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The Relationship between Website Navigation and SEO

Refining site navigation and structure is so important when it comes to search engine optimization. The idea that you could just put up your web site and never change it has become prehistoric. Today web sites need to revised at least every two years. Not for an aesthetically please purpose but for speed, video, and most importantly search engine rankings. So what does an optimized web site navigation look like? Here’s an example of navigation in its most basic form.

Your home page filters into header tabs, then header tabs filer into subcategories, which are, related to the header tabs. Each of the lower levels supports the higher levels from a linking perspective. The lines are indicative of potential cross-linking relationships, the implementation of which would be assessed on a site-by-site basis.

 

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 Search Engine Optimization and Navigation

 So what are the benefits of an optimized site? By creating straightforward and simplified navigation that access internal pages of a website are beneficial in the following ways:

  • Users are able to navigate the site easier
  • Search engines web site crawlers can easily crawl the site due to simplified navigation
  • Bringing exposure to subcategories within the site
  • Increases web site rankings

The above navigational structure is vital when it comes to users who have no idea the depth and size of your web site. Compared to a brick and mortar store, more than often, the consumer knows how large the store is before they walk in the door. Having a simple and straightforward navigational outline, an user and a search engine like Google will breeze through each component or department after department of your web site without a second thought. The goal here is to the make the user experience effortless. Making it so natural for the user simply allows the user to loose track of time and enjoy the entertainment.

As search engine optimization and usability experts, we often find that a website’s navigation can be simplified. By doing this, and creating a hierarchy of content supporting specific sections, we are improving navigation. But we are also creating a relationship which supports the sites linking, an absolutely critical component of SEO.

Ultimately, refinement of your navigation benefits the amount of pages Google and other search engines can locate on your site, allows you to increase your rankings, enhances your sites usability and improves your bottom-line. When you are creating your navigation, or refining an old one, make sure to take your time. In addition, consider the main keywords you are targeting to determine traffic and hub value. The bottom line is think about the end-user and how their experience on your site makes the most sense to find information. In addition, consider what common themes run through your site. This will allow you to accurately determine the correct paths and which links you would like to promote at the top of your navigation hierarchy.

Links pointing internally from the home page and globally on your website play a large role in your SEO success. Make sure your site makes sense from a usability and keyword traffic perspective and you will be a step ahead of many websites online.

 

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An Everyday Plan

As business owners, bosses, and managers our goal is the financial success of our enterprise. As obvious as that sounds it’s amazing how often we forget that sales are the lifeblood of the business. Short of dragging people off the street and forcing them to be customers, marketing your services and products is one of the most effective avenues that you have to generate income.

When I meet with clients to discuss how to improve their bottom-line, there is usually a lot of hand-wringing and a sincere lack of understanding about how they got into the hole that they find themselves in. Besides addressing the efficiency of the operations of the business, the marketing of the business is often in complete disarray. The problem isn’t that the client hasn’t tried to market, the failure of the effort has more to do with the lack of consistency and that always points to the lack of a plan.

Your marketing plan should be analogous to a shark. In order for it to survive it needs to keep moving. Too often I have heard the story, “We put all of our resources into this event to bring customers in but we didn’t get the response we needed”. One shot marketing doesn’t work. In fact, if it fails, it causes more damage than not doing anything at all. The reality is that every marketing dollar is not going to be effective. Some campaigns will be stickier than others and predicting which ones will work takes a lot of practice.

A well thought out marketing plan will include a consistent daily schedule of content creation that is pushed out through multiple channels that are integrated in order to have continuity in messaging. Creating engaging content as the foundation of your marketing plan is the building blocks of your marketing plan. Then disseminating a consistent message through multiple marketing channels is crucial in reaching your target markets.

Of course a marketing plan is only as good as the commitment to execute it. It’s so much easier to budget for a plan, schedule a plan, create content for a plan, than run around in a panic wondering if a single effort is going to be the saving grace of the business. It’s kind of like taking your paycheck, running down to a casino, and putting the whole thing on red. That’s never a good plan.

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It’s Time to Talk

Talk is cheap, but a good talk is priceless. We are social beings. We crave communication but we tend to eschew it at all wrong times…like when it’s most needed.

