Online Marketing & Gamification by Design

How Important is Marketing Gamification to a Robust Online Marketing Plan?

The following is an interview with Gabe Zichermann, author of the new book Gamification by Design. Every marketer needs to stay on top of trends. Gamification is a trend in web and mobile design that is big and getting bigger. My sincere thanks to Gabe for the opportunity to conduct this interview.

Mark McLaren: When I first read the title of your book, Gamification by Design, my reaction was, “Won’t be reading that!” I associated it with online games, “gamers”, massively multiplayer online games. I don’t know. Video games are not my thing. So I thought I wouldn’t be able to relate. But I clearly didn’t know what the word “gamification” meant! Do you have a short and sweet statement for people who think you are talking about gaming or video games or something only kids know about? The importance of gamification for marketers and business decision-makers is hard to overstate.

Gabe Zichermann: The definition I use to help folks better understand the term is this – Gamification is the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to engage audiences and solve problems. We’re not talking about solving the next puzzle or level in a video game, but solving real world problems like how to keep employees engaged and motivated, how to keep customers coming back to your website, and more.
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Add Social Media Buttons to Your WordPress Website

A reader just asked about How to Add Social Media Buttons to a WordPress Website. The Google+1 and Facebook “Like” button are important ways to gain visibility for your blog, your brand and your business. Although it’s still fairly new, Google+1 looks like it could become an important factor for sharing and, just as important, for ranking in search results. So it’s a good idea to get on board. Continue reading

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What is a Pingback and Why Should I Care? (Search Marketing 101)

What’s the definition of a pingback? Pingbacks are notifications you get from WordPress (and other similar blogging platforms) when someone links to a post on your blog.

Pingbacks and trackbacks (another form of linking between blogs) are important to search marketing because although many businesses use, or want to use, their blog for online marketing purposes, they usually have no Continue reading

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How to Build Your Business in 60 Seconds: Sage Marketing Advice from Mel Pircheski

Here’s how to build your business – and advance your career – in 60 seconds: create an effective “elevator pitch”. You may already know what an elevator pitch is. It’s the short answer you give when you meet someone for the first time and they ask, “What do you do?”

Most of us underestimate the importance of a great elevator pitch. We think it’s just for salesmen. But it’s much more than that. You may have patented the most amazing invention since the electric light bulb, but if no one knows about it and sees its significance, your business will fail.

Just like every business has an online profile whether they create one themselves or not, every business has an elevator pitch. It’s called the value proposition. Stating it clearly, and in way that makes the listener want to learn more, is essential to success. In big organizations, this responsibility traditionally lies with the marketing department. But in the age of social media, articulation of the value prop can be carried out by every person in the organization – and by the media, customers, “fans” and “followers” – certainly not just the marketing department.

Today it’s all the more important to have a killer elevator pitch to capture the spirit and value of what your business offers. Perfect it, and it will practically spread by itself.

The successful elevator pitch is as close as you can get to a silver bullet for business success. It’s particularly useful for understanding what makes a good pay-per-click (e.g. Google AdWords) ad. These are the short ads that appear as “Sponsored links” next to search results on Google, Yahoo! and other search pages. A good AdWords ad grabs your attention without using hype. It offers to relieve an itch or a pain or a desire. It makes you want to learn more. It does so by speaking your language. It’s not necessarily the language of the company making the offer.

Invariably, this language includes keywords. Words that you type into a search engine to do a search. When you are looking for a product on the Internet, you don’t sit there and think, hmm, I wonder what words the manufacturer uses to talk about his products. You just type the first thing that comes to mind. That’s a keyword.

Keywords are often the hardest part of the search marketing process, in search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising like Google AdWords. To be successful, keywords have to capture the thinking of the site visitor or person doing a search. They are the essence of whatever it is that makes them want to learn more, to click. And they are the essence of whatever it is that makes that person want to share an idea – or product or brand – with friends and family.

The next stranger you meet might be in a position to change the course of your business or your career. They might be looking for an opportunity, or they might be ready to put you in touch with someone who will be your greatest investor or partner or boss. Why not be ready? As the saying goes, “Luck is the time when preparation and opportunity meet.”

