo. (Even Yahoo is  hacking away at “deadwood” product lines that clutter up the brand and aren’t producing revenue.)

Robert Scoble Leads the Way into the HP Garage
Robert Scoble Leads the Way into the HP Garage. This mythical place still leads the umbrella brand for HP. (Photo credit: bragadocchio)

Create your personal umbrella brand.

To create a personal umbrella brand, the first step is to ask yourself:

What makes me tick? What is at the core of every major step I’ve ever taken in my life?

It will help to get feedback from friends, clients and family and step outside yourself to ask this question. Tap deeply in to your core life purpose.

When you clarify your life purpose and articulate it in a mission statement,  you are on the way to creating a Personal Umbrella Brand that will work for your focus for years to come, even when it changes.

To start creating your Umbrella Brand, answer this question:

“Who is My Dream Client or Perfect Customer – and What Makes Them Excited?”

Case Study: A corporate organizational management consultant who now also does personal organizing and “downsizing” for individuals and small businesses.

Her business mission: “I create organizational strategies from Fortune 500 to the home office.”

Or, in a personal branding mission statement, “I simplify your business. I simplify your life.”

Focus your brand strategy on your website for better SEO:

In your website, build your overall brand that ties it all together as your summary statement, making sure to use key words that people will search for in Google when they want to find you. This “elevator statement” is the most important thing you’ll do so give it time and bounce it off friends and clients. These key words create Search Engine Optimization or “SEO,” so use them often in articles on your website.

Use pull down menus on your website to create sub-categories for specific lines of business.

Jane Fonda at a book signing, 2005
Jane Fonda at a book signing, 2005. If you’re already abundant and famous you can afford to create multiple brands and hire people to build all those websites and fan pages for your books, movies, exercise videos, non-profit philanthropic projects and political endeavors. Otherwise, focus your brand.

If your businesses are wildly disparate, you should build a separate brand, website and Fan page community for each business — but trust me, this will seriously tax your time and focus unless you are Richard Branson or Jane Fonda and can afford teams of people to manage all of this for you.

(I got to visit Jane Fonda’s office once many years ago, and asked: “Jane, you’re incredible. You have exercise videos, produce films, run non profit organizations, raise a family — how do you do it all? And she said something so honest I’ll remember it for the rest of my life: “Are you kidding? I’m rich! I can hire people to do all these things for me.”)

So if you have the fame and resources of Jane Fonda, go ahead and build multiple brands. Otherwise, focus your personal brand.

Focus your bio on LinkedIn:

For many of us, especially if we’ve been working for two decades, our LinkedIn profile is all over the map. What do all these jobs add to? What is the ultimate focus that ties all this life experience together into your life purpose?  Find the key words that clients or employers are searching for, and build those key words into your personal brand.

If your signature line or title says you have six careers, which one do I hire you for today in 2013?  Which one is your primary revenue stream? Nobody is an expert in 6 things. Focus your personal brand.

Focus Your Email Signature Line:

When I see 5 careers in a LinkedIn profile, email signature line or Twitter bio I think: “She is less than 20% at each of these things.” I want to hire the person who is 100%, don’t you? Focus your personal brand.

I don’t want a floor wax that’s also a dessert topping — I want an eco non toxic wax for hardwood floors.

I don’t want a dentist who is also an auto mechanic — I want a cosmetic dentist with an office within walking distance from my house.

Use a clear mission statement in your signature line, and if you have multiple lines of business, add a separate URL for each one.  Build a separate email address for each business–it’s free in Gmail.

Focus your personal pages on Facebook and Pinterest for hobbies that build your personal brand:

Most of us want more meaning in our life, and turning a passion or hobby into a business is everyone’s dream. Before you pour your time into building brands for all of your passions, though, ask yourself:

What is my business — and what are my passions?

