Google Adwords Keyword Planner – DIY keyword research

google-keyword-planner

So many of you are startups with limited budgets to hire professionals to do your keyword research. Here is a quick video to help you do your own discovery of keywords and the bonus is it will help you with blog topics too!! Discover the free tool known as Google Keyword Planner, hidden in the Adwords area.

Come back and share your discoveries.

 

 

Action Plan: Google+ Pages

google-plus 1Your Google+ Page promises to be a powerful tool in your marketing, but for now, information on making it so seems to be all over the place, as well as changing daily.  It’s easy to lose track of or miss opportunities, when setting up your Google+ Business Page if you don’t keep a few, core steps in mind.  This Action Plan will help you make sure no steps are missed, as well as assisting you to set things up quickly and easily.

Setting Up A Google+ Page for your Business

Setting up a Page for your business is simple — but it has to integrate with your Google account, so if you are setting one up for a client, ensure that client understands you will be using her Google account log in information — not yours!

What You Need to Have Ready:

While in the signup process, you will need to enter at least two of these three criteria, depending on the Category you choose:

  • A valid phone number
  • Your location
  • Your profile photo or Logo graphic (preferably square, though Google+ allows you to not only drag and drop but drag and position)

When you’re ready…

  • Go to https://plus.google.com/pages/create.  It will prompt you to log into your account, if you haven’t already done so.  (If you have already logged into your account, you can simply select the “Create a Google+ page” beside your stream.)


  •        Select the category most appropriate to your business.  Your choices are:
Category Description
Local Business or Place Hotels, restaurants, places, stores, services
Product or Brand Apparel, cars, electronics, financial services
Company, Institution or Organization Companies, organizations, institutions, non-profits
Arts, Entertainment or Sports Films, TV, music, books, sports, shows
Other Use if your page doesn’t fit in any of the previous categories

(Note you will only need your phone number for “Local Business or Place”)

  1. Select “Create”, and follow the prompts to add:
  • A powerful tagline of 10 words that best describes your business
  • Your profile photo or graphic

Inserting a photo is even more easy than usual:  Not only can you drag and drop your photo directly from your desktop, you can also select the area of the photo you wish to use, much as with re-sizing Facebook thumbnails:


Your end result — however the shape of the original — has to be a perfect square…


That’s all there is to creating your page!  (Took you just a few minutes, right?)

“But Wait… There’s More…”

If you stop at simply having created your Page, however, you’ll be disappointed in the results.  Even at this early Beta stage, there are a few vital tips and tricks that can significantly push your sites and Page up through Google search results.  Number one you’ve already taken care of — you’ve created the +Page.  Now you will need to amplify its power by installing a +1 Button on your site, so people can “vote” for you.  This includes not just subscribers and followers, but members of the general public who happen to organically find your site — helped by your strong Google+ listings, of course.

You see, Google+ Pages with real clout automatically open at the actual Page, if searchers are savvy enough to type “+YourName or Keyword” in the Google search box (Direct Connect)…


You can tell at a glance if a search parameter auto-connect and open up an existing Google+ Page:  The Page graphic and tagline will instantly appear in the drop-down Suggestions.  If you hit “Enter” on seeing such a result, that Google+ Page opens up.

The flaw?  Not all existing Google+ Pages open up or even show up, even if they exist!  However, you can weight your newly-created +Page to rise through the ranks and be eligible for Direct Connect by ensuring you employ a few simple strategies…

Step One:  Be Ready to Share!

As you finish creating your page, you’ll be given the option to share it.  Make sure you are prepared and ready to go.


(Google really does make it easy for you to cover many of the bases!)

 Step Two:  Setting Up your Google +1 Button

The number one key strategy lies in setting up a Google+1 button on all your websites; then publicizing the fact you have one and directing people with a call to action to “like” it.  (Don’t detract from the value of Google +1 buttons, however, by using emotional coercion, or +1 buttons will soon sink to the level of Facebook’s value-less “Like” buttons.)

Setting up your button and choosing the icon size is simple, and you don’t need step-by-step instructions.  It consists of:

  1.     Grabbing a snippet of JavaScript code. (Install this anywhere on your site.)
  2.      Scrolling further down that page and customizing the HTML code generated.
  3.      Insert the generated code in your web page at the spot you want your +1 button to appear


What the +1 button actually does is:

  • Help people discover “relevant content” (including ads) — from personal recommendations
  • Display your own profile photo, when you “like” a +1 button on someone else’s Page, site or Circle.  (You can choose to “hide” this, if you prefer.)
  • Allows others to recommend your own sites or Page
  • Allows others to see which of their own friends and connections has also personally endorsed your listings
  • Allows others to see how many +1 ratings you’ve received.  (You can customize this not to show, if your business, website and/or Page is brand new.)
  • Increases your sites’ relevance and value in Google’s eyes, upping your SEO status and rank
  • Increase your visibility and prominence in search results

Remember, however, that any page or site you add +1 to will be public — even if your Robots.txt file or WordPress blog settings are set for “nofollow”.

Step Three:  Enabling Google+ Circles

This area of Google+ already plays a big part in Google+ Page engagement and promises to grow in importance, so you might want to adjust your settings to automatically add Pages to your own Circles.  Here’s how to do it…

  1.     Click your profile picture in your Google+ menu bar, at the top of your page
  2.     Select “Account Settings”
  3.     Select “Google+”

Scroll to the bottom and customize your “Google+ Pages” settings

Here is where updating your page with fresh content really becomes part of a vital strategy.

