My Favorite 5 Analytics Dashboards – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KitsapKing

Finding effective ways of organizing your analytics dashboards is quite a bit easier if you can get a sense for what has worked for others. To that end, in today’s Whiteboard Friday the founder of Sixth Man Marketing, Ed Reese, shares his five favorite approaches.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video transcription

Hi, I’m Ed Reese with Sixth Man Marketing and Local U. Welcome to this edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite things in terms of Google Analytics — the dashboard.

So think of your dashboard like the dashboard on your car — what’s important to you and what’s important to your client. I have the new Tesla dashboard, you might recognize it. So, for my Tesla dashboard, I want navigation, tunes, calendar, everything and a bag of chips. You notice my hands are not on the wheel because it drives itself now. Awesome.

So, what’s important? I have the top five dashboards that I like to share with my clients and create for them. These are the executive dashboards — one for the CMO on the marketing side, new markets, content, and a tech check. You can actually create dashboards and make sure that everything is working.

These on the side are some of the few that I think people don’t take a look at as often. It’s my opinion that we have a lot of very generic dashboards, so I like to really dive in and see what we can learn so that your client can really start using them for their advantage.

#1 – Executives

Let’s start with the executive dashboard. There is a lot of debate on whether or not to go from left to right or right to left. So in terms of outcome, behavior, and acquisition, Google Analytics gives you those areas. They don’t mark them as these three categories, but I follow Avinash’s language and the language that GA uses.

When you’re talking to executives or CFOs, it’s my personal opinion that executives always want to see the money first. So focus on financials, conversion rates, number of sales, number of leads. They don’t want to go through the marketing first and then get to the numbers. Just give them what they want. On a dashboard, they’re seeing that first.

So let’s start with the result and then go back to behavior. Now, this is where a lot of people have very generic metrics — pages viewed, generic bounce rate, very broad metrics. To really dive in, I like focusing and using the filters to go to specific areas on the site. So if it’s a destination like a hotel, “Oh, are they viewing the pages that helped them get there? Are they looking at the directional information? Are they viewing discounts and sorts of packages?” Think of the behavior on those types of pages you want to measure, and then reverse engineer. That way you can tell they executive, “Hey, this hotel reservation viewed these packages, which came from these sources, campaigns, search, and social.” Remember, you’re building it so that they can view it for themselves and really take advantage and see, “Oh, that’s working, and this campaign from this source had these behaviors that generated a reservation,” in that example.

#2 – CMO

Now, let’s look at it from a marketing perspective. You want to help make them look awesome. So I like to reverse it and start with the marketing side in terms of acquisition, then go to behavior on the website, and then end up with the same financials — money, conversion rate percentages, number of leads, number of hotel rooms booked, etc. I like to get really, really focused.

So when you’re building a dashboard for a CMO or anyone on the marketing side, talk to them about what metrics matter. What do they really want to learn? A lot of times you need to know their exact territory and really fine tune it in to figure out exactly what they want to find out.

Again, I’m a huge fan of filters. What behavior matters? So for example, one of our clients is Beardbrand. They sell beard oil and they support the Urban Beardsman. We know that their main markets are New York, Texas, California, and the Pacific Northwest. So we could have a very broad regional focus for acquisition, but we don’t. We know where their audience lives, we know what type of behavior they like, and ultimately what type of behavior on the website influences purchases.

So really think from a marketing perspective, “How do we want to measure the acquisition to the behavior on the website and ultimately what does that create?”

These are pretty common, so I think most people are using a marketing and executive dashboard. Here are some that have really made a huge difference for clients of ours.

#3 – New markets

Love new market dashboards. Let’s say, for example, you’re a hotel chain and you normally have people visiting your site from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Well, what happened in our case, we had that excluded, and we were looking at states broader — Hawaii, Alaska, Colorado, Texas. Not normally people who would come to this particular hotel.

Well, we discovered in the dashboard — and it was actually the client that discovered it — that we suddenly had a 6000% increase in Hawaii. They called me and said, “Are we marketing to Hawaii?” I said no. They said, “Well, according to the dashboard, we’ve had 193 room nights in the past 2 months.” Like, “Wow, 193 room nights from Hawaii, what happened?” So we started reverse engineering that, and we found out that Allegiant Airlines suddenly had a direct flight from Honolulu to Spokane, and the hotel in this case was two miles from the hotel. They could then do paid search campaigns in Hawaii. They can try to connect with Allegiant to co-op some advertising and some messaging. Boom. Would never have been discovered without that dashboard.

#4 – Top content

Another example, top content. Again, going back to Beardbrand, they have a site called the Urban Beardsman, and they publish a lot of content for help and videos and tutorials. To measure that content, it’s really important, because they’re putting a lot of work into educating their market and new people who are growing beards and using their product. They want to know, “Is it worth it?” They’re hiring photographers, they’re hiring writers, and we’re able to see if people are reading the content they’re providing, and then ultimately, we’re focusing much more on their content on the behavior side and then figuring out what that outcome is.

A lot of people have content or viewing of the blog as part of an overall dashboard, let’s say for your CMO. I’m a big fan of, in addition to having that ,also having a very specific content dashboard so you can see your top blogs. Whatever content you provide, I want you to always know what that’s driving on your website.

#5 – Tech check

One of the things that I’ve never heard anyone talk about before, that we use all the time, is a tech check. So we want to see a setup so we can view mobile, tablet, desktop, browsers. What are your gaps? Where is your site possibly not being used to its fullest potential? Are there any issues with shopping carts? Where do they fall off on your website? Set up any possible tech that you can track. I’m a big fan of looking both on the mobile, tablet, any type of desktop, browsers especially to see where they’re falling off. For a lot of our clients, we’ll have two, three, or four different tech dashboards. Get them to the technical person on the client side so they can immediately see if there’s an issue. If they’ve updated the website, but maybe they forgot to update a certain portion of it, they’ve got a technical issue, and the dashboard can help detect that.

So these are just a few. I’m a huge fan of dashboards. They’re very powerful. But the big key is to make sure that not only you, but your client understands how to use them, and they use them on a regular basis.

I hope that’s been very helpful. Again, I’m Ed Reese, and these are my top five dashboards. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Infographic: How Often Should You Post on Social Media? See the Most Popular Research and Tips

It seems like a great portion of the social media research we do at Buffer often comes back to a few big questions for social media sharing.

