Small Business

  • How to Make Your Content Marketing Strategy Last

    How to Make Your Content Marketing Strategy LastMarketing strategies in the digital marketing world come and go. Right now we are in the thick of trends like hyperbolic headlines which capitalize on the "curiosity cap" à la Upworthy (Takei Says 1 Word Before Colbert Disintegrates Him. It's A Big One.), and "newsjacking" by quickly jumping on the latest trend to gain some quick hits on your website.

    Content marketing that lasts, however, requires a long-term game in combination with the trending tactics. Without sustainable engagement, your website will quickly resemble what we know as "one hit wonders" in the music world. Don't be the 4 Non Blondes. Be Cher.

    How do you establish yourself as a lasting source of useful content while still using some trends as tactics? Here are some great suggestions from Hubspot.

    Identify popular content on social media

    There are ways to monitor trends already set up through Twitter's trending topics area or Google Alerts on specific keywords. Better yet is social trend tool Topsy. Search keyword phrases with this tool, and relevant links, tweets, photos, and videos will surface.

    This will both identify if there is current interest in a particular topic and whether or not there is interest in a new content piece in this genre.

    If you're unsure what kind of keywords to search for, spend some time on social media sites and subscribe to apps like Feedly. Do some reading. See what is being talked about, and then see what stage the keyword is in via Topsy.

    Create a headline which invites clicks

  • How to Map Keywords and Improve Your SEO

    How to Map Keywords and Improve Your SEO

    Keywords are a long-lasting and coveted part of SEO. Even those on the periphery of digital marketing have undoubtedly heard whisperings about keyword optimization - choosing the correct keyword terms, selective and appropriate usage, keyword-based content development, and more.

    We're not talking about Meta Keywords, the metatag intended for the search engine, those went out with Hummingbird.

    The world of SEO is a complex one. Search engines have gotten much smarter, recognizing "empty" content that is stuffed to the brim with keywords, while offering little substance readers. In other words, shortcuts and gimmicks just don't work anymore.

    Instead, small businesses must do their due diligence to research and develop high quality, relevant content to present to their audience. We can do this through learning how to properly target keywords, and from there, map keywords directly to page itself.

    What is "Keyword Mapping"?

  • How to Repurpose Your Quality Content

    9Feb15 TypingQuality content - and a lot of it - is the key to drawing traffic in our digital society. Marketing departments of small businesses are finding themselves increasingly pressured to increase activity across social media platforms, which means regularly producing engaging and shareable material.

    It can feel overwhelming and time-consuming, to be sure. However, the answer to this problem isn't to write more frequent, at the expense of lower quality posts. In fact, it is best to spend time writing the most engaging content you can, and re-use this same content in many different ways.

    Here are 6 fantastic ways you can repurpose your quality content across multiple online genres, recently outlined by HubSpot.

    1. Email Newsletters

    A great way to maintain connection with your blog readers is to send out an email newsletter with your content. This method is a solid inbound marketing tactic, as you are giving something useful to your community of prospective clients in place of asking for a buy.

    Repurposing your blog content in an email format is a great way to reach other readers who may check their email every day, but tend to avoid social platforms, say, while at work. Email newsletters create a helpful readers digest and will boost more traffic to your website.

    Bonus Tip: If you're unsure where to begin your newsletter campaign, MailChimp offers a free newsletter generating platform which has the ability to pull in your Blog content through a recurring RSS-based newsletter.

    2. Multi-Platform Social Media Posts

    Quality content directly lends itself to social media marketing. Your content most likely houses quality images, quotes, engaging snippets of information, statistics, questions, and more that can easily be used when you share your blog on social media.

    Re-purpose the full capacity of your blog by using this information to share your blog in variety of ways. Simply sending out the title of your blog post over and over again can start to feel redundant by your social media community, so spice it up! Use a quote one day, an image another, a provacative question another... the options are endless.

    Don't forget to share your content across multiple networks! Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn are the golden 4 which all businesses should be active in. Use a social media scheduling service, like Hootsuite or Buffer, to schedule social media posts across multiple platforms to get the most content reach.