Step Four:  Creating a Badge

Creating a Google+ Badge for your site is not the same as creating a +1 button, so don’t confuse the two.  You can simultaneously create your badge and your page; or you can copy-paste your page URL into the box provided:


Continuing down the page, you will select the size of badge you prefer…



This is the ultimate goal you are aiming for, when it comes to boosting your Google+ and Google+ Page rankings.  Google freely admits eligibility is “determined algorithmically”, based on:

Step Five:  Google+ Direct Connect

  • Relevance
  • Popularity

The most crucial defining factor is the number of links between your site and Google+ Page.   If you have followed the previous steps, you are already well on your way to becoming eligible.  All you need to do is:

Regularly interact with Google+, supplying relevant contact (Links, posts, keywords)

  • Pay diligent attention to ensuring your content is not only relevant, but original and valuable too
  • Educate your audience (especially those you network with) about Direct Connect and how it works.  They’ll particularly need to know that the option to sign into Google+ so they can add your page to their Circles is only offered the first time they visit your Page — after that it has to be added manually, which reduces the chance they’ll do so

Once Google perceives your value, you stand a much better chance of being admitted to the hallowed halls of Direct Connect.

This brings us to our last step (until Google+ rolls out more features)…

 Step Six:  Promote Your Google+ Page!

Television long ago learned the secret to engaging viewers and netting high conversions:  Namely, spelling out the obvious and telling viewers exactly what to do next.

And just as TV ads also employ the principle of repetition, you must realize that promoting your +Page is an ongoing responsibility.

Here’s how you can encourage your visitors and subscribers to spread the word:

  1.        Share your posts — but remember, even if you share a post from your Google+ Page, those in your Circle will actually see it as coming from your Profile.) And keep your content as consistent as your daily involvement:  Remember your main area of focus and use your best keywords, as naturally as possible.
  2.       Link your Page and your website or blog.  You may think you’ve already done this, if you’ve installed your Google+ Button on your site — but it’s actually a two-step process, to be effective:  You also have to add your site to your Profile!

Here’s how to do it, using a current browser such as Google Chrome…

  • In your browser, find your picture and select it (the top right corner)
  • Select “Profile”


  • In your Profile, select the “About” tab


  • Select “Links” and then “Add a Custom Link”
  • Enter (a) a Title (b) your URL
  • Save
TIP: Don’t skip this step — it’s currently the only way to ensure your site becomes eligible for Direct Connect.

 

 

  1.      Link your Google+ Page to your AdWords campaigns — Do it by making sure you include your +1 button in your ads.
  2.      Post Consistently — Regular updates and fresh content will add to your Google value. This will help build a firmer foundation for your +Page

Along the way, as you grow more familiar with your Google+ Profile and Page, you’ll discover other ways you can help boost your +Page popularity:  Enabling Google+ for Mobile (if you have the right type of phone, for example; as well as joining the Preview Platform so you can receive advance improvements ahead of the crowd.

Become familiar with the refinements available through Google Support Plus.  Be sure also to actively report bugs and provide feedback to Google+ (as well as never promoting your Page with the same dirty-pool, emotional blackmailing techniques that Facebook users quickly learned to employ).

The more you engage and bring quality to your Google+ Page, the more directly you will be rewarded in Google SEO.

It’s true that “you get out of it what you put in” — but fortunately with Google+ Pages, these six basic steps provide a solid foundation to help you easily and effectively get started.

Understanding Google+ Business Pages

Google+_screenshot

Exciting times at Google

— not only have they just released Google+ to the public in open Beta (working model), but they’ve now added Google+ Business Pages.

So how can you, as an internet entrepreneur, take advantage of this new internet resource… and should you?  Before you rush to set up a page, it may help to take a look at the pros and cons…

Comparing Facebook Pages with Google+ Business Pages

 

Google+ is still very much in beta mode.  Its Pages feature has only just been launched, so any comparison with Facebook pages will probably be redundant by the time you read this, since new features are being added to Pages on an ongoing basis.

 

 


Your biggest reason for setting up a Business Page in Google+ should be not only to take advantage of powerful Google SEO, but to reach targeted customers or clients who hate and avoid Facebook — and this number is growing daily, thanks to Facebook changes such as the inability to prevent Facebook from broadcasting what you are doing online, moment by moment!

Facebook’s relevance is also taking a downslide at the moment, thanks to all the changes it recently instituted.  Friends are “disappearing” thanks to involuntary settings changes (and most aren’t even aware you now can’t see them).  Irrelevant posts seem to be on the increase.  And there’s generally a lot of confusion.

The worst part about Facebook pages?  “Out of sight, out of mind”, says V. A., Isobel Henderson.  “You really like somebody’s page, but then you get busy, and forget they have it.  Seems like you have to manually visit a page, to connect with it again, and that means making a conscious effort.  Who has the time?  Too busy!”

