Category Archives: SEO

What should your social media strategy be for multiple brands?

It is well known that social media can be an important and powerful marketing platform for businesses of all sizes, but what do you do if you have multiple brands, such as different products and services? As a small business do you create an identity on all the major platforms for each separate brand? What social media strategy would be most beneficial to your business?

Where people write books, there is a tendency to have a specific website and profiles for the book,  but is it really a good idea to have a distinct profile for your book and your business on Facebook, Twitter, Google plus and so on?

My own experience

Personally, this has been a question I have been asking myself recently. In order to market my new book Legally Branded, we created separate social media profiles for the book a few months ago, as well as maintaining the main Azrights profiles. However, now the book has been released for a few months, I find myself questioning the logic of having multiple social media profiles.

I think the main issue here really depends on what you are trying to achieve by having multiple social media accounts. For me, although it seemed logical to keep Azrights and Legally Branded separate as one was a book and the other a business, in reality the two profiles covered very similar topics which were primarily intellectual property, and branding. So whilst they were two separate products – a service business and a book – they essentially were promoting the same values. In fact Legally Branded was always intended to benefit the Azrights business rather than being something separate.

As business owners we learn all the time.  What I’ve been learning in the last few months is the increasing number of new social media platforms which keep popping up.  Many of them are essential to join if your aim is to optimise your website for the search engines.  So, as your search engine optimisation strategy increasingly means adding new social media platforms (such as PInterest) to the mix, it becomes critical to focus resources on the main business brand.  That means not spreading ourselves too thin. Therefore, for  it makes sense to merge the two profiles in order to concentrate our efforts on the Azrights profile

What is best for businesses with distinctly individual brands?

But what if your business has brands which are separate and are not necessarily going to cover similar products or talk about the same topics? Building engagement on social media is about communicating with your customers on their level so that you are posting content that they will be interested in.

If you have different brands that might have different audiences, then having multiple platforms could be a good idea to ensure that each profile is suitably optimised for its specific audience.

On the flip side, John Souza, argues that ‘having the same person [a single business] communicate between brands can confuse and irritate people’

On top of the risk of confusing people – there is also the question of resources mentioned earlier. Even managing one profile across the many different social media channels that now exist can be time consuming enough, but add another profile into the mix and you might really start to stretch your businesses capacity.

As Jane Treadwell-Hoye, an expert in customer operations, says, the ‘biggest challenge is being able to ensure consistent, excellent customer experiences across all’. She assured that it ‘can be done’ with the right resources. However, it really is important not to sacrifice customer experience if these resources are scarce.

Conclusion

Ultimately it comes down to the different products and the overall business aims. If your company has different brands, and each of them have unique and distinct personalities, and you have the capacity to maintain separate profiles to a high standard, then multiple profiles might be the best way to go.

Certainly for large companies such as Unilever that have a huge portfolio of brands, having separate profiles is almost mandatory. (Although of course a company does not have to be a house brand like Unilever to justify this tactic. Hershey’s has multiple Facebook profiles for their individual chocolate brands which has worked for them)

However, if your brands or products have not yet taken off as separate entities, or if you simply do not have sufficient resources, it is best not to follow the trend of having multiple profiles. It could be confusing to customers and could lead to two profiles that are only half as good as they could otherwise be. In such situations using the founder’s own personal brand for discussing different products and services might be a better option than compartmentalising the product into its own separate profile.

If you want to learn more about online profiling, and the different approaches a company can take when naming products and services, why not buy a copy of Legally Branded?

Google Instant Search – Fast and Fatal!

Last year, Google introduced its ‘Google Instant Search’, a new feature that displays suggested results as soon as you start typing your search phrase.  The service also sports improved ‘predictive’ search queries – much like predictive text on mobile phones – for example when you start to type ‘Apple’ into Google, it may suggest ‘apple store’, ‘apple trailers’ and ‘apple TV’.

The aim is to save users’ time, and supply results faster than before.  All well and good for consumers, but how does it affect businesses?

One impact is that it is likely to change the way people search.  A key idea behind instant search is to help users formulate a better, more accurate search term for what they are looking for by giving them feedback on the fly.  This affects the terms users might otherwise search for, and has implications for SEO.

