Search Engine Optimization: A Starting Place

Magnifying glass showing the word engine among a background of zeros and onesIf you’re trying to extend your brand’s reach and recognition, search engine optimization is a good place to start but can seem daunting. Use this quick checklist as an easy starting point to help share your content with a wider audience:

  1. Title Tags: A title tag tells search engines what your webpage is about, and associates it with relevant keywords your audience will be searching for. Your title tags should be formatted like so: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name. Try to keep your title tags unique for each page in order to ensure your audience is seeing the best possible match for the content they’re searching for.
  2. Meta Descriptions: A meta description is the text you see beneath the links in your search engine results, and is a key component to encourage your audience to actually click through your link in their search engine results page to your website. Again, try to keep each meta description for each page of your website unique, and keep them to 150 to 160 characters each.
  3. Keyword-rich Content: Google and other search engines will penalize your website if you have multiple pages with the same content, so make sure that each of your webpages has content that is unique and relevant.
  4. Header Tags: A header tag is essentially the subject line of your webpage – be sure to use your keywords in your header tags in order to drive traffic to your site.
  5. Image Alt Tags: An alt tag is the name you give to images on your website. When possible, these should also use your relevant keywords, as this will help drive traffic to your webpage through image search results. Alt tags also make your website more accessible, as visitors using screen readers will be able to hear the description of the image in question.

For more tips on optimizing your web pages for search engines, see the full checklist from Orbit Media here: http://bit.ly/2bXiD3X

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Getting the Right Feedback

Business Colleagues Working with Laptop ca. 2003Testimonials are among the most powerful marketing tools available, but getting useful feedback from customers can sometimes feel like pulling teeth. Oftentimes customers are generically positive when leaving feedback, providing glowing reviews but without the right language to push undecided consumers to also choose your goods or services over a competitor’s. Copyblogger author Sean D’Souza recommends starting with the following 6 questions in order to get the most out of your customer testimonials:

  1. What was the obstacle that would have prevented you from buying this product?
  2. What did you find as a result of buying this product?
  3. What specific feature did you like most about this product?
  4. What are three other benefits of this product?
  5. Would you recommend this product? If so, why?
  6. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Read through the full quick guide from Copyblogger to make sure you’re asking questions that will generate powerful testimonials: http://bit.ly/1c2sp1Z

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Buzzwords, Jargon, and Clichés

Business Buzzwords InfographicWhile widely used business buzzwords can be effective communication shortcuts, be careful not to overuse industry speak with your clients and coworkers. Not only can these catchy, “inside baseball” terms come of as rote or cliché among your peers, with overuse it becomes more likely that your consulting jargon finds its way into public relations copy or deliverables you generate. Here are a few quick examples that are fine to use in the conference room, but that you should keep out of your writing:

  • Deep Dive: when you spend a little more time in the weeds than you probably should. It’s a PowerPoint presentation, not a scuba class.

 

  • Game Changing: just because there a new hot concept on the block doesn’t mean the game won’t be played the exact same way next week.
  • Low-Hanging Fruit: no-ladder-required apples are fine in the beginning, but don’t forget that you’ll have to do some tree-climbing at some point.

Read the full list from PR Daily here, and keep it in mind the next time you’re in a meeting or drafting your next deliverable.

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Jazzing Up Your Conversations

Too often when we engage in debates with colleagues or friends, the conversation becomes a back and forth of rehashed concepts, each side just waiting for their next turn to talk. This habit of taking turns talking AT each other back and forth is unlikely to actually change anyone’s mind, as cathartic as it may be to vent our tightly-held opinions to the wind. To truly engage in any meaningful dialogue, it is much more effective to view your conversation partner as a teammate, adjusting to what they’re saying in an effort to direct the conversation to your desired outcome.  Cathy Rose Salit, the author of Performance Breakthrough, likens this conversation method to performing a jazz piece, each conversation a co-created work of art that changes based on the input of both “performers.” Using this method of actively engaging in conversation will help keep people genuinely interested in what you’re saying, helping them hear your message.

