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Dos and Don’ts of SEO (Startup Edition)


Tricks to Keep Search Simple and Still Get Results

The process of marketing your emerging brand can be fraught with uncertainty, especially without an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy in place.

The importance of an SEO strategy, and ranking well in organic search results, can’t be overstated. For instance, roughly half of all online website visits stem from organic searches, half of which were earned by achieving a #1 ranking.

To get you started, we’ve come up with a few dead-simple SEO dos and don’ts to take the guesswork out of your search strategy.


DO: Make your content friendly
One of the major challenges when implementing an SEO strategy is creating content that's both user and search engine friendly. Placing keywords within well-written and engaging content, however, helps bridge the gap.

While textual content is vital to the success of your website, images, videos and infographics can enhance that content, as well. In particular, videos can attract nearly 300% more traffic to your website than simply text focused content.

Maintaining a blog on your website is also a simple way to gain, and maintain, an engaged audience. For instance, developing weekly blog entries focusing on keywords relevant to your brand is a good way to keep your content fresh for viewers and search engines.

DO: Maintain your site health
Content might be king when it comes to SEO, but a healthy website is needed to make that content accessible. Ensuring your site loads quickly and doesn’t have major issues, like broken links, will increase your credibility with search engines and visitors.

By paying close attention to your website’s search health and on-going maintenance, your efforts (and investment) in content creation won’t go unnoticed.

DON’T: Get too graphic
Developing a website laden with complex graphics, videos and Flash, might be tempting, but it should be avoided.

It's important to keep in mind that search engines regularly crawl webpages and easily understand text copy, so while viewers may find your site attractive search engines may have trouble understanding it. For example, images are difficult for crawlers to read, so the proper formatting and inclusion of alt text to describe images is necessary to draw more viewers to your page.

Without significant text on the site, search engines may not rank your site well, decreasing the number of viewers your page or site might receive.


DO: Think like a customer
The success of your SEO strategy largely depends on identifying keywords to target in search results. While it might not be the most exciting part of building your brand, taking the time to research keywords will pay long-term dividends.

You can begin your search by thinking like a potential customer. Asking yourself what terms you’d look up related to your business and what motivates your search for those terms.

Once you have keywords in mind, use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner tool to pinpoint the ideal keywords searched most frequently that will yield the best results for your page. Ensuring that your keywords aren’t too general means that your website will rank well in organic search results relevant to your target audiences instead of struggling against much larger sites.

Additionally, make sure to regularly publish fresh content to pages, in order to increase the number of keywords available and help drive more visits to your site.

DON'T: Stuff your site
After your keywords are identified, you can incorporate them into your website’s content. However, be weary of keyword stuffing.

As it turns out, search sites aren’t big fans of this practice and your website can be penalized for using the same keywords repeatedly in a way that appears to be cheating the system.

Instead of stuffing your page, simply use keywords in page titles, heading tags and strategically within page content to reap the benefits of your earlier research.


DO: Meet prospects on their own terms
Taking the time to develop a strong social media presence can bolster credibility and engagement with your growing brand. It is not, however, a magic bullet.

As a startup without much of a following, the best way to gain an audience is to seek out your customers who are most active online. By posting on Twitter, LinkedIn groups and/or relevant trade blogs, you can promote interesting discussions and internal thought leadership, while driving awareness of, and interest in, your startup. It's subtle and can help build authentic relationships with prospective customers and partners.

DON'T: Neglect your networks
While developing a strong social media plan requires considerable investment, it’s an important step that shouldn’t be ignored. Bing and Google have acknowledged that social signals play a growing role in search rankings and a recent study has shown that consumers who are active on a company’s social media site contribute 5.6 percent more revenue than inactive consumers.

By using free management tools such as Hootsuite and carving out about 30 minutes to an hour a day, you can make regular engagement more of a routine and start to see quality growth on your channels.


DO: Plan well and give it time
Investing in an SEO strategy is more important now than ever before. With more than 10.3 billion Google searches every month and businesses spending nearly 80 percent of their time researching solutions to problems online, your website could miss the eyes of potential customers if it isn’t optimized.

Fortunately, even small changes can have dramatic results and help drive better ROI. For example, a recent report shared by Yahoo! showed blogging alone can increase brands' site leads by up to 67 percent.