Andy Beal from Marketing Pilgrim, highlighted how, with Google Instant, searchers don’t have to commit to any search query.  The way people carry out research will change as there is no longer a need to follow the traditional ‘search and then refine’ process.

A likely knock on effect is that fewer people will scroll down the first page, instead focusing on the top few results, and simply refining their search as they type if what they are looking for does not rank highly.

In a blog post, optimum7.com describes it as ‘the death of the second page’ – SEO has become more important then ever. Keyword research needs to be thorough, and long tail keywords are now much more beneficial.

Reputation Damaging Predictions

Another major implication Google’s predictive search is to do with online reputation. The experience of  some businesses is that bad press can lead to negative predictions when searchers type their company name into Google, potentially causing lasting damage to their reputation.  There have even been instances of legal action brought against Google to remove certain suggestions.                     

A blog piece by Danny Sullivan in search engine land highlighted some of these. One case involved a request that the French word for scam (arnaque) not appear after the name of a long distance learning company. Google appears to have complied with this request however, as noted by Sullivan, this change was not gobal as both ‘arnaque paypal’ and ‘arnaque groupon’ appear as suggestions when typing ‘arnaque into Google.

I decided to carry out some searches myself to find other suggestions which might leave businesses in a bad light, and noticed that when typing in ‘Treyarch’, the name of an American video developer company, the word ‘sucks’ appears as a suggestion. I also found a complaint in Google’s help forum that Google’s predictive search was hurting a client’s reputation as the words ‘scam’ ‘fake’ and ‘forgery’ appeared after the company’s name.

Google predictive search makes it even more important to monitor online reputation.  As search technology develops, and new features emerge, businesses will need to be ever more vigilant in terms of their SEO strategy to ensure they are able to manage their risk and maintain a positive online reputation.

How to Pick a Winning Name

In the early days of the internet when the web was like a small village which has just  one bread shop, one toy shop or one other type of store, it was understandable that businesses were drawn to names like toys.com or books.com or hotels.com as business names not just as domain names.  But with the crowded marketplace that the web has become, why would anyone want to choose such non distinctive names for their business?

Now don’t get me wrong.  These are great domain names because they’re fantastic for generating  traffic.  But as business names they suck.  Why?  Because you can’t get exclusive rights over such names by way of a trade mark.  See Hotels.com case which recently failed to get a trade mark despite having traded with this name for some 20 years.  Sure you can register the name with a logo, but that effectively protects the logo rather than giving you a monopoly over the name.

Failing to secure a trademark over a word means that you can’t stop others using the word to attract business.  So, you set yourself up with an inadequate name for brand protection.  This inevitably affects the brand value too.

Imagine if Google had named itself searchengine.com.  Would it have the name recognition and brand it now enjoys?  Of course not.  The fact that it has become one of the world’s top brands today, has quite a lot to do with the distinctive nature of the name itself.

Reading the Law Society Gazette about the aspirations of a new grouping of Law Firms QualitySolicitors one of my first thoughts as a trade mark lawyer was ‘what a poor choice of name’.  Then I had a look on the trademark registers and sure enough they have had to abandon their application for the word mark, and console themselves with a logo trade mark which is currently being advertised.

They won’t be able to stop me or anyone else bidding on Google adwords for the term Quality solicitor.  If they aim to become THE first household name as a solicitors brand, they should immediately rebrand and drop this misguided name.  The sooner they find themselves a distinctive name the better for them.  Michael Scutt also has advice for them in his article here.

When you start out in business or in any venture at all  begin as you mean to go on.  Assume that you will be the next major brand in your industry, the next Google, Amazon, or Nike.  One thing you will notice about each of these, is the distinctive nature of the brand name they have chosen, unrelated to their target market, but memorable.  If you choose a name that describes your business there would be nothing standing in the way of competitors providing similar services, under a similar name, and you would be one provider amidst a whole host of others.  If you rebrand at that time, think of all your wasted advertising expenses in becoming known under your descriptive name!  You would then have to spend even more letting people know about your new name.  Getting it right at the beginning has to be the answer.