    3. SlideShare Presentations

  • How to Start Up Your Online Marketing Campaign in 5 Steps

    How to Start Up Your Online Marketing Campaign in 5 StepsGrowing a business requires a solid marketing plan. As a startup business, (this certainly applies to a young, established one looking to grow as well) identifying your target audience and making them take notice of your product is a key to your ongoing success.

    A proven method to reach this end is creating an online marketing strategy that works - and works from the very beginning of your launch.

    Easier said than done? Certainly. Luckily for you, the online world is a dynamic and evolving medium, saturated with a plethora of information and potential leads. The key is to learn how to bring your company to the foreground of all that activity.

    Steamfeed recently presented a substantial eleven step program for starting up your own online marketing plan (read to the bottom for the full list.) Here are the top five you should focus on.

    1. "Marketing First, Product Second"

    This quote from Moz's Rand Fishkin is spot on. No matter how good your product is, without a interested market, it becomes completely meaningless.

    When it comes to your startup, the same philosophy applies. What good is your startup company without a client base?

    But, if you build a marketing machine first, you are in an enviable position. Even if your early products don’t take off, you have a captive audience that’s returning again and again...

    - Rand Fishkin

    Before you even begin to show your new startup the light of day, engage in marketing activities. Generate interest in your target audience group (or maybe even start by defining a target audience group) to create a great transition into an official introduction, and generate success for your business.

    2. Consistency is Key

  • How to Use Google Drive Sheets as a Project Manager

    Google Sheets for Task and Project ManagementProject management tools that are free, customizable, sharable, and easy to use are rather hard to come by.  Luckily, we've found Google Drive Sheets to be a little known gem for simple project management that manages to fit all of these categories.

    If you're looking for elaborate task dependencies, resource balancing, and other items historically relegated to MS Project, this solution may not be for you.  For simple project management with email notification reminders, read on. 

    Create a Google Drive Spreadsheet with Reminders to Manage Tasks and Projects

    Google Sheets has a great deal of functionality similar to Excel.  However, one perk of Sheets is that it has built in functionality that interacts with the rest of your Google accounts (i.e. Gmail) that is enhanced by its ability to add reminders directly into your spreadsheet.

    How Create your own Task List or Project Management List with Reminders

    First, open a spreadsheet and install the "add reminder" script.

    • Menu > Tools > Script Gallery
    • Search for "Add reminder"
    • Install the scripts

    Create a Task List in Your Spreadsheet

    • Create Columns for your identifying purposes (i.e. Task, Assigned to, Due Date, and Status)
    • Select "Add reminder" in your toolbar > Preferences

  • How to Use LinkedIn to Find Better Leads

    How to Use LinkedIn to Find Better Leads (Source: - used as royalty free image)

    LinkedIn is the number one source of social media lead generation for B2B marketers, by just about every metric. 59% of marketers identify it as their top source for lead generation, and 92% leverage it over all other social platforms. It’s the most-used social platform by Fortune 500 companies, is the top pick for B2B product launches, and it doesn’t just stack up against its social peers: LinkedIn also boasts 6X the ROI of Google AdWords.

    So, you may be asking yourself, why is my brand not seeing all of these incredible results with LinkedIn?

    While LinkedIn can be an invaluable resource, it’s also important to recognize just how different it is in many ways from other social channels. You can’t just treat LinkedIn marketing as you would Facebook and expect the same results.

    Ready to rack up high quality leads with LinkedIn? Here are five ideas to jumpstart your B2B marketing now:

    1.) Share Valuable Content

  • How to Use Links to Improve Your Business Blog

    How to Use Links to Improve Your Business BlogIt's no mystery that blogging is a great way to get fresh eyes on your company's website - we talked about it many times before. But did you know that placing links within your blog can bring you even more benefits?

    Adding effective links to your blog can optimize your readers' experience. When done correctly, the links you place within your blog will keep them curiously clicking through your site and consuming more of your offering.

    How do you keep readers clicking? Here are some great tips from Steamfeed on utilizing links within your blog to produce some pretty great results.

    Internal links vs. External links - What are they, and which do you use?