How do I get more followers?

What should I share?

When should I share it? 

And how often should I be sharing?

Social media frequency is one that we’ve enjoyed experimenting with a lot at Buffer. How many times per day should we posting? Is it different for individuals versus companies? I personally share to Twitter four times per day, and …

The post Infographic: How Often Should You Post on Social Media? See the Most Popular Research and Tips appeared first on Social.

Become Intelligent: Use Google Analytics Intelligence Alerts to your Advantage

Posted by Martijn_Scheijbeler

Everybody remembers being in college, writing down activities in a logbook, hoping the hours they worked on a project were enough for a sufficient grade. After two years as an online marketer/SEO, I realized what makes writing down activities so important.

The intent of this post is to save you from making the same mistakes I made. If you’re working for a brand, you probably want to make sure you’re on top of all your KPIs, but few of us are able to carefully track our valued metrics 24 hours a day.

So in addition to providing you with some useful insights into why it’s so important to write down everything you do, I’ll also give you some useful tips on how to get this started with the tools you likely already use. Most importantly, I’ll show you how to keep track of drastic changes in web traffic and user engagement.

How Meta Robots & XML Issues Impacted My Perception of Web Analytics

To give you an example of why it’s useful to keep track of what you and your team are working on, let me take you back to an incident I experienced roughly two years ago. My team tested an upgrade for functionally, but forgot to check the involved technical SEO elements. After a massive drop in keyword positions for all of our top (landing) pages, we did our best to retrace our steps. In the process, we discovered we had implemented the META robots noindex tag on all pages. I’d love to say I’m joking, but our drop in search traffic says otherwise.

I think you get the point—and that it’s probably best if I don’t tell you about the time that we returned XML to Google instead of proper HTML—record everything. To this end, I’m going to share my insights into what I like to track on a daily and weekly basis via Google Intelligence Events, and share occurred events with our team, using the annotations of Google Analytics for our sites. I’m also hoping to hear your ideas on anything I’m missing so that we can learn from each other.

Rebecca Lehman made
a great start back in 2011 with this, but in the past years a lot of new metrics and dimensions have been added to Google Analytics, making it easier to keep track of even more changes.

What are Google Intelligence Alerts?

Analytics monitors your website’s traffic to detect significant statistical variations, and then automatically generates alerts, or Intelligence Events, when those variations occur.Google Analytics Help Guides

Google Analytics provides you with predefined alerts that guide you through certain changes in engagement, traffic or visitor data, but they are hard to notice if you’re not looking at your web analytics on an hourly basis. However, you are able to add custom intelligence alerts that update you of any changes that are important to you (e.g., when your traffic increases by 10% day over a single day). The tool makes it possible for you to respond faster to changing data, and you can also use it to keep your colleagues up to date.

Google Intelligence Alerts enable you to monitor your web analytics in many different ways, but they’re not without their disadvantages. Let’s look at both sides of the argument:

Advantages Disadvantages
You’ll be notified within 24 hours. You’re not able to share intelligence alerts with your colleagues.
If you live in the US, you can get texts message alerts of important changes. If you don’t live in the US, you can’t receive text messages.
You can keep track of almost every metric and dimension in Google Analytics. Setting up a large number of alerts is a time-consuming process.
You can use your intelligence alerts in multiple properties as they belong to your personal Google Analytics account and data.

Note: The email reports from Intelligence Alerts have a certain delay. Hopfully Google Analytics will improve this delay in the future, but for now it’s the best we have to work with.

Why is this useful for you?

I’ve provided you with just one example of how Intelligence Alerts can be useful. Now let me give you more insight into why it’s easier for you to keep track of changes with Google Alerts. The average e-commerce store has thousands of products, each of which is likely to be impacted by seasonal preferences such as who’s buying umbrellas in mid-summer. But what if it suddenly starts raining and your warehouse is running out of umbrellas? What if you could set up alerts to see if sudden product categories change in performance based on your data in Google Analytics?


54ee755b2a3dd6.97664050.png


Overview

Overview.png

Image: personal screenshots

On the left side of your Google Analytics Reporting dashboard you have the ability to view the daily, weekly and monthly automatic alerts that Google has already triggered for you. This overview provides the most important metrics and dimensions for your site. For example, the screenshot below shows you the change in views throughout April 2014 for one of my accounts. Naturally, by clicking on details you are provided with more details on the period.

54735e77d34135.38476750.png
Image: personal screenshots

As you can see, the detailed view shows you the metrics again so that you can determine how importance each change is to you business. In this case, the graph tells you what the per-session goal value is, so you can see the weekly progress this metric made and why it triggered an automatic alert.

Daily, weekly, and monthly events

DailyEvents.png

Image: personal screenshots

The daily, weekly and monthly events provide you with a detailed view on more specific intelligence alerts, as well as the alerts you’ve created yourself. (I’ll cover this in more detail in the next section.) On top of this, it enables you to change the importance of the alerts, as well as the alert category, including Custom Alerts, Automatic Web Alerts and, and Automatic Adwords Alerts.
The table contains an overview of the triggered alerts based on the settings you select. The links on the right side will guide you directly to the right report, where you can take a deeper look at each metric/dimension.

HowTo.png


Google_Analytics_2014-06-17_14-32-29.png

Image: personal screenshots

Overview: In the Admin of your Google Analytics View you’re able to see an overview of current intelligence alerts. Click the New Alert button at the top.

Google_Analytics_2014-06-17_14-40-47.png

Image: personal screenshots

Now you have the opportunity to add a name to the alert and select the profiles you would like this intelligence event to apply to. By selecting the time period, you will be able to compare the current day, week or month to its previous variant. By setting the alert conditions, you have the opportunity to select the metrics and dimensions that must change in order to trigger a notification.


Exmaples.png


To save you some time, I’ve created a couple dozen intelligence alerts. The only things you need to do are log into your Google Analytics account and make sure you’re ready to get overwhelmed with weekly or daily alerts. Seriously, though, don’t feel compelled to add all of the alerts. Select only those that have the most value for you and your business.