Branding is extremely important in business, and if only more businesses appreciated the need to consult a trademark lawyer before settling on their name.  They would then know how important it is to do everything in their power to choose a distinctive, memorable name, and to protect it.

Social Media Policies for Law Firms

Social media for the legal profession

This is part 2 of the blog post ‘Would the Zappos Social Media Policy be Right for you?’ which I began yesterday.  As mentioned there I want to briefly touch on some of the issues law firms may want to bear in mind when devising their social media policies.

A wide variation of approaches is possible when it comes to social media.  Some organisations, such as the British Library, do not allow their staff to to have their own individual blogs, while as we saw yesterday Zappos is at the other extreme in seemingly placing few curbs on their staff.  So when I noticed the number of lawyers tweeting in their individual capacity and linking to their own personal blogs on Twitter I began to wonder whether this was a result of advanced thinking by law firms or more a sign of neglect to adopt any specific social media policy.

As someone who runs a law firm, my personal preference is to encourage staff to be social.  However, I feel it is better that they put their blogging energies into promoting the firm’s blog rather than maintaining their own individual blogs.  This is in line with Kevin O’Keefe’s Ten Questions to Consider when considering your firm’s blogging policy.

The benefits to a firm’s brand of having its lawyers tweeting as representatives of the firm rather than as individual solicitors could be significant.

The importance for firms of having a brand – being more than a group of solicitors

If a law firm takes charge by positively formulating a social media policy I suspect many would opt to raise the profile of the firm to gain more brand exposure from its solicitors’ social engagement.

Therefore, firms might consider setting up firm blogs for individual practice areas and encouraging its lawyer staff bloggers to help create a blog that stands out from the crowd.  The firm would need to incentivize its lawyers to blog in the same dedicated way they would do if they maintained their own individual blogs.  Here the way in which a law firm rewards its lawyers for work they introduce to the firm, could get in the way of achieving a corporate rather than an individualistic outlook, so careful attention to these matters goes alongside devising a social media policy.

If the appropriate remuneration schemes were set up to encourage team effort, wouldn’t that lead to a better way to benefit from the social media engagement of individual solicitors?  The individual solicitors would still be recognized for their contributions, but the firm would stand to benefit from brand promotion in the process.  Social media, is after all, just another way to network with others.  You would hand out your business card if you were networking offline, so why not do the same when networking online?  This is a useful article for guidelines on reducing the risks

Legal Services Act

With the Legal Services Act changes just a year away, the question arises whether law firms will be able to attract investor interest.   The answer partly depends on whether they are perceived to be scalable businesses.  The problem for law firms and people based consultancy businesses generally is how to become more than just a grouping of experts organized into individual departments.  The fact that the firm has some star solicitors benefits the firm, but it should have a sufficiently attractive brand as a firm to be able to draw other star lawyers to want to work for it.

To add to the difficulty that law firms have of attracting investors, is that, according to anecdotal evidence, many of them reportedly rely on a single client for more than 25% of their income.  This reduces the perception of the firm as a business because it is too reliant on the continuing goodwill of a single client.

If the head of a department leaves a law firm and takes a sizeable number of the team, then what remains of the particular area of expertise at the old firm?  Is it more at risk of losing key clients?

The law firm as a brand

So a law firm’s reputation needs to be less reliant on its ‘star’ experts, and social media is one way firms could better promote themselves.  Setting up a firm blog(s) and branding the firm more is the opportunity that social media presents.

What about ownership of social media contacts?

As to whether the list of connections and followers an individual solicitor builds belongs to the firm or to the individual solicitor, in my view it is not important for the firm to try to own those connections.  For background issues on this topic see Law Donut discussion

It is so easy for anyone to copy your Twitter database by following your followers using software that automatically follows competitors’ followers that even if you divested the individual solicitor of their Twitter account when they left the firm, their employers could have already copied across most of those contacts, or already have them in their own list of followers or contacts anyway.  Social media has the effect of making the world shrink into the equivalent of a small village as far as contacts are concerned.  Everybody seems to know everybody else.  How an individual cultivates those contacts, and the quality of the relationship is what makes the difference.