    Before you start throwing links into your blogs, know that not all links are created equal. We divide links into 2 larger categories - internal links and external links.

    Internal links take the reader to another page directly within your site (like a link to one of your other blog posts, or a link to your "Contact Us!" page).

  • How to Use Open Graph Protocol to Improve Social Media Marketing

    How to Use Open Graph Protocol to Improve Social Media MarketingYour blog game is top notch. You produce quality content at a consistent frequency, and you have great blog images to boot.

    Unfortunately, when you go to share your blog, it pulls in the wrong thumbnail image (or, none at all). How frustrating!

    Not only is this an aggravating setback, it can actually hurt your social media marketing success rate. According to Hubspot, images substantially boost user engagement on your content (read: likes, shares, favorites, comments). Posting content with an image on LinkedIn alone results in a 98% higher comment rate. That's something to write home about.

    Of course, this also occurs with the right image. Cut-off images or your company logo just won't do the job you're looking for.

    So, how can you make social media sites pull in the image you're looking for without too much hassle? Use the Open Graph Protocol, recently detailed by Hubspot.

    So, what is the Open Graph Protocol?

    Open Graph (OG) tags are your best liaison between your content and social media networks. Social media networks comb through your content looking for OG tags, which tell the social media networking sites what information should be pulled into their system.

    Without OG tags, social media sites usually do a good job of pulling in page title, URL, and description, but will often pick the wrong accompanying image.

    How to Use OG Tags

  • How to Use Stock Photos Professionally

    Effective Use of Stock Photos Go Ugly EarlyThe phrase "stock photos" leaves a bad taste in your mouth after saying it. We get it. However, not everyone can afford custom photography on a day-to-day basis. When you find yourself in a situation needing to supplement your blog or website with some stock photos, how do you to it tactfully? Here is a great advice from Chris "Kubby" Kubbernus on SlideShare which will optimize your stock photos to their fullest extent.

    1. Go For Ugly

    Strange advice, right? Maybe we should rephrase this title as "Go For Real."

    What we mean by this is, who would you trust more as your medical professional? The tall, dark, and handsome doctor with his lab coat thrown over his shoulder in true Calvin Klein model fashion or the doctor that looks like, well, an average doctor?

    If you said the average doctor, you're right. People respond to real, because they're looking for a real professional - not a posing professional.

    2. Don't Look At The Camera

    Look at me! I'm answering a phone call, taking notes, shaking a hand with a client, and looking at the camera with a beaming smile! This is reality!

    ...except not. At all.

  • How to Use Visual Content on Your Blog (The Legal Way)

    ATTRIBUTION: Flickr user ralphbijker"A picture is worth a thousand words" is as true as it ever is in the world of digital media and marketing.  An inviting, compelling image is a great way to get customers to venture on your website or read your blog.

    However, not every image that you can "right-click, save" is actually yours for the taking (and can get you in some serious copyright issues down the line.)

    Here's how to choose your visual content... legally.

    Approach Every Image With Caution

    As Steamfeed recently quoted in their own article on visual content usage:

    "Ignorance of the law excuses no one."

  • How to Write a Successful Blog Post

    How to Write a Successful Blog PostOk, so maybe writing a blog post about how to write a blog post feels a little bit like you've been dropped into the middle of the movie Inception. Like the kids are saying these days, this is so meta. We get it.

    But, as we know many of you are interested in blogging for your small business, we want to give you some footing to start writing blogs that are engaging, useful, and representative of your own personal voice. Here's a guideline for how you can formulate your blog, adapted from Buffer.

    The headline

    Did you know that 8/10 people will read your headline, while only 2/10 people will actually read what you wrote? This statistic from Copyblogger is a reality check for bloggers everywhere, as it seems your headline really can make-or-break your entire blog.

    The length of the headline

    According to KISSmetrics, readers most absorb the first 3 words of a headline and the last 3 words of a headline. Ideally speaking, a 6 word headline is the most successful, but it is not always possible to consolidate a headline in that way. Instead, focus on putting your most powerful words at the beginning and end of your phrase for ultimate grab.

    For SEO, 55 characters and less will fit your entire title on a search results page.