Watch Salit further expand on this useful metaphor in her short video below,or at inc.com here: https://lnkd.in/eFiegGq

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Client Spotlight: Supporting IDIS at Summer Tradeshows

IDIS executive signing agreement at IFSEC 2016The BZ team made its return to the US earlier this month after supporting global client IDIS at two major security industry tradeshows in June. The team’s first stop was Philidelphia, PA, where IDIS showcased  the latest generation of its total solution technologies at the NRF PROTECT exhibition, including its flagship DirectIP™ platform and a number of proprietary technologies with particular relevance to loss-prevention and the retail sector. BZ then crossed the Atlantic, arriving in London, UK for the IFSEC 2016 tradeshow, marking the fourth IDIS appearance at the global security exhibition. Learn more about this BZ client at http://www.idisglobal.com.

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Emoting in the Workplace

Assorted emojisDuring this age in which the text message seems to have far outstripped the phone call as the communication method of choice, emojis have become a language all their own. From smiley faces to side-eye smirks, the ubiquitous yellow faces are now also widely used on Facebook and have found their way into professional emails as well – but is the workplace really an appropriate setting for sending emojis back and forth?

When deciding whether or not to use an emoji in your workplace correspondence, a good rule of thumb that I generally follow is a simple one: know your audience. If you’re writing to a client who frequently uses emojis in his or her emails to you, then by all means feel free to include a lighthearted grinning face. If your email is meant for a stern, tight-laced supervisor, however, it might be a better idea to stick to prose to convey your message.

There are times when abstaining from emoji use may be the right call regardless of your audience, however. We often turn to emojis to help clarify intent by attaching emotion to our message – but in reality, the recipient of an email in the workplace is likely to misinterpret the message as more emotionally negative or neutral than intended. For example, when offering corrective feedback, a supervisor may include a smiley face to soften the blow, explaining that a mistake is “no big deal.” That smile is often all to easy for an employee to interpret as condescending or passive aggressive. To avoid these mishaps, try to think about the worst-case scenario interpretation when sending feedback – it’s often less complicated to avoid emoting inthe first place.

Take a look at more considerations on emojis in the workplace in this quick article from TLNT: http://www.eremedia.com/tlnt/to-emoji-or-not-to-emoji/

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The Power of Positivity

Older man mentoring younger man at workWhen an employee leaves his or her job for a new opportunity, he or she will often cite a more attractive salary as a primary reason for moving on. In my experience however, employees won’t be looking for a new position in the first place unless something is effecting their day-to-day morale in the workplace. Naturally, there are countless variables that all play a role in whether a company’s employees are generally happy or unhappy. One the easiest of these boxes to check for employers trying to reduce turnover is positive reinforcement.

Too often supervisors will openly correct negative behavior but will only acknowledge a job well done in passing or not at all. In theory, you’re employing your people because they’re talented – be sure to take the time to actually tell them so. Directly acknowledging your employee’s accomplishments can not only help keep them happy and motivated, it can also make it easier for them to accept your criticism when necessary as well. If corrective feedback is the only kind your people receive from you, they may begin to lose motivation and stop making an effort to improve.

LinkedIn writer Justin Bariso provides a closer look at how to effectively provide positive feedback and how you and your employees can benefit from it in this quick article on LinkedIn. Give it a read for more helpful tips!

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A Little Smile Goes a Long Way

Close up shot of video cameraI’ve worked with quite a few people who in normal conversation are exceptionally expressive and personable, but seem rigid and emotionless when asked to give a presentation or speak in public. In general, your audience will be much more receptive of your message and will be more engaged if your presentation or speech is delivered conversationally, with emotion, as this makes them feel as though you’re speaking with them instead of at them. Many of us don’t even realize that our mannerisms change when speaking in front of a group though, so how to fix this problem? My #1 recommendation for improving your public speaking skills (or at least, the first thing I’d recommend trying) is to film yourself practicing your presentation in front of a small group of friends, coworkers, family – whoever you have on hand. Take a look at the recording afterwards and discuss with your audience the differences in your demeanor when presenting compared to how you act in everyday conversation. Understanding what needs improvement is the first step to actually improving!

