01. February 2017 · Comments Off on White Hats, Pink Hats, Black Hats… and the White House · Categories: Blogging, Digital Marketing, Mountain Woods Media, SEO, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , , , , ,

White Hats, Pink Hats, Black Hats and the White House

Many of us in tech tend to be introverts.  We are passionately engaged with our clients. We feel  and experience deeply but you would never know it as we are reticent to speak up, or cause controversy in order to avoid a drop in web traffic, fewer consulting gigs, or trolls from high school taking issue with a mildly progressive meme involving the color pink.  When Googlers this week finally started “marching” in support of immigrant colleagues, this made me smile and also remembering fondly an SEO conference from several years ago.  The SES event we attended involved a meet and greet icebreaker  which involved identifying your firm as to whether it was “white hat” or “black hat”.   “White hat” meant you used technical skills that were above board, slightly less aggressive in order to earn higher rankings but none which would trouble the search giants such as Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go or Facebook.  “Black hat” meant you were not above being scrappy and slightly nefarious by using keywords hidden in white fonts, misdirected pages, buying followers, or other questionable tech tactics.  We were provided real cowboy hats during the event and instructed to both wear them and mingle.  Surprisingly, it was a 50/50 color spectrum.

But when you have always leaned “white hat” and have turned down more gigs than you have accepted due to questionable client ethics, there comes a point when you need to actually wear your sheriff’s badge and come clean.

In the early 90’s I both interviewed and processed grants for disaster victims, for women at risk who had been violated and burned with cigarettes in the trafficking industry, human rights activists in foreign jails housed in horrendous conditions,  and health professionals who had their hospitals and lifesaving equipment bombed by political factions.  Later, as a case manager and small business developer, I went on to help refugees impacted by similar events try to build small family microbusinesses in order to escape tough working conditions from jobs they had to accept once they had been admitted to the US.  Many of these tiny businesses made it.  Some did not.  I was new to understanding the impact of PTSD on many of my clients and looking back wondered if stronger mental health support would have allowed more of these families to thrive.   One client had been chased by gangs with knives through the jungles of Togo.  He was heartbroken to be separated from his wife.  A large man with a broad smile, he came to my office and cried when he was placed in a job with a meat packing plant.  Idealistic, but inexperienced, it took me several years to understand that the knives in the meat packing plant were probably not helping him recover from his experience of being hunted in the jungles of Togo.

So…as I saw people unjustly detained and then finally “making it” through the gauntlet at so many airports in these United States this weekend to cheering crowds, I was haunted by the man with the broad smile.  He never had a crowd to greet him, just me.  And this is how we continue to work.  If we can cheer for your success (and the standards are high) then you qualify for a sheriff’s badge with our “white hat” team.

For someone who has yet to make our “white hat” list, it was indeed surprising that instead of doing a breaking news event on regular television networks, 45 opted last night to switch to Facebook Live.  Maybe he was hoping for a sea of pink hearts rather than angry smiley faces in order to give him his needed mandate.  We are hoping that he received what he needed.   So many do not.

Mountain Woods Media, LLC is both a white hat and progressive firm and will forever remain so.  Pick your hat, giddy up, get out there, design a cool sign, and in the face of injustice, do say something.

~  Leigh M. Drake, President, Mountain Woods Media, LLC

Are You an ExpertAre you an expert?

Recently, we attended a two-day e-commerce conference in Ohio covering a variety of topics from pricing strategies to selling and beyond.

However, in one particular workshop session, the speaker told the nearly 100-person audience that they needed to convince themselves they are the “expert.” She even went to the extreme to ask everyone to repeat (out loud) over and over again “I am the expert.”

Seriously?

This is so wrong on many levels:

  • You are NOT the expert if you need to convince yourself that you are the expert.
  • You are NOT the expert if you need a self-proclaimed marketing expert to tell you that you are an expert.
  • Repeating the phrase “I am the expert” doesn’t make you an expert in anything.
  • Chances are good if anyone claims to be an “expert” that they are only trying to either convince themselves or the prospective customer, client, etc.

Can you tell how much we can’t stand the word “expert?”

Here’s how you can really become an expert, guru, ninja, etc. in your field:

  • Walk the walk and talk the talk. Your actions; knowledge of the subject matter and helpful advice will eventually make you the “go to” person in your industry.
  • Listen, study, and learn. Stay up to date on new topics, trends and information.
  • The more you share information and other tips to help your customers and clients, the more you’ll be recognized as an actual expert.
  • Write a blog. Write articles. Consistently create and publish YouTube videos, etc. These are the kinds of things that eventually make you the expert.

