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October 16, 2011 / Brandon Raper

Why SEO was wrong

Recently, I’ve been working on the creation of  my first start up.  Over the past 2 years it’s been a vision and is finally becoming a reality.  Thankfully, I had the website created in the beginning and began to utilize social media to build an online conversation about my brand before it was even established.

This brings me to the transition of Search Engine Optimization and how it directly affected my website. I’ll go over how the general rules of SEO applied to my website and the reasons behind my websites current success and what will be done in the future.

First things first, the website URL is http://www.ugandabeads.com.  My company works with a non-profit located in Africa that houses displaced persons.  They’ve taught them how to  self sustain by creating jewelry from recycled newspaper and magazines, planting mushrooms, and establishing their own small businesses.

The Competition

According to Google Analytics, people are searching for these terms when they find our website:

Key Word search for www.ugandabeads.com

Our initial focus was to be top on Google searches for Uganda Beads.  As of now we are doing an amazing job on Google, Bing, and Yahoo.  Our direct competition is neck and neck with us on that search term.  On Google we are the 2nd hit, Bing we are 1st, and Yahoo we are 1st as well.  This doesn’t take into account our other pages when the phrase is searched for.  Our Twitter and other sections of the site show up on the 1st page as well.

According to Google Adwords Keyword Tool, here is the 12 month insight for the phrase:

An average of 52 searches a month for the phrase is good, but not exactly the volume I was looking for.  Using the adword tool and insights there are over 170 keywords that relate to our website directly.  Here are a few keywords that are both low competition and a high volume of searches: Paper Beads, Uganda, How to do beads, Uganda women, and bead s.

There are a million opportunities for growth by using keywords in our website and even by the addition of adwords.  My goal for the company is to become top on the list of many of these keywords, especially bead making, to be able to spread wisdom of Uganda to people who aren’t proactively searching for a goodwill product.

SEO Practices

There are multiple SEO practices that are used and thought of as common, whether it be online of offline SEO.  Our website was outsourced for creation and until recently I wasn’t knowledgeable about the do’s and dont’s of SEO.

Our website doesn’t use META tags at all.  The coding is atrocious.  Our page titles are simply just “HOME, SHOP, ETC”.  There is no direct explanation of the pages for search engines to find.

So how is the website so successful?  How are we beating out almost all of the competition, who have thousands more hits a month, an established shop, and even running blogs with tons of content?  Theorists would most likely say due to the low level of competition it’s an easy market to enter.  We have a lot of keywords spread around our website, links from social media, and have the benefit of time.  We’ve been up for over 2 years, something search engines put an emphasis on.

In the future all of these will be improved.  We will have META tags and titles and expand our keyword interests.  The easiest way to find immediate impact is through additional content.  Through a targeted Blog, Ugandabeads.com should be able to sweep the competition away.  My personal focus is:

1. Take the consumers who are proactively searching for beads from Uganda away from the competition through SEO and Social Media

2. Bring potential consumers into the website who are crafty and wanting to learn how to make paper beads

3. Increase exposure and consumers through goodwill and donations

Do you have any success stories for your own websites with SEO?  What recommendations do you have for a budding start up wanting to improve their SEO efforts?


October 5, 2011 / Brandon Raper

How much is too much for Klout?

I’ll admit it, when I see a statistical number that I can personally improve that directly relates to any of my interests it’s hard for me not to take an overzealous approach towards making it the best.  Klout gets me, Klout gets a lot of people.

So why do the creators have to listen to the masses?  Each week a new social network is being added to the affective list of measurable influence.  Do the consumers run the business?  If so, when will there be a limit of social networks that are measured?

 

Klout has recently added Flickr, Last.FM, wordpress, tumblr, youtube, google+, foursquare, and more.  I understand Klout started as a general influence measure like Tweetscore and wants to evolve to a number that can be related to any and every industry.  I even understand the need for a few of the additional social networks added like LinkedIN and even wordpress/tumblr.

 

My debate comes with the niche markets.  Why was the decision to involve foursquare and last.fm made?  In the future will be there incredibly specific markets added to the number like Turntable.fm or even zynga games?  Where will Klout draw the line and finally say “Your engagement number can only be measured so many ways until the algorithm becomes flawed and inefficient”.