In the new world order that social media is creating it will be futile for an employer to want to try to maintain ownership of the list of contacts by specifying that the account may only be used for business purposes.  The very nature of social media involves a blurring of the boundaries between the personal and the professional, and the law is going to have to find more innovative ways to protect employers against the activities of former employees than by basing the decision on whether the employee was only allowed to use the account for business purposes.  Artificial ways of describing social media lists so as to maintain that they are confidential, is soon going to be an inadequate approach.  Also it could do a brand reputational harm to become known as an employer that divests its staff of all their Linked in, and Twitter contacts when they leave the firm, than if it just accepted that it is a necessary feature of social media that employees take their social media contacts with them when they move.

Further reading

Connections staff make while in your employ will be too difficult to detach from them as individuals.  As Hubspot argues in its excellent book Inbound Marketing, in future businesses will be engaging staff by assessing their competence as Digital Citizens and the connections they have formed.

Worth looking at for anyone wanting to delve more into the branding questions on culture, core values, customer experience, passion, and purpose – and financial goals is to look at the movement that Zappos has now launched – www.zapposinsights.com.  Also there are a number of law firm risk resources here.

Conclusion

Our own current policy at Azrights is to encourage staff to be social.  However, as we are a small team, trying to make massive progress on a number of fronts with various projects, we are only managing to maintain a semblance of a presence on Facebook, Linked In, You Tube and Twitter. If we had more time for social media, then we would know better what problems can arise.  Certainly I am mindful of the dangers – see for example a recent Times Online report.  In the meantime, staff are encouraged to let me see anything that may be controversial before it is posted.

I would appreciate comments on this topic particularly by lawyers, but if anyone wants to contact me personally then please email me.

SEO Contract in Context Now Free

In January the IPKAT mentioned the new product we had developed – SEO Contract in Context system.

One anonymous commenter said something to the effect that the product should be offered free.  At the time I thought this was a poor idea given the amount of work we had done to produce it.  Little did I know that within a month I would be deciding that that was in fact the best way to promote this particular product.

This is because although a number of people bought the product, it was clear from some of the general comments and questions we were receiving that many did not understand what the product actually was, and why they needed it.  Some wondered whether SEO Contract in Context was intended to be a DIY SEO tool.  (The answer is no it isn’t.  It’s what I wish I could have had available to me 5 years ago when I had a website created for Azrights, and would have liked to know how to promote it on the search engines cost effectively).  Given SEO is not a service many people have ever bought, or intend to buy, some didn’t have too much trouble deciding they didn’t need it.

However, SEO is essential literacy that anyone doing business online needs to acquire.  It has become doubly important with the rise of social media.  That is why we decided to open up access to it for free and to give those who purchased the product a credit note.  Here is a link to SEO Contract in Context.

Another reason for taking this decision is so that we can point people to it as an example of what they can expect if they purchase the many other products we have in the pipeline such as Website Contract in Context due to be released on 23 March: Website Contract in Context.  There is currently nothing like them on the market.  

A further benefit of opening up SEO Contract in Context to a wider audience is that we will hopefully receive feedback which we can use to further improve and enhance both this free SEO product and the other products that are in the pipeline.  An improved second version of SEO contract in Context is due for release before 23 March. So if you have any further thoughts as to how we might improve it please do submit your feedback.

New Release: SEO Contract in Context System

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to the task of improving the ranking of a website in search results. This is of vital importance to businesses operating online, as search engines are the way that most of your prospective customers will locate service providers on the Internet. Despite its relevance in the modern marketplace, many small businesses are unaware of what is involved in improving the visibility of their website. They often hire expert SEO providers to carry out the work for them, but this can be expensive, and where the legal relationship between you and your consultant is poorly defined you may not get the results you were expecting. In fact, using the wrong approach could even harm your rating with the search engines, and seriously impact your business.

Legal relationships can be complex, but they are critical to the success of any business because they set out the expectations and obligations of the parties involved, and so without a well thought out agreement you risk paying for services that do not fit your needs. Unfortunately specialist legal advice can be costly, and beyond the reach of many small businesses.

