So what’s Pinterest and how can it help my business?

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PinterestOne of the fastest growing social media sites is Pinterest. Think of a digital corkboard or pinboard, where you pin up images you upload or find around the internet that are of interest to you. You may think you don't need yet another social media distraction, but Pinterest could really work for your company to boost your Search Engine rankings. I've been reading a blog post by Jeff Bullas which delves into how this could work for you. Remember right now that external links and keywords are your best friends for SEO ranking. And that Pinterest is the perfect tool to use both very simply. Jeff's article looks at ways to use links, including guest blogging and guest posting. Now if you're a solo flyer who works with others on different projects this is a fantastic opportunity to cross-post and help each other. Commenting on others' 'pins' with a link back to your own site is an obvious way of drawing traffic. Jeff likes the idea of giving away a product or two (if your business is product-related) as interest in your giveaway will expose you to a wide new crowd of potential buyers. And finally by using the source feature of Pinterest you can cross-check on what your competitors are up to on Pinterest. What sort of business would really flourish with a Pinterest account? I'm thinking designers and photographers in particular - website, fashion, graphic, industrial, furniture and so on - could really get their businesses soaring. Designers, photographers and stylists use visuals in everything they do; visuals are the backbone of their businesses. So what better place than Pinterest to go to town? Wedding planners, event managers, travel companies and agents: Pinterest is definitely for you, too. Anyone in the beauty industry should be on Pinterest too. And that's just after thinking about who Pinterest could help for oh, say, two minutes. Give me an hour and I'll give you a blog post as big as War and Peace. And if you make products that are available for sale on your website, you have no excuse. Get on Pinterest now and plug your goodies. Sell the dream. Don't just post pics of your products, find pics that help people imagine more about the products and where they could use them. For example, if you make skin creams, pin images of foreign places, of tropical islands where your skin cream will soothe, of Paris in the snow where your skin cream will nourish skin affected by the cold. Getting it yet? Social media doesn't have to take over your business day, but it does need regular feeding and attention. If you think Pinterest is going to be utterly addictive, set yourself a time limit on a daily basis. Ten minutes a day to do a quick search of what you can pin and pins by others you can comment on. Get into a routine, perhaps set a different item each day to research. At the very least you'll make interesting new contact who could help your business grow. Find out more about Pinterest for businesses right here. Now, go and sign up, because it's free, and start pinning!

Why websites are still relevant as a means to advertise your company

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I read a great article on the Smart Company website this morning. Author Craig Reardon argued the case for the ongoing existence of websites as marketing tools amid the wash of social media and sexy apps. Websites, he said, provided excellent opportunities for promoting a call to action within a marketing campaign. And unlike social media sites, where you are constrained by the design confines provided by those sites, on your own website you can do as you wish with the size of your advertising campaign images and the associated copy. Yes, social media is undoubtedly a necessary tool for most businesses these days, especially if you are engaging Gen X and young adults. But don't discount the value of your website, and keeping it up to date and relevant. Don't throw all your advertising into social media and leave your website looking stale. So, think about this. How can you use your website better? Can you offer your clients an online booking service via your website? Can you offer your clients something special if they jump onto your site after finding you on social media? (For example, you have a special landing page for these visitors and you might offer them something for nothing or a 5% or 10% discount on your services only available by visiting that page.) If you sell products via a traditional shop, why not also put a shopfront on your website so people who can't make it to your shop can buy from your site? It's not expensive in the big scheme of things - we can develop and integrate a shopfront from as little as $500 on top of your ordinary website, and that includes your SSL certificate - and your business then becomes national or international... wherever you want to take it, essentially. Websites will stay an integral part of marketing for years to come; they can provide a more in-depth look at what you do than social media does, but both options work hand in hand to promote your business. Chat to us about how we can help you promote an integrated look and feel across your social media and website, and how campaigns could work for you.
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Publicising your blog post via pings, rss and social media

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Now you've written your post you need to publicise it using pings,rss and social media.


WordPress settings can automatically send your blog posts to a list of sites including Google, Feedburner, Technorati, Yahoo and more. Users can add these sites under Settings | Writing. I set all my clients up with a long list of sites in this section, starting with PingOMatic, so their blog posts have a wide reach. There has been comment about WordPress causing 'ping spam' in that every time you update an already published post, a new ping of that post is sent to the ping services and search engines. Unless you are a compulsive editor who insists on making changes several times when a post is published, this shouldn't affect you. One or two edits are fine. Ideally though, keep your blog posts in draft mode and use the Preview button until you are completely satisfied with your post. There is a plugin for WordPress users which lets you control when and how you ping your posts, but I have read mixed reviews about it and at this stage have not installed it for my clients.


I enable RSS feeds for all my client sites - again this helps with SEO and allows visitors to subscribe to those feeds and get the blog posts in their email inbox. For some of us this may be a bit of an old-fashioned way to do things as social media is now a more savvy way to spread your word. But again, it helps with SEO.

