Effective Video Communication

Effective Video Communication

Guest post by James Dean Palmer, digital media coach

 

We are all spending more time in front of a camera than ever before. Video is taking the place of meetings, networking events, presentations, pitches and more. And it seems clear that video conferencing isn’t going away any time soon.  Learning how to present your best self on camera is going to make you feel confident while strengthening existing connections and even landing new business.  

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, practice, PRACTICE!
video

Whether you’re recording a video, giving a presentation or participating in a meeting, practice makes perfect.  If this is a written presentation, speak it out loud enough times that you feel comfortable looking away from the text to make eye contact.  If it’s off-the-cuff, make sure you have a clear sense of the beginning, middle, and end.  Then do a test run.  Have some friends or coworkers hop on to a video call with you and do a practice run.  Make sure that they can hear and see you clearly.  Ask them for feedback.  

Pro tip: Record yourself and watch it back. Repeat. A lot.

Active Listening

How you listen is just as important as how you speak.  And because you’re on camera, participants will read your body language.  Do all of the things you normally do during an important conversation: sit up straight, smile, breath, and nod occasionally.  Do not check your email or pull out your phone or stare off into space.  Eliminate distractions like email notifications so you can stay focused. Adjust your display settings if looking at your own image is taking away from looking at the person speaking. The audio software in Zoom doesn’t allow for cross talk. Allow space for others on the call to complete their thought before you respond.  

Pro Tip: This one is for managers and team leaders. Make sure the mic gets passed. You may have to work harder to facilitate a conversation if some participants are less confident communicating via video conference. This requires being extra sensitive to the group dynamic.

Colorful Language

When it’s your turn, speak clearly and make sure you’re facing the mic (which is probably in your computer or camera).  It’s easy to let nerves and adrenaline push you too fast through your presentation.  Remember to slow down.  Figure out your big points and make sure they land using emphasis and silence.  Consider structuring your presentation with room for audience participation. This will keep your audience engaged and help you track their level of interest and comprehension before you get to the end.  If you receive feedback from your test run that you sound monotone remember that you can always play with the dynamics of pitch, volume, and tempo (variety is the spice of life and speech).

Pro Tip: See tip #1. I can’t say it enough. Practice is really the secret weapon when it comes to video.

Look the Part

A successful video meeting is about more than the content and structure of your presentation. Dress like you would if you were meeting in person (this means yes you have to wear pants and shoes too!). Talk to the eye of the camera as if it were the eye of the person you’re speaking to.  A camera isn’t the same as a mirror so make sure you double check your appearance in the camera before you start the meeting (or have a friend let you know in a practice run…noticing a pattern yet?).  Sit in a chair that gives you proper support and alignment.  

Pro Tip: Relax your shoulders.  Relax your jaw. And breath. If you’re anxious or tense, it will definitely show on camera.

While we all miss getting in rooms together, video technology has opened up a world of possibilities for many professionals. It can absolutely be a tool to help land new business, keep in touch and support team members working remotely . If you’re struggling with this new medium or if you want your team to look sharper when interfacing with clients, I can help you.  Whether it’s tech questions (believe me, that’s a whole piece unto itself), meeting etiquette, effective communication, or speech coaching, I’m your one stop shop for making a positive impression in a digital environment.  Check out my website for more information and contact me for a consultation. I look forward to learning about your business’ needs.

James Dean Palmer is a digital media coach specializing in helping people showcase their professionalism and confidence in an increasingly digital environment.  When social distancing became the new-normal, James began working with business leaders and their employees to help them navigate platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and other video conferencing platforms. James is an award-winning coach, producer, and director with 16 years of experience in the entertainment industry. James has a masters degree from Brown University and is a faculty member at Fordham University, NYU, SUNY Purchase and the Professional Performing Arts School in Manhattan.

 

 

Should your CPA Firm Switch from .com to .cpa?

Should your CPA Firm Switch from .com to .cpa?

This piece has been featured in the May 2020 edition of Sum News, published by Massachusetts Society of CPAS. 

You’ve seen web addresses that end with .org, .edu, .com, and likely others. These extensions, known as top-level domains, are now supplemented by over 1200 nuanced and private extensions like Amazon’s .aws. Now it’s public accounting’s turn with the 2020 roll-out of .cpa.  The launch of .cpa is being administered by CPA.com, the AICPA’s technology subsidiary. The AICPA won the rights to the .cpa domain from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization that oversees domains, and they are encouraging CPA firms to make the switch.  Let’s look at the Pros and Cons, and what it would take to make the change if that’s the direction you decide to go in.

