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!

 

EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for Professional Services Firms

EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for Professional Services Firms

“The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years.”  says the author of eugdpr.org.

What is GDPR?

GDPR protects personal data of EU residents including name and surname; home address; email address such as name.surname@company.com; location data (for example the location data function on a mobile phone); Internet Protocol (IP) address; cookie ID; the advertising identifier of your phone.   The new rules go into effect on May 25, 2018.

A broad overview of the components of GDPR that could most impact professional services firms:

  • Breach Notification:  People must be notified of a data break within 72 hours of its discovery if it is likely to “result in a risk for the rights and freedoms of individuals”.
  • Right to Access:  People can request a written overview as to whether, how, and for what purpose, their personal data is being used.
  • Right to be Forgotten (Data Erasure):  People can request that their personal data be erased, stop being used, and not be shared with third parties.
  • Privacy by Design:  Data protection should be built into a process that collects personal data from the beginning, not layered on afterward.  The minimal amount of information needed to provide the service should be collected.

GDPR is comprehensive and far reaching.  Please note that I am NOT (repeat NOT) an expert on this.  Please consult your firm’s IT director, lawyer, professional liability insurance provider, or firm advisor for actual guidance.   This article is meant only to get you thinking – and is not intended as advice!

Does GDPR affect your firm? 

Well… it’s hard to say.  The GDPR is not intended for every business on the planet.  US-based, US-focused businesses are not the target.  However, if your firm offers services that are available to, and of interest to, residents or businesses in the EU, take note.  Assuming you need to be GDPR compliant, let’s look at a few examples what to review in your online marketing program:

  • Your firm’s website If your firm’s website uses Google Analytics (which it should and probably does) or cookies, then you’re collecting data on site visitors, meaning that your site is impacted by GDPR’s protection of EU residents’ IP addresses.  Google has created new settings in Analytics to help with GPDR compliance so that’s a good place to start.
  • Your firm’s email newsletter or ebook download is probably available through an opt-in process on your website.  This means that someone from the EU may subscribe any time.  An EU resident’s name and email address are both protected by GDPR, and once you have them, you need to keep them safe, be able to find them in your system, provide a history of how they were used, and remove them upon request.
  • Your firm’s database probably has thousands of contacts in it.  If any of them are EU residents, you need to know the intent the person had in giving you their information.  If it was, for instance, to download an ebook from your website, then your right to use the data may end there even if you have 10 other ideas for how to market to that person. One note is that you have to tell people how you will use their data.
  • Your firm’s social media profiles should be OK because it will be the role of the site (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) to comply with GDPR.  Since your social media is probably intended to drive traffic to your website, keep in mind the website issues described above.

Growing Data Privacy Concerns Around the World

The EU is blazing this trail, but it’s not just EU residents who are interested in data security and privacy.  I have a feeling that other countries (the US?) will follow.  The penalties for non-compliance with GDPR are huge so it’s prudent to pay attention now.   Consider continuing your education on this topic at the EU’s official page on GDPR or consult your firm’s professional liability insurance provider.

If you have questions, please reach out.  We can find an answer together!

 

Social media is essential but not everything

Social media is essential but not everything

I had the honor of speaking at the Management of an Accounting Practice Conference hosted by the Mass Society of CPAs on December 1st.   The attendees were an amazing group of firm leaders.   Since I had a “speaker” badge I was often asked about my topic.  In my mind “How the Fastest Growing Firms are Spending their Marketing Budgets” it is about firm growth and ROI in marketing.    After all, I would tell them, slow growing and fast growing firms spend the same amount but their firm growth rates differ drastically.  But that’s not the implication these firm leaders heard me say – which is fascinating to me and led me to write this article.

Everyone likes to seem smart – particularly professional services advisors who are respected and paid to have the answers.  So I understand that these firm leaders wanted to “have the answer” as they start a conversation about marketing.  What were the next words out of their mouths 90% of the time?  SOCIAL MEDIA

And my brain comes to a screeching halt.  SOCIAL MEDIA????

I mean no disrespect.  OK.  Sure.  Firms need social media.  But really?  In my mind social media such a small piece of the marketing mix to be hearing it 90% of the time as a reaction to the idea of strategic marketing.

Let’s explore what practical role social media can play in a firm’s marketing mix.

LinkedIn:  If you do nothing else, every professional services firm must have a presence on LinkedIn.  This includes both a firm company page and profiles for your team members.  In fact, I’d be quite satisfied if you only have LinkedIn social accounts.