Yes, like most people with a life outside of work, I’ve done a lot of things that I’ve been paid to do — this includes being a backup singer on some CDs, art curator, remodeling and flipping houses, stage manager and emcee for the Green Festival, art model, on stage storytelling performer, vegetarian caterer, producing events and yoga conferences, journalist, aromatherapist, writing a book about my “Eat, Pray, Love” journey in the south of France, etc. etc.

I took a stab at starting businesses in all of these areas but generally, I ended up investing more than I earned …therefore they are hobbies. My business is promoting things. I have found a happy medium that feeds my soul by promoting things that are my passions — technology that helps people collaborate, events that teach healthy lifestyles, solar energy and green ideas.

My passions, aka hobbies, however, don’t belong on my LinkedIn profile, my professional website or my email signature line unless I want to look like a flaky new age dilettante.

(Here’s an actual Flaky New Age Dilettante Twitter Profile: “Shamanic journeyer+travel.art.yoga junkie+wellness warrior+DJ+social alchemist. Some say l am an expert in Marketing, & Campaign Management.” Uh, yeah, not for personal branding I hope.)

I do get a lot of clients from the people I met while doing my hobbies, and they feed my soul, so I indulge in my hobbies on my personal Facebook page and Pinterest or by taking on volunteer roles or “pro bono” clients in these niches and highlighting them on LinkedIn in the volunteer section at the end of my profile.

Focus your thought leadership niche:

Examine your market niche and do research on the competition. For example, for one of my clients, a green talk radio host, she has discovered that there are no competitors at all for women representing the ecological and green movement. The door is wide open for her to take a thought leadership position and own that category as an author and media personality and we’re working on that together. For my business, I did a search in Twitter and noticed there are 181,000 social media gurus. But very few focus on the LOHAS, green or sustainable market — that niche is wide open for thought leadership.

Focus your photo and banner.

Choose your best portrait photo and use it consistently everywhere — it’s your brand. Same hairstyle, same eyeglasses, same hat or hair color. Think of celebrities that stand out eternally – Marilin Monroe and her platinum hair, Elvis and his sideburns, John Lennon and his round glasses, Groucho Marx with his big nose, moustache and glasses, Larry King and his suspenders — each has a style so distinctive that they are easily parodied. Find a unique look that defines your personal brand. One easy way to do this is to choose a consistent background for your photos — such as a redwood forest, ocean or city skyline or to wear a consistent color.  Hire a designer to create a banner for every social and web page or use a cover maker – and make sure it is one in a million unique. (No cheesy stock photos.)

Focus your regional market.

Even though the Internet is “global,” few businesses really are. If your clients are from a specific geographical region, put that in your mission statement and build listings on Yelp, Yahoo, Google, and other local listing services to ensure you show up in local searches.

It’s easier to be a big fish in a small pond — so consider focusing your brand to a region with the least number of competitors, or even moving to a region you can own and dominate.  That region is a keyword that is crucial to your SEO for your website, LinkedIn and your Twitter bio–be specific so customers can find you.

Focus and build thought leadership with content — and real world examples.

Thought leadership is a commitment to leading a category and curating content in that category until you are synonymous with that category. (Tim Ferris owns the “4 Day Work Week.” Don Miguel Ruiz owns “The Four Agreements.” What do you own?) Yes, it’s tedious. Yes, it’s not as much fun as being a dilettante — but it helps you stand out and build authoritiy, page rank and SEO.

The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Ferris
“The 4-Hour Workweek” author Tim Ferris is now the 4 Hour Anything Personal Umbrella Brand and he owns it. What do you own that is unique to you and you alone?

Brand focus builds authority and trust

Another client is a river rafting guide and also a massage therapist. I convinced her to drop the massage therapy from her river rafting website and build a new site for that sideline.  It’s distracting to think of the relaxation of a massage and the adrenaline rush experience of river rafting under the same brand.

Her new brand tagline is: “Life is a river — dance with it!” This reflects her personal passion in dance, and the fact that every river trip has live or DJ dance music, making them very different than mainstream river rafting trips. Other tag lines that spin off this theme will include: “Life is a river, flow with it!” and “Life is a river, dive in!”)  The new card and website emphasize “flow” with curving fonts. There are hundreds of Esctatic Dance events and hundreds of river rafting trips — but she owns “Dance with the River”.