Error/panic

A couple of alerts could help you monitor the status of your site and the Google Analytics integration into the site itself. You’ll likely want to know when certain tracking codes are removed and pages trigger errors:

Engagement

These alerts are ideal for publishers with lots of traffic:

Traffic sources

If you suddenly have more traffic, but don’t know where the traffic is coming from, the alerts for traffic sources could come in very handy:

E-commerce

Monitoring the conversion rate for different browsers will make you aware of any problems your site has playing nice with certain browsers:

Google AdWords

If you’re running Google AdWords, you undoubtedly have alerts set up. But it would be handy to know the performance onsite and to see the corresponding spend associated with it if your spend goes up or down.


Annotations.png


In the long term, Google Analytics Annotations will really help you review statistics year-over-year. If something noteworthy happens, add an annotation to the date in Google Analytics. It’s fairly simple to do, and will provide you, your colleagues, your manager, etc. with an idea of what’s going on with your site and why.

My favorite annotations are reports of bugs, new website features, and UX/ CRO improvements to popular pages.

Image: personal screenshots

P.S. Dear Google Analytics product managers, if one of you is reading this, please make adding annotations available via the
Google Analytics Management API. It would make it so much cooler if, for example, we could add a new annotation to our data for every new post in WordPress.


TL;DR: Intelligence Alerts automatically keep you up to date on pre-configured changes in your data. With a daily email updates, you’ll never miss important changes associated with your website’s data, traffic or engagement.


Please let me know in the comments what your favorite intelligence alerts are and how you use them to your advantage. If you have any other tools that you use to keep yourself informed, don’t hesitate to share them.

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How to Build a Company and a Content Strategy Based on Values: Inside Rand Fishkin’s Journey With Moz

Do you have a favorite author or blog whose content is always so amazingly useful that it earns an automatic read every single time something new comes out?

Rand Fishkin is one of those authors for me. And Moz is one of those blogs.

Rand’s slide deck on content marketing is one of our favorite content resources here at Buffer. His article about individual contributors has been hugely impactful for the way I view my role at Buffer. Moz’s blog posts on measuring social media success …

The post How to Build a Company and a Content Strategy Based on Values: Inside Rand Fishkin’s Journey With Moz appeared first on Social.

15 SEO Best Practices for Structuring URLs

Posted by randfish

It’s been a long time since we covered one of the most fundamental building blocks of SEO—the structure of domain names and URLs—and I think it’s high time to revisit. But, an important caveat before we begin: the optimal structures and practices I’ll be describing in the tips below are NOT absolutely critical on any/every page you create. This list should serve as an “it would be great if we could,” not an “if we don’t do things this way, the search engines will never rank us well.” Google and Bing have come a long way and can handle a lot of technical challenges, but as always in SEO, the easier we make things for them (and for users), the better the results tend to be.

#1: Whenever possible, use a single domain & subdomain

It’s hard to argue this given the preponderance of evidence and examples of folks moving their content from a subdomain to subfolder and seeing improved results (or, worse, moving content to a subdomain and losing traffic). Whatever heuristics the engines use to judge whether content should inherit the ranking ability of its parent domain seem to have trouble consistently passing to subdomains.

That’s not to say it can’t work, and if a subdomain is the only way you can set up a blog or produce the content you need, then it’s better than nothing. But your blog is far more likely to perform well in the rankings and to help the rest of your site’s content perform well if it’s all together on one sub and root domain.

subdomain vs. subfolders

For more details and plenty of examples (in the post and comments), check out
this recent Whiteboard Friday on the topic.

#2: The more readable by human beings, the better

It should come as no surprise that the easier a URL is to read for humans, the better it is for search engines. Accessibility has always been a part of SEO, but never more so than today, when engines can leverage advanced user and usage data signals to determine what people are engaging with vs. not.

Readability can be a subjective topic, but hopefully this illustration can help:

scale of url readability

The requirement isn’t that every aspect of the URL must be absolutely clean and perfect, but that at least it can be easily understood and, hopefully, compelling to those seeking its content.

#3: Keywords in URLs: still a good thing

It’s still the case that using the keywords you’re targeting for rankings in your URLs is a solid idea. This is true for several reasons.

First, keywords in the URL help indicate to those who see your URL on social media, in an email, or as they hover on a link to click that they’re getting what they want and expect, as shown in the Metafilter example below (note how hovering on the link shows the URL in the bottom-left-hand corner):

keywords in urls

Second, URLs get copied and pasted regularly, and when there’s no anchor text used in a link, the URL itself serves as that anchor text (which is still a powerful input for rankings), e.g.:

url as anchor text

Third, and finally, keywords in the URL show up in search results, and
research has shown that the URL is one of the most prominent elements searchers consider when selecting which site to click.

urls in serps

#4: Multiple URLs serving the same content? Canonicalize ’em!

If you have two URLs that serve very similar content, consider canonicalizing them, using either a 301 redirect (if there’s no real reason to maintain the duplicate) or a rel=canonical (if you want to maintain slightly different versions for some visitors, e.g. a printer-friendly page).

Duplicate content isn’t really a search engine penalty (at least, not until/unless you start duplicating at very large scales), but it can cause a split of ranking signals that can harm your search traffic potential. If Page A has some quantity of ranking ability and its duplicate, Page A2, has a similar quantity of ranking ability, by canonicalizing them, Page A can have a better chance to rank and earn visits.

#5: Exclude dynamic parameters when possible

This kind of junk is ugly:

dynamic parameters in urls

If you can avoid using URL parameters, do so. If you have more than two URL parameters, it’s probably worth making a serious investment to rewrite them as static, readable, text.

Most CMS platforms have become savvy to this over the years, but a few laggards remain. Check out tools like
mod_rewrite and ISAPI rewrite (for IIS) to help with this process.

Some dynamic parameters are used for tracking clicks (like those inserted by popular social sharing apps such as Buffer). In general, these don’t cause a huge problem, but they may make for somewhat unsightly and awkwardly long URLs. Use your own judgement around whether the tracking parameter benefits outweigh the negatives.

vanity domain urls click volume

Research from a
2014 RadiumOne study suggests that social sharing (which has positive, but usually indirect impacts on SEO) with shorter URLs that clearly communicate the site and content perform better than non-branded shorteners or long, unclear URL strings.

#6: Shorter > longer

Shorter URLs are, generally speaking, preferable. You don’t need to take this to the extreme, and if your URL is already less than 50-60 characters, don’t worry about it at all. But if you have URLs pushing 100+ characters, there’s probably an opportunity to rewrite them and gain value.