Yes, initial implementation may take a few iterations, but if executed properly and given time to germinate, effective search planning can be a serious boon to your growing brand.

Produced by: Nick Bristol

Solar Power International and the Rise of Women in Solar

Solar Power International and the Rise of Women in Solar

Two inspiring SPI events highlight the growing purchasing power of women in solar.

In October, Yelloblu joined thousands of industry leaders for the Solar Power International conference in Chicago. Amid the excitement of all-star executive panels and solar QuickTalks, we were pleased to see SPI’s focus on an underrepresented (yet growing) demographic: women in solar.

Championed by industry icons including Julia Hamm, CEO of SEPA and Founder of Solar Power International, this year’s event placed greater emphasis on female leadership and sales strategies tailored to powerful female consumers.

Though examples abound, we found two distinct events captured the burgeoning influence of women in the PV market. First, we’ll offer highlights from the sold-out Women in Solar Breakfast and the panelists that energized the room. Then we’ll share discussions at the “Shining a Marketing Light on Women" session, a pre-cursor to the first solar survey on female consumers.

A Seat at the Breakfast Table

The room filled quickly with women of all ages and industry roles, all there to network and be inspired by the impressive female panelists. While PV remains male-dominated, the room provided new promise by hosting the likes of:

Carol Neslund – VP of North American Sales, Enphase Energy
Zeina El Azzi – VP of North American Business Development, SunEdison
Caroline Venza – CEO, MissionCtrlCommunciations

Kicking off the panel discussion was Dr. Isabelle Christensen, president of Professional Women in Solar. A champion in the space, she highlighted recent successes with companies like SunEdison, but also noted that "women still only hold about 19 percent of top leadership positions in U.S. corporations.”

Dr. Christensen shared the movement toward more collaborative leadership and introduced the all-female panel as a pivotal launching pad for a larger movement.

Of all the panelists, Carol Neslund of Enphase stole the show. Witty and self-effacing, Carol shared her experience of being a sole female lead at IBM and her current role at Enphase. She ended by calling for more peer-to-peer mentorship and directed female executives not to “pull the ladder up behind them” as they pave the path for future leaders.

Leaving for the remainder of the show, the room buzzed with energy as women in attendance spoke about how they would apply the hard-fought lessons shared by the panelists.

Women in Solar Survey

Hosted by #SolarChat founder Raina Russo and Identity3’s Glenna Wiseman, the discussion aimed to promote insights from a first-ever women in solar survey.

After getting settled in the exhibit hall, Raina shared data from Marti Barletta of TrendSight Group, who wrote the book (literally) on marketing to women. Amidst the wealth of data, Barletta found that women initiate 80 percent of all home improvements, but a whopping 70 percent feel misunderstood by marketers.

For Glenna and Raina, this represents a serious disconnect between key purchase decision makers and providers, and was the impetus for the female-oriented survey.

One of the most interesting elements shared during the event were from solar installers, like Kristin Underwood, Co-Owner of Planet Earth Solar, who said: “Women do tend to have the pocketbook for the family and be an equal decision maker on many or all of the sales I have sat in on…but more often than not the salesperson directs the conversation to the man of the house.”

This and host of other anecdotes helped whet our appetites for the final survey results, due to be released mid-November 2013 during another #SolarChat tweet series.

The first of its kind, the survey promises to offer unique insights into female purchasing decisions and new marketing methods; elements PV providers would be wise to internalize as the role of women in the industry expands.

Posted by Gretchen Fitzgibbons

Thriving in the Land of Giants

Thriving in the Land of Giants

When it comes to ad industry mergers, the birth of Publicis Omnicom Group (ticker: OMC) is one for the history books.

Aside from the eye-popping $35 billion of projected revenues, it places Publicis CEO Maurice Levy and Omnicom CEO John Wren as co-CEOs of the world’s largest ad company.

While Levy and Wren enjoy the honeymoon glow of their corporate marriage, internal operations teams face months (if not years) of obstacles. The first challenges: resolving client conflicts and getting thousands of former competitive agencies to be one big happy family.

Those adjustments also come with consolidating disparate corporate strategies and potential C-level power struggles, all under intense, global scrutiny.