The Case for Changing to the .cpa Domain

Nearly 360 million unique domain names were registered worldwide as of the third quarter of 2019. More than half of those used .com and .net domains. These generic domain names don’t tell you anything about the site owner’s expertise or industry. By contrast, using the .cpa domain signals “trust and distinction,” according to CPA.com. At the very least, anyone who sees that your website name ends in .cpa will immediately know what it is that you do.

The AICPA is committed to maintaining a high brand reputation for the CPA designation.  With cyber criminals rampant online and active in their email phishing attempts, the AICPA took measures with .cpa to improve cyber security. Erik Asgeirsson, President & CEO of CPA.com, says that the difference between the .cpa domain and other domains (like .com) will be a higher level of security. The registry that will run the .cpa domain will monitor it for malware and malicious activity, he says, which doesn’t happen with general domains like .com.

cpa.comBarry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, the president and CEO of the AICPA said in the AICPA press release  “We want the public to have confidence that someone using a .cpa domain address for email or a website is affiliated with the CPA profession.” Therefore, only approved CPA professionals will be allowed to register .cpa domain names.  The aim of this is to increase confidence in CPA firm websites and email communications. Phishing strategies include  creating look-alike domain names to trick people with illegitimate sites or illegitimate emails. Let’s say there’s a firm named Miller, Landon, Quinn & Thomas, and its website is mlqtllc.com. If a cyber criminal wanted to deceive the firm’s clients into providing personal financial data, he could create a similar-looking site called m1qtllc.com. A client who receives an email with that link might not look closely enough to notice one letter had been changed, and could be tricked into providing personal data. But if the firm’s site used the .cpa domain, any look-alike domain would be noticeably different.

Potential Downsides to the .cpa Domain

While changing domains could help you from a branding and security perspective, it will hurt your SEO (how your site’s pages rank and appear in search results) strategy for a year or more.  Switching domains can lower your site’s page rankings due to Google’s preference for sites that have longer history and performance (e.g.- established click-through rates, consistently fresh content, inbound links, no security issues). Properly redirecting your site from .com  to .cpa (see the next section for more on this) tells Google that you’d like to confer the .com site performance to the .cpa site, but it’s not 100%.  Also, there’s nothing you can do about the history (age) of the site; that will start again at zero.  Lastly, Google has confirmed that new domain extensions will offer no ranking advantage over traditional .com or .org domains.

In addition, we’ll have to see how much marketing effort the AICPA puts into promoting the .cpa domain to the general public.  Without some unified roll-out, your clients may see the .cpa and actually shy away from it vs feeling more comforted, since any change can be met with hesitancy due to cyber security concerns.

The offline expense of a domain change will include updating and reprinting items that have your domain name on them such as your business cards, stationary, folders, banner stands, and other printed items.  Be sure to take this expense into account when making the switch.

Domain Change Logistics

Changing your domain won’t require you to change your entire site, or rebuild it from scratch. The process is like forwarding your mail with the USPS. The process requires attention to detail and knowledge on how to redirect site traffic correctly.  It’s critical not to take any shortcuts here.  Instead of redirecting all pages from your .com domain to the homepage of the new .cpa domain, you’ll need to execute a thorough and in depth 301 redirect mapping plan so that each page is sent to its new equivalent page.  For example, you would send mlqtllc.com/team to mlqtllc.cpa/team.

Making the transition should be fairly smooth, though there may be some hiccups. When your site domain changes from .com to .cpa, anyone who has bookmarked the old address should be automatically redirected to the new address if the redirects were implemented correctly. Because many of your contacts are likely wary of phishing scams, and may be alarmed when they’re redirected to a new page, you may want to acknowledge the change by sending out an email or adding a notification message on the site.

In addition to your website’s name, your firm email addresses should also be updated to match. For the fictional firm of Miller, Landon, Quinn & Thomas, their website would change from mlqtllc.com to mlqtllc.cpa. An employee’s email address might change from jsmith@mlqtllc.com to jsmith@mlqtllc.cpa.