    The psychological component

    It is important for your blog title to be compelling in a way that appeals to your reader's interests. Here are some tactics that Buffer recommends:

    1. Surprise - “You're Driving Away Potential Homebuyers (Here's How)”
    2. Questions - “Do You Know Where to Get the Best Return for Your Home Improvement Dollar?”
    3. Curiosity gap - “5 Reasons to Hire a Realtor. Number 3 Is the Biggest Surprise!”
    4. Negatives - “Never Have to Pay Rent Again”
    5. How to - “How to Invest in the Perfect Home”
    6. Numbers - “10 Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Green”
    7. Audience referencing - “For People in the Midst of a Multiple Bid Scenario”
    8. Specificity - “The 3 Golden Rules for Structuring a Successful Purchase Offer”

    Whatever tactic you decide to use, all of these elements are eye-catching and intriguing in some way. You can also use tools like these to help gauge the success of your blog title.

    Use a Featured Image

  • How to Write Engaging Social Media Content

    How to Write Engaging Social Media ContentThe way we communicate with one another now is different than it would have been in the past. We send each other messages on Facebook, Re-Tweet content that we like, tag friends on Instagram, network with business professionals on LinkedIn.

    Social media has changed the way that we interact with one another, to be sure, and has thus changed our expectations for how we expect to communicate with brands. Articles, images, and updates saturate our feeds in a noisy and ever-shifting stream of information. As a small business, rising above this "noise" is all but easy.

    What we must keep in mind is that it is near impossible for any one user to consume everything that their connections post. An average user skims their feed a few times a day. While they skim, they pause over content that catches their attention - and it is our goal, as small business owners, to have our content catch their eye.

    How do you create content that will quickly engage a reader on social media, and effectively keep them reading once they click through? Here's what Steamfeed recently said on the matter.

    1. Keep it Short and Sweet

    The average attention span of a human being is a mere 8 seconds. Skimming is the name of the game, especially when it comes to social media consumtion.

    Keep your social media copy as succinct as possible. Delete anything that doesn't add value or make a clearly articulated point. Use specific language that will entice readers to click-through, and try to always leave room for the "curiosity gap." If more information might be valuable, use the link through to your website or blog post fill that role.

    2. Use Visual Stimulation

    Imagery just plain works on social media websites. Photos, videos, and infographics garner more clicks than text alone.

    In selecting a multimedia source to post, consider what the image/graphic/video actually communicates to your skimmers. Does is provide valuable information? Does it elicit an emotional response?

    If you're unsure where to start in selecting an image, be sure to check out our guide to creating powerful images for social media, and then use Canva to create the right size image for different social networks.

    3. Ask Questions About Your Product or Service

  • Is Your Email Marketing Campaign Breaking the Law?

    Is Your Email Marketing Campaign Breaking the Law? (Source: - used as royalty free image)

    If your company is planning to launch an email marketing campaign, listen up. According to a recent, comprehensive article in HubSpot, some companies are breaking the essential "CAN-SPAM" law with their email marketing campaigns. Now, these companies and individuals aren't doing it maliciously - they're simply ignorant of the rules.

    Here's how you can avoid breaking the CAN-SPAM law - and avoid the sizable $16,000 per email fine. (And yes, you did read that correctly.)

    What is CAN-SPAM?

  • Launching a New Website? Don’t Forget to Check These 10 Key Elements Off Your List

    Website Launch Checklist

    It’s hard to overstate the importance ofhaving a website for your brand. Today, your next customers are connecting with businesses and doing their product research online, via search engines, review platforms, and social media networks - which can all help funnel users directly to your personalized landing page. 

    Having a unique, handcrafted website that isfunctional, responsive, andoptimized for search engines can go a long way in helping your business stand out from the crowd. Your brand website is also a powerful marketing tool. It’s your calling card, your elevator pitch, and your sales funnel, all rolled into one. Your website can help your brand reach new audiences on search engines like Google, and helpconvert curious visitors into lifelong customers. 

    If you’re nearing the end of your website design and development process, you’ve probably been over all this -and then some!You’ve talked about design. You’ve discussed creating compelling calls to action and functional conversion tools. You’ve thought long and hard about the importance of UX. 

