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Picks of the Week: Aug. 15-21

This week, we share articles on: the importance of content in social media, how to increase website conversions through site design, an update to sitelinks in Google search results, media relations tips to land coverage for your company or client, and news from HP, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. 

Content & Social Media

Content: The Engine of Social Media Marketing

Forrester analyst Sean Corcoran (@seancor) addresses a problem that many companies are facing. They've set up accounts on social media sites, and built communities of followers, fans and friends, but simply aren't sure where to go next. After establishing a presence and building a following, some organizations aren't sure how to keep audiences engaged

The answer: strategic, buyer-persona focused, self-published content. As Corcoran says, "once you set up shop in social media, your brand is [sic] essentially became a publisher. And it's not as simple as just pumping out random stuff — it needs to be relevant and tethered back to your business objectives."

Understanding the challenges involved, Corcoran developed a report to guide marketers through developing interactive content plans, built upon a balance of proactive and reactive communications. If you're struggling to find an effective strategy that combines content and community, it may be worth checking out.

Web Design and Visitor Behavior 

The #1 Conversion Killer in Your Web Design 

In this post for Social Triggers, Derek Halpern (@derekhalpern) shares his advice for designing websites that convert. Though his approach is very minimalistic, and thus may not work for every site, the basis for his recommendations are sound and worth considering. Specifically, Halpern addresses three parts of the site to clean up:

  • Sidebars
  • Resource/content pages
  • Landing/squeeze/sales pages 

By minimizing clutter and navigation, heavily focusing on the action he wanted users to take on each page, and limiting visitor options as they further engaged with site content, Halpern saw conversion rates skyrocket. See his full post for details.

My takeaway: Though I personally find the Social Triggers site to be somewhat jarring because its design is so stark, Halpern has proven that for them the simplicity works, and I admit that calls to action grab my attention more than most sites. However, this kind of site will not work for every company.

Website design is used to elicit a desired feeling or reaction from visitors, and convey something about the company or organization behind it. Particularly for more complex businesses with longer sales cycles, and those in highly professional industries, quick conversions may not be worth the sacrifice of perceived quality achieved through a professional site design and layout. But keeping Halpern's tips in mind, at the least, may help you identify weaknesses and tweak low-converting pages by cutting out clutter wherever you can.

Google Search Results

Google Announces Improvements to Sitelinks in Search Results 

Brian Whalley (@bwhalley) shares details of a new Google search engine results page (SERP) update on the HubSpot blog

You may have noticed that sitelinks—the page-specific links that appear underneath a site's homepage listing in Google search results—now show additional details, including the specific URL and a few words of text from the page. Whalley points out that although webmasters and marketers cannot control what pages appear in sitelinks, specific pages can be demoted within a site's Google Webmaster Tools account to reduce the likelihood of their inclusion.

Takeaway: Do some Google searches for your company's brand name, key products and common variations to see what sitelinks appear in SERPs. If you aren't happy with the sitelinks shown, use Webmaster Tools to demote the pages that you don't want included. You can also attempt to promote specific pages that aren't appearing, based on what Google seems to be looking for. See Whalley's full post for tips.  

Media Relations

Pitch Perfect: A Startup's Guide to Getting Coverage

Paul Sawers (@TGW_Paul) offers excellent tips for developing pitches that gain media attention and result in coverage of your (or your client's) product, service or company. Though the article is geared toward startups, the takeaways can be beneficial to anyone looking to hone their media relations skills. For instance:Avoid buzzwords, hyperbole and gobbledegook. If what you're pitching is truly unique/innovative/game-changing/revolutionary/etc., explain or show the reporter why that's the case, insated of relying on these overused—and therefore, often meaningless—adjectives.

  • Don't pretend that you don't have any competitors. Instead, acknowledge the competition and explain why your solution is different or better, and worth talking about.
  • Do your homework: Research the publication and its writers, and send your pitch to the appropriate contact. Bonus points if you personalize the pitch because you actually read the recipient's articles on a regular basis. If you're not sure who's best, try the generic "news@" or "tips@" email address, which are typically checked and filtered to the appropriate writers. 
  • Sawers recommends recording screencasts of your product in action, assuming it lends itself well to this medium. (Think software products, online platforms, social networks, mobile apps, etc.). 
  • Keep pitches concise, with links, photos and video available for more information.

For details on these and more advice from an editor with experience, see Sawer's complete article.

In the News...

After releasing its third-quarter earnings, HP announced that it would "discontinue operations for webOS devices," leaving the TouchPad tablet and webOS phones behind, so the company can focus on improving performance in other areas. Though webOS devices did not meet expectations, HP saw growth in business lines including: software, financial services, and enterprise servers, storage and networking. For an interesting take on what this may mean for the tech world as a whole, and the future of PC computing, see MG Sigler's (@parislemon) article,  HP to Apple: You Win.

Facebook's "Like" plugins have been declared illegal in the German state of Schlewsing-Holstein, citing privacy infringement and illegal tracking of visitor activity. Webmasters in the state are expected to remove the plugins by the end of September. Expect to hear more in upcoming months on privacy battles and international discrepancies in the legalities of visitor tracking and other website plugins that may infringe on user privacy. 

For Android and iPhone users: LinkedIn rolled out major updates to its mobile apps, with the focus on simplicity of use, speed and Groups. 

If you've been scratching your head about missing links in your Google Webmaster Tools account, rest assured. Google acknowledged a bug that caused some sites' backlinks numbers to drop. The issue should be resolved. 


What were your top stories of the week? Comments are open for your opinions.

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