The new .cpa domain isn’t available just yet. CPA.com is still working to meet ICANN requirements and is preparing the technical elements necessary for the launch. There’s no word yet on exactly how much it will cost to adopt the new domain. CPA.com only says that prices will be “competitive with market rates,” which is about $15 a year per domain.  Early registration will run through the first half of 2020, and the domain should be generally available to the community by the end of the year.

For now, interested CPAs can learn more here. I’ll be sharing updates as information becomes available, but please reach out if you want me to directly inform you of anything I learn. I’m sure you know you can always contact me with questions about this new domain, or anything related to your website.  If you decide to make the switch, my team can help implement that with you.  We can work together on everything from the purchase of your domain name through the AICPA’s process through to re-mapping your website properly and updating your stationary.

 

 

Content that Connects: Get More Clicks and Conversations

Content that Connects: Get More Clicks and Conversations

Do you remember the childhood thrill of getting a pencil with your name printed on it? Maybe you recall twirling racks of personalized keychains in gift shops, looking to spot your own name. (If yours is an uncommon first name, you might still be jealous of the Kevins and Sarahs of the world, who could always see themselves represented.)  These days, it takes more than seeing your name in print to get your attention. And yet, there are a lot of marketers out there who are still focused on “personalized marketing” – basically, the idea that putting a recipient’s name into the subject line of an email or onto a postcard’s first line will compel the recipient to pay attention to the message.

Personally, I think this is crap. All it means is that you have a database of people’s names and that your email or printer has a way to do variable inputs. Ten years ago this might have been an impressive technological trick, but it’s basic stuff at this point; just about anyone can figure out how to personalize emails and other communications. This alone does NOT equal good marketing.   So what DOES constitute good personalized marketing?   Your goal is to create a “must read” instead of “default delete” newsletter.  It’s more work, but it’s worth it, and here’s how it’s done.  

Database Segmentation

Your database of contact information for clients and potential clients is absolutely a huge asset, but a good marketing strategy uses that database meaningfully, not just to pull first names for “personalized” email subject lines. Good marketing means segmenting your database so that you can present each audience with the content that would be of interest to them.

Just as importantly, it means not giving them articles they don’t care about. Picture your own inbox. How many emails do you get each day that aren’t relevant or interesting to you? Do you notice the same companies spamming you over and over with these messages? That’s not the kind of name recognition you want for your own firm. You want to cut through the clutter in your target reader’s inbox, to be a “must read” sender instead of a “default to delete” sender.

It’s more important than ever to address this need because cutting through that clutter has gotten even more difficult in the last few years. Outlook, Gmail and other email inboxes now create present “focused” / “primary” and “promotional” / “other” tabs. Every email sent through an email system (like Mailchimp or ConstantContact) is going to go into the recipient’s “promotional” inbox automatically, and you need to get your audience to move them to the “focused” inbox so they actually see these messages.

As an example, a CPA firm might have clients in a range of industries and specialties. The firm might segment separate lists for Construction & Real Estate, Manufacturing, Healthcare, and Nonprofit audiences. Each of these audiences has different interests. This firm might send a “Lean Production R&D tax credits” article to the Manufacturing list only, but send an “Opportunity Zone” article to C&RE, Manufacturing, and Healthcare because it’s a topic potentially applicable to all of those audiences.

What Does it Take to Create Segments?

Effectively employing this strategy means you need more than one list, more than one newsletter and enough content to regularly communicate with each group. How do you do that? You may need to divide and conquer within your firm by assigning writing tasks to various people to share the load, get help from outside writers, or round-up a regular suite of guest bloggers. You may also choose to curate well-written articles from reputable third parties to bolster your content quantity in the newsletter and on your social media. If you choose the latter, it’s best if you include an opinion on the piece; maybe you expand on something the writer missed, highlight the most important point or even disagree with something in the piece. (If you don’t have anything to add, why wouldn’t the reader just follow the third party instead of you?)

A firm of any size can make this work. If this strategy is new to you, just pick one industry to start with. Continue to send your general newsletter but also create a second newsletter with content just for that one industry group. Do NOT send them the general email – remember, we’re segmenting, not doubling the number of emails a client receives from you. You can include any tangentially important content that you created along with curated third-party content to round it out. It’s not glamorous, but it is effective.  