 

In this day and age, Social Media measurements are still evolving as well as the networks that can be measured.  Klout has started to take the wheel and really become a staple for the rest of the sites trying to imitate it.  The social media and engagement market is incredibly cut throat.  There are countless amounts of websites trying to beat out the competition.  It’s understandable to appeal to the masses and listen to all requests from the consumer.  History has proven the consumers will tell you exactly what you need to become successful.  History has also proven if you don’t listen with a grain of salt you may fall into a trap of trying to satisfy everyone and stretch too thin.

 

I for one won’t turn away from Klout because of the new networks being added but it adds a sense of anxiety.  Do I need to become more engaged?  Should I honestly be involved in all of these networks?  I spend countless hours paying close attention to new social media networks and measurements because I want to be a digital marketing professional.  Klout won’t give up the measurement algorithm and won’t give any specific information on which network provides how much and what influence.  Playing the guessing game between 3 networks is easier than 12-20.  Consumers may give up in time.

 

Personally, I’d like to be a professional in one area rather than spread my abilities thin to multiple.  Much like I expect Klout to do.  If they are able to increase the algorithm efficiently and effectively to an increasing numbers of networks, then so be it.  Jump into the consumer mind.  There’s 15 networks on Klout that are measured and I’m only connected to 4.  How engaged on those networks do I have to be?  And what if I’m engaged in 10, but only slightly?  Does that compare to being overly engaged in 4 at all?

September 14, 2011 / Brandon Raper

Outside the Box Resumes

Resumes have been around since Leonardo Da Vinci in 1482.  I think it’s time for a change.  As a hiring manager at PNC I can honestly say that resumes bore me.  It’s no wonder why recent graduates are having troubles finding relevant careers.  Each resume looks the exact same so if there is no relevant work experience it’s incredibly easy to just move on.

Many new graduates want to look professional and come off as intelligent and relevant towards a companies culture.  How will they know any of this if your resume is thrown into a pile with 100 others that are incredibly similar?
This is where creativity comes into play.  Sure in the past you could have created a CD containing your resume and even a video of yourself as a sales pitch to a hiring manager but there’s so many more ways to be effective and catch an eye.

In a previous post I showed my examples of a visual resume I created through powerpoint and posted on slideshare.net.  This led to my resume being on the FRONT PAGE for a few days.  The views skyrocketed and my name was seen by hundreds of people.  Were these targeted views?  Absolutely not, but those people had never heard of me previously.

Today I’ll show you an example of my infographic resume.  This resume was created entirely in photoshop and was for a marketing associate position for a company named Riot Games.  Riot Games has created one of the most popular games in the World and really brought to life the Freemium model of video games.  A brief explanation of the game contains “Champions” you control with individual statistics and spells which you use to defeat your enemies.

Here is where I pulled my influence from.  On the Riot Games forums, they posted statistics of each champion in the same format, seen here.

I took this layout and imposed myself with marketing and relevant statistics for the open position.

Next, I took a picture of myself and did a simple photo manipulation making myself look like a cartoon and placed it in the champion spot of the layout.

Continuing on, I thought I should put some vague information for the hiring group to make sure they could at least see my work experience and how it could potentially tie into the marketing associate position.  I also added my educational background to show my marketing degree.  At this point I felt it would be beneficial to keep it simplistic and vague to show off the infographic rather than turn it into a run of the mill resume again.

At the very bottom I created a list of my favorite champions to play, to show my passion and love for the game this company has created.  This also helped split up the graphics and text a little more.

Finally, I created a link to a more complete resume with work experience, skills/abilities, and educational background.  If the employer enjoyed the infographic and wanted to know more, they’d have to seek me out rather than me find them.

And here is the final product.  With a little bit of creativity and photoshop savvy I was able to create a beautiful resume with my own personal flare.  Let’s hope it works out for me and I get a call soon!

Riot Games Resume

 

August 31, 2011 / Brandon Raper

Social Bro: Social Media Tool To Fist Bump To

Sup Bro?  Oh just tweetin’ ’bout Jersey Shore.