When you focus your brand, you will find that not only will your credibility with clients improve, but your SEO, website traffic, Klout and Peer Index scores will soar because these scores reflect the consistency of posting on a single topic area and building thought leadership in that category.

As your Klout improves, clients and customers will call, and you will be getting inquiries from the news media looking for authorities to quote in their stories, and speaking engagements.

When you focus your brand, you won’t have to search for clients — they’ll finally be able to find you!

6 Ways to Make Passive Income from Your Blog or Website

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Yesterday I discovered a gold mine I had no idea I owned. A blog that I started in early days of blogging in 2004 is now ranked in the top 1,000,000 of all the sites on the Internet.

While this is a wonderful surprise, I am also kicking myself.

I could be making money, and my blog is just sitting there.

Are you sitting on an Internet gold mine?

Over time, blogs and websites can become “properties” with high virtual value on the Internet.  If you have an old blog or even a business website, do yourself a favor and learn your Google Page Rank and your Alexa rank. You might be very surprised.

A surprising number of my clients also have no idea how potentially lucrative their websites are, and I’m usually the one who breaks the good news to them.

For example, one day, I typed a client’s url into Alexa and discovered his website was ranked in the top 1 million sites on the entire internet! He had absolutely no idea.

Another client just shut down a website because their event had ended — despite that fact that it was getting 1,000,000 hits a month from the aggressive promotion and PR we were doing. That site is now very connected on the Internet and it could be making money, or even flipped for a profit.

I checked the Alexa rank for a new client I just started this week and discovered she has 250 inbound links on her blog, and a very respectable rank in the top 2 million of all websites in the US. No, she had no idea at all she was sitting on a possible Internet fixer upper.

Even this site, Visibility Shift, has a surprisingly high search rank and great SEO. The main reason is because my name and URL go out on press releases on PR Web every time I send out a release for a client. This builds tons of links back to their page — and to my own page.

1. Sell Links

This is controversial, but I see no reason why not, as long as the links are for sites you feel ok about promoting and not just some skanky “enlargement” product.  The advantage to links is they are small and unobtrusive and won’t clutter your margins like a virtual Times Square.

You can contact websites with products in your niche directly, and offer to sell them links, or you can use a firm like Magenet that will broker this for you.

2. Google Ad Words or other pay per click ad services

The trick to using Ad Words is to have lots of relevant key words in your content, and highly focused content relevant to an ad category that has a high cost per click. There are sites like About.com that generate the majority of their revenue this way.

3. Amazon.com Affiliate Programs

Personally, this has not been a big money maker for me, but I do know people who successfully promote books, supplements or other merchandise that is very closely aligned with the content on their page.

4. Niche Affiliate Programs

I like the idea of targeted niche affiliate programs better — for example, I have a spirituality and yoga blog and joined an affiliate program for an online store that sells buddah statues.

5. Banner ads

Create an “Advertise” tab on your blog, and offer an invitation to advertise. Include all the statistics that advertisers want to see, such as your Google page rank, Alexa rank, traffic, social media statistics, links to your social pages, press coverage you’ve received, and any other work you’re doing to build traffic, credibility and brand awareness. Include a phone number and email address so you can be reached. Then visit five blogs that are written by competitors, find out who their advertisers are, and contact those advertisers directly.  A client of mine did this and got a banner advertiser the first day he tried.

6. Flip your website. 

Yes, just like the flip and remodel craze that hit housing in the 1990s, you can flip and remodel a URL. A bare URL is not worth nearly as much as one with inbound links, a Google page rank and lots of keyword-rich content. Upgrade it with fresh content, paint it with a nicer interface and a new template, and do some social media promotion to spruce up your Page Rank, traffic and SEO and you might have a blog that’s worth more than your car. A friend sold one of his urls for $18,000. Go Daddy auctioned off two of my expired URLs for thousands of dollars — which is what tipped me off that I could be doing this myself.