Early reactions gleaned from the net about Google+ Business Pages:

  • “Google+ page is way better, simple and clean than Facebook pages”
  • “Stop comparing them: G+ is not Facebook.”
  • “I think the positive thing is actually that the Google+ IS SO SIMPLE AND USER FRIENDLY to users and customers. Google gets what maybe only Apple gets also… No stupid irrelevant stuff.”
  • “The biggest disadvantage I see to the Facebook Business page is that I don’t use Facebook. So if the WWE wants to reach me socially, they’re going to have to do it through G+ regardless of how uncluttered it is.”
  • “If you like the big mess in FB, maybe is because you live that way. I don´t need a bunch of ads in my screen. I like to choose whom I want to follow and from [whom] I want info. FB to me, is a bunch of teens shouting the world they´re there. I really hope that G+ never turns into another Facebook. Maybe FB need to learn a lot from G+.”
  • “The addition of Pages will be a big boost in G+ usage IMHO.  I know I’ll likely be using G+ a lot more now that I am finally able to set up a Page.  For personal use though, all my family and friends are on FB, not G+, so G+ holds little to no value for me in that respect.”
  • “I really love how Google allows for non-profits to set up a Page!”


  • “…NASA got amazingly cool timing because of the asteroid coming towards earth has gotten lots of coverage and NASA’s profile already is very useful source on that topic. The interaction is amazing in Google+ especially because the You Tube interaction is so relevant often on discussion about recent news and future news.”

The underlying point of these comments seems to be that Facebook is losing control and turning into another MySpace or Yahoo.  In fact, seeing “disturbing or controversial Yahoo headline links” appended to peoples’ posts is the reason two business acquaintances of mine have recently “switched” from Facebook to Google+ in the last week alone.


“You can’t switch [Yahoo headlines] off or `hide’ them, the way you used to be able to hide posts from sources you didn’t like,” explained one.  Commented the other:  “Well, you can switch them off — but Yahoo posts enable themselves again immediately.”

Given the changing currents of social networking, why not set up your Google+ Business Page while it’s still simple to do so?  Who knows — maybe getting in on the ground floor will enable you to retain early features you like that are later “grandfathered” (like those animated profile photos on Twitter that a few people still cling to, but the rest of us now can’t create — even supposing we were animators, which would make them highly relevant!)

 Which Network Is For You?

 

One other factor to take into account, when deciding whether or not to invest time in setting up Google+ Pages — one often doesn’t use social networks to directly attract clients or customers.  It’s usually more about networking.

Current buzz seems to indicate that there’s a shift in Facebook as the primary network.  LinkedIn has gained serious ground… and so has Google+.

Among the items at Inside GPlus, you can see frequently-updated results measuring the comparative popularity of Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter.  (Be sure to add GPlus to your circle. You’ll find lots of real-time tracking feedback there.)

While everything is in a state of flux, why not set up pages on both Facebook and Google+… then see which one brings you the strongest results?

 What You Need to Know about Google+ Business Pages

 

Before you rush to do that, however, here’s the lowdown on what you can expect…

 

  1. Setting up your Google+ Page is currently an easy process, and will take you only a few minutes
  2. You need to have a Google account.  If you don’t already have one, you can create one right now or when you go    to create your page
  3. You can type “+” in front of any company name and instantly get a listing of their Pages
  4. Google pages are linked with Google search, which provide a one-key shortcut to Google+ Pages within the query box
  5. It integrates with Google+ Circles, making Page sharing easy
  6. You can create multiple Google+ Pages, if you have more than one business
  7. There are “lots” of “improvements” slated in the near future for Google+ Pages, according to Vic Gundotra, senior VP of engineering
  8. Google+ Pages are ideal for branding, since Branding has its own separate category

As with any new beta network, Google+ still has some glitches, as well as a way to go towards seamless web power and integration.  Here are seven of the most reported problems you might encounter or need to prepare for (and circumvent, when possible)…

Current Google+ Drawbacks

 

  1. Vanity URLs — Google states flatly that vanity URLs will not be available for Pages.  They offer instead “verification badges”, but these are not comparable to vanity URLs, since they operate as “security mechanisms”, not identifiers.

 You cannot apply for a verification badge:  Google decides whether or not you merit one and arbitrarily awards   them at their pleasure.

Verification badges are Google’s way of letting searchers know that “a site is legitimate”.  The motivation for creating them is eliminate impersonation — but since Google arbitrarily decides who is legitimate, there is a risk of an impersonator receiving the verification badge.

  1. Multiple Page Managers — Says Google, “Currently, only one person can own, post as, and edit a page.”  You can now create multiple Business and Branding pages, but if you have already set up a page for a company you work for that is owned by someone else and want to transfer ownership (since maintaining it means the company would have access to your gmail and Google account), this would cause a problem:  Ownership cannot be transferred.

The current fix?  Delete the page and create a new one.  But Google is making noises about the ability to transfer ownership “coming soon”.

  1. Google Places Integration — Right now, there is no integration, but it’s vital to keep your Google Places updated and current if geo-targeting is part of your marketing strategy, since if the information is there, Google will use it (current or not).  It’s up to you to make sure Google is not using outdated data:  Keeping Places current means local search and Google Maps will be accurately displayed.

Google does plan to integrate the two, in future.

  1. Google Login — Do be careful, when operating from Google+.  Make sure you don’t post miscellaneous content on your actual Google+ page, if you have different logins for you and your company.  Already many people have been careless, and admitted to getting egg on their faces by posting to the wrong area under the wrong login.

Google is public.  And that can be a drawback, as well as a plus — no pun intended.  (N.B.:  It will even “ignore” robots.txt file “no follow” instructions.)