Take a look at this brief article from publicwords.com for a few more tips on how to be more engaging once you’ve taken a look at yourself on camera: http://bit.ly/1NCtPmA

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Common Words to Avoid in Your Writing

Frustrated man tearing stack of papers in half, with paperwork flying through air behind himIt’s easy to fall into the trap of writing in the same manner or style that we talk, and this can lead to lazy or sloppy word choice. Many of the words we use in our day to day conversations are superfluous, redundant, or downright incorrect when putting pen to paper. Jennie Haskamp at themuse.com has put together an excellent list of 15 words that we should all try to avoid when writing, an informative and quick read that can be found here: http://muse.cm/1JdI1Lv. I highly recommend giving her full list a look, but here are some brief thoughts on a few of the words on her list that I particularly agree with:

That: Removing “that” from writing is the advice I give most often when asked to read or proof the writing of others. It’s my best and quickest tip to improve your writing, bar none. Not only is it usually superfluous, it also makes for a weak and generic pronoun.

Always / Never: Both of these are more risky than they are useful, as speaking in absolutes easily opens the writer up to criticism from those with opposing views. Both of these absolute cases are also rarely true, and therefore rarely useful.

Literally: This point has been somewhat beaten to death by numerous similar articles, but until its widespread misuse abates it will continue to bear repeating—”literally” should not be used for emphasis, it should be used to describe something that actually happened. Rarely are you literally starving, dying, or losing your mind. If any of those are literally happening, it might be time for you to take a short break from writing.

Read the rest of the 15 words to avoid here: http://muse.cm/1JdI1Lv

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BZ Founder Benjamin Bryant Interviews with Sheryl Northrop at Ice Cream Social

Benjamin Bryant in suit with blue tieBZ founder Benjamin Bryant was this week’s featured guest on the Ice Cream Social blog, where Sheryl Northrop of NorthStar Communications Consulting takes an in-depth look each week at the many facets of communications and social media. Here are a few interesting excerpts from the interview, or skip to the full blog post here.

Q: How has social media changed your life?

A: Social media has given me something I never dreamed I’d have. I grew up in a military family—moving every two to three years. It was pre-Internet, so apart from the odd handwritten letter, there were few chances to form the kind of lasting, lifelong friendships that others growing up in the same place could. Social media has allowed me—and so many like me—to reconnect with the special people from our past and pick right up where we left off. I went to three high schools in two countries, so you can only imagine the kinds of reunions and reconnections social media has facilitated for me. It’s been amazing.

Q: What organizations, brands or personalities do you follow? What makes them worth following?

A: I’m a big world-affairs nut, and I’m fascinated with how some of the major players in our world are navigating social media. I follow President Obama @barackobama, Jens Stoltenberg @jensstoltenberg (Secretary General of NATO), and the Pope @pontifex, not just for the content, but to observe HOW they leverage social media to communicate their message. I also follow a lot of my friends and former classmates, mentors, and colleagues in the news business, including Joie Chen @joiechen, Betty Nguyen @betty_nguyen, and Evan Smith @evanasmith. Not only can I keep up with what they’re up to, they’re great curators of socially shared information. Of course, I also follow my clients and my favorite TV shows. I love a good spoiler!

Q: What advice would you give to a brand about how to get started with a social media program or make their existing one more effective?

A: Figure out where you need to be and focus on that. There are so many social media options and too many brands try to jump on every single one—and end up never doing a great job with any of them. I’ve had clients who primarily deal in highly technical or even confidential matters who insist they need Twitter and Snapchat accounts, despite having no appropriate content for those platforms. Similarly, I’ve had those who overused platforms that aren’t suited for their types of content or customer relationships, simply because they were more comfortable with that platform and intimidated by the others. The key is to figure out which platforms match your communications goals and communications content. Start by asking questions – Are you seeking real-time two way interactions with customers, partners, or the community at large? Are you seeking a targeted way to reach specific types of readers? What’s the average age (and other relevant demographics) of your desired reader/customer/consumer? Is my content best presented in a short, long, or multi-media format? – and then pick one or two social media platforms that best meet your needs. Then put all of your resources into making those the best they can be. By not dividing your attention and cutting out inefficiencies and wasted effort on platforms that don’t support your communications goals, you’ll have more focus on the ones that do and achieve greater results in the process.

Q: Cone, cup, or straight from the container?

A: I’m disaster when it comes to food! If there’s a way I can spill something on a beautiful suit, I’ll find it. So for the sheer purpose of minimizing risk, I’m a cup guy, all the way.

Read Ben’s full interview here, and then be sure to take a look at the Ice Cream Social archives for great perspective on life and work in the age of social media.

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