Don’t let the name fool you, Social Bro is THE most robust social media management tool I have ever laid eyes on.  If stats are your thing, you’re in luck.  Social Bro will blast your mind open with never ending stats about your Twitter account. Starting out is a little awkward, only because I haven’t had experience with a Twitter management tool like this one.

Social Bro SiteUnlike other tools, Social Bro is an application you must install to use.  It’s incredibly easy to install and connect to your accounts and is actually quite nice to not have to constantly be in your web browser to conduct business.  Once you install the application you will sign in with your Twitter login and sync your follower information into Social Bro.  It will only take a minute or two.

I’ll give you just the basics about the product here because I’m too infatuated to keep this short.

Follower Information

Where to start…I’ll make a list of useful information on the starting dashboard.

-Follower Timeline (Increase/Decrease in follower count)

-Recent Unfollows/Follows

-Not following you back/You aren’t following back

-Potential spammer/inactive/famous/influential/newbie accounts

There’s SO much valuable information just on the first page it’s outstanding.  Never has it been so easy to engage with the “correct” people on Twitter. When I say correct I mean influential people and new followers.

Beautiful UI

Social Bro UISure, the color is a little weird to me but man is it easy to navigate around. Clicking on a thumbnail picture of an account will bring up a side bar with all the necessary twitter information from the account including actions you can take such as message/add/unfollow etc.  The filters on the left hand side can be bulky and take up a lot space that I find could be utilized in another way, but it’s just a small gripe.  Everything else is smooth beyond reason.

Best Time To Tweet

One of my favorite statistics is the best time to tweet.  Usually Twitter management tools will show you the best time to tweet based on the amount of retweets and mentions you’ve received which can deceiving.  This application shows you how many people are online at given times.  The free trial only shows you the data of your top 100 followers, but it’s good to see the time I should tweet to reach those.  The paid version obviously shows you the rest.

When Are Your Twitter Followers Online?

Tag Clouds

There are many useful tag clouds including but not limited to:

-Followers bio Tag Cloud

-Friends bio Tag Cloud

-Followers link sharing Tag Cloud

-Followers conversation Tag Cloud

There is so much information here that could help you engage with users or build successful tweets in the future using the most common tags of your Twitter users.

Retweet Information

Another graph I found to be incredibly useful is the Time of Retweets and Replies.  A graph is created showing exactly what hour and what day your replies and retweets occurred.  Little did I know Sunday at 10 p.m. was a hot time for me to receive retweets.

Geographical/Follower Information

A World map showing the exact geographical location of each follower?  YES PLEASE.  I have 13 worldwide followers and 12 canadian followers…neat.  Also included is Language, Time Zone, Users by tweets per day, Users by followers and a lot more.

 

That being said…there is a ridiculous amount of information you can take from Social Bro.  Being able to utilize all the information provided to engage more effectively with potential and new followers is up to the user.  Social Bro is not only a statistical dream land but it provides analytics that you normally wouldn’t even think of needing in a social media plan.

Businesses and people alike should invest their time to at least try out Social Bro.  Social Brochacho, Bronamath, Brotastrophe…whatever slang term you use is fine, just don’t let the name fool you.  You will be bombarded with information and you have to put the time and work in to figure out how it can be beneficial to you.

 

 

 

August 23, 2011 / Brandon Raper

7 Reasons Crowdbooster Is A Mandatory Use

Social Media Analytics has become a necessity in the digital marketing era.  All marketing managers and CEO’s want to see solid figures that produce sales and word of mouth.  So why is it incredibly hard to find a valuable social media management tool if EVERYONE needs one?
Crowdbooster has started to fill a major necessity in this day and age.  A thorough analytics program for social media platforms.  Here’s some features and reasons why Crowdbooster should be mandatory for your social media campaigns:

1: Tracked Follower Growth

Daily information is gathered once you have started up your Crowdbooster account.  The earlier you start up, the more information provided, the better.  One of those bits of information is follower growth.  Each day a figure of how many followers you have gained and/or lost is provided.  Not only that, but it compares the values of gained/lost followers with how many tweets, retweets, and mentions there were in that same time frame.  Being able to cross reference these statistics can really provide great information on fan growth compared to activeness in the given platform.  You can also add a Facebook page as an account and have your fan growth tracked.