It’s tough enough to be a poor communicator in private life, but in the long term it’s a recipe for failure to be one in the business world. A typical small business with employees is a multi-layered organism. The only way this organism can thrive is if there is meaningful communication between all of the layers and between the employees that inhabit these layers.

photodune-567166-time-to-talk-sOne of the more puzzling things I find as a business consultant is why good communication is even absent when it’s in a person’s best interest. A colleague spoke to me last week about a project where the managers where having quality control problems with a vendor. The managers knew that the standard operating procedure for this problem was to immediately notify the vendor as well as the COO of their company, but nobody did. They just suffered in silence for a week before saying anything. If they had just spoke up and brought it to the attention of all parties they would have avoided what was daily frustration and a loss of productivity.

warkprofileprofessionalMany of my clients over the years have been in the medical profession. Communication problems can be particularly acute because of the interaction between highly trained medical professionals, a rigid regulatory environment, and the sensitivity of dealing with patients. If people aren’t effectively communicating between themselves and their patients, there is more at stake than the success of the practice. Fixing this problem is a process, because you are dealing with behavioral characteristics. Don’t be afraid to create a structure help this along. Here are a few ideas in how to start the process.

Put it on the Calendar-Schedule a regular time every week for managers and employees to speak with each other, and an opportunity for an interdepartmental meeting with the boss. At least everyone will be together once a week for the expressed purpose of expressing themselves.

Don’t be Vague-When making a specific request, make the “who, when, and where” very clear.

Face-to-Face-Improving interpersonal communication skills requires fewer emails and more personal communication. If you have something important to tell an employee, good or bad, do it in person, and do it in an un-distracting environment.

Customer Care-Lack of communication is the number one complaint of clients. Things get busy and hectic and clients can become a second thought. Use a customer management system that will remind your employees when to reach out to speak and listen. If needed, create a script for your employees to get them used to saying the right things at the right time.

Don’t Reward the Gossip-make it clear that the cheapest talk is gossip. Managers have the ability to assist in shaping the work environment by creating disincentives for troublemakers and employees who cannot conduct their speech in an encouraging and productive way. Don’t let these employees poison the business.

These are places to start. Ultimately much of the needed change is attitudinal, and is going to have to come from within the employee. Creating a framework for this change will get your workforce in the habit of communicating better and that’s a great way to start the process.

 

 

 

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Playing Nice

It was tough to ignore the continuous instant replay of the brutal and cringe-worthy Ray Rice video that surfaced this week. For those that live the cloistered life, Ray Rice is (now was) a star football player who was caught on a hotel elevator security camera throwing a punch at his fiancé and knocking her unconscious and then dragging her out of the elevator into the lobby while she is still out cold. Rice was immediately fired from his Baltimore Ravens football team when the video became public.

There are numerous side stories that were spawned from this event; sources say that the team knew about the assault and the video months ago but tried to cover it up; Rice’s fiancé married him shortly after that generating a heated public discussion on the issue of battered women; the violent culture of professional football, etc.

These very public train-wreck-visuals, of which we are occasionally bombarded, elicit a range of responses from outrage to tongue clucking, as well they should, but I fear that is as far as it goes. Most of us will go through life without ever being on the giving or the receiving end of a fist. For no other reason than we are wired to flee pain rather than inflict it. So no one should break their arm patting themselves on the back for being gentle and kind, and not an awful person like Ray Rice. Time for a gut check, we live in a course society and we have become more course. Are we going to settle on Ray Rice as the moral Rubicon that we will never cross, or can we practice a little humble introspection and determine that we should set our bar a little higher and expect more of ourselves in the grace, patience, and anger department.

warkprofileprofessionalOver the years, in my capacity as a business and marketing consultant, it’s not surprising that most of the workplace issues that I’m asked to “fix” are rooted in the inability of people to treat others in the workplace the way that they would like to be treated. While it seems for many that The Golden Rule is too high a standard to try to set for the office, your willingness as a boss to establish and enforce reasonable policies and guidelines for conduct can shape an office environment that engenders respect for others. ( It also helps to set a personal example, and not stomp around like the place like a club wielding ogre.)

Employee frustration breeds bad attitudes and bad behavior, it doesn’t need to constantly be at a boiling point. Let your employees know what your expectations are, resolve disputes quickly, nip bad behavior in the bud, freely give praise when deserved, don’t play favorites, insist in a drama free zone instead of engendering it, and last but not least, create a charitable or philanthropic outlet where your employees can learn and enjoy serving others.

It would be Pollyannaish to think that you can create angels in the office, but you can cure a few forms of office dysfunctionality by inserting The Golden Rule into the Best Practices section of your employee manual.