Never let an URL expire until you check it out to see if it’s accumulated some traffic and a Page Rank. Even a page rank of 1 could pull in ads. There are many brokers that specialize in auctioning off websites, or you can even sell it on Ebay or Craigslist.

More about remodeling your blog or website for better Search Optimization and using press releases, press coverage and Social Media to drive traffic to it in a future post.

7 lazy ways to shamelessly promote your blog and social media posts to get more traffic

Put your social media on autopilot - reach thousands of influencers, worldwide while you're still asleep or drinking your first cup of coffee.

 

1. Use “Share This” widgets to shamelessly self promote.

Whether you’re using WordPress or any other blogging or web development tool, you can use the “Share This” widget on your website to quickly promote your posts .  Just install the widget on your site and right after you file your post share it shamelessly! Take an hour and share your story with every possible site out there–especially Digg and StumbleUpon. The more you share, the more links you are generating back to your site — and the more traffic you’ll get.

2. Use the “Publicize This” feature in Wordpress.

Yesterday WordPress announced some improvements to make their Publicize This feature more friendly.  Follow the instructions and watch your traffic soar.

3. Time your posts strategically.

In the world of old school journalism and PR, we have learned to strategically project which times and days will generate the most pick up for a news announcement. Tuesday at 8 am EST is when I’ve found press releases get the most pickup.

Why? Because on Monday at 8 am, everyone’s still groggy and drinking coffee (or they’re rolling in late to the office, or sitting in meetings.)

Tuesday is when business gets rolling. And it’s the day when publications traditionally have their story meetings.

Wednesday is the day the weeklies traditionally file their stories.

Thursday is still ok, but your story might get forgotten by the following Monday when reporters are writing again.

To bury bad news, you use reverse psychology. To bury bad news, announce on Friday afternoon, or right before a holiday weekend when everyone’s jetting out of town early. (This is the day for announcing the departure of a CEO or dismal profits that you don’t want to influence the market with.)

Well, I’ve discovered the same theory works with blogging, Tweeting and Facebook:

Tuesday at 9 am EST is the perfect time for a Tweet or post you want to get noticed because:

- It’s 9 am on the East Coast and everyone’s drinking coffee and checking their email, Twitter and Facebook.

- It’s 12 noon on the West Coast and everyone’s checking their social media profiles while on lunch break.

- It’s 6 pm in London, and everyone’s finished their work day and are checking their PCs.

There are lots of tools that help you write your Twitter posts in advance and time them. WordPress also let’s you schedule a post in advance so it blasts out just at the right time.  Marketing consultant Gary McCaffree has this great chart that helps you predict the “sweet spot” for a Tweet — he says the best time is between 9 am and 3 pm.

4. Have everything connected so your WordPress updates your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, automatically.

This is so easy and so potent. (And you can even rig it so that it’s on autopilot while you’re still asleep — tricking your clients and colleagues into thinking you are a hard working early riser!)

- Set up the Wordbook plug in to post your WordPress to your Facebook wall.

- Now set up the WordPress to Twitter plug in so that your WordPress post automatically goes out to your Twitter subscribers.

- And use the Twitter to Linked in widget to set things up so your Tweet automatically updates your LinkedIn status.

Wow! You just got out the word to thousands of professional connections while you were still asleep!

5. Use a press release to dramatically boost your story’s pick up.

There are hundreds of free press release sites that will help you blast out your story to the planet, or you can use a professional press release wire service for a fee.  You can time your news in advance to go out at a strategic time, and you can load up your press release with key words that will make it stand out in the search engines. Plus, if you use a paid newswire, your news will automatically go out into Yahoo News and Google News where it’s picked up like an AP or Reuter’s newswire story.