From Content to Conversations  

Final thought: Blog posts educate, but people who are truly interested in a firm visit service pages or bio pages. Include links to those in your articles so that anyone who’s in buying mode can move along to those pages and easily contact you. People who are in learning mode will be willing to read more articles about the same topic, so include links to other blog posts in the same category to keep them on your site longer.  

Your website and email list are powerful tools that you have right at your fingertips. Take the next step of getting the right content in front of the right people. If you’re ready to take your blog to the next level with content that connects reach out to me today.

Website Accessibility and the ADA: What is My Responsibility?

Website Accessibility and the ADA: What is My Responsibility?

Website accessibility is simply a new application of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the digital era. As a culture, we understand that it’s important to ensure full access to places of public accommodation (movie theatres, supermarkets, hotels, local town offices, etc.) for people living with disabilities—and now we must do the same with digital properties. For example, a person who is blind needs to have the ability to check his or her bank account online just like a sighted person can.

As much as 20% of the U.S. population has some type of disability, and many of these lead to serious barriers for web and app use. Visual, auditory and dexterity impairments can limit people from accessing web content. As such, the onus is on content publishers and website owners to make sure that our digital properties are accessible to everyone.

How to Make a Website Accessible

The tools and best practices have been around, essentially, as long as the internet itself. But as websites have developed over time and benefited in many ways from technological and graphical advances, focus on accessibility has waned. This has led to a high number (90% or more according to some studies) of sites falling well short of  ADA requirements.

The good news: there is a proper way to code and publish content that allows for appropriate access to all—and it’s not very difficult to achieve. Simply by following guidelines and best practices, we can resolve accessibility issues. Adaptive (or assistive) technology takes care of the rest for us.

Groundbreaking tools like JAWS allow blind and low-vision users to hear the content of a website read to them out loud—or even utilize new Braille technology on a refreshable surface. Just as effectively, more established technologies like closed-captioning videos can help users who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. And users with dexterity impairments can utilize specialized keyboards to navigate websites instead of relying on a mouse.  While businesses don’t need to provide these tools to users, they should create websites that enable the user’s tool to work properly.  Obviously, a video without close-captions cannot be read aloud.  

What the Law Says

Courts across the nation (Federal and state alike) have determined that the rules of the ADA apply to websites and other digital entities, and those decisions have been upheld by the highest courts. Companies used to think that a lawsuit would be thrown out for being frivolous or petty.  Thankfully this mindset is becoming a thing of the past as large and small businesses have lost lawsuits and are obligated to follow the ADA. For example, Domino’s Pizza was sued because a user who was blind couldn’t fully use its website through screen-reading software. Supermarket chain Winn-Dixie suffered a similar lawsuit and also lost. But smaller firms, like the Avanti Hotel in Palm Springs, CA was forced to deactivate portions of its website due to a similar suit.  In Massachusetts, bed and breakfast and small inns down the Cape have seen a slew of lawsuits.   

What You Should Look For on Your Own Site

Most websites that suffer from accessibility issues have similar problems—and most of them are relatively painless. The most common issues tend to be missing ALT tags, form elements not being properly labeled, videos without captions, color contrast and font size issues, and a handful of other best practices being ignored. Forms can be particularly important, as they are often used in site searches, ecommerce, contact pages, and job applications.

Many issues seem to exist on blog posts—many, many sites have dozens or hundreds of blog posts with images missing ALT tags. Embedded iframes from YouTube, Vimeo, reservation software, and other sources are often not coded properly. The same goes for many widgets and plugins on popular websites systems like WordPress and Shopify.

Most of the issues mentioned above are “behind the scenes.”  This means that when a site undergoes an ADA compliance review, the end result will look vastly the same to the majority of users, while being revolutionarily better for people living with disabilities.  

What Should I Do Next?

Taking an assessment of your site is straightforward—and can lend insight into where you stand with accessibility. Tools like Google’s Lighthouse and WebAIM can provide a cursory look at your site and identify key problems. Once you know what kind of shape your site is in, you can take the appropriate steps for remediation.

Whether your take on website accessibility is CYA or that now that you’re informed you know it’s the right and smart thing to do, 2020 should be the year your firm’s site becomes ADA compliant.  All you have to do to get onto this path is to contact me today and we’ll work together to make your site accessible to all.

A note to people living with disabilities.  I apologize that my site is not yet ADA compliant!  I am under contract with a web agency and am actively building a new site that will be fully accessible for everyone.