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Love Hate Relationships

warkprofileprofessionalAs a business owner at some time, (or many times), you will have an “I can’t stand the human race” kind of a day. It’s all about the love/hate relationship we have with colleagues, customers, employees, vendors, ourselves, etc. Regardless of the business you are in, you are in a people business. Even if you are running an e-commerce site out of your mother’s basement, you at some point are going to have to talk to a live human being.

When we talk about a “people business” it’s almost always within the context of customers and sales. But the success of your organization begins with the people on your side of the counter. We all have a tendency to keep our focus on the till and take everything else for granted. There are a lot of moving parts that make that cash register ring. When it doesn’t ring as often as it should, start at the front and work your way back.

Not only do we want more customers, we want to keep the customers we have. Good customer service is a combination of having the right customer service people, and having the right customer service systems and processes. You can have wonderfully friendly employees dealing with customers, but if they aren’t up to speed on all of your products and services, company policies, and office systems then customer service suffers. All of these components need to be drilled into front line employees on a daily basis. Good employees will embrace the rigors of this blocking and tackling, and the bad ones will chafe at it. Get rid of the chafers. Even your best employees will have a love/hate relationship with customers, but they will always remember that the customer is always right.

team_killers_slideIf this is all foreign to your employees, who in the world is in charge of that department and how come they haven’t been trained properly? Is the person that you hired as a manager or supervisor the right person? Did you make the age old mistake of using tenure as the main criteria for turning an employee into a manager? A competent manager should be the ultimate “people person”. They should ensure that the employee in their care is trained and equipped to be the best that they can be. A manager worth their salt will be organized, even in the most harried situations, because they will have the maturity to adapt systems and processes to practically any situation. After all, why should you be spending your time as an owner constantly putting out fires and reacting to everything?

Your manager should be an excellent communicator. They should be able to express their praise, correct, and admonish employees in a constructive manner. They should have the confidence to express themselves in a constructive way with you too. Will a good manager have a love/hate relationship with employees? Sure, if your manager isn’t a robot. A good manager will always be prepared for irregular ops, and irregular employees.

I think you are starting to see a pattern here. Success in your business is often manager-centric. If you hire the right managers, equip them to do their jobs, and get out of their way you should see it manifested in retained customers, great word of mouth, and increased sales. You will also find that your marketing dollars go farther.

Making changes at the managerial level is like getting a root canal; painful but necessary. I suppose that’s why we have a love/hate relationship with our dentists…and just about everyone else.

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Is Your Social Media Worth Sharing?

video-undefined-1F4DB94100000578-490_636x358Have you taken the Ice Bucket Challenge? It is the epitome of social media philanthropy. For those of you that have been hiding under a cloud of dire world and local events, the Ice Bucket Challenge is a ray of cheer and constructive hope. It’s simple “giving” at its best: throw a bucket of ice on your head, assisted or unassisted, or make a $25 contribution to the ALS Association (or both) and then challenge three other people to do the same.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is usually fatal within two to five years of a diagnosis. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease in which the victim gradually loses the ability to control muscle movement, eventually leading to death. This summer’s social media phenomenon started on July 15 when golfer Chris Kennedy did it and challenged his sister, whose husband had passed away from ALS. She met the challenge, videoed the pouring, and challenged others through social media. It has spread like wildfire through sports, entertainment, political circles, and predictably back through the general population of us regular folks.

It highlights the power of social media and the speed in which a video call to action can generate a significant response. The ALS Association reports that it has received almost $12 million in donations over the last three weeks. That compares to $1.7 million during the same period in 2013. More importantly, it has brought a quarter of a million new donors to the Association.

It’s probably safe to assume that the majority of people that have participated are younger, more adept with social media, and more warm blooded than their elders. This viral fundraising has been a hallmark of the Millennials (18-35 year olds) who tend to respond to viral messages and represent a generation that wants to be part of a community. It has been interesting to see a significant response by an older generation in the Ice Bucket Challenge. They have historically been very charitable, albeit in a more conventional sense, but seem to be warming up to the marketing and persuasion side of social media.

warkprofileprofessionalI can’t help myself. I have to look at this through my business consulting lens, and see what the Ice Bucket Challenge can show us as entrepreneurs and business owners. The most obvious lesson is that we need to wake up and understand the power of video in social media. It is the medium that makes things go viral. It’s also important to create content that compels people to share, not just like. We would not be seeing the Challenge play out the way it has if people were not pushing it out over their social media platforms. It certainly helps that the Challenge is for a wonderfully worthy cause.