    Now, it’s time to move into the last phase, and start fine-tuning your site so it’s ready to launch. It’s time to look over the little details, to make sure your website is going to appeal to audiences, and rank highly with search engines. Before your site goes live, it’s also important to start planning for the future, and develop a strategy for all of themaintenance, performance, and security tasks to come. 

  • Microsoft Unveils Free Office Suite for iPad, iPhone, and Android

    Microsoft Free AppsMicrosoft is up to some exciting things recently. Not only did they strategically team up with Dropbox, they have now officially announced that their Office suite is free for iPad, iPhone, and Android.

    Yep. 100% free.

    This pleasant surprise offers Word, Excel, and Powerpoint apps completely free of charge and without need of an Office 365 subscription to create, edit, and store all forms of documents in the cloud.

    A new iPhone app is now released featuring Office complete with optimized integration with Dropbox.

    But...a free Office suite? Really?

    This move does seem a little absurd (or desperate?) on the surface. The company, however, says it is simply strategy. Microsoft's head of Office marketing, Michael, Atalla was recently quoted in The Verge, explaining the decision:

  • Optimize Your Marketing Strategies With These Blogging Tips

    Optimize Your Marketing Strategies With These Blogging TipsIt's no big secret that blogging resides at the top of the inbound marketing strategies list. Blogging comes with the dual benefits of a consistently active and updated website while providing an engaging and sharable resource for strong social media activity.

    The rewards are there for the taking. There are a good handful of processes and shortcuts to blogging that make blog generation a less daunting and more effective. Here are some ways you can optimize your own blog marketing strategy, adapted from Ginny Soskey's suggestions on Hubspot.

    Pick Topics That Convert Business

    If you're going to spend your time writing a blog, it is a good idea to pick a topic which has a high liklihood of converting business. Your business has something to offer, and writing about topics which hint towards that offering will use your efforts to gain the biggest return.

    Lets say you're a coffee travel mug distributor. Your goal is, naturally, to encourage your viewers to buy a coffee mug (convert the lead into business). A successful conversion-based blog topic for you would be something like "12 Reasons To Drink Coffee On The Go." This is better than a topic like "12 Delectable Coffee Concoctions You'll Love" because, while this second option does pertain to your product, it does not directly persuade users towards conversion.

    Note: Of course, not all topics should have this push. Variety is key to diversifying and satisfying your audience. Keep these types of topics in mind, however, as a pursuasive marketing strategy for your company.

    Don't Sacrifice Frequency - Use Formats to Your Advantage

    In an ideal world, we'd all love to churn out eloquent 5,000 word blog-novels every day. In reality, of course, this is unlikely.

    The key to blog marketing success is frequency. Pick a number of blogs you'd like to publish on a week-to-week basis (even 1 is a good number) and commit to it.

  • Optimize Your URLs for Search Engines

    A URL is the same thing as a "web address."  It is an acronym for "Uniform Resource Locator" and it is used to specify where your page is on the web - and serves to direct others to it.  As you may guess, optimizing your personal URLs is a tried and true way to get search engines to identify, classify, and promote your content - and it isn't that difficult to do!

    Here's how to optimize your page URLs for search engines (thanks Hubspot!).

    Remove extraneous words in the "page" part of your URL

    Words like "and" or "that" - words that no real meaning to your URL - can be removed from your URL.  This will improve readabilty and weight your more important words more heavily.

    For example, if your page chain reads:


  • Our Favorite Task Manager: Asana

    Our Favorite Task Manager: AsanaEvery once in awhile, we stumble across an online tool that makes us wonder how we functioned without it previously. It happened to us with Gmail, Dropbox,, and now it has happened to us with what we consider to be our ultimate task manager: Asana.

    We may be joining the Asana party a little late, as we know there is already a substantial following behind this platform, but for those of you out there struggling like we were to find an optimal task manager... well, you can thank us later.