Mel Pircheski is the master of the elevator pitch. Take a minute to read this short post that gives you the essence of a successful elevator pitch. Put his words into practice, and I guarantee you’ll see positive results.

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How to Host Video with WordPress: Advantages of YouTube vs. Self-Hosted

McBuzz Video hosted on YouTubeGoogle Search Results

I was talking with a client about Social Media Marketing and ways to host video on a WordPress site. If your WordPress website is self-hosted, you have plenty of options. I won’t even begin to go into the many video plugins for WordPress. That is a different topic. But when it comes to video hosting, there a lot of reasons to use YouTube rather than anything else. Visit the McBuzz YouTube Channel here.

Because uploading and inserting images is so easy with WordPress, you might think that video should be simple in the same way. But because you need a video player – which is complicated – and video files are typically quite large (unless they are converted to Flash and compressed), there are lots of factors that make handling video different than handling images.

The screen shot at right shows Google search results for “introduction to wordpress dashboard”. Google Universal Search Results feature video, images and other kinds of content along with the standard text listings for web pages. Here video thumbnails appear near the top of the results. The McBuzz Business Blogging 101 tutorial featuring the same video is at the bottom of the results page. Two listings for the price of one! Click on the image below to see similar results for “wordpress static page”. This time, video thumbnails are at the bottom of the page, and Business Blogging 101 is at the top.

WordPress makes it super easy to embed a video when you use the URL from YouTube or a similar hosting service like Vimeo or VodPod. These other services are as easy to use as YouTube, but YouTube is the best easy solution for lots of other reasons. Unless, for some reason, you want complete control over your videos and you want to limit access to them or keep them out of the Google Index altogether, there are many good reasons to use YouTube or a similar service as a host for your video files. In terms of search engine visibility, these services – and especially YouTube – are far superior to hosting video on your own server.

WordPress Static Home Page - Google Search

Here Are 10 Reasons Why YouTube is the Best Choice for Video Hosting

Note that all these reasons really make YouTube the best choice for video hosting whether you use WordPress or some other web platform. If you’re doing online marketing, you should be using YouTube.

  1. YouTube is free.
  2. YouTube works with many file formats and converts those files into several different sizes of Flash movie, including HD. If someone has HD capability on their computer or other device, they can watch in HD, otherwise they can watch at a lower resolution. Creating these options on your own would be time-consuming and require special software and skills.
  3. You can add unique, keyword-rich titles and descriptions for every video you upload.
  4. Your YouTube account itself is great for your personal visibility and for your business.
  5. In many cases, YouTube searches exceed the number of Google searches as a source of viewer traffic for your videos. That traffic will, in turn, see your YouTube profile and you can do a lot on your profile and in the video descriptions to encourage visitors to go to your main website.
  6. Google owns YouTube; they pay very close attention to content on YouTube.
  7. As part of “Google Universal Search Results“, video thumbnails often appear on search results pages independent of other search results, this means you have a better chance of being found in Google results when you keep video on YouTube. It’s possible to get a standard search result listing along with a video thumbnail or image thumbnail listing, so you get multiple listings on the same search results page.
  8. People will pick up and embed your videos in their own website or blog. This is great for inbound links and for increasing traffic to your site because you can include a URL in the video description as well as a URL that displays at the beginning or end of your videos. (Branding your videos is very important for this reason. Sometimes I do a good job at this, sometimes not. Here’s one example I’m happy with: Installing WordPress on BlueHost)
  9. YouTube gives you fairly comprehensive stats (YouTube calls these viewer analytics “Insight”) over time regarding how many people watch your videos, how they found them (via YouTube search, a search engine, direct link, etc.), their demographics and so forth. You won’t get any of that if you host your own videos.
  10. Many web hosts will charge you an additional fee for the increased bandwidth and server space demands you put on their servers when you host your own video. Whether or not they have fees, they may limit the bandwidth and space you are allowed for large files like video.