This isn’t a direct problem with Google or Bing—the search engines can process long URLs without much trouble. The issue, instead, lies with usability and user experience. Shorter URLs are easier to parse, to copy and paste, to share on social media, and to embed, and while these might all add up to only a fractional improvement in sharing or amplification, every tweet, like, share, pin, email, and link matters (either directly or, often, indirectly).

#7: Match URLs to titles most of the time (when it makes sense)

This doesn’t mean that if the title of your piece is “My Favorite 7 Bottles of Islay Whisky (and how one of them cost me my entire Lego collection)” that your URL has to be a perfect match. Something like

randswhisky.com/my-favorite-7-islay-whiskies

would be just fine. So, too would

randswhisky.com/blog/favorite-7-bottles-islay-whisky

or variations on these. The matching accomplishes a mostly human-centric goal, i.e. to imbue an excellent sense of what the web user will find on the page through the URL and then to deliver on that expectation with the headline/title.

It’s for this same reason that we strongly recommend keeping the page title (which engines display prominently on their search results pages) and the visible headline on the page a close match as well—one creates an expectation, and the other delivers on it.

clear vs unclear url on facebook

For example, above, you’ll see two URLs I shared on Facebook. In the first, it’s wholly unclear what you might find on the page. It’s in the news section the BBC’s website, but beyond that, there’s no way to know what you might find there. In the second, however,
Pacific Standard magazine has made it easy for the URL to give insight into the article’s content, and then the title of the piece delivers:

We should aim for a similar level of clarity in our own URLs and titles.

#8: Including stop words isn’t necessary

If your title/headline includes stop words (and, or, but, of, the, a, etc.), it’s not critical to put them in the URL. You don’t have to leave them out, either, but it can sometimes help to make a URL shorter and more readable in some sharing contexts. Use your best judgement on whether to include or not based on the readability vs. length.

You can see in the URL of this particular post you’re now reading, for example, that I’ve chosen to leave in “for” because I think it’s easier to read with the stop word than without, and it doesn’t extend the URL length too far.

#9: Remove/control for unwieldy punctuation characters

There are a number of text characters that become nasty bits of hard-to-read cruft when inserted in the URL string. In general, it’s a best practice to remove or control for these. There’s a great
list of safe vs. unsafe characters available on Perishable Press:

safe vs unsafe characters in urls

It’s not merely the poor readability these characters might cause, but also the potential for breaking certain browsers, crawlers, or proper parsing.

#10: Limit redirection hops to two or fewer

If a user or crawler requests URL A, which redirects to URL B. That’s cool. It’s even OK if URL B then redirects to URL C (not great—it would be more ideal to point URL A directly to URL C, but not terrible). However, if the URL redirect string continues past two hops, you could get into trouble.

Generally speaking, search engines will follow these longer redirect jumps, but they’ve recommended against the practice in the past, and for less “important” URLs (in their eyes), they may not follow or count the ranking signals of the redirecting URLs as completely.

The bigger trouble is browsers and users, who are both slowed down and sometimes even stymied (mobile browsers in particular can occasionally struggle with this) by longer redirect strings. Keep redirects to a minimum and you’ll set yourself up for less problems.

#11: Fewer folders is generally better

Take a URL like this:

randswhisky.com/scotch/lagavulin/15yr/distillers-edition/pedro-ximenez-cask/750ml

And consider, instead, structuring it like this:

randswhisky.com/scotch/lagavulin-distillers-edition-750ml

It’s not that the slashes (aka folders) will necessarily harm performance, but it can create a perception of site depth for both engines and users, as well as making edits to the URL string considerably more complex (at least, in most CMS’ protocols).

There’s no hard and fast requirement—this is another one where it’s important to use your best judgement.

#12: Avoid hashes in URLs unless absolutely essential

The hash (or URL fragment identifier) has historically been a way to send a visitor to a specific location on a given page (e.g. Moz’s blog posts use the hash to navigate you to a particular comment, like
this one from my wife). Using URL hashes for something other than this, such as showing unique content than what’s available on the page or wholly separate pages is generally a bad idea.

There are exceptions, like those Google enables for developers seeking to use the hashbang format for dynamic AJAX applications, but even these aren’t nearly as clean, visitor-friendly, or simple from an SEO perspective as statically rewritten URLs. Sites from Amazon to Twitter have found tremendous benefit in simplifying their previously complex and hash/hashbang-employing URLs. If you can avoid it, do.

#13: Be wary of case sensitivity

A couple years back, John Sherrod of Search Discovery
wrote an excellent piece noting the challenges and issues around case-sensitivity in URLs. Long story short—if you’re using Microsoft/IIS servers, you’re generally in the clear. If you’re hosting with Linux/UNIX, you can get into trouble as they can interpret separate cases, and thus randswhisky.com/AbC could be a different piece of content from randswhisky.com/aBc. That’s bad biscuits.

microsoft vs unix case sensitive urls

In an ideal world, you want URLs that use the wrong case to automatically redirect/canonicalize to the right one. There are htaccess rewrite protocols to assist (
like this one)—highly recommended if you’re facing this problem.

#14: Hyphens and underscores are preferred word separators

Notably missing (for the first time in my many years updating this piece) is my recommendation to avoid underscores as word separators in URLs. In the last few years, the search engines have successfully overcome their previous challenges with this issue and now treat underscores and hyphens similarly.

Spaces can work, but they render awkwardly in URLs as %20, which detracts from the readability of your pages. Try to avoid them if possible (it’s usually pretty easy in a modern CMS).

#15: Keyword stuffing and repetition are pointless and make your site look spammy

Check out the search result listing below, and you’ll see a whole lot of “canoe puppies” in the URL. That’s probably not ideal, and it could drive some searchers to bias against wanting to click.

keyword stuffing urls

Repetition like this doesn’t help your search rankings—Google and Bing have moved far beyond algorithms that positively reward a keyword appearing multiple times in the URL string. Don’t hurt your chances of earning a click (which CAN impact your rankings) by overdoing keyword matching/repetition in your URLs.


Best of luck with all your URL creation and optimization efforts! Please feel free to leave any additions, ideas, or observations in the comments below.