No doubt your products and services offer the public a significant benefit. You can be confident that your message will be shared too if you just give folks something worth sharing.

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I’m Ready for My Close-Up, Mr. DeMille

All-right-Mr.-DeMille-Im-ready-for-my-close-upHome movies are anachronistic. For decades they were a form of domestic terror, whereby you could trap unsuspecting visiting friends or family into watching hours of homemade documented mundaneness. In the early 80s, film gave way to affordable consumer video technology, including, cameras, tape, and VCRs. It also brought to an end, for the most part, the time honored hostage taking that generations of Americans endured. Home movies were now cheap and mobile. Personal video was born.

Our love affair with video is in our cultural and social DNA. For the most part of the 20th Century we were simply fervent observers, portable camcorders allowed us to evolve into enthusiastic producers, and mobile devices drove us into the role of obsessive distributors. Today, web based platforms are the super digital highways that move the words and pictures that represent our public and private personas, our interpersonal communications, and our commercial interactions. But the most profound effect of this digital revolution is manifest in our ability to share a moving picture as quickly as the written word.

As Gen X, and baby boomer business owners we are a bit mystified by all this. We understand the power of video, as many of us were raised in front of the TV, but we don’t quite get the whole “always on” video-centric culture that is beginning to dominate the market. We have to get our brains wrapped around this quickly if we expect our businesses and professional practices to succeed.

We first need to acknowledge that this massive technological shift has been totally embedded in 18-35 year olds, the Millennial Generation. Millennials represent 25% of the population and their current buying power exceeds $200 billion and climbing every day as they move towards their peak buying years. The majority conduct their lives on mobile devices and unabashedly, every day, all day, share their dreams, experiences, likes, dislikes, and preferences with the world. And the medium that moves them is our old friend, video.

If video is recognized as the communication medium of choice by a huge segment of the market, then that’s how they should be communicated with. A significant number of your patients and clients share all of their experiences on social media so give them the opportunity to use video to document and share their beauty and wellness journeys. Produce it smartly for them and they will be posting and sharing their story to the world with your brand. You can even use it as a value added item on your menu of services.

warkprofileprofessionalYour social media marketing should begin to incorporate a heavy mix of video. We know how compelling and persuasive a good piece of video is. It’s not difficult, or expensive to produce a basket of 15, 30, and sixty second video content to use on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter. Of course you should also have instructional and informational video content available on your website.

Conversions are king in business, and nothing creates new customers like a moving picture. It’s seen, appreciated, shared, and acted upon. And let’s face it, home movies have made a comeback. The trend is our friend. Don’t fight it. Embrace it.

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Cyberchondria makes me sick to my stomach

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I have an over anxious friend who jumps on the internet every time something doesn’t look or seem right for her medically or psychologically. She’s in luck, at least psychologically, because her anxiety brought on by her obsession with self-diagnosing via the web now has an official name-cyberchondria. One malady down, many more to go. She is one of tens of millions that routinely go on the internet for medical related searches. According to a Pew Research study two years ago, 80% of internet users are regular health inquirers. Empowering patients to take control of their well-being is one of great plusses of the web, but for some, bad information is bad medicine.

Are_you_a_cyberchondriac_11Doctors have a love/hate relationship with medical information on the internet. The most valued commodity for physicians is time. The more time they can spend with a patient going over substantive health issues, the better it is for all parties.  By and large they seem to appreciate the fact that well informed patients allow them to have a more productive patient visit. Ill-informed patients are not only a hazard to themselves but they lessen the value of a doctor’s time.

As an oncologist’s daughter I am hyper sensitive to the subject of cancer and it’s symptoms. I will admit that there have been occasions where a skin blemish has sent my mind directly to ,”How in the world am I going to survive chemo”. But it’s a simple internet search that has stilled my soul by suggesting that my condition has more to do with an allergy to a new soap I’m using. For others, the adamancy of an infliction sets in when a frantic web search based on nausea symptoms has them totally convinced that they are in the late stages of the bubonic plague. This whole issue screams for a little balance.

Good information needs to come from reliable sources and patients need to be encouraged to pursue reliable sources on the internet. Doctors and medical professionals need to take a more active role in filling the void of reliable information. They need to take advantage of the social media tools that are available to them and are being utilized by their patients. Of course there is going to be competing advice among professionals, we are talking pretty healthy egos in Medicine Land, but at least it’s a disagreement between the learned.