2. Top Retweeters

Crowdbooster tracks who, how many times, and what specific people have retweeted of your content.  This information can be beneficial in your ability to reach out and engage with individuals who relay their content to their followers.  Knowing one person retweets your content fairly often can give you an opportunity to create a personal relationship and help drive more traffic to your social media outlets.  “Impressions” are also tracked from these retweets.  This will help you to process which individual’s retweets are more influential.

3. Impressions Graph

Now I’m not quite sure the statistics on impressions are accurate and we’ll get into that in a while, but being able to track what time, date, and amount of impressions/replies a single post gained is very valuable.  If we take a look at my table, you can see that almost all of my posts had the same amount of impressions.  The problem with this number is that is how many followers I have.  If this number was more accurate it’d be incredible and invaluable information.

4. Multiple Accounts

Right now I have two twitter accounts and two Facebook pages connected to Crowdbooster.  Each day I check up on each individual page and see how my engagement and follower growth is doing.  It’s almost an addiction to see the statistics of my social media efforts.  The ease of adding accounts and switching to others is great as well. 

5. Great UI

In relation to ease of switching and adding accounts is the UI.  It’s incredibly smooth and easy to maneuver.  Now a days it’s hard to provide something in the social media management tool category that provides a fresh look without over burdening your senses.  The colors are vibrant, menus easy to navigate, and statistics are easy to understand.

6. Tweet Scheduling

Scheduling your tweets ahead of time has become a staple in social media management tools.  In Crowdbooster’s tweet scheduler there is an auto link shorten device and you can also connect your bit.ly account.  There is an interesting aspect to the tweet scheduler.  It provides you a time it believes would be the most beneficial for your tweet.  I’m not sure how it goes about this process and it even has a link that says “Why did we preselect this time?” yet it just goes back to the front page dashboard. On the features page tweet scheduling is explained as follows:

“Make your messages more effective. We give you recommendations based on your past performance and your followers’ activity to help you determine the best times and most relevant content to tweet.”

7. Customizable Reports

If your account is upgraded you are able to customize reports and download them in friendly excel and PDF files.  I however, have not upgraded so I have not been able to access these files.  The importance of structuring power points and presentations to other executives and showing the influence of your social media efforts is incredibly valuable.

In Conclusion:::::

Crowdbooster has really impressed me.  I have been an avid social media management tool user and have been looking for a solid analytics tool that could really improve my personal and business efforts alike.  This site has really provided me with some great information in just a week and it will only become more valuable over time.
I strongly recommend you tryout Crowdbooster for yourself.  It will take time to develop some measurable statistics, but the more you come back to it, the more you’ll fall in love. 

If you need a BETA invite, feel free to leave a comment or find me on Twitter @smobrandon

August 10, 2011 / Brandon Raper

ManageFlitter: Just Another Bird

Twitter management tools are becoming a staple for personal and business alike.  The number of competitors keeps rising which is good for us consumers.  Prices should fall, benefits should increase, and innovation should be an ongoing process.  Sometimes, the competition just settles for the same ol’ same ol’.  And that’s how I arrived with ManageFlitter.

ManageFlitter.com UI

User Interface

The user interface for Manageflitter has a lot of promise.  The problem is, when you say something has promise, you mean it has too many flaws.  The UI is smooth and simple, yet unforgiving.  A lot of the screens are cut off depending on your screen resolution.  This doesn’t bother me too much as I can see mostly everything on my screen, or at least click on what is partially cut off.

When scrolling over accounts there is a lot of information that is key in your decision of unfollowing certain people.  Tweets per day, followers, following, bio, date created, and even images related to certain statistics.  The use of images for “Talkative, Quiet, Verified, Inactive, No Profile Image, and Popular” are really well done.  They are easy to find, read, and relate to.  The problem with the scrolling sections are that they are always partially off the screen again.  It’s annoying to scroll over a user for information and scroll right to see the entire bio.

Ease

The unfollowing feature is incredibly easy to use.  All of the people who aren’t following you that you are following are listed.  You can scroll down and select each person you’d like to unfollow.  I ran into one problem with the Deselect All button after clicking through 100 people.  It’s too easy to click, too large, and has no confirmation.  I’m thinking arthritis is inevitable at this point.