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7 Popular Goal-Setting Strategies That Will Help You Achieve Great Things on Social Media

“How cool would it be to have 1 million Facebook fans?”

This is how I tend to go about setting social media marketing goals. I pull an aspirational number out of the air and go for it.

Would it be cool to have 1 million Facebook fans? Absolutely!

Is this the right way to set goals?

Coming up with goals for our Facebook page and other social media channels has often been a bit haphazard for me. Imagine having a system of goal-setting to …

The post 7 Popular Goal-Setting Strategies That Will Help You Achieve Great Things on Social Media appeared first on Social.

5 Popular Goal-Setting Strategies That Will Help You Achieve Great Things on Social Media

“How cool would it be to have 1 million Facebook fans?”

This is how I tend to go about setting social media marketing goals. I pull an aspirational number out of the air and go for it.

Would it be cool to have 1 million Facebook fans? Absolutely!

Is this the right way to set goals?

Coming up with goals for our Facebook page and other social media channels has often been a bit haphazard for me. Imagine having a system of goal-setting to …

The post 5 Popular Goal-Setting Strategies That Will Help You Achieve Great Things on Social Media appeared first on Social.

Building Online Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

Posted by MorganChessman

Building marketing strategies for small businesses is one of my favorite things. In my first marketing role, I worked in the marketing department for a small company before moving on to Distilled, where I’ve been lucky enough to continue working with small businesses that have enormous potential. Despite the various industries, locales, and personalities, one of the prevailing similarities between them is that small businesses often don’t position their company or use the web as effectively as they could. While this is partially due to the time and resource crunch small business owners feel, it’s also because, beyond building a website, they don’t know where to begin.

It doesn’t have to be so overwhelming though. I’ll walk you through the preliminary steps I take my small business clients through.

1. Define the brand

Brand Images

A number of the small companies I’ve worked with didn’t have a brand. That’s not to say that they didn’t have a name, a website, and a logo. It’s that they didn’t stand for something.

For example, what comes to mind when you think of Apple? Innovative and well-designed products? Exactly. So many small businesses are built from an individual wanting to work for themselves or because they see an opportunity to improve on an existing product. They figure, build the website and they will come.

But it’s not that way. You need a brand. As we’ve seen throughout history, the companies that have staying power have a brand, something that differentiates them from their competitors, something that people connect with and, coupled with good products and customer service, something that keeps people coming back.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well that’s all fine and good, Morgan, but I don’t know how you go about building a brand.” That’s fine. There are people who make careers out of building brands you could contact, market research surveys you could pass out, and focus groups you could run, but, realistically, small businesses don’t usually have the financial resources to invest in these strategies. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a brand though; you’ll just have to run a lightweight brand building exercise which goes something like this:

1. Think about your origin story

Ask yourself: “Why did I start this company? What am I proud of?” Oftentimes what drove you to start your own company and how it’s reflected in your business practices is what makes you unique.

2. Talk to your customers

Ask your customers: “What do you like about our company? What don’t you like? Why did you choose us over our competitors? What are your pain points?” When you listen to customers talk about your business, you’ll have a better understanding of the aspects of your company that resonate with people and what should be reflected in your brand messaging.

3. Do competitor research

Take a look at your competitors’ websites. Ask yourself: “What are they doing well? What aren’t they doing well? How do they talk about their company?” You’re looking for holes in your industry, a way to make your company different than your competitors.

4. Compile all information and develop a brand

Once you’ve researched your origin story, competitors’ tactics, and customer sentiment, it’s time to start building a brand. What from your origin story and customer conversations stood out and got you excited? How can you talk about those things in a way your competitors haven’t? Once you have that figured out, you have a brand position.
Let’s make this final step more concrete with an example. I worked with a tech consulting and recruiting firm that had a history of success in the immediate area, but was looking to attract people from the greater region as well as gain new client companies. In order to stand out from the other technical consulting firms and get people excited about working for them, we knew that they had to have more than a website that stated they were a consulting firm. They were going to have to develop a brand. We ran through the steps above with the following takeaways:
  • Origin Story: The owner started the company because he liked working with really competent developers, and realized that the best way to ensure he did so was to start his own company.
  • Customer Research: Customers preferred going with this particular company because the quality of work was always so high. People liked working for this company because there was always a lot of challenging work.
  • Competitor Research: The rest of the companies weren’t run by people with technical backgrounds. This company was, though, and as a result was able to do more rigorous testing and find the best people.
The main theme here was that the company only hired the best (origin story), because they had the technical chops to know who the best were (competitor research), which meant that this company’s employees did exceptional work (customer research), which in turn made sure they landed challenging contracts (customer research).
Due to this insight, we positioned the company as the elite option, heavily citing the fact that only 4% of people could pass the technical interview—to work for this company was to work with the best and that to hire them was to have the best working for you. This resonated well with both target audiences, and they saw a heightened brand awareness with both potential recruits and clients.

2. Review the website content and language

Although most small businesses have websites, it’s necessary for owners to take a step back and review the website through the eyes of a consumer. Too often people assume that website visitors have a certain level of company knowledge, or that they speak the same jargon. That’s not always the case. For example, the aforementioned tech company originally wrote so vaguely about their services using insider jargon that neither target audience understood the company’s mission. Once the text was rewritten with specific consumers in mind, people started coming to the owner and saying “Now that you’ve redone your website, I finally understand what your company is about.” In order to not find yourself in that position, ask yourself:

1. Does the website have the information my target audience needs?

A company website is useless if it doesn’t have the information your target audience needs. On the most basic level, this should include what your company does, in-depth product or service information, prices associated with your services, and contact information.
It’s actually astonishing how often companies, both large and small, don’t do this.
Just the other day, I was looking at marketing software and even now I couldn’t tell you what their product does. If they had taken a step back and assumed that people didn’t know what their company did, their website would be more effective and they’d likely increase leads.

2. Am I using the language my target audience would use?

Oftentimes, we get so wrapped up in our industry that we forget that others, especially customers, don’t necessarily use the same terms as us. By using terms that are different from those of your target audience, your organic traffic will suffer and your website won’t be nearly as effective. When you talk to your customers during the branding exercise, see what terms they use. Use keyword research to validate your findings and use this language on the website.