With one well written article or news release, I have consistently generated from 50,000 to 100,000 links back to a client’s website. (That’s not a typo.)  And your traffic will only increase as spiders and bots pick up your news, reprint it on RSS feeds and blogs throughout the web, and yes, generate more links back to your blog which in turn permanently increase traffic and search rank.

But the key word here is “well written.” You can’t get this kind of pick up for self serving fluff — your content has to be genuinely newsworthy, interesting, engaging, funny, controversial, keyword-rich or relevant. If you’re not a wordsmith, hire a professional.  Ultimately it’s a juicy headline and great content that gets noticed, reprinted, passed along virally and linked to.

6. Time your email newsletter to go out at the same time.

Start a news virus! Put your blog post in your email newsletter and time it to go out simultaneously to your customers, internal company employees, investors, partners, influencers and your press/blogger list.  With everyone hearing about your news announcement at the same time, it has more psychic impact and feels more important.  Also it’s courteous to give the news to your most valued contacts just as it goes out to the blogosphere.

7. Spin it and send it out again.

Tweet your story several times in one day or week by simply spinning your Tweet slightly and changing the headline to focus on a different aspect of the story. For example, my headline here is: “7 lazy ways to shamelessly promote your blog posts.” My next headline could be: “7 lazy ways to get more traffic on your website,” and then “7 shamelessly lazy ways to get more Twitter traffic,” and then, “Get more web traffic while you’re still asleep,” and so on… and yes, you can even set them up in advance so they go out on autopilot.

Well, (gloat, gloat) just wanted to let you know that this post went out to thousands of friends and influencers, all over the planet, boosted my search rank and increased my credibility while I was lounging around doing my morning yoga and drinking my first cup of coffee.

That’s why I love social media!

8 free (or cheap) ways to give your web branding a new look for the New Year

Start the new year with a fresh new look for your personal brand.

This down time between Christmas and the first week of the New Year is a perfect opportunity to give your personal branding a lift and start the New Year with a fresh image.

Here are eight ways you can use free templates and other inexpensive tools available on the web to give your business or personal brand a lift.

1. Reinvent your name for the new year.

Is your business name unique–or is it lost in the crowd? Consider finding a new name for your business and a unique URL — an identifier that people type into the browser to find your website. Do a little research on  Go Daddy or directly from WordPress, and see if your business name (or your personal name, or the name of your book) is available. If your name is generic, hard to remember or hard to spell, change it today before you start your branding campaign.

 

Check for copyright availability too before you buy your URL. If your business name is no longer available in Facebook, Twitter or Go Daddy, consider modifying or changing it today to something unique before you move on to step 2.
If you aren’t the first whatever that shows up in Google, you’ll need to pay dearly for that in advertising. Names are free. Ads are expensive. Save money by choosing a unique name before you start your web marketing campaign.

2. Start a blog with a free WordPress theme.

Do you have a blog yet? Or do you have an old website that desperately needs an update? A blog is the hub and the center of the wheel of your integrated web marketing strategy, so start with it first.

I recommend a blog, not a Website, because blogs are filled with words, and Google uses words to search for you. In short, blogs, which are filled with Tags and Categories and Words are instantly Search Engine Optimized.

Moving from an old static website to a new WordPress blog (or adding a blog as a link on your old static site) will generate an instant surge in traffic and customers in the New Year.

With one click and you can move your old, outdated WordPress site into a new theme and try it out.  Just click “theme options” in your Dashboard to try on a new look — or spend a little to get your site hosted and you’ll be able to choose from thousands of free templates for your site.
Choose a template that offers a “custom-background” and “custom-header” and custom colors, such as this Elegant Grunge template I used for Visibility Shift.
Your background is important and spend enough time to really find one that strikes you. I like to start with a clean, white, simple zen-like template as a blank canvas and add bling from there:
3. Add a new free custom  background to your theme.