Co-authored with Mike McKenna from Adapatable

Podcasting: How To and Why

Podcasting: How To and Why

Podcasts, you know, video without the images?   If you have something to say but won’t get in front of the camera (even though video is a great marketing activity), then podcasting might be the way to go.  After all, podcasts are now a deeply ingrained part of the daily lives of millions of listeners, which is remarkable considering they barely existed just a decade ago. People tune in to podcasts in the car, at home, in the gym, even at work.  

podcastungFrom a consumer’s perspective, podcasts are about entertainment and education. For marketers, branded podcasts (those shows made by brands or businesses instead of individuals) are another way to get people to engage with your brand while leading with education.

Virtually anyone can start a podcast, so why should your firm start one too? Considering the scope, power and relative ease of podcasting, a better question might be – why wouldn’t you start one?

Why Podcasting Matters

Simply put, the people you want listening to you are listening to podcasts. Research confirms that podcasting continues to grow in popularity, year over year, with no plateau in sight. In its 2019 Infinite Dial survey, Edison Research estimates that 62 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly. iTunes has more than half a million unique podcasts on its platform alone.

Launching a branded podcast gives you access to your audience in a way that other types of marketing don’t. Think about how differently a consumer engages with a TV ad than with a podcast. A TV ad might be on for 30 seconds in the background, while a podcast listener might spend 30 or 45 minutes primarily focused on an episode while doing laundry. 

Podcasting also lets you improve name recognition, boost engagement and maybe even establish yourself as an expert in your field. It’s a way to talk about your services and demonstrate your skills without having to be overly salesy. One other bonus? If you’re not already a strong verbal communicator, podcasting will force you to sharpen those skills. There’s nothing like listening to a recording of yourself to make you confront and address verbal tics.

How to Get Started

Unfortunately, podcasting isn’t an “If you build it, they will come” kind of endeavor. Remember, there are more than half a million options for the audience to choose from. You might only get one shot to impress a listener. Don’t fake it ’til you make it – start making a rock solid plan long before hitting record for the first time.

Logistics: Making Plans

Good podcasts may sound effortless to the audience, but there’s a ton of background work required to create a compelling show. Ask yourself lots of questions about what you envision for your podcast. First, think about who your podcast is for. What kind of typical audience member do you want to appeal to? Why will this audience want to listen to your show? What value will you offer them?

Even after you’ve answered those questions, you’ll have dozens more decisions to make. What will the podcast’s name be, and how will you name episodes? Will you have one main host or two or more co-hosts? Who’s the best fit as a long-term host? Will you have recurring segments in every episode? Will you interview guests? How long will each episode be? Will you be able to release a new episode every week, or is it more realistic to aim for monthly releases? Will you script the show, work from a bulleted outline, make it up as you go along, or some combination thereof?

Equipment

If you’re not familiar with podcasting at all, getting set up with the right equipment might seem like the most daunting part. In reality, figuring out your setup might be one of the simpler parts of getting started with podcasting.

A good USB/XLR microphone is your most important asset here. It doesn’t matter how great the show is; audiences won’t stick with a podcast that has bad audio. A number of podcast apps and platforms make it easy to capture your audio. Audacity is a popular choice for beginners. Your computer may also have existing recording software that will work, like Garageband.

A digital recorder is a must-have if you’ll be doing any recording away from your home base, or if you’re concerned about computer glitches causing your recording program to crash mid-show. Look for one that allows recording of multiple tracks at once, ideal for capturing conversations among multiple people; the Zoom H5 Four-Track Portable Recorder is one well-reviewed and relatively affordable option.

A few accessories help you get the best possible audio. Pop filters muffle unpleasant popping sounds that mics pick up. Mic stands allow you to keep your hands free and minimize the shuffling noises that tend to get picked up by handheld mics. Having a mixer isn’t absolutely necessary, but you may want to start using one as you get more comfortable with recording and want to tweak your audio or balance more than a few voices.

Still daunted? There’s also always the option to kick off with a podcasting starter kit. These packages include mics and other basic accessories a beginning podcaster needs.

Finding a Home

Where will the audio files of your show live? Hosting the podcast on your own website isn’t feasible for most businesses. Each episode will be its own large file, and most web hosting services don’t offer the necessary bandwidth to accommodate podcasts. A podcast hosting service can give your show a home and create the RSS feed that you’ll need to submit the podcast to iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify and other podcast directories. Some WordPress plans also allow for audio and video uploading, so WordPress customers may already have that as a hosting option.