  1. Google Apps — You can’t currently add apps to your Google+ page.  But it’s not clairvoyance to predict that will change fairly soon.
  2. Google+ Confusion — One problem many people seem to have is confusing their Google+ Profile with their Google+ Page.  Knowing the differences between your + Profile and your + Page should help you manage each with more confidence…

  3. Button Error Warnings — This problem only seems to occur on pages with a secure “https:” designation; also on older browsers, so do test your new button-optimized page in an older one too.  If your “https:” site generates an error message or warning, first look at the snippet of code Google gave you, when you created your button.  Make sure your button code actually uses “https:” too.  (Currently, automatically generated code always assumes your site page begins with “http:”)

Correcting the code snippet usually does the trick. If your page is still generating warnings on search, make sure your site contains this script:

<script src="//apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script>

You can find these tips (and many others) in the Google+ Help section.

Now let’s take a look at current Google+ advantages — particularly as they apply to Google+ Pages…

 Current Google+ Advantages

 

  1. Google +1 Button — One of your biggest potential advantages in creating a Google+ Page will lie in Google’s latest feature, the “+1” button.

 It can’t really be compared to Facebook’s “Like” button, but since you will most likely do that anyway, here’s a quick overview of the differences between the two features…


 The end result of the way Facebook’s “Like” button is set up has resulted in a lack of respect for “Like” results: Everyone knows that a good portion of those “Likes” were not truly value-driven. People pressed the “Like” button to support friends, gain networking favor or because misleading ads triggered them with emotional wording. For example, “Everyone who likes Harry Potter, Like us” — this seen on an ad that led to a site that had nothing to do with Harry Potter — but with Google’s +1 button, there is no artificial weighting. It’s set up so that people press it because they truly like the content.

Granted, you can up the chances of gaining +1 endorsements by educating your website visitors, social network followers and email subscribers about the existence of the Google +1 button, but everyone is soon going to be totally familiar with it.

And only add it to public pages (accessible to everyone).

  1. Google+ Badges — Not to be confused with the Verification badge! You can easily add a Google+ badge to your website(s) via a simple process you’ll be walked through when you create your page.

You can choose between several styles of badge: Standard badge, Small badge, Small icon, Medium icon, Large icon and No Badge.  The Medium Icon is shown below…


If you know you will speedily generate a number of approvals via your +1 icon or badge and have multiple pages or sites, you may wish to choose the standard badge:


  1. Google+ Direct Connect — This feature is already making a difference to the effectiveness of searching Google+ pages — though, right now, it seems to not always work.  All you do to access Direct Connect is type a plus sign before the company name you wish to connect with:  For example:


You will then be taken directly to YouTube’s Google+ page, instead of to all the search listings available.  (If you only want search listings, don’t type the “+” in front of the name, of course.)

 You’ll see the page like this:


You can add that particular page immediately to your circles, as well as easily share it, via the “Share this page” button…


Google admits there are some problems at this time with Direct Connect, but quickly states it hopes to make the option fully functional as soon as possible.

  1. Google+ for Mobile  — Apps are provided for several main devices, including the Android, iPhone and Blackberry. Although not specifically geared for Google+ pages yet, the fact that people can share and access Google+ via mobile automatically increases its value

How to Increase Your Google+ Page Value

 

In spite of the fact various features are glitchy or not yet active, you can increase your Google+ Page value (especially with Direct Connect by cross-connecting.  All this means is:

  • Placing the Google+ badge or icon on your site
  • Adding your website link to your page

Other ways you can increase your +Page value:

  • Actively use Google Hangouts (video chat drop-in)
  • Maintain a daily presence via Google+
  • Update and add to your Google Circles
  • Upload YouTube videos and post the links on your page and websites
  • Upload videos to Google+ and share them via your page:

  • Move your Google+ Page fans directly into your Circles.  (This seems to create automatic engagement!)
  • Make sure you have a Circle named “Following”
  • Make sure your site contains the “+1” button, as well as your badge or icon.  (This will require a separate snippet of code to that of badges/icons.)
  • Publicize your page.  Share it with your Circles and Hangouts.  Share it on social networks and in your blog posts and forum posts.  Include it as part of your contact information
  • Upload photos, as well as videos.  (GPlus offers some interesting statistics about Google+ photo uploads.)
  • Educate your readers, subscribers and visitors.  Remember the Golden Rule of marketing:  S-p-e-l-l  things out and include calls to action (telling your readers what to do next)
  • Remember that although Google+ Pages may “feel like Facebook”, they do have the huge advantage — and disadvantage — of open search via Google.  Follow the tips in this report to ensure Google ranks your page as highly as possible!

Remember:  The more active you are via Google+, the higher value Google’s algorithm currently seems to ascribe.

Google Adwords Advantage

 

If you use AdWords PPC advertising, you’ll love this further way to boost your Google+ page rank and garner more “likes”.  Google has enabled AdWords so that people can +1 your Page, right from your ad — so be the +1 button is included within your ad.

Google+ Platform Preview

 

Another way to boost your value to Google’s search algorithm (and indirectly boost your Page status):  Join the Platform Preview for advance news and information about upcoming changes and features.

Becoming a member of Platform Preview puts you on a “preferred” list, enabling you to automatically preview all the latest changes, features and updates to Google+ (including your Google+ page) before the rest of the world has access.