Overall, selecting people to unfollow is incredibly easy.  The scroll down is a little tricky because it’s quite speedy, but was easy to get the hang of.

Pro Mode

A lot of the functionality of ManageFlitter is located in Pro Mode, which costs a whopping $12 a month.  The only worthwhile information that I can see provided in the Pro Mode were two options.

1.Track everyone who has unfollowed/followed you and when, with daily/weekly/monthly reports.

2. See which followers you aren’t following.

I’ve seen the second benefit in a lot of Twitter management tools and it is in no way worth the price of pro mode.  The first benefit is one that intrigues me.  Analytics are always huge in social media and have to be used especially in the professional world.  You always have to have evidence that your social media efforts are making a difference in not only word of mouth but sales as well.  This is a great starting point, but I still don’t see the match in value.

 

Rating

ManageFlitter has a lot of potential but a lot of flaws.  The UI looks so great but proves to be a huge hassle in the end.  The benefits of the free mode are decent for a single use, but aren’t enough to keep coming back to.  Pro mode is too expensive and there is no trial mode either.  There’s no way I’d pay $12 a month after seeing what I could deal with for free.

ManageFlitter gets a:

4/10

Only for potential in the future and the analytics provided.  There’s still hope ManageFlitter….even with that awful name.

August 3, 2011 / Brandon Raper

Rick Rolling On Turntable.FM

Being rick rolled will always be a timeless hobby of mine. There is never a moment that singing “Never gonna give you up” is inappropriate.

This brings me to the newest online hit, turntable.fm. Turntable.fm is a website where you are given your own avatar and may join Rooms containing other online members. A select few can jump into a DJ booth and play music for the audience through a search feature or by uploading their own music. The audience may either “Lame” or “Awesome” each selected song which awards the DJ with DJ Points.

The basic premise of the website has great potential and is definitely not the first of it’s kind but heads about the rest of the competition in exposure.

The new phenomenon has people flocking and talking all about it. Over the past two weeks I decided to give it a chance and see if I could prove my DJ skills were worthy of an exclusive DJ spot. Here are my initial findings and observations.

Socialization

Amazingly the chat box in the majority of rooms I have jumped in are always alive.  DJ’s especially like to converse with each other on their selections and how they feel about other bands/genres/rooms.  A few of the rooms I joined had over 200 people in them yet the chat never seemed overwhelming.  Most of the rooms with a large group seem to be AFK for the most part, which makes it deceiving when trying to gather DJ points in a hurry.
I haven’t come across bashing or trolling as of yet, but I’m sure once the population on turntable.fm rises we will see plenty of people spamming chat and causing a ruckus…so to say.

Music Selection

I’m pretty amazed by what bands the search option can come up with.  Then again, I’m surprised by what bands it doesn’t have any songs of and how the search process works.  If you search for “Hall & Oates”, you will get a cover band of Hall & Oates first and foremost.

The upload option is incredibly easy to use though.  It only takes about 5-10 seconds for me to upload any song at any moment.  Whenever I have to upload a song I like to convey to the audience that I had to.  To me, it gives a feeling of exclusivity and originality.

Room Moderator

Here’s where I think turntable falls short.  The moderator of the room has very limited power.  He/she can boot someone off of the DJ table if needed but that should be a last resort.  If turntable had options for the DJ booth itself such as putting a maximum time limit on songs, the room would move much smoother.  When I’m in a room on a DJ booth and I see the person before has played a 9 minute song I get frustrated.  The reason we’re all in the DJ booth is to show off what musicality we have and to earn DJ points.  Playing a 9 minute song really limits the room’s ability to create, earn, and discover music.

Personalization

The avatars you are able to select are very far and few.  Yes, you gain availability of other better avatars the more DJ points you get, but even then there’s only a few.  If a new avatar came out every week or even month, I think a larger crowd and competition would pursue.  As of now, there’s not a blonde avatar.  That’s weird to me.

 

Turntable.fm is an amazing site and probably the most addicting thing I’ve been apart of (Other than Diablo 2 back in the day).  One of my favorite things to do is join a room, play Rick Astley, and then leave.  I usually get quite a few DJ Points for it and it’s all in good fun.  Maybe you should try it out and see what kind of reaction you get.