Remember that your brand position is at the heart of this language and content. You want to talk about your core competencies in a language that’s accessible, but through the lens of what makes you different. The tech consulting firm I worked with, for example, rewrote their text so that there were pages dedicated to both their recruiting and consulting services. Both of those pages used the terms that those specific audiences would use, spoke in depth as to what these services were, and did so by concentrating on the ‘elite’ factor in a way that appealed to both sides. The content and language need to be there for your audience, but use the defining aspects of your brand to spice it up.

3. Develop overarching marketing strategy

So at this point, you have a website that reflects your brand and differentiates you from your competitors. I’m going to assume that your website is already
optimized for search engines and that you have a good user experience. You’re done, right? Yes and no. You could be done if you’re not relying on online to be a huge source of business. If you are counting on online, it’s time to start working on your overarching online marketing strategy.

This is the part that tends to feel the most overwhelming for small businesses. With so many different avenues out there, it can be stressful knowing what to pursue. My first piece of advice? Don’t pursue them all. It’s okay not to. You’re a small business owner with limited resources, so only go with the ones that will have the biggest ROI.
So how do you know which ones are worth your time?

Content strategy

In the online marketing world, content is king. Google wants you to deliver value to your site visitors and unique content is one way of going about this. Building a content strategy isn’t easy though. You don’t want to write the same thing that everyone else in your industry is writing about. There’s no unique value in that, and because your site likely isn’t strong from a domain authority perspective (yet!), you’ll usually find it difficult to rank against the big sites who are writing the same content.

Instead, you’ll need to take stances on issues or solve your clients’ unique problems, giving them a reason to keep coming back to your site. If you can do this, great, but don’t just write content for the sake of it. If you’re a small ice cream shop for example, it’s going to be difficult to write content that’s on-brand and relevant to your audience. In this case, focus on other marketing strategies.

Paid

Doing paid, whether search, display, or social, can be really effective if done correctly. The downside? It can take a lot of time and money to monitor and improve on your campaigns. Highly competitive terms can have extremely high cost-per-click (CPC) rates, and the cost-per-action (CPA) is usually even higher. For example, terms in the insurance industry can have CPCs of $50 in a search environment.
In order to be as cost efficient with this strategy, you’ll have to constantly monitor your campaigns and see what is working well and what isn’t. Even though it can eat through your time and money, it’s a good option for people who aren’t showing up in SERPs or driving traffic from other avenues.

Social

Social can be a really effective way of engaging consumers and building brand loyalty, but I normally only suggest starting a social strategy once a company has built out their brand and website. You’re going to need unique content, images, or deals in order to have a social marketing strategy. It’s often easier to start in other areas and build a catalog of resources before you launch into social.
Once you have content to share, decide which social platforms best fit your company’s mission. For example, LinkedIn and Twitter are usually better for B2B while Facebook is better for B2C. Just like you don’t have to chase every marketing strategy, you don’t have to have a social campaign for every platform. Concentrate on the one or two that will best reach your audience. Make sure the content you’re sharing will do well on that platform. For Facebook and Pinterest, you’ll need image based content while Twitter and LinkedIn will be best for article-based content or quick updates.

Email

Email marketing isn’t an effective method of gaining new customers, but is a great avenue for businesses trying to increase retention or brand loyalty. If this is your goal, make sure your emails contain value. For example, you open email from your doctor’s office reminding you about an appointment or from a local ice cream shop that offers discounts because these emails contain value. When people open these emails, their lives get easier or they’re given something that gives them tangible value. It’s vital that your email marketing communications do the same whether it be content or deals.

Local

If you’re a small business using the Internet to drive traffic to your store, I absolutely believe you should be invested in local. While there’s the initial time investment to get it set up, there’s a minimal time investment needed to keep it up-to-date.

Promotions

At Distilled, we have a whole team responsible for reaching out to bloggers and publications in order to get our clients and their content featured in the right places. Their work not only helps build brand awareness but, when our clients’ work is covered and linked to, also has the added SEO benefit of natural links and, in turn, a stronger site.
Most small businesses don’t have the resources for this kind of promotion, but if you want your brand and organic traffic to grow, it’s vital that you partake in a variation of this. Instead of scoping out bloggers and target publications like the New York Times though, start small. Build relationships with other businesses in your area or be active in industry specific forums. Building those relationships and positioning yourself as a thought leader will help your business as well as your own name grow which can then result in brand awareness and links. For small businesses, it’s important to network even in a way that isn’t necessarily ‘online first.’

Small Business Branding advice

There’s a lot that goes into marketing for any size company, but it can be particularly overwhelming for small businesses which have limited time and resources. It’ll be a lot of work, no doubt about it, but will feel a little more manageable, even for one-person teams, if you take it one step at a time.

Start by figuring out what makes your company different and communicating that. In my experience, this alone will put you ahead of many of your small business counterparts. Then it’s time to think about your customers’ needs and how you’ll address them. Having content that’s valuable to your customers and their problems, content they’ll actually want to consume, is a huge part of the battle.
Now that you’ve got the content, decide which marketing strategies will be most likely to help you reach your target audience. Just remember that you don’t have to overextend yourself and use every possible marketing channel to do this. So: Brand. Language. Content. Share. You’ve got this.
Tell me about your small business branding adventures in the comments below!

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Driving Traffic from Facebook – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Facebook sends a remarkable amount of traffic, but there’s a lot of confusion around both just how much and (perhaps more importantly for our work) how we can optimize our work to take advantage of it. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand clears up some of the statistical noise and offers 10 tips for optimizing your Facebook traffic.

For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!

Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about Facebook. Facebook has been growing massively. It sends out a tremendous amount of traffic, and as a result, more and more of us in the field of web marketing as a whole, and because it’s so interesting as a correlated factor with things that tend to perform well in Google, are interested in the traffic that Facebook can drive and in potentially growing that.

So I’m going to start out with a few stats. I think it is actually very important that marketers like us understand how statistics work, especially as they’re represented. I hear from folks all the time like, “Oh, my boss emailed me the new Shareaholic report, and it says that 25% of all traffic comes from Facebook, and we only get 10% of our traffic from Facebook. So we must be doing Facebook badly.” That’s not actually the case.

Then I’m going to talk a little about some rough estimates, just for theoretical fun purposes, around traffic that Facebook might send versus Google, and then I actually have a bunch of tips for Facebook optimization. None of this is going to be dramatically brand new, but I’ve tried to distill down and aggregate some of the best ones, throw out some of the ones that no longer apply as Facebook has been maturing and getting more sophisticated and those kinds of things. All right, let’s start with these stats.