You can customize your contact options, from viewing the group on the web only to receiving daily emails, if you prefer… but note that you must use a Gmail address, if you want any previews to work.

Google+ For Your Blog

 

Yes, you can create a separate Google+ Page for your blog — even if it’s on Blogger and not hosted on your own separate WordPress site.

Branding Via Your Google+ Page

 

Opinions are currently split on how effective Google+ Pages are going to be, when it comes to branding your business.

For starters, currently only one person (with one login) can manage a Brand page and it’s attached to one account.  Sure, you can give people the login information — but if you’ve set it up with your personal login, you most likely won’t want them to have access to all your Google activities!

Do read the Google Page Terms of Service before setting up your Brand page.  It sets out explicitly what you can and cannot do.  Here is just one small section…


Another tip:  Don’t work with both your personal account and your Brand account within the same browser.  Ideally, it’s best to:

  • Manage each on separate browsers
  • Completely log out of one, before accessing the other

If branding is your primary purpose for creating a Google+ Page, do make sure you select “Product or Brand” as your Page Category:


Finally, do remember to actively use Circles to connect with other Brand pages (so they will +1 your own).

 Upcoming Google+ Page Features

 

Among some of the improvements Google says it is planning, you can look forward to integrating:

  • Analytics
  • Documents
  • Maps
  • Places

(But still no vanity URLs!)

It’s important to remember that Google+ Pages for business, brands and non-profits are still brand new and very much in a Beta state (as is Google+ itself).  But getting in on the ground floor will help your Page rank soar while others are still waking up to all Google+’s possibilities.

To your success!

How to Set Up Your Google+ Account

google-plus 1Once you’re signed up on Google+, how do you actually setup your account? In this guide, you’ll learn how to add information to your profile, how to choose who can see what, how to set your notification preferences and how to link up other social networks to your Google+ account.

Step 1: Accessing Your Settings

 

To get to your settings page, click on the “Settings” dropdown button in the top right.

 


Click on “Google+ Settings.”


Step 2: Add a Phone Number to your Google+ Account

 

Adding a phone number allows Google to send you a text whenever you get a notification. To add a phone number, type in your mobile number, then click “Send Verification Code.”

You’ll need to get the code from your phone and enter it into Google+ before you can receive notifications.


Step 3: Choosing Your Notifications

 

When do you want to receive an email or text from Google+? Use the checkboxes to select when you do and don’t want to get notifications.


Step 4: Set Your Image Preferences

 

There are two main settings you can set with images.

The first is whether or not you want geographical location information to be tagged onto your photos. Most modern cameras, including the iPhone and Android cameras now tag geographical information onto photos.

If you check the “Show photo geo location information” box, Google+ will automatically add the geo location tag to your photos.


Your other choice is who gets to automatically have their photos approved. Approved photos show up on your profile. Use the blue drop-down box and the “Add more people” button to choose who can post photos of you and have them approved automatically.

Step 5: Access the Profile Edit Page

 

To edit your profile, click on “Profile and privacy.”


Then click on your profile.


Click on “Edit Profile.”


Step 6: Editing Your Personal Information

Fill out your introduction, things you’re proud of, occupation, employment, education and places lived information.


Then fill out your contact information, relationship status, gender and alternate names.


Step 7: Safeguarding Your Personal Information

 

Google+ makes it very easy to choose who can see what personal information. When you click on a field to enter your information, below it is a privacy setting button.

Just click on the button to choose exactly who can see the information you type in.


Step 8: Connect Other Social Networks

 

If you want to link other social networks to your Google+ profile, start by going back to the settings page and clicking “Connected accounts.”


You’ll immediately see a list of accounts that Google+ thinks belongs to you, based on Google+ searching the various social networks.

If you see any accounts that do indeed belong to you, just click the “Yes this is my” button to link the account.


If you need to add the account manually, just click “Connect an account” then select the specific type of account you want to add.


Then enter your username on that site or a direct link to your profile on that site.


Click “Add” and the account will be linked to Google+.

Congratulations! You’ve just setup your Google+ account. You’ve learned how to add a phone number, how to set notifications, how to setup your profile, how to adjust your privacy settings and how to link other social networks.

Top 10 Online Collaboration and Document Sharing Tools

The most successful businesses in the world all rely on strong teamwork. In the past, a “team” meant people sharing the same office. In today’s virtual world however, a team can be as diverse as a group of people from Poland, New York, India and London all working together. Whether you have virtual staff, outsourced staff or just co-workers who work from home, having the right tools makes all the difference. Having great online collaboration and document sharing tools will enable you to all work together and eliminated wasted time. Here are ten of the top online collaboration and document sharing tools. If you’re running an online business, these can really help you bring your team together.

Tool #1: Basecamp

http://basecamp.com Basecamp (Used by Westwood Virtual Associates team) is one of the top project management tools on the market for small businesses. It allows you to create multiple projects, track milestones, assign to dos, see daily progress, communicate through discussions and more. It’s perfect from tracking what needs to get done by who and by when.

Collaboration and Document Sharing

Tool #2: Doodle

http://doodle.com Need to schedule a meeting? Instead of emailing availability back and forth, just use Doodle.com. Use Doodle with Google Calendar, iCal, and Outlook, and create polls in Doodle’s convenient calendar view. Your personal profile for 1:1 meetings: Show your co-workers and friends when you are available. A user-account remembers your polls for you and lets you connect your calendar. Best of all? It’s free.