    Asana: An Overview

    Asana bills itself as a place for "teamwork without email" - essentially, an all-in-one collaborative workplace, discussion board, and task manager housed within a cross-platform app (compatible with computer, smartphone, and tablet). This intuitive freemium service (free for 15 team members) was originally developed by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and former Facebook tech-lead Justin Rosenstein.

    Team members join the app in a collective workspace, which essentially becomes an elaborate form of a "to-do" list. Assign tasks to specific team members. Categorize and label tasks in sub-sections. Set recurring tasks, or sub-tasks to be checked off within a specific task. Generate a due-date free section with ideas for future content. Discuss projects with one another on the messaging system built directly in the task, or send a private message to one of your team members.

    Really, the options are limitless. But lets get into the details.

    Asana Functionality and Task Management

  • Reach Your Digital Newsletter Mailing List With Facebook Ads

    Grow Your Digital Newsletter Mailing List With Facebook Ads

    Your newsletter recipients are typically those with some general interest in your company. Maybe they've just opted in after reading some of your blog articles, or perhaps they're long time customers of yours. Whatever the case may be, the members of your newsletter build up a client base that are worthy to market to.

    Thanks to a new collaboration between Facebook and Mailchimp, there is now an easy way to reach your current newsletter customers on Facebook with targeted paid promotions. Here's how.

    What It Is

  • Reputation Management for Real Estate, Architecture, and Interior Design Professionals

    Reputation Management for Real Estate, Architecture, and Interior Design Professionals

    Check out our most recent training webinar on reputation management for real estate agents.

    Before the internet, how did real estate agents, architects, and others in the real estate business get clients?

    It’s not out of school, we think, to say that a ton of business came from referrals and word of mouth. One client, satisfied with the work you did for them, told their friends, family, and colleagues, and, sure enough, some of them would give your business a call when the time came.

    And the reality is that plenty of home professionals – that’s real estate brokers, interior designers, architects, contractors, and decorators – still solicit the bulk of their business from personal referrals. After all, people are never going to stop talking to each other face to face, no matter how much time we spend on our smartphones.

    But the thing is? Today, people aren’t only chatting with each other over coffee or at dinner parties. Instead, they’re taking their referrals and recommendations online.

    And there’s a way that you can guide the conversation around your brand for the better, helping make sure that reviews, rankings, and testimonials all work in your favor, helping you gain new leads on the backs of your existing, satisfied clients. We call this strategy reputation management, and it’s a must-have for any business in any industry, from sales to design.

    Generally, we break down successful reputation management into three interrelated parts, each of which has a major role to play in making your business stand out – for the right reasons – on the internet. Whether you work in real estate, interior design, architecture, or construction, here’s what you need to know about online reputation management for your business:

Jason Finn

Founder & Chief Geek

Jason has nearly 20 years of consulting experience, predominantly in the technology space. Most recently he was the COO and Director of Technology for Rich Casto & Company, a national training and consulting organization in the real estate industry.
As a consultant for IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Envision Consulting Group (now IMS Health), Jason has served clients of all sizes, including Big Pharma, Fortune 500, and Global 1000 companies:

  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • AOL (America Online)
  • Astellas Pharmaceuticals
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Ford Motor Credit
  • Wockhardt USA (formerly Morton Grove Pharmaceuticals)
  • Norwich Union
  • PNC Bank
  • Reynolds and Reynolds

Sarunas Budrikas

Creative Director

Sarunas is a web design and development expert with hundreds of successful projects in his portfolio. He is passionate about delivering extraordinary user experiences for every client and consistently goes above and beyond everyone’s expectations. As an SEO expert and strategist, he can optimize your website, or app, to get the most out of it, day in and day out. Sarunas holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Kaunas Technology University, in Lithuania. Sarunas now lives in Chicago, and calls it home.

Alexandra Olsavsky

Client Experience Specialist

Alex specializes in content generation and social media promotion for Geek | Chicago clients, helping to solidify their presence in the online community. This includes blog writing, graphic design, co-ordination and design of weekly newsletters, and active engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Outside of Geek, Alex is a classically-trained soprano who professionally performs around the city of Chicago (most recently with the Chicago Baroque Band, and with the Rolling Stones for their "50 and Counting" tour).