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Free Social Media Marketing Tool: Press Release Grader

Free tools for social media marketing are popping up everywhere. For a huge list of free and paid social media monitoring tools, there is the Wiki of Social Media Monitoring Solutions. The Press Release Grader from Hubspot is a tool of a different sort, in fact, in addition to checking for basics like contact information, it’s more about search optimization than anything else.

Free Social Media Marketing Tool: Press Release Grader

Unlike monitoring tools, Press Release Grader is not about gathering information and figuring out what to do with it. It’s an instructive tool that runs your press release through a checklist, giving you feedback about things like the readability level (high school, college, graduate school), overused words and words used most often.

One of my favorite features is a link checker that inspects the number and quality of links you include in the body of the release. Since many press releases will wind up on the Web, links are especially important. You need to be sure to include good links: think about the pages you are linking to and whether you have included keywords in the links.

Press Release Grader is an instructive tool in another sense: it teaches the user how to optimize content. Many of the same principles apply to all Web-based publishing. It’s also likely that this tool will improve as Hubspot gets feedback from users. There are search engine optimization tools that do the same thing, Hubspot and Optify are two notable providers.

Press releases are not dead. They are still a valuable way to get the word out and build inbound links. So, as long as you are going to use them, you should take a few minutes to check them over with a tool like Press Release Grader.

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Review of Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation

Over on the Social Media Club Seattle website, they have posted my review of Mitch Joel’s new book: Six Pixels of Separation.

Here’s a taste from the review:

Today building an online brand is something anyone can do. In fact, even if you are not online, your brand is being created for you by the search engines and by other people who are. The tools that social media superstar Chris Brogan has used to create one of the most successful online brands ever are available to everyone, and most of them are free. In this new media ecosystem, some business strategies that used to work will now lead to extinction. We can’t expect old business models – like pushing ads out to thousands of subscribers – to have the desired effect on new channels like mobile phones. [Read more…]

Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch JoelJoel speaks from experience and, imo, he is right on target. Would love your comments. Let me know what you think.

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Mark McLaren and McBuzz on Seattle Social Media Profiles

Mark McLaren and McBuzz Communications are featured today in an interview with Seattle Social Media Profiles’ Kenji Onozawa. In addition to the video interview below, there’s an extended text interview with Mark McLaren on the Seattle Social Media Profiles website.

Along with Social Media Club Seattle, Kenji and crew are one more reason the social media scene in Seattle is gaining a lot of momentum. If you are in Seattle, definitely check out these websites and follow Kenji on Twitter.

Seattle Social Media Profiles Interview with Mark McLaren

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Web 2.0 Seminar in Seattle: Introduction to Web 2.0


Introduction to Web 2.0 Seminar in SeattleOur next Social Media Marketing Event will be on May 11, 2010: “Explode the WordPress Learning Curve: An Evening with the Experts”

I’m very excited to be part of this WordPress Seminar in Seattle line-up! You’ll get lots of vital information, distilled, organized and ready to be put to use. My 20-minute segment will focus on the five most important things you can do to optimize your WordPress website or blog for search engines.

WordPress Experts SeminarRead more and get tickets for this upcoming evening of social media learning and networking: WordPress Social Media Seminar in Seattle (click for more information). Tuesday, May 11, 6 PM to 9 PM at Bellevue College, Bellevue (Seattle) Washington.

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Blogging 101 – Introduction to Blogs and Web 2.0

I recently gave a presentation called “Blogging 101 – An Introduction to Blogs and Web 2.0” to a Seattle business organization called The Alternative Board. You can view the slide show below. The presentation addresses the following questions and topics:

What is a blog? Why are blogs so popular? How is a blog different from a website? Why businesses love blogs. How blogs are being used today. Why blogs are part of Web 2.0. Why a blog is a prime example of a Web 2.0 tool.

What is Web 2.0? What does Web 2.0 mean to your business? Blogs as marketing tools. In addition to blogs, what are the other parts of a successful online marketing strategy? What should you consider before investing your time and money in a blog?

Examples of a typical (WordPress) blog administration interface. Free blog hosts versus paid third-party blog hosting. Steps in successful blog implementation.

The length and content of the presentation can be tailored to the needs of any group. If you are interested in having me present, give me a call: (206) 962-9119 or email using the link under the address above.

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