Social Media

Ideally this element is a blog post in itself! Firstly I am not a social media coach, so I won't be giving you a strategy on how to use social media for your blog or business. Everybody's business is different so social media channels that work for you may not work for someone else. Having said that, you are likely to have a Twitter account and Facebook page and probably Google+, or at least one of those. If you have Twitter and Facebook, it's easy enough to set your blog posts to send directly to Twitter and have Twitter post them on your Facebook page. There are plugins which do this on WordPress sites - and on other software too. An obvious tip for your Facebook page: once you've posted your blog post to your Page, do go back to your personal account and share it with your friends too! This gives you the opportunity to tag people in your status update to encourage them to look at your post - something you can't do with an automated post. You may like to consider using Hootsuite to manage all your social media networks, saving you time and effort. This could be a real time-saver if you regularly use more than two or three social media channels. There is a cost involved in using Hootsuite after a 30 day free trial. (soon to be Seesmic) is another tool to integrate your blog posts with your social media accounts. LinkedIn gives you options for feeding your WordPress posts and your Twitter feeds to your LinkedIn profile. Networked Blogs provides social media sharing options and the option for syndication. If you are a prolific blogger and post at least two articles a week, then syndication is a must. Obviously you want your visitors to share posts they like on your site, so it's important to give them some sharing options on each post. I include a sharing plugin for each of my clients so visitors can share posts through a number of social media channels. An example of these is showing at the bottom of this post. I hope this post has provided a basic explanation of ways to publicise your blog. The more it gets 'out there' the higher your search engine ranking will be. Do have some ideas or strategies you'd like to share? Leave a comment below and let's get chatting about it.  
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Key points for writing a good blog post

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So, what makes a good blog post? Let's look at a few key tips.

A killer title makes your visitors read on

Firstly, your killer title. We've spoken about that one in this article - but a killer title is nothing without killer content!

So does the first para - if you've planned properly

What about that opening line or para? Does it have impact? A good method is to ask a question... and then reveal the answer as the blog post unfolds. Another way to grab your reader's attention from the first paragraph is to have a great one-liner or unexpected anecdote as your opening para. Jeremy Clarkson is very good at this! You can offer something exclusive, e.g.beginning your blog post with a claim such as "In this post I'm going to teach you how to save $50 a week on your grocery shopping." You do have to back up the claim with relevant information or follow up material if that is what you're promising, otherwise you'll lose readers or potentially become the target of bad press on social media channels (and remember that people spread bad news quicker than good). Statistics are also a good starter. Couple that with a question - "Did you know that 99% of ginger cats are male?" - and you have a great opener.

Step back a bit - are you on target with the theme of your blog?

Before we get into content, let's step back a bit and consider what your blog is about. Is your blog consistent in what it addresses? If you market your blog as a photography or camera review, don't start getting off topic and talk about, for example, traffic in your street. Good and popular blogs are consistent, they have a theme. Obviously if you have a business you're going to blog about what you know. If you're a project manager your topics will generally revolve around ways to improve project management. You may be an expert in your field and have plenty of knowledge to impart. If you have a retail site, introduce and review new products in your post - and of course include a link to the product in your online shop. For legal blogs comments on new legislation and how it affects their clients is an obvious one. But what about personal blogs? What makes them successful? Again, it's sticking to one theme. Take, for example, Lovely Bicycle! (The exclamation point belongs to the blog name.)  Blogger Velouria started out around three years ago as a blogger who hadn't ridden a bicycle since her high school years. She'd decided to get back into riding. Initially the blog was about her test riding and choosing a bike. She had few followers. With a compelling writing style, and each post concentrating on a particular subject, Velouria shared her learning experience with her readers and gained followers by the day. Her followers consisted of experienced cyclists and people like herself, who were learning about bicycles. As Velouria learned more about many aspects of cycling and the engineering behind bikes her followers have grown and now she has monetized her blog and it's not uncommon for her to get more than 70 comments on some of her blog posts. Now THAT''s successful! Why has this blog worked? Because Velouria has shared her learning journey, has asked for help and comments, has investigated why some things work for her and some don't and shared her thoughts concisely - and not without a sense of humour either.

OK, so that's the theme sorted. Now what about those posts?

Now, back to content. Let's quickly look at a few pointers to keep in mind: Keep your article between 350 and 1000 words. People don't want to read a novel but less than 350 words can be detrimental to your SEO. Try and have a link every 120-200 words, it helps SEO. Ascertain what your keywords are and make sure they are in the title and in the first sentence or at least para of the post. If you need assistance in determining your keywords consider using a service such as SEO Scribe, which does help you write a good post. Use your keywords wisely. Ideally you shouldn't use any keyword more than ten times per blog post, otherwise your post could be deemed as spam. Use H3 and H4 tags - sub-headings in other words. Search engines love them. We all know that regular posts help raise your SEO, but there is no excuse for writing an article that doesn't have a point or a reason for being just to put your weekly blog post out. So, your post must have a reason for existing. Don't write for the sake of writing. Give your reader a reason for reading your post. Having said that, your articles should each address individual topics, or points. If you have to, divide your posts up into two or three posts if you have two or three strong ideas or points in one post. Encourage your readers to get involved - to comment, to give their opinion, share their experiences. In other words, a call to action. Ask a question of your readers. Yes, I know I've covered that earlier where you could ask a question and give the answer, but you could ask a question and ask your readers to supply answers. If you are selling something, ask people to buy - don't be shy! But don't do the hard sell either. At the least ask people to simply click on a social media share button if they liked your post. We are all so used to clicking "Like" it