Doodle dot Com screenshot

Tool #3: Pidgin

http://www.pidgin.im If you work with a diverse team that has a wide range of communication mediums, having Pidgin can save you a lot of time and headache. Pidgin allows you to communicate on Google Talk, AIM, MSN, Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ and a lot more.

Many industries tend to only work in one medium. For example, the CPA affiliate marketing industry runs a lot on AIM. Programmers on the other hand love IRC. Having Pidgin makes managing virtual communication a cinch.

Collaboration and Document Sharing

Tool #4: Mindmeister

http://www.mindmeister.com Mindmeister allows you to create and share mindmaps on the web. These mindmaps can then be shared with other people on your team, who can also edit and add to those mindmaps.

A lot of research has been done on how mindmaps work with the brain. People retain mindmaps much better than linear notes. They’re a versatile tool for taking notes, making plans or brainstorming.

Collaboration and Document Sharing

Tool #5: Google Docs

http://docs.google.com Google Docs allows you to collaborate on documents with others in real time. Any document that’s shared with other people can be accessed by them at any time. The moment you make any changes to that document, the changes will be reflected on the other person’s screen. You can literally take notes in a document and have those notes appear in real time halfway around the world. For documents like word files or spreadsheets, Google Docs is a fantastic sharing tool.

Collaboration and Document Sharing

Tool #6: Dropbox

https://www.dropbox.com Dropbox allows you to create a shared folder that can be accessed by everyone on your team. Any files added to Dropbox will automatically be uploaded to Dropbox. It works just like any other folder on your computer, except the upload is automatic. You don’t have to worry about sending files to others or backing anything up – It’s all done for you. Likewise, any new files uploaded by co-workers is automatically downloaded as well.

Collaboration and Document Sharing

Tool #7: Google Drive

https://drive.google.com Google Drive is Google’s version of Dropbox. It aims to provide much of the same functionality as Dropbox, as well as contain all your Google Docs files.

At the time of this writing, Google Drive provides about double what Dropbox does for the same price. That said, Google Drive doesn’t quite have the same functionality as Dropbox yet. Only time will tell which is the better tool.

Collaboration and Document Sharing

Tool #8: YouSendIt

https://www.yousendit.com If you need to send a large file quickly and don’t have time to get someone to signup for and install Dropbox, use YouSendIt. This allows you to send large files (up to 250 MB) for free. Most email clients only allow you to send files up to 25 MB. If you’re sending a large document or file, YouSendIt makes it easy. All you need to do is upload the file and YouSendIt will send the other person a link with your file in it.

Collaboration and Document Sharing

Tool #9: Skype

http://skype.com As far as real time team collaboration goes, there’s no better tool than Skype. Skype has just about everything you could want from a messaging and chat service. First, you have text chat. That’s great for quick messages and requests. You can easily call team members if you need to talk about something more complex. Video chat enables even better communication. Screen sharing lets you show others exactly what you’re talking about. If you’re looking for a versatile tool to communicate with the rest of your virtual team, Skype is often the best answer.

Collaboration and Document Sharing

Tool #10: Hootsuite

http://hootsuite.com One of the toughest things to co-ordinate online is a social media strategy that’s run by multiple people. For example, let’s say you’re running a contest. The prize announcements are handled by one person, the updates by another and the personality by yet another person. How do you co-ordinate it all? Hootsuite makes this easy. Hootsuite allows you to access all your social media accounts all in one screen. You can schedule posts to go out in the future rather than post them all right now. Best of all, the account can be managed by multiple people. For example, the person responsible for the prize can upload tweets about what the prizes are without sending them. The person responsible for the personality can look over the announcements and rewrite them to make sure they’re in line with the brand. Then and only then are the tweets sent. If you’re managing a multi-person social media strategy, give Hootsuite a try.

Collaboration and Document Sharing

These ten online collaboration tools will make managing any kind of virtual team a whole lot easier. Whether you’re running a two-person business or a business with hundreds of staff, the tools available here can help you streamline your processes and increase productivity.

Have a collaboration or document sharing tool you like to use? Please leave a comment below on what works and what doesn’t in your workflow.

Top 10 SEO Information Sources

SEO? Every online business owner wants their share of free search engine traffic. The problem is, it seems like the search engine process is changing every minute or two. Thankfully, there are a number of resources to turn to when you need current SEO information. Here are 10 of the best ones.

Site #1: SEOmoz

seo

http://www.seomoz.org/blog

SEOmoz is actually the developer of search engine optimization software, but they also happen to have a very informative and well-read blog. Content is provided by a variety of writers and the comments are often just as informative as the posts. Definitely a must for the RSS feed.

Site #2: SEO Book

seo

http://www.seobook.com

Known to tell it like it is and even ruffle a few feathers, Aaron Wall has never shied away from providing advice, even when it hurts. Aaron’s posts are always very detailed and offer proof, just about every step of the way.

Site #3: Search Engine Watch

seo

http://searchenginewatch.com

This extremely information rich website is updated multiple times daily. It can be a little overwhelming to keep up, but if you’re looking for the latest news, you’ll likely find it here. Not for the beginner.