The truth is that the only way to maximize the return on your investment in SEO is to understand both what it involves, and how to ensure that if you do need to outsource the work the terms of your agreement specify your requirements accurately. This way both you and your consultant know what is required, and you are left with legal recourse in the event that obligations are not fulfilled.

We have introduced a new product that addresses these issues by providing multimedia background information on contractual agreements and SEO to inform your decisions, and a contract template which you can tailor to suit your particular circumstances. To find out more about the SEO Contract in Context System please read our press release, or if you are interested in purchasing find out more on our product page.

Search Engine Optimisation Agreements.

Search Engine Agreements

Search Engine Agreements

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) in the broadest sense of the word, is an important topic for businesses to understand as it is how you enhance your online presence.

Understanding how to obtain the best results from your SEO consultant involves using an effective contract that is written in language readily understandable by both parties.

Looking around on the web, I came across a number of comments and misconceptions about SEO contracts. Many people seem to think an SEO contract is optional, and that unless you sign a piece of paper you do not have a contract.

Basic contract explanation

So it is important to appreciate that when you ask someone to perform a service for you, such as to do keyword research or to optimise your website, a contract comes into existence as soon as an offer is made for an estimated or set price which is clearly accepted.

For example, if you are engaging a web designer, it is enough that the designer knows broadly what you want. For example, this might be based on your having said you want a really nice looking website, and picked a few sites you liked the look of, received a quote, which you clearly accepted. None of that needs to be in writing. You will be bound in contract whether you realise it or not. If one party denies that a contract was formed the law has ways and means of establishing the truth, by looking at certain background facts to work out which of the two parties to believe.

A contract is formed much sooner than is appreciated

Provided it is clear who the parties to the contract are, what the contract relates to, and how much will be paid, then a contract exists as soon as an offer is deemed accepted in the eyes of the law. No formality is needed.

Therefore, you may carry on your discussions thinking you are still negotiating terms when in fact it will be too late to make your further requirements form part of the agreement. Once the contract has already been formed you may discuss details, but that is different from adding new stipulations, such as strict time limits for performance.

Changing your mind

Say it is agreed that the other party will build a website in return for an agreed fee of £5,000, but many of the details (such as whether it should come already optimised for the search engines) have not yet been discussed. If your agreement was based on your having a beautiful static site designed for you, and then later you changed your mind and decided that actually what you wanted was a well optimised site on a content management platform, if the designer could not deliver your changed requirement, and you wanted to engage someone else, you would be in breach of contract. If the designer wanted to, they could ask you to pay damages for cancelling the contract.

Now the fact that in practice most disputes are resolved between the parties because people tend to be reasonable and manage to sort out their disputes without the need to involve lawyers or the courts is no reason to assume that contracts should therefore be ignored. Similarly, the fact that the discussions were oral and nothing was committed to paper does not mean you cannot be challenged about breaking your promises. It would just be rather more messy, and expensive to sort out disputes based on a purely oral contract.

Importance of contracts

Contracts serve many useful functions. Often with search engine optimisation, buyers have a rose tinted view of what they will receive when they engage an SEO consultant. The SEO may want the work, so has less incentive to enlighten the buyer about the reality of what can be achieved within their budget. It is not for no reason that the law cautions ‘Buyer Beware’. It really is more important for buyers to look out for themselves and check that what they are buying is what they think they will get.

But because buyers of SEO or other internet related services often lack the necessary understanding of the service, it is difficult for them to take control.

That is why we have developed our Contract in Context System for helping buyers, lawyers and SEOs to get the know how they need about SEO and also about contracts.  By implementing an SEO strategy for their business, and using a suggested contract template when engaging SEO consultants, small business owners can take control and put in place an effective, plain English, short contract to ensure a successful outcome.  SEOs will learn a lot from the System, even though they already have the SEO know how that is included as part of the System.

Find out more by registering for our free teleseminar “Top Tips to Take Control of your Internet Marketing” on 26 Jan (even if you can’t attend, by registering we will send you details of it).