Claiming, shouting and repeating that “I am an expert” in such-and-such (insert topic here) is amateurish and unprofessional. It many cases, it turns off your prospective customers.

Instead, let your posse; your customers; your clients; your Facebook Fans; your Twitter followers make you the expert. Make yourself THE person they want to seek out to help them solve a problem or find the right product or service for their business.

Conference organizers – and conference speakers – please, no more “I am the expert” lectures. OK?

 

29. September 2016 · Comments Off on Getting Your E-Commerce Road to Riches in Order for Q4 · Categories: E-Commerce, SEO, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , , , ,

Plan For Q4 Now!Road-to-Riches-4th-QT-ECommerce

It’s hard to believe how fast the 2016 has flown by. Now, in just a few days, we’ll be heading into the fourth quarter which is, by far, the busiest time of the year for e-commerce and online retailers.

Are you Q4 ready?

Here are some tips to help you plan and prepare for what could be your business’ best fourth quarter yet.

  • Today (as in right now) – Set your sales goals and work backwards on how you’ll reach them. This includes timely inventory purchases; packing and shipping supplies; marketing budget and strategy; hiring part-time help, etc. Don’t delay on getting started.
  • Every day – Continue to stay active within your social media networks including Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Even if you’re busy filling and shipping orders, your customers (and potential customers) want to see continued updates and product photos. If you’re offering gift wrapping services this year, offer photos, tips and ideas.
  • Monday, October 31 – Halloween is the second largest holiday in retail and e-commerce sales. This is a great holiday to kick-start your Q4 sales. Don’t wait too late into the month to jump in on the action.
  • Wednesday, November 23 – The day before “Blue Thursday” and two days before “Black Friday.” Get ready!
  • Thursday, November 24 – Thanksgiving, also known as “Blue Thursday” as many retail stores are open for business. If you’re getting together with family and friends today, make sure you keep an eye on your e-commerce sites and answer customer e-mails ASAP. If you’re serious about your business, this is truly not a day to overeat and watch football.
  • Friday, November 25 – Black Friday. You should be filling orders and getting them shipped to customers that day. Do not rest on our laurels. Don’t procrastinate to Monday. You should be open for business!
  • You should also be aware that post offices and other federal, state and local offices are closed on Monday, October 10 (Columbus Day) and Friday, November 11 (Veterans Day). Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Plan accordingly for possible shipping and delivery interruptions.
  • Keep tabs on upcoming important cut-off shipping dates when announced by the United States Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, etc. Be aware of any extra shipping charges you may have to incur if you plan to ship to customers wanting an item at the last minute (and in time for Christmas).
  • Oh, by the way, Christmas Eve is Saturday, December 24 and Christmas Day is Sunday, December 25.

Don’t delay. Get ready and make your Fourth Quarter plans today!

 

11. March 2016 · Comments Off on Is Yelp Advertising Worth It for Your Particular Business? · Categories: Digital Marketing, ORM, SEO · Tags: , , ,

Mastering Yelp Promote Your BusinessWe’re not sure if it’s a great deal or not, but Yelp is now offering one free month of Yelp Ads when you sign up for a 12-month advertising package.

Hmmm…

If you’re really “working” Yelp – updating your business profile; adding photos; earning good reviews, etc., – you might not need to commit to a year of Yelp advertising. You also need to evaluate if Yelp Advertising is worth it for your particular business niche. And, if you’ve never tried Yelp advertising before, perhaps you should give it a go for a couple of months before seeing if it’s worth blowing 12-months of an advertising budget with Yelp.

Here’s how Yelp Ads work:

Let’s say you own a local pizza restaurant and you sign up for Yelp Ads. Then, anytime a user conducts a search for “pizza restaurants” (inside of Yelp) your ad appears within the search results. This could be beneficial especially if your business listing isn’t appearing among the top search results in your local area.

In addition, if you’re running Yelp Ads, then all ads from other pizza competitors aren’t appearing in your Yelp Business Page or within your Yelp search results.

A 12-month advertising package also earns your business an “enhanced” profile that includes a photo slideshow and a customized call to action button.  This can be helpful if you don’t have time to build a sophisticated widget and want something that stands out digitally.