Site #4: Search Engine Land

seo

http://searchengineland.com

Search Engine Land was created by Danny Sullivan, a journalist who has been covering search engines for over 11 years. They run a very active blog and host several in-person events throughout the year.

Site #5: Search Engine Journal

seo

http://www.searchenginejournal.com

Another very active site with the latest search engine news and advice. With many guest contributors there is always plenty of variety and thorough coverage of a wide variety of topics.

Site #6: Michael Gray

seo

http://www.wolf-howl.com

Known as “Graywolf,” Michale Gray knows his search engines. His site is not updated as frequently as some of the online search engine magazine sites, but the advice is powerful.

Site #7: Matt Cutts

seo

http://www.mattcutts.com/blog

Matt is the head of the Google Search Quality team and is one of the few people who answers public questions about Google online. However, anything he posts or says comes with a disclaimer that he is speaking personally and not for Google. His blog isn’t updated too frequently, but following him on Twitter and Google+ can prove quite useful.

Site #8: Nick Stamoulis – Search Engine Optimization Journal

seo

http://www.searchengineoptimizationjournal.com

Not to be confused with Search Engine Journal, this one-man blog by Nick Stamoulis. He’s the head of his own SEO company and shares useful information with the readers of his blog.

Site #9: Rae Hoffman-Dolan – Sugarrae

seo

http://www.sugarrae.com

Now the Sugarrae website is not actually an SEO site. It’s intended to be an affiliate marketing blog and sadly, she doesn’t update it all that often. However, that’s because she is very busy with actually working on websites for her own company and her clients. If you’ve ever heard Rae speak or read an interview, you know she knows what she’s talking about.

Site #10: SEO by the Sea

seo

http://www.seobythesea.com

SEO by the Sea is quite a technical blog created by Bill Slawski. According to Bill, “The SEO by the Sea blog keeps an eye on information directly from the search engines such as patent filings and whitepapers, to share some of the assumptions and processes behind how search engines work, how they rank web pages, and whether or not they might have some surprises for us in the future.”

 

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A/B Split Testing

A/B Split Testing

 

A/B Split Testing helps business owners determine which website element is more likely to produce a desired response from your prospects.

 

 

For example, you can test two headlines to see which performs better. You simply make two versions of the same page, with the only difference being the headline, so you are more likely to pinpoint EXACTLY what is causing the change in response. The key is to only change one thing at a time.

 

You can conduct split-testing through a wide variety of software programs and you may already have some available to you through your shopping cart and other services. If not, you can look at a script like DynaTracker to help you split test. Or you can stick with Google Analytics to monitor your results.

Some of The Items You Can Test on Your Website:

[list style=”black-check-1″]

  • Headlines: Try different versions of your headline, but usually only with small changes each time.
  • Subheadlines: Do the same with your subheadlines as you do with your headline.
  • Product Offer: Try different ways to present your product for ordering.
  • Colors: Test background colors, headline colors, etc. but test one color element at a time.
  • Fonts: Test different fonts in headlines and in sales copy text, but again, test them one at a time.
  • Graphics: Test different product images, guarantee graphics, website images, etc.
  • Price: Test different price points for your product.

[/list]

 

Of course, what you test will depend on your unique website, but the point is you can discover a great many things by performing simple A/B split test.

Analyze What’s Really Going On

Analyze what happens when visitors come to your website.

Find out how they get to your website, which pages they are most frequently viewing, which pages they visit, how often they buy and more.

 

 

You can do this with a variety of tools including:

[list style=”green-check-8″]

  • The website statistics provided by your web host.
  • Services like Google Analytics that give you detailed data about your visitors behavior.
  • Services like Crazy Egg that create a heat map that shows where your visitor are spending more time and clicking.
  • Try click tracking services like Your Ad Tracker or your own shopping cart may include some click tracking.

Statistics like this help you understand a whole lot about how your website is performing for example:

  • How many visitors you have in a given month, particular day, etc.
  • Which days and times are most popular.
  • Where your visitors are coming from.
  • How long they are staying on your site.
  • How many pages they view before leaving.
  • Whether or not they’re coming back.
  • How many new and repeat visitors you’re receiving.
  • Which keyphrases they are entering into search engines to find your site.
  • Which pages are most popular.
  • Which products they spend the most time on.
  • Which pages they enter from most frequently.
  • Which pages they exit from your site most frequently.
  • Geographic location of your visitors.
  • Which operating systems and web browsers they are using to access your website.
  • Which links they are clicking.

[/list]

This information allows you to make many adjustments including:

[list style=”blue-check-5″]

  • Knowing which pages are most popular allows you to maximize your selling opportunities on these pages.
  • Knowing where your visitors are leaving your website allows you to plug any possible links (of course, if they’re leaving to click and Adsense ad or visit an affiliate site, that’s a good thing).
  • Knowing where on a page the majority of your visitors are drawn to, you can readjust and maximize your results.
  • Knowing how long visitors view a page can help you analyze the effectiveness of the page itself.
  • which links are being clicked on can tell you what offers your visitors are interested in and gives you a chance to test different approaches to making offers.

[/list]

 

…and the opportunities are endless from what you discover when you analyze.

Create a New Google Form

In this tutorial, we will show you how to create a new Google form.

You will need:

  • A Google Account

Step 1: Log into Account

Log into your Google account or create one if you don’t currently have an account.