Making Your Mark

What will set your podcast apart from all the competition? How will you build brand recognition? When you’re just getting started with your show, there’s constant marketing work to be done even when the microphones are turned off.

You’ll want to think about designing cover art that grabs a viewer’s attention, and possibly recording original music to start and end your episodes. Think about recording at least one test episode, and solicit feedback from the regular podcast fans around you. To grow your audience, network with other podcasters who might be willing to cross promote. Use social media to tease and promote new episodes and upcoming guests. Meanwhile, keep expectations reasonable. It may take months of work before the numbers start ticking up. 

Podcasting is one way to demonstrate that your firm is operating in the modern era of marketing.  There are many decisions to make about podcasting, but deciding to move forward is certainly the first step.  Contact me and we’ll begin this journey together.

YouTube Optimization and Best Practices for Businesses

YouTube Optimization and Best Practices for Businesses

It’s 2019, so your business probably has (or at least wants to have) a digital video strategy. However, you need more than just great content for your videos to be a success. Understanding YouTube optimization and best practices are the keys to getting more views and likes, and hopefully translating that engagement into new or repeat business.

Creating Your Account

youtube optimizationFirst, create a Google Brand account and a YouTube for Business account. Remember, YouTube is owned by Google, and it’s basically a Google search engine for videos. This will be really important when we start talking about SEO, and a big part of why we’re focusing on YouTube as opposed to other video hosting sites such as Vimeo. A Google Brand account will allow you and others in your company to manage your YouTube channel and it will be separate from personal accounts.

Fill out Your About Page to Improve SEO

Start off on the right foot with these tips for your About page:

  • Write a keyword-rich bio.
  • Upload an eye-catching banner image (2560 x 1440 pixels, 2MB max).
  • Link to your website and social media profiles.
  • Include location and contact information to help clients and Google find you.

Tips for Video Creation and Scheduling

Once you have your channel set up, have a few videos ready to go so you can upload them as a batch. You can schedule them to go live on a pre-determined schedule. This minimizes issues if your production schedule gets off track.

  • Choose a schedule and stick to it. This makes your page seem more professional and can improve viewership since fans will know when to expect new content.
  • Be clear about the goal of each video and how you’re measuring its effectiveness. Time is money, so don’t get carried away with ideas that are creative but not necessarily productive.
  • Establish a handful of content goals. This will lead to more diverse videos. For example, your video strategy might include promoting services, establishing personal connections with staff and discussing industry trends. You’ll need to create a variety of videos to meet each of those needs.
  • Go into detail about products or services. Customers love to watch YouTube before purchasing and they want details.
  • Quality, quality, quality. Videos that look good, sound good and are interesting lead to increased watch time. The result? Better SEO, more loyal viewers and a better YouTube ranking.

Analytics

Now that you’ve optimized your channel and you’re making high-quality videos, pay attention to the numbers that will help you fine-tune your strategy and understand what your viewers want. Start with the basics by paying attention to watch times (how long viewers spend watching each video), location and demographics of your viewers. You also need to monitor comments for qualitative data that may not come through in the analytics. Along those lines, make time to watch other companies’ videos. Not only is this a useful way to see what peers and competitors are doing, but it’s equally important to engage on YouTube as on any other social media platform. For example, you may get a mention on someone else’s video and you want to be sure to respond!

Ads
Make sure your competitors are not running ads on your videos. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll want to make sure to turn those ads off. This can be blocked using Google Ad Manager.

SEO
Now for the age-old question: If a video was uploaded to YouTube but wasn’t SEO optimized, was it really uploaded at all? The numbers might say “no.” With so much video content available, SEO is the key to getting your videos seen by the people looking for your content. Follow these guidelines for SEO optimization:

  • Use a keyword-rich title.
  • Captions improve SEO and the user experience. There are several services out there that will provide captions, or you can use YouTube’s captioning service. Bonus – captions make video content more accessible!
  • Write an effective description with a minimum of 150 words. Front-load important keywords. If it’s a long video, include timestamps so viewers can easily skip to what they are interested in. Link to other new or relevant videos on your channel.
  • Add up to 15 tags.