As WPP Group CEO Sir Martin Sorrell put it bluntly in a recent Bloomberg TV interview:

“There’s going to be considerable uncertainty over the next 30 months as both organizations struggle for control. There is no such thing as a merger of equals… there are only things such as acquisitions…it’s all a question about who’s going to run the company.”

No matter your stance on the big news, this is a watershed moment. Industry shifts will take place gradually, of course, but once the dust settles we’ll be looking at a very different landscape.

Client Conflicts and Frustration
As Sir Martin Sorrell explained on Bloomberg TV, “Clients and people will reassess their plans, reassess their arrangements and it’s a big organic opportunity for WPP.”

It’s not just WPP who stands to benefit, it’s agencies large and small. No matter how many assurances and high-end dinners Publicis Omnicom host, clients are not going to be happy.

Promises of big data, more global access, and better talent give way in the end to the harsh realities of higher rates, intensified bureaucracy and rising account conflicts. Take for instance Pepsi and Coca Cola, who suddenly find themselves under the same umbrella agency overnight. No amount of potential value will keep them from feeling uneasy or downright agitated.

As big-name brands review their options, brand executives may find themselves drawn to smaller shops for fresh ideas and more nimble operations.

Thinking Small
As the powerhouses slug it out for number one, regulators will be watching carefully and have the potential to create serious obstacles for major mergers in the future.

In the wake of regulatory pressure, smaller firms may gain ground. Free from archaic processes, layers of management and, let’s not forget Lotus Notes, boutique agencies have an opportunity to deliver larger projects more efficiently.

Thanks to a potential influx of quality talent looking to move, mid-sized firms can also boost their credibility and gain attention from larger clients previously out of reach.

Rifts and Talent Migration
Like tourists to lifeboats, skilled technical directors, creatives and higher-level leadership will be looking to jump ship. And, they’ll have their pick of places to land.

Competitors such as WPP and Havas will provide shiny lures to bring big-name talent into their camps. While smaller firms will serve up tantalizing opportunities for unfettered creativity, leadership and better work-life balance.

Amid these suitors, we’re bound to see a rise in spinoffs and small shops, as disenchanted VPs take business into their own hands. It’s been done before – take the leadership rift at Leo Burnett in 2012 – and executives may find the appeal of forging their own agencies too tempting to resist.

Whatever’s being offered, talent will be in high demand and amid the chaos many will find, or make, new homes.

What’s next?
It’s only been a week since the big announcement and so far no big moves have been made. One thing remains clear, however: we’re entering a new age. Complex. Disparate. Hyper-competitive.

We’ll be facing a host of new players – like Google and Facebook – jostling for power, and global clients hunting for new opportunities in their race to the top.

It’s survival of the fittest and the nimblest agencies may finally have the upper hand…

Published by: Gretchen Fitzgibbons

How to tweet in 0 characters

How to tweet in 0 characters

Almost 95% of corporations are using social media today, with more than three-quarters reporting a resultant increase in website visitors. From there, close to 60% generated more leads.

So what? As a cleantech startup, you don’t have the time to follow trending issues and generate related content. Nor do you have anything to sell. What’s more, if you’re raising VC then you’re probably communicating with just a handful of stakeholders, so there’s no need for social media’s one-to-many format.

Fair enough. But that doesn’t mean you should completely ostracize yourself. Social media can still be incredibly valuable for introverts who have nothing to say. That’s because it’s a great place to listen. In fact 65% of corporations say they use it to gather marketplace intelligence from competitors and peers.

So don’t think of Twitter as a chirpy little blue bird, think of it more as a “stalk”. With an hour or two of research, you can open an account and follow dozens of organizations of strategic relevance to you—from VCs to important journalists and potential partners.

What could you get out of it?

1) See how comparable technology platforms are perceived in the market
2) Get a feel for how people are positioning competing platforms
3) Identify the hot issues in cleantech VC and edit your pitch accordingly
4) Steal stats for your presentation (people use Twitter to promote well-researched articles and white papers)
5) Learn what prospective partners are up to so you can better understand their challenges and drivers

By its very nature, Twitter is easy to monitor. At just 140 characters, the author’s message will be obvious at a glance. Even if it links to a larger piece, the tweet should provide a concise summary of what you’ll find if you click it.