Step 2: Navigate To Google Docs

On the main Google page click the “more” dropdown and select “Documents.”


Step 3: Select Doc Type

Click the “create new” dropdown button and select “form”.


Step 4: Name Form and Add Instructions

Click on the included filler text to change the title and the instructions.


Step 5: Add Questions

Add your questions in the text area beside “Question Title” by clicking in that area. Once you click in the box, “Sample Question” disappears. You must type a question for the sample text to disappear permanently.


Step 6: Add Help Text

Click inside the box to add help text such as “Choose up to three of your favorite items.”


Step 7: Select Question Type

This is the section where you will actually choose a format for the answer to your question. For example the answers may be multiple choice, text, a paragraph, check boxes, lists, a numbered scale, or in grid format.

With each option type you choose, you will see a preview to the left of the dropdown.


Step 8: Add Answers

Once you choose the question type, click in the box with the sample answers to replace it with your own answers or reader choices. To add more answers, click in the last box and type in your text.


Step 9: Delete Answer Choices

If you type in answers to your question and then decide you’ve added to many items to choose from, you can delete any unwanted answer choices by mousing over and clicking the X at the end of the answer.


Step 10: Choose Requirement


Depending on the type of form you create, there may be questions that must be answered and others, which are optional. After each question that requires an answer, check the “Make this a required question” box and click done when finished.

Step 11: Insert New Questions And Make Edits

To add additional questions to your form, go to a completed question and click the duplicate button on the far right. Then edit the new section as desired. Note that the edit buttons “follow” your cursor so just mouse over any section and click on the “pencil” button to edit, the “papers” button to duplicate and the “trash can” button to delete.


Note:

If you need to edit the form after you’ve closed the “create new form” screen, look in your list of docs and open the form. It will open as a spreadsheet. To edit, click the “Form” tab to access the tools and make the changes needed.

Be sure to click the save button in the top right before closing the popup screen.

Step 12: Sharing Your Form

You may share your form by emailing it or embedding in a page. To email, click the button and fill in the email info.


To embed, click the “More actions” tab. Click “Embed” and copy the embed code from the popup. Place the code in the page where you would like the form to appear.


Create a New Google Presentation

In this tutorial, we will show you how to create a new Google presentation.

You will need:

  • A Google Account

Step 1: Log into Account

Log into your Google account or create one if you don’t currently have an account.

Google Presentation

Step 2: Navigate To Google Docs

On the main Google page click the “more” dropdown and select “Documents.”

Google Presentation

Step 3: Select Doc Type

Click the “create new” dropdown button and select “presentation”.

Google Presentation

Step 4: Name Presentation

When you are taken to the new blank workspace, you will notice the title area says “Untitled presentation”. Add your own title and save the document before you begin creating the content. Just click the title area and type your document name in the popup.

Google Presentation

Step 5: Format Buttons

This toolbar has buttons and tabs, which allow you to add slides, text, images, and shapes. You may also change the font type, size and color. Some of the other familiar buttons like bold, link, indent, etc., are also available.

Note:

As you use perform different actions, you will see some buttons gray-out when the function is not available.

Google Presentation

Google Presentation

Step 6: Choose or Change Format

Before you begin adding text, you may want to “pretty up” your slideshow presentation. To do this using the built-in images, click on the format tab. Mouse over presentation settings and change the background color or pick/change the theme. For this tutorial, we will be choosing a theme.

Google Presentation

Currently, there are 15 themes from which to choose and we will be using the “Grass” theme, on the popup.

Google Presentation

Step 7: Add Title and Subtitle

On the first slide, add your title and subtitle. Here we added the title in large green text. Below it, we added a phrase in a different color for the subtitle. To change the font type, size or color, highlight the text and select the appropriate buttons from the toolbar. Notices when you click in the title area, the new toolbar options are now seen in color.

Google Presentation

Step 8: Add A New Slide

You can add a slide in 2 ways. Click the “ + ” above the slide views on the left or click the slide tab and “New slide” in the dropdown. Both methods will bring up a popup box where you can choose the type of slide you’d like to add.

From the slide tab, you may also choose to duplicate or delete a slide you have already added. We prefer the tab method but you may find the other method is easier for you.

Google Presentation

Step 9: Choosing A Slide Type

There are several types of slide layouts. For most cases, you may choose the text layout, which has a place for a heading at the top and a content area below.

The Title Layout is best suited for the title page. The Two Column option is best suited for short lists or pages with little text. The Caption Layout would work well when adding a graph or other visual aid. The Blank layout works well if you want to add a different background color or image.

We chose the Text Layout.

Google Presentation

Note:

With any layout, you can delete or add text areas.

Keep adding slides and content as needed.

Step 10: Add A Link

You may add a link anywhere within a text area. If you have a business or just want to direct people to a web page or blog, you can do it with the Link button. Here we have added a link on the last slide but you may choose to add it to any or every slide.

Just click the Link button and fill in your information.

Google Presentation

Step 11: Download and Save

After you’ve finished adding your content, images, graphs and other items, you may download this presentation to your computer in a variety of formats. To download, click the “File” tab to select “Download as and the format of your choice.

We chose to download as a PowerPoint presentation so we would have an offline copy that we could edit using the PowerPoint or other software. Once your presentation has downloaded, simply close the tab or window to exit.

Google Presentation