Other Tips and Tricks

Keep in mind YouTube’s ranking factors:

  • Video Title, Keywords, and Description
  • Video Quality
  • Viewing Time, Viewer Count, and User Experience

Encourage viewers to subscribe in every video and in the video description.

Utilize playlists to keep your viewers watching your channel and not clicking away.

The first 15 seconds are key! Open with a question, set an expectation, etc. There are many tutorials on creating openers out there.

85% of videos are watched without sound (largely due to mobile) so soundless or captioned videos can get a lot of views. Soundless videos under 3 minutes can be very successful. On the other hand, long form videos are really good for SEO. Longer videos mean more time viewers can watch. Experiment with both.


Enhancing Videos

YouTube offers a variety of tools to make videos more engaging and interactive. For example, you can create a custom thumbnail that appears when the video is listed. This allows you to include a photo, text or a screen shot of your choice rather than the randomized options from YouTube. Try using cards (small, transparent calls to action that expand when clicked). Use them to direct viewers to your website, online store or even other videos on your channel. Since attracting subscribers is critical for increasing views, create video watermarks that function as custom subscribe buttons. To add them to your videos, follow YouTube’s simple instructions. Finally, strategically select other channels your viewers may follow. Participating in the community will benefit you in the long run.

Video can be a fun, personal and direct way to engage with clients, new prospects and your community. It just takes a bit of strategy, patience and creativity. Understanding YouTube optimization and best practices will help achieve the results you’re after. Whether you feel lost when it comes to your YouTube presence, or you’re ready to take your video strategy to the next level, contact me today. I look forward to helping you reach your goals!

Up Your B2B Social Media Game

Up Your B2B Social Media Game

Teens prefer Snapchat, women gravitate to Pinterest and nearly everyone’s on Facebook. Social media is no longer a new phenomenon: it’s a way of life, one that’s been embraced by consumers from all age groups and demographic backgrounds. That’s why social media has become the domain of not just B2C businesses, but B2B businesses too. No matter your industry, the people you’re trying to reach are on Twitter and Instagram, so you have to be there too. Excelling at social media is one of the ways your brand sets itself apart from the competition.

Home in on the Right Sites

brb social mediaThe social media landscape is vast and ever-changing. The sites that are most popular with consumers aren’t necessarily the right sites for B2B marketing. Factors unique to your marketing needs will determine what sites make sense for you to focus on.

Industry comes into play here. A company that sells products to interior designers might benefit from maintaining an active Pinterest account, which might not be as useful for a tax firm. Where your audience is located matters, too. Facebook is a valuable tool for connecting with local businesses, but if you’re hoping to reach an international audience, the strategy might be a little different. Using Facebook won’t help you reach Chinese businesses, since the platform is banned there – WeChat is a hugely popular alternative. And LinkedIn continues to be a powerful resource for B2B marketing.

Identify Brands to Emulate

Because what appeals to decision makers in one industry won’t appeal to decision makers in another industry, there’s not just one way to use social media for B2B marketing. So it’s useful to look at what the social media leaders in your industry are doing, and why it’s working for them. For example, Novartis drives traffic to its Instagram channel not by posting dry or informative facts about pharmaceuticals, but by spotlighting individual employees and its own charitable endeavors.

It can be just as useful to study the ways in which brands less successfully use social media. Check out your competitors’ social media presences and take note of their follower counts and engagement metrics (how many comments/shares/likes posts regularly get). Identifying the things that the low performers have in common – do they post very infrequently, or routinely post typo-laden content? – should help you zero in on some things that you can do differently.

Create Must-See Content

Getting your target companies to land on your LinkedIn or Facebook pages is just one step. Getting them to stay and engage with you instead of scrolling past is a separate challenge. Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this – figuring out exactly what kind of content will appeal to your target audience depends on your business, their tastes and your marketing goals. Infusing posts with humor and using compelling visuals is almost always a good starting point. It’s a crowded field, and providing content that’s more interesting, useful or entertaining than your competitors’ is a way to stand out.

Engage, Engage, Engage

If you’re only using your social media channels to drop new posts, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities. Engaging with other companies on social media helps you build name recognition and a reputation for being dynamic and responsive. It also humanizes your brand and allows you to answer questions and identify new leads. Acknowledging and responding to every post might not be possible, depending on your resources, but it’s something to strive for. Creating a social media response policy is an important step in making sure that all company-posted responses are appropriate and on-brand, especially if multiple employees share this duty.