Is Yelp desperate for more sales?  Based in San Francisco, Yelp has fairly expensive overhead and a large call center to support and is expanding.  Yelp is also publicly traded and required to make a profit for it’s shareholders.  Their ads can be pricey compared to other advertising media you may want to evaluate.  As always, look at your advertising and marketing expenses from all angles and by all means don’t fall for a high pressure sales tactic if you call and inquire.  Also don’t over commit by throwing your entire marketing budget at Yelp if you call after worrying about one bad Yelp review.  Budget your ad dollars across your entire marketing cycle and build up momentum and traffic across multiple digital channels.

If you’re curious, you can visit Yelp.com or call (1-844-202-8082) for more information. The 12-month advertising package offer expires March 31, 2016.

11. February 2016 · Comments Off on Online Reputation Repair: Beating Ripoff Report · Categories: ORM, SEO · Tags: , , , , ,

Beating Ripoff ReportThe Ripoff Report (http://ripoffreport.com) is an ugly and unforgiving complaint website that allows anyone to file a report against you and/or your business. The website doesn’t ask for proof and “reviewers” can remain anonymous all in the name of harming your online reputation.

What makes matters worse, is that Google and other search engines continue to rank Ripoff Report prominently. Unfortunately, if there isn’t an online reputation management plan in place, you’ll quickly find Ripoff Report is ranked in the Top 3 of the Google search results on your personal name or business name.

In addition, if the harmed party (you or your business or an employee in your business) responds to a claim, you’re actually helping that report to earn even higher rankings in search engines because you’re adding more content to the post. More content equals more keywords; your name; your company’s name and a likely published response from the original complainer.

Several years ago, a client was mentioned in Ripoff Report. Not only was the business name published many times in the back-and-forth “discussions” but specific employee names were also published which caused this particular Ripoff Report claim to move up in search engine rankings on individual names. When the dust was settled and the complaint was resolved, many employees mentioned were now harmed by Ripoff Report.  The original complainer, though somewhat satisfied, could not even remove their original report.  The content remains forever.

What an absolute mess.

The Ripoff Report website suggests not hiring an online reputation management firm in order to fix the problem and they practically challenge anyone to file a lawsuit against them. In addition, you are offered the opportunity to file a “counterclaim” and have Ripoff Report review your matter for a $$$ fee, but there are no guarantees that the negative claim against you or your business will ever be removed.

So, how does one beat Ripoff Report?

Let’s first assume that you didn’t have an online reputation management program in place to help you avoid such trouble. Oh, someone could still file a Ripoff Report against you or your business, but a solid ORM program would likely keep these – and other false claims – from moving up in Google or other search engines.

Therefore, if you wake up tomorrow morning and see such a claim against you or your company, you need to get busy and get busy fast. This would include:

  • Investigate the Ripoff Report claim against you. Do not respond to the claim.
  • Where is it ranked in Google and other search engines on targeted keywords such as the name of your business or your name, etc.?
  • For any websites that are currently ranked lower (beneath) the Ripoff Report, you’ll need to update those websites (if you have login credentials) in order to help them move up in search results. Basically, your goal is to optimize the “good” stuff about you and your business so they’ll move up in search results and suppress Ripoff Report.
  • Write articles and blogs using the targeted keyword(s).
  • Take pictures of your company, staff, products etc. and get them published.
  • Create and publish YouTube videos and much, much more.

I would also consider talking to your company attorney for legal advice. If you don’t have time to battle Ripoff Report claims against you or your company, you should definitely consider hiring a professional online reputation management firm (with search engine optimization experience) to help you create more positive spin on your company and personal name in order to suppress negative news.

22. December 2015 · Comments Off on The Opportunities for Building Positive Reviews for Your Business Just Grew Exponentially · Categories: Mountain Woods Media, SEO, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , ,

by Leigh Drake, President, Mountain Woods Media, LLC

As a way to do some Facebook limitations testing and as a means of coming up with a new way to test potential interview candidates for our social media staff team, for a couple of weeks each morning I pushed myself to play with the Facebook Editor (https://www.facebook.com/editor) . This is an area of Facebook where you suggest areas or “edits” for improvement for business and place pages within the Facebook garden. The business pages suggested start out as places where you can make local business page editorial suggestions. As you become more adept (and pass Facebook’s muster) they will give you pages to suggest edits in far flung locations…like bars in the Texas desert, marketing businesses that are spamming keywords in alternative categories such as dentists, and fake pages you can report.

By helping me better assess Facebook activity for our clients’ various industries, it is also a funny way to pass the time over coffee — especially for business and media geeks. Facebook has succeeded in crowd sourcing a global editorial team that provides free edits of “business categories” to their business pages as a means of encouraging businesses to improve their business page content. There is a global team contest going on for the month of December, but you can still participate as an anonymous individual and the app will reward you personally with new levels and an accuracy rate. Am now just up to Level 12 with an 86% accuracy rate. I would probably have a higher accuracy rate if I hadn’t made some of my earliest edits “rebellion” edits for Trump Towers and businesses I had recently been burned by…but that’s another topic for another blog post.