Content is key to educating your patients. Write a regular blog and post it on your Face Book page. Use Twitter to shoot out daily health tips or comments on medical issues in the news. Of course this means that you are going to have be a little intellectually curious and socially relevant, but that won’t kill you. It is also a great opportunity to be a filter by directing patients to relevant, accurate, sources of information in an effort to educate them as to what is snake oil and what is valuable.

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This Business of Medicine: Having the Right Team

I don’t think that I have ever met a physician who is totally comfortable with the business of medicine. Thank God. The last thing I would want is to be undergoing an examination in a doctor’s office and have him thinking about the bottom line. (There is a joke in there, and I am going to ignore it!). We appreciate the fact that our doctor has been trained, and indeed embraces, an almost singular focus on treating what ails us. But who is minding the store?

Doctors are practicing medicine in an age of increasing competition, predatory regulations, and ever shifting patient expectations. It’s a challenge that would test many seasoned CEOs. Most doctors are facing all of this without the benefit of a business background or entrepreneurial instincts. If the private practice, or even the group practice is going to survive they will require a transfusion of business and marketing fundamentals. Few doctors have the time or resources to go back to school and get a business degree, but they can add that biz savvy person to their back office support team.

Physicians learn very quickly about the compliance and billing regulations. Much of a practice’s resources and time go into staying out of trouble and the “people” side of the business quickly loses importance. However, in a competitive environment patient satisfaction and retention is key. This is more difficult than it sounds, because doctors are up against the clock to see as many patients as possible. This thwarts the desire of both the patient and the doctor to spend more time together.

It’s up to the staff to compensate by creating a relationship with the patient that mirrors the best practices of customer service in other industries. Patients are consumers. They have high expectations about their quality of medical care, and also expect the level of individualized service that they receive from any other business. This starts with addressing the needs and comfort of the patient when they enter instead of turning the awaiting room into a cattle call, and extends to a thorough post-visit follow up.

warkprofileprofessionalMaking your practice relevant through contemporary marketing practices will also keep you competitive and increase patient satisfaction. Keeping your website updated with information on the practice, and providing fresh content is vital. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the stories about patients going to the address that is posted on the website not realizing that the doctor’s office had moved to another location months before . Successful doctors are beginning to hear comments like, “How come I can’t find you on the internet?” Success can be fleeting unless a physician can quickly implement the marketing and social media practices that patients are now demanding and receiving in every other sector of their lives.

Hard working docs don’t need to burden themselves with trying to implement all of this by themselves. They just need to make sure that they have the right professionals on board that can do it for them.

Build your professional online presence today. For questions or to make an appointment to meet with us, please call 702-374-1944 or email me a question at lisa@lisamariewark.com.

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Is your social media an afterthought in your practice?

One of the great things about running a business is that you get to make all of your own decisions. Good bosses make more good decisions than bad ones. Bad bosses,(often mysteriously matriculating in a rapid upward career path), will inevitably lead a company into a constant daily rhythm of miscues. Much of this begins at the point of delegation, giving the wrong people in your business the wrong responsibilities. Before you take great exception with what I just said, consider this simple question about your business, “Is the person in charge of your social media marketing the one that is most familiar with the integration of communications and marketing of your company?

In all fairness to the lousy bosses, good bosses often trip and fall over the proper roll and skill required of the individual to whom they are entrusting their crucial social media skills. Most business owners acknowledge that social media is important to the success of their enterprise, but they are too busy trying to run things to initially give enough time and attention to pick the right person or consultant who will truly make social media a valuable asset for the business. So, the person that ends up in charge of this vital spoke in the wheel of success probably ends up being an aesthetician that is in and out of treatments and perhaps “that is really really good on the computer”, or perhaps “that new person that comes in on Saturdays to cover the reception desk”.

warkprofileprofessionalThis works out for about two weeks until they post an embarrassingly inappropriate message that is wrong on so many different levels. But whose fault is this? Your social media is important to you, not because you read somewhere that it was. It’s important because you, as the boss, know how important it is to have a winning marketing and communications strategy that is competently executed every day by people that understand how to make your business successful. The person that you designate to run your social media should have an in-depth understanding about what you need to communicate and why you are communicating it, on a daily basis. It’s a big deal.

Whatever you say through social media and whatever is being said in social media about your business will be amplified. It spreads virally, often times in a matter of seconds. That’s what you want to harness your social media conversations, for your success, and it’s what you should fear the most if you are treating your social media like an afterthought.

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