  • Your company page should be maintained with articles from your blog and other “alerts” that you see from third party news sources when there are law changes or events that impact your target markets. Occasionally you can share something about your firm culture like a photo from a volunteer day or a firm outing.   You should post to your LinkedIn company page on a monthly basis at a bare minimum.   Encourage your employees to visit the company page when they are on LinkedIn to “like” or “comment” on recent posts so that the articles are shared with the employee’ networks.
  • Team members’ profiles should include a broad description of the firm but can represent the individual’s area of focus more specifically. The “Headline” and “Summary” along with the “Experience” list are the most important sections to focus on.  Prioritize and limit the number of “Skills” since LinkedIn only displays three at a time.  The two most important activities on LinkedIn are connecting with relevant people like clients and referral sources, and sharing firm news from the company page.

Facebook:  If you want to add Facebook to the mix, you’ll need one post per week to share.  You’ll also want to share more images and more “culture” building posts like firm news and employee-spotlight type posts since Facebook primarily focuses on engaging people not companies.

  • Facebook’s algorithm makes it tricky to get displayed in people’s news feeds so many of your posts will not reach as far as you’d like. Facebook will allow you throw money at this problem, which you might want to do if you’re posting a job or other call-to-action type message like a seminar or webinar.
  • Encourage your employees to follow and share your Facebook account and to “tag” each other in photos… the SOCIAL in social media.
  • Don’t let an employee set-up your Facebook account on their email because if/when that person leaves, you want to be able to access to maintain the account. Be sure that multiple people are admin (including partners) on the account.

YouTube:  If you can create video content (which anyone with a smartphone can do these days), consider a YouTube account.  Expectations about production value are way down so you can do this without a camera crew.

  • Aim for short videos – 1 – 3 minutes in length. With everyone’s short attention spans these days, match your content to their personalities.   Any topic can be broken down into smaller pieces.
  • When you write an article or when a new government rule comes out, make a short video about it in addition to written form content. Some people would rather watch/listen than read.  You can even “tease” the article if you’re referencing something quickly that gets technical attention in the article.
  • Videos are also great for posting on your other social media accounts and to your blog. Google loves video!

Twitter:  Committing to a Twitter account will require time year-round on a daily basis.  Be sure to consider the ROI before jumping in.

  • You’ll want to aim for posting daily if you want to maintain a Twitter account. That’s a lot of content so consider where it will come from and how often it will be your own.  You don’t want your feed to become an “aggregator” of other people’s content.
  • That said, it’s important not to be perceived as having a soap box and only sharing your own content. You’ll want to comment and share tweets from other thought leaders. This is best done on a timely basis, which is another reason for the daily involvement.

Instagram and/or SnapChat:  The only reason for a professional services firm to have these accounts is to appeal to Gen Y and Gen Z for recruiting purposes.   It should not be managed by anyone over the age of 40.

  • Find some young people you trust and let them loose. This needs to be purely authentic and anyone who is “doing it for work” will come across as robotic, forced, and awkward.

So, for all of this effort, what should you expect out of it?   Here are my top five reasons to include social media as part of your marketing mix:

  1. Meet expectations: Clients and prospects expect you to have social media accounts (at least LinkedIn).
  2. Create gravitational pull: You’re allowing people to follow your firm without directly engaging in an active sales cycle.  Someone may follow you for a while, read your articles, then sign up for your newsletter, attend a webinar, share an alert, and later reach out to discuss certain needs because they see you consistently sharing high quality information, proof of your expertise.
  3. Increase your reach: You’re enabling people to share good content with others they think might want it too – but whom you don’t know yet – adding people to your gravitational pull (#2).  Your followers appreciate this because they want to appear knowledgeable and connected.
  4. Good for SEO: Your social accounts will rank in the top 10 in Google for your firm name, so your social media activity will be noticed by anyone exploring your brand online.
  5. Valuable Marketing Data: You’re creating data for your marketing team.   Each view/click/share is tracked and measured so you can continue to hone your marketing efforts toward being even more effective.

So, social media?  YES!   Social media as 90% of the mind-share for professional services?  NO!

If you want help with social media, or any other marketing adventure, contact me

How the Fastest Growing CPA Firms Spend their Marketing Budgets

How the Fastest Growing CPA Firms Spend their Marketing Budgets

Next month I’ll be presenting on the topic of How the Fastest Growing CPA Firms Spend their Marketing Dollars at the MSCPA’s Practice Management conference.  If you’re a CPA, I’ll hope you attend!

While the research this article (and presentation) is based on is from CPA firms, I believe the basic principles are true for all of professional services firms, so everyone, please, read on!

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What professional service firms need to know about SEO

What professional service firms need to know about SEO

Professional service firms still don’t rely heavily on their websites for new business – though the trend is in that direction and some do better than others.  However, even today an investment in a professional looking and well ranked website should provide ROI for a firm for three reasons.  First, nearly every prospect will go to a firm’s website as part of their due diligence process when making a decision on what firm to hire so you want to make a good impression.  (more…)