Facebook Professional Services

As I started doing this for a few weeks, I became curious as to “why” Facebook was mobilizing and incentivizing a team of editors for all of these business pages. My question was answered when both Search Engine Land and WIRED magazine wrote articles regarding Facebook’s soft roll out of their “Professional Services” pages.

Facebook Takes on Yelp, but Doesn’t Get a Thumbs Up Yet by Brian Barrett on 12/15/15

Is “Facebook Professional Services” Facebook’s Stealth Project to Beat Yelp? Unannounced desktop-only feature gives people the ability to find the highest-rated businesses in a given area. by Martin Beck on 12/14/15

Apparently Facebook saw a window of opportunity for grabbing market share as there have been numerous rumors about Angie’s List being bought out or absorbed and Yelp and Google reviews enduring a plethora of small business lawsuits. We also wrote recently on our blog how Google Plus is Dropping Small Business Reviews.

This new Professional Services feature in Facebook is available to users anonymously via desktop by going to this link https://facebook.com/services . Visiting this link via Safari on a mobile device, took us to the page, but asked us to login to our Facebook account first. Visitors to the Professional Services area in Facebook are presented with a page saying “Find Local Businesses with the Best Facebook Reviews and Ratings” that has their current location pre-determined via a form box. We were a little puzzled as to how location suggestions were being routed as Facebook directed me to businesses only in Erlanger, Kentucky which is not really a “normal” shopping area in our area. For the sake of privacy, my Facebook profile is intentionally set to say I live in Northern Kentucky which is “normal” for 4000 users in our area. When we attempted to use the location override and insert our actual city location, we got the same thumbnail pictures results for Erlanger, KY which indicated the same businesses. But the sub-section of the page did serve up a logical assortment of business categories like wedding planners, business consultants, dentists, electricians, day cares, etc. Once I clicked on a specific category, I obtained better localized results for businesses in our area.

From the standpoint of building positive reviews; however, what was interesting is how many business results appeared with very few completed Facebook profiles, or reviews. Clearly, small businesses in our area need to get on board with enhancing their business profile pages within the Facebook walled garden. We see this as a golden opportunity for building positive business reviews for your business.  Take a look at your own business profile in Facebook and make sure it is what you want your customers to see.  If you are overwhelmed with the task, contact us and we can help.

Contact Mountain Woods Media for help with Facebook

 

11. December 2015 · Comments Off on Improve Local SEO, Increase Website Traffic and Earn More Sales by Publishing Videos · Categories: Mountain Woods Media, SEO, Training Courses · Tags: , ,


Customers, clients and website visitors all love videos. In fact, videos are getting more attention these days than photographs.

Videos keep customers on your website longer, especially when the video is informative and entertaining.

Don’t worry: you don’t need to hire an expensive video crew with fancy cameras; giant lights with all the glitz and glamor. And, you don’t have to buy an extra piece of equipment or software in order to create videos for your website.

Instead, for starters, use your smart phone along with free software to help get you started.

Customers don’t need flashy graphics and scrolling text. What they are looking for is information about how to solve a problem or how your company can help them with your goods and services.

Videos can be short (even one or two minutes), but try to keep them under 5 or 10 minutes if you can. Introduce yourself; explain the problem and offer the solution. Done!

Publish your videos on your company YouTube Channel and on your website (like we did in this blog post). Share your videos via your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).

You can see more of our videos on our YouTube Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBrvlgZtguugEfgmuYD-jcw)

09. December 2015 · Comments Off on Google Plus Dropping Small Business Reviews · Categories: ORM, SEO · Tags: , , ,

Google Plus Dropping Small Business ReviewsIt’s not like many were that excited about using Google+ anyhow, so it comes to no surprise few are shedding tears over the Google+ update removing local business reviews.

Yes, small businesses will probably continue to update, improve and optimize their Google+ page. After all, anything you can do to help your business on any Google platform is a good thing. Right?

However, small businesses like – and need – local reviews to help promote their products and services. It’s almost like Google isn’t that interested in small businesses anymore.

Google says reviews are still visible and accessible on Google Search and Google Maps, which is probably the real way most prospects and customers find your business. Business owners will now be able to respond to reviews in “Google My Business.”