Measure Your Metrics

There are a lot of ways to measure social media metrics, like looking at engagement stats and tracking conversion rates. Your social media channels give you actionable data every single day. Even if the data you get is grim, it’s useful. For example, if you load five Facebook posts in one week and only one gets any engagement, that tells you something worked about that one post that didn’t work about any of the others. Maybe the others went up in the morning and the successful post went up near the end of the workday, suggesting that your target audience is most active on social media around that time.

Your social media presence is just one part of a complete marketing strategy, but it’s a critically important one. In the golden age of social media, underestimating its power and reach means leaving money on the table. If you would like to take your social media presence to the next level, I’d be happy to help. Reach out today and we can discuss the unique needs of your business.

Why Professional Services Firms Need a Video Strategy

Why Professional Services Firms Need a Video Strategy

I talk with more lawyers, CPAs, insurance specialists and other professional service leaders than most people.   Not one advisor had ever said they went to law school or studied for the CPA exam so they could write articles or – even worse – get in front of a camera for a website video.  That said, I’m going to take the unpopular stance of trying to convince you that it’s important enough to work on expanding your comfort zone.  Incorporating video into your digital marketing strategy is a powerful way to move your business to the next level. Here are just a handful of the most compelling reasons why your firm should embrace this here-to-stay trend.

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Local SEO:  How Prospects Find Your Professional Services Firm Online

Local SEO:  How Prospects Find Your Professional Services Firm Online

What is “local SEO”?  It’s how well your site ranks in search engines when someone is trying to find services near them.  Example searches include phrases like:  “real estate lawyer, Boston” or “payroll company in Massachusetts” or even “bookkeeper near me”.   (or “outsourced marketing near Framingham” wink!)

The readers of this blog are, by and large, looking for clients within driving distance of their office, not nationally.  Therefore, you care a lot more about the traffic to your website that is from people searching within a 50 – 100 mile radius.  So, how do you get more website visitors who fit that profile?  Focus on “local SEO”.

Baseline Local SEO Practices:

  • Cover your bases with basic SEO best practices:
    • keyword-rich meta data on each page and blog post
    • lots of links between different pages on your site (especially service pages and partner bio pages)
    • fast load-time for desktop and mobile
    • calls to action on every page with “goals” tracking in Google Analytics
  • Embed a Google Map to your Contact Us page as this helps Google know where your office is.
  • Mobile friendly (that the pages look good and that the navigation works well on a phone screen). This is especially important because Google Maps using your embedded map and suggests your site when people search for ‘near me’ or ‘near current location’ on their phone.
  • Claim Google Business listing and make sure it’s up to date (and consistent across all places where you’ve claimed your business such as Yelp, YellowPages, or any other industry directories.) It should match what is on your website, too. Since things can change, set a calendar reminder for every 6 months to check on the listings.

Bonus Local SEO Practices:

  • Google Posts – Google gives preference to posts made from Google Business accounts
    • Posts expire after 7 days so keep on it! (Write them in advance and then set a calendar reminder to post weekly)
  • Ask clients to review your firm on Google and Yelp. There might be other local or industry specific directories that are worth some effort as well.

Write blog posts that include geographic terms:

  • People care about their communities. So, when your people get involved in an area nonprofit, write about it!  Include the name of the organization you supported or the event you attended, why it was meaningful to your firm.  In this post you are going to include the LOCATION of the event or organization so that Google sees that keyword and has more confidence in your location.  If you can get a quote from someone at the organization, even better.  The caution here is that you want your blog to full of information that your reader cares about so too many “about us” posts can be off-putting.  For Google to feel like it knows what the blog post is about, the length needs to be 300 words.
  • You can also write (anonymous or not) case studies. Include the industry of the client (also a great keyword!), and the LOCATION, then talk about the issues and your solution.  Again, this needs to be 300 words.
  • Partner with firms in related fields to co-write articles or share your content on their site. Everyone needs help writing content, so any firm should be eager to share or collaborate on high quality, original content. At the bottom of your article, be sure to include a link to the author’s bio and location of your firm.

Lastly, consider adding a call to action at the end of each blog… if you’re looking for local SEO or other online marketing services for your professional services firm in Greater Boston, contact me!

You can also read my other articles for professional services firms on SEO and SEM!