So let’s say your boss does send you this Shareaholic report, and Facebook sends 24% of all referral traffic. Wow. Shareaholic is on 300,000 websites. That’s a pretty big group. Like how can we ignore that data? It’s not that you should ignore it, but you should also be aware of why is Shareaholic installed and who uses it.

So these 300,000 sites are almost certainly massively over-representative across the several hundred million websites that exist on the Internet of those that receive and are optimizing for social media traffic. I think this is an excellent stat, and if you are a social media heavy site and you are getting less than say 20%, less than 15% of your traffic from social, well, you probably have some work to do there and some opportunity to gain there.

I also like this one from Define Media Group. Define of course is a Marshall Simmonds’ company, and they measure across major publishers. So one of the things that you might hear is Buzzfeed, for example, last year put out their big article about how they get 70% plus of their traffic from social, and they don’t even care about search, and search is dead. No one does SEO anymore and blah, blah, blah. It turns out actually, I think Buzzfeed does a tremendous amount of caring about SEO despite what they say, but they don’t want to be perceived as doing that. Define said across all of their 87 major publishers — so these are big news sorts of publishers and entertainment content publishers and that kind of stuff — social sent about 16% of all traffic, search 41%, and direct 43%. That’s a very big difference from the social sharing site. So again, you’re seeing that granularity and disparity as we look across different segments of the web world.

Worldwide by the way, according to StatCounter, whose stats I like very much because they’re across such a wide range of distributed websites, many hundredths of thousands, I think even millions of websites in the U.S. and abroad, so that’s really nice and they share their global statistics at gs.statcounter.com, which is one of my favorite resources for this type of stuff. According to them, worldwide Facebook, in January of 2015, driving around 80% of all social referrals in the U.S. Interestingly enough, people like Pinterest and Twitter and LinkedIn and Google+ have more of a share than they do in the rest of the world, and so Facebook is responsible for only about 68% of all social referrals in the U.S. as a conglomerate.

It is the case for anyone measuring Facebook traffic, the average pages per visit tends to be around one. Now, you compare that to Google, where it’s around 2, 2.2, or 2.5, you compare that to Direct and Direct is usually closer to the 3, 4, or 5 visits per session. So Facebook’s traffic is kind of at the low end of the performance and engagement scale. It tends to be the case that when you’re in that Facebook feed, you’re just trying to consume content, and you might see something, but you’re unlikely to browse around the rest of the website from which it came, and that’s just fine. Although, interestingly enough, Facebook does perform better, slightly better than Twitter does by this metric. So Twitter’s traffic is even more ephemeral.

I tried to do some rough statistics and think about like, okay Rand, I really need a comparison between how much traffic does Google send and how much traffic does Facebook send. This is something that people ask about all the time. There are no terrific sources of data out there, so we sort of have to back into it. I think you can do that by saying, “Well, we know that Google’s getting around 6 billion searches a day currently, and we know that those send on average . . . well, we don’t know for sure. We know that years ago an average Google search resulted in 2.1 or 2.2 clicks.” I think that was 2009, so this was many years ago. So it could have gone down, or it could have gone up from there. I’m going to say between 1.5 and 3 visits on average, somewhere in there.

Facebook has 890 million daily active users, and we don’t know the statistics again perfectly there. But again, several years ago, I want to say maybe 4 years ago, 2011, they had a stat that around 2 external clicks per day per Facebook user. So let’s say it’s probably gone up maybe 2 to 4, somewhere between there. So given that, Google is in the 9 to 18 billion referrals per day stage and Facebook 1.8 to 3.6 billion.

So if you think Facebook has grown just absolutely huge, it could be as big as a third of the smallest growth maybe that Google has experienced in terms of referral traffic. I think that’s possible. I think the numbers are probably closer to the 9 and 3.6 than they are to the 18 and 1.8. That would be my guess. I think Facebook is somewhere between 15% and 30% of the traffic that Google’s driving. So pretty massive. Definitely bigger than any of the secondary search engines. Probably driving more traffic than YouTube, driving more traffic than Yahoo!, driving more traffic than Bing. Probably driving more traffic than all three of those combined even. That’s quite impressive, just not as impressive as the enormous amounts of traffic that Google does set.

Still, one of the reasons that we care about Facebook even if we don’t love the traffic that Facebook sends us because we don’t feel that it performs well, Facebook’s likes and shares are very indicative of the kinds of content that tend to perform well in search. So if we can nail that, if we understand what kind of content gets spread socially on the web and engages people on the social web, we tend to also perform well in the kind of content we create for search engines.

So some tips. First off, make sure that the Facebook audience and whoever your . . . well, that pen is going to work beautifully for someone never. Let’s see if I can make it from here. You guys can’t see this, but we’ll just pretend I make it. Oh yeah, nailed it. Oh, it almost went in. It like bounced off the shelf and then almost went in.

All right. First off, make sure that your Facebook audience usage matches your content goals and targets. If you’re saying, “Hey, we’re trying to convert people to a B2B software product in an industry that really targets technical folks on the engineering side,” Facebook might be really, really tough. If, on the other hand, you are selling posters of adorable cats and dogs, woo, that’s a Facebook audience right there. You should nail that. So I think you do have to have that concept. You can’t just disassociate those two. If you’re working for a patent attorney, trying to get likes and shares is going to be really hard for their content versus maybe trying to get some tweets or some shares on LinkedIn or those kinds of things.


Second, learn what does work in your topics in Facebook
. There’s a great tool for this. It’s called BuzzSumo. You can plug in keywords and see the pieces of content that over the past six months or a year have performed the best across social networks, and you can actually filter directly by Facebook to see what’s done best on Facebook in my niche, with my topics, around my subjects. That’s a great way to get at what might work in the future, what doesn’t work, what will resonate, and what won’t.


Number 3
, you should set up your analytics to be able to track future visits from an initial social referral. There’s a great blog post from Chris Mikulin. Chris basically shows us how in Google Analytics you can set up a custom system to track referrals that come from social and then what that traffic does after it’s come to you from social and left, oftentimes coming back through search, very, very common.