Again, do you get the feeling Google is pushing small businesses away from Google+ and making business owners do something else in order to respond to online reviews?

Google has been – and will continue to be – very confusing with its online review process. Google Maps; Google Places; Google Plus; Google+ Local and now – poof! – no more reviews but you can go here and here and here.

No wonder why small business owners struggle with online reviews and trying to maintain a good online reputation for their company.

Remember, Google+ was supposed to be the Facebook killer giving individuals and businesses an alternative. Google+ never caught on as many asked the same question over and over “why do I need to be here?”

Don’t let Google’s small business strategy and failures with Google+ worry you. Focus instead on those online review websites that are increasing website traffic and helping you earn higher rankings in search engines (i.e., Yelp, Manta, CitySearch and many others).

24. November 2015 · Comments Off on Buy a Course, Get Free Consulting · Categories: Mountain Woods Media, ORM, SEO, Training Courses · Tags: , , , ,

How to get Free Consulting with Mountain Woods Media, LLCWhile there are huge advantages in e-learning and taking a course online, it’s always nice to have the option to ask additional questions and seek further help.

This is especially true if you’re facing battling a negative online reputation; want to improve your business reviews, or prefer to have a second opinion on your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

It’s because of these reasons, that we have decided to offer free consulting – yes, free – to anyone who purchases one of our courses on Udemy.com.

Here’s how our free consulting offer works:

  • Purchase any of our nine (9) Udemy courses. You can find a complete list here: http://bit.ly/1R3XQKX
  • Complete at least 10% of the course.
  • Receive an invitation link to connect with us on our private Slack.com account.
  • Consulting is limited to the topic relating to the purchased course.

Once you sign up for one of our courses, we’ll be sending you a “thank you” e-mail and remind you of our free consulting offer.

Slack.com invitations are sent out weekly to those who have completed the minimum requirements.

Consulting can include questions; evaluations; analysis; tips; tactics and ideas – anything that we can do to help you with your project or problem (other than actually doing the work for you, of course!).

Our Udemy courses are updated regularly as we are adding new lectures; new content, and updated lectures.

18. November 2015 · Comments Off on Creating an Online Reputation Management Plan · Categories: ORM, SEO, Training Courses · Tags: , ,

online reputation management planningToo often, businesses and individuals only react when something bad has happened.

A flat tire, for example, may have been prevented by replacing your bald, worn tires a week ago. The snow blower can’t start because the spark plug is old, etc.

The same is true with your online reputation. A negative review; news story or legal matter pops up and, before you know it, Google is ranking the “bad” news before the good stuff. Only then, do you kick it into high gear; high a freelancer who owns a magic wand who can sprinkle fairy dust on your reputation problem and make everything better again.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as emergency online reputation management. Just like search engine optimization, ORM takes time. Repairs aren’t going to be easy. It won’t be fast and it probably won’t be cheap.

Therefore, the best way to prevent negative information from creeping up in search engines is to have a strong online reputation management program in place. This way, the “good” stuff will already be in place; will be indexed by Google and other search engines and you’ll have a better chance of keeping negative items pushed down in search results.

Your online reputation management plan should include the following steps. However, remember: ORM is like search engine optimization. It never ends. You should always be working to make improvements and updates to make sure your reputation is up-to-date; fresh and solid. Old news and stale content won’t work when it comes to online reputation management (or SEO for that matter).

  • Make sure you have claimed; confirmed, and optimized your online business profile with online review websites. These include sites such as Yelp, Manta, CitySearch and many others. We offer a complete list of the “Top 25” review websites in our courses “Online Reputation Management: Handling Negative Reviews” (URL) and “Online Reputation Management: Earning Positive Reviews” (URL).
  • Write and publish a blog and keep it fresh with two or three blog posts per week. Great content usually beats any online reputation management problem.
  • Write and publish press releases on your website. This can be a blog post or you can publish your press release on a “media” page.
  • Participate daily in social media, including LinkedIn (business and person); Facebook; Twitter and many others.
  • Take pictures of everything and publish photos on your website and in your blog. Share them in your social media networks; on Flickr; Google Photos, etc.
  • Videos are big and they are getting bigger. Try to do at least one (1) video per week. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Information and advice offered in the video is far more important than the graphics and flashy backgrounds. Publish your videos on your YouTube Channel and share them via your social media networks. Also, give consideration to Vimeo for video publication.

Your company’s reputation is extremely important to potential customers. They want to feel good about who they are buying from and doing business with on a regular basis. It is a valuable business asset and should be treated with care.