So take the time to sign up and follow organizations and people that are important to you. It’s well worthwhile, even if you’ve got nothing to say.

How to save the world in 5 minutes: pitching cleantech

How to save the world in 5 minutes: pitching cleantech

You’ve got 5 minutes to convince me you can save the planet. Oh, and save lots of money. All while mastering powerpoint. Now, go.

Ten startups gave it their best shot on Thursday at the Chicago Clean Energy Alliance’s cleantech pitch competition. Presenting to a panel of veteran investors and entrepreneurs, they entered the race to become a Global Cleantech Cluster Association-endorsed prospect.

What did we learn? Well, for starters, the wait could almost be over for seawater that desalinates itself (using wave technology). And stand by for the world’s usable gas reserves to leap 30%, thanks to a high-temperature combustion engine that could run on H2S. While you’re at it, throw a water canister in your trunk because you might soon be able to mix it with diesel for cleaner transportation.

The thinking was as grand as it was varied. But therein lies the challenge. How do you pitch such a big idea in such a short time? Speaking with audience members afterwards, this is what some of the presenters could have done better.

Start strong

Hit your audience between the eyes with the big benefit straight away and backfill the details later. Context is vitally important but don’t start with it. Find your hook and dangle it immediately to keep people wanting more. And keep it punchy; the phrase “elevator pitch” was invented before we could build half mile-high buildings. If you need to change the font size to fit your headline on a slide, that’s a bad sign.

Get your frames of reference right

Science units and business units are very different. Convert your hard metrics into language that VCs understand. More often than not, that’s $/foot, $/kW and $/day. If you don’t have all the financials together, then at least use layman measurements or analogy. That will also help when explaining your magic to journalists.

Be unremarkable

Yes, you need to be innovative and hold a patent but that’s about all. Other than that, it’s better if your technology doesn’t sound like it’s off the pages of a sci fi novel. Earth-shattering breakthroughs are really, really hard work and most people just don’t have the stomach for a paradigm shift. So yes, be enthused and by all means talk up the applications but understate the science if you can.

Keep it real

Admit what you don’t know. Investors are misled for a living. Only your spouse will be better at picking when you’re glossing over something. Better to concede any oversights in your plan and retain the audience’s trust for another day. Besides which, fallibility is human and the ability to admit it, endearingly so. It will make you likeable.

What’s the angle?

The technology’s cool and all, but where does it fit in today’s economy? Who are you selling it to and why will they break with the status quo to use it? It’s important to stay focused here. Even if there are dozens of applications, pick one and blow it out. Your selection criteria for that one application is simple—go for the lowest hanging fruit, where there are least barriers to implementation. This tells investors how close they are to their first revenues.

Let it slide

Slides don’t give presentations, people do. Dense slides compete for attention. An audience that’s frantically trying to make sense of your slide won’t be listening to you. Clean slides with fewer characters and bigger fonts will make the whole experience clearer and less fatiguing for the people you’re pitching.

What to learn more? Follow us twitter @yelloblu.

Posted by: Eammon Conaghan

What is Greenwashing?

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing began in the 1970s and intensified during the 1990s, when the environmental movement really took off. We all have an idea of what it means, but what do the experts say?

Greenpeace believes such deceptive marketing takes several forms and has identified four main categories:

First, companies can publicly promote an environmentally friendly product, while a majority of their practices are unsustainable and pollute the environment.

Second, companies often spend more money advertising their environmental initiatives than they actually spend on building and implementing environmentally sustainable practices.

Third, some companies run advertising campaigns positioning themselves as “green” as they simultaneously lobby against environmental laws and regulations.

Lastly, government regulations regularly force companies to adopt sustainable practices. Companies are able to capitalize on these governmental enforcements by launching campaigns that make it seem as if the company proactively initiated the practices on their own.

Consumers have learned about these marketing practices the hard way. With each disappointment, they’ve become smarter and more discerning and simple green labeling won’t suffice anymore. Increasingly, companies must have genuinely sustainable practices to succeed.

Smarter Consumers + Sustainable Companies = Clean Environments

Posted by: Julia Sparkman

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