Number 4, headlines often matter more than content in earning that first initial click. I’m not going to say they matter more than content overall, but headlines are huge on Facebook right now, and that’s why you see things like the listicles and click bait all of those types of problems and issues. Facebook says they’re working to update that. But for right now there’s a ton of sharing going on that’s merely around the text of that 5 to 15 word headline, and those tend to be extremely important in determining virality and ability to make their way across Facebook.


Number 5
, it is still the case — this has been true for many years now across all the social media platforms — that visuals tend to outperform non-visual content. When you have great visuals, the spread and share of those tends to be greater.


Number 6, timing still matters a little bit, but actually, interestingly not as much as it used to
. I think a lot of folks in the social media sphere have been looking at this and saying, “Gosh, you know what? We’re running the correlations and we’re trying these experiments, and what we’re seeing actually is that it seems like Facebook has gotten much smarter about timing.” So they’re not saying, “Oh, you posted in the middle of the night and you didn’t get very many likes, so we’re not going to show your post to as many people.” They’re now saying, “Well, as a percentage of the engagement on average that’s received by this group in these geographies, in these time zones, at these particular times, how did you do?” I think that relativism has made their algorithm much more intelligent, and as a result we’re seeing that posting at a certain time of the day, when more people are on Facebook or less are, isn’t quite as powerful as it used to be. That said, if you want to try some timing experiments, watch your Facebook Insights page, and figure those things out. There’s still some optimization opportunity to be gleaned there.


Number 7, the really big driver of Facebook spread and of the ability to be seen by more and more people
, have a post seen by more and more people on Facebook, appears to be — at least from all the social media experts, and I would validate this myself from my experiences there — the percentage of the audience that’s seeing the post, interacting with that post — and by interacting I mean they like, they comment, they share, they click on the link, or even, I’m fairly certain that Facebook is also using a dwell time metric, meaning that if they’re looking at that post for a considerable amount of time, even if they’re not clicking Like or Share or Comment or clicking, if they’re observing it, if that’s staying active on their Facebook feed in the visual portion of the panel, that seems to be a metric that Facebook is also using. I would be fairly sure it is. I think they’re pretty smart about that kind of stuff. Because this is a big driver, what you’re trying to do is grow engagement. You want more people to interact more heavily with your content. I think that’s one of the reasons that unfortunately things like click bait work so well and great headlines do too.


Number 8, brand page reach is limited
. We know this. There have been many sort of Facebook algorithmic updates that talk about what’s the organic reach if you post, but you don’t pay at all, those kinds of things. However, the flip side of this is that in order for Facebook to not be overwhelmed by content, because the amount of content that’s posted there is simply enormous, they’ve reduced some of those things. But that means a little bit more room for individual people. So individual accounts, like your Facebook account, my Facebook account, not my public page, but my personal Facebook account, your personal Facebook account, those have a little bit more opportunity to get reach versus brands, which for a while were more dominating than they are. Now it’s pretty small.


Number 9, if your traffic from Facebook has good ROI
— and this is one of those big reasons why you need to be measuring the second order effects and when that traffic comes back and those kinds of things — go ahead and pay to amplify. This is just like Google. If you see that a key word is performing well and you can turn on AdWords and you can get more of those visitors and they’re going to convert, hey, the same thing is true on Facebook, and Facebook’s traffic, generally speaking, is much cheaper on a per-click basis than Google’s is. It’s also much less targeted. It tends not to perform as well, but much less expensive. So I would urge you to pay to amplify. When you see sites that are performing gangbusters — Buzzfeed being a very fair example of that — they’re paying a lot of money to drive all that traffic to their site and to amplify their organic reach. They’re getting organic and paid reach.


And the last one, number 10, Facebook is really hard to game anymore
— it didn’t used to be this case — with direct signals. It used to be the case that if you posted something on Facebook, you could have a bunch of your friends like, “Hey, everyone go check their Facebook feed now. Make sure you’re subscribed to me. If you don’t see it in your feed, go over to my specific feed, click it, Like it, Share it, comment it.” Then we can sort of amplify its organic reach, because Facebook cares a ton about those first 5 or 10 minutes and what the engagement is like there. That doesn’t work very well anymore. Facebook is very, very careful, I think, nowadays to look at: Who did we organically show this to in the news feed? How many of them interacted and engaged with it? What’s their history of interacting and engaging with stuff on this particular site? Are they somehow connected? Is there gaming going on here? Have they consistently liked everything that’s come from this site in the first five minutes of it being published? All those kinds of things that you would expect them to eventually get to, they’ve really gotten to, and so gaming it is much more hard.

But gaming people is not much harder, because unfortunately our software has not been considerably upgraded in the last few hundred years of evolution. So as a result, gaming human psychology is really how to, I don’t want to say manipulate, but certainly to get much more reach on Facebook. If you can find the angles that people care about, that they’re vocal about, that they get engaged, excited, angry, passionate, of any emotional variety about those things, that’s how you tend to trigger a lot of activity on Facebook. This is a little different than how it works on other social networks, certainly LinkedIn, parts of Twitter, Instagram different. Facebook very much this kind of controversy, passion, excitement, tribalism tends to rule the day on this platform. I think that’s part of why you see some of these click bait and headline heavy sites performing so well. But if you want to find ways to make Facebook work for you, you might want to marry the things that are on brand, on topic, helpful to you, actually will earn you good visits, but do take into account some of that human psychology that exists on Facebook.

All right everyone, what I would love, and I don’t always ask for this, but I would love if you have great tips or things that you’ve seen work really well on Facebook, please share them in the comments below. I would love to read through them. I’m guessing there are some folks in the Moz community who have extensive, wonderful experience here. We’d love to hear from you.

All right everyone, take care. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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The Rise of the Facebook Queen: How Mari Smith Went From $50 in Her Pocket to 500K Followers

In February of 1999, Mari Smith needed a sign from the universe. It showed up in the form of … cake.

The Scottish-Canadian had arrived in San Diego on a borrowed round-trip plane ticket (“That’s how broke I was!”) with 50 British pounds in her pocket and a feeling that she was supposed to start her nascent seminar business in the U.S. instead of Scotland, her former home.

But she was running out of time. She could only come into the country for 30 …

The post The Rise of the Facebook Queen: How Mari Smith Went From $50 in Her Pocket to 500K Followers appeared first on Social.