You can find a free wallpaper online to use as your background, or buy stock art or better yet, use your own photo that you have rights to.  There are thousands of free backgrounds available, here’s just one site to check out:
4. Create a new custom banner for your page:

Some WordPress sites enable you to drop in a photo, crop it and add text to create a custom banner or header. I used a photo by my brother in law, Adrian Fernandez, (of a galaxy) for this blog, Visibility Shift. Prior to that, I used a free image of Times Square that matched the wallpaper in my Twitter page.
Here is just one of many sites that let you create free banners without needing to know Photoshop:
You can also find sites that offer cute, free custom backgrounds for Blogger, like this one I used for the blog, Shopping for Love:
5. Add free plug ins or custom fonts to your blog.

If you are hosted, you can use a wealth of free Plug Ins to jazz up your blog. If your site is WordPress hosted, you can use Typekit for two free fonts. (Two is the max you should use anyway for clean design.)
Unique fonts will really make your site stand out. I used two very distinctive Typekit fonts in the Laughing Heart site and the colors of pink, lavender and purple for a playful look that suits this husband-wife spiritual comedy team.
The most important plug in is a Share This button that will encourage readers to virally share your content via email, Facebook, Twitter, Stumble Upon, Digg, etc.
6. Start a free newsletter.

Your newsletter should use a similar color scheme, template, banner, background, photograph and font as the rest of your branding. My branding designer recommends the free My Newsletter Builder for a newsletter. Most of my friends and clients use Constant Contact. A new service, My Emma, is more stylish.
Make sure you add all of your social networking pages into the signature line in your newsletter.
While you’re at it, update your email list and type in or scan the contacts from all those business cards you gathered in 2010. When you build social media pages, you can use that email list to invite customers and contacts to join your pages.
You can manage your email list for free in a free email program like Fastmail or Gmail.
7. Update (or start) your Facebook Fan Page, Twitter page, Linked In profile and Yelp page.

If you don’t have a social media presence yet, the winter break is a great, quiet time to hunker down and do the tedious, time consuming work it takes to get your pages built and invite all of your contacts into them.
Again, use the same photo, name, background wall paper or logo, and the same fonts consistently in all of your web and social media pages.
8. Send out a New Year’s holiday greeting with your e-newsletter to announce your new look.
There are tons of free New Year’s wallpapers out there that you can use to spruce up your newsletter, or better yet, commission a portrait of your family, work group or business, or a collection of photos that sum up the highlights of 2010.  Use your newsletter to announce your new website and Social Media pages to your friends, family, business contacts and customers and start the New Year with a fresh look for 2011.

Don’t let cheap outsourcing ruin your blog or social media program.

Are you this hard up for work in a recession? Reviewer needed. “Hands on” experience required. And it’s lousy pay too. But you’ll get lots of “exposure” in millions of spam messages.

This wasn’t the actual job listing, but I was floored when I perused Freelancer.com and saw ads for writers offering $1 an article to write about penis enhancement. (Presumably to enhance those annoying spam messages.)

Learning to write well isn’t trivial. I spent five years in journalism school in order to learn how to write a great headline. During this time, we spent a year learning and memorizing the Associated Press Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style. I did internships at major national magazines and then worked for eight years in that field. Then I made a transition into marketing and public relations, a profession I have practiced at the highest levels for 20 years.

It is astonishing to me, after a lifetime of dedication to this profession, that my job has been outsourced to people who barely read or write English, simply because they will work for $1 an article.

In the 1980s, a professional writer was paid $1 a word to write articles. A poorly paid article writing job might fetch $300 or $500, and it you were paid well, you might earn $3000. A fair wage considering it could take all month to write a well researched piece.

You get what you pay for.  Cheap, typo-laden writing makes your website the equivalent of a cheap suit or a business card printed “free” at Vistaprint.

If you can’t afford to hire a quality writer, consider a barter or trade arrangement with a professional, trading your services or merchandise for their talents. Or keep your website or newsletter extremely simple.

In the new era of social media, we are creating our own media, and writing our own stories. If that’s not your skill, consider delegating it to someone who specializes in communicating with words and who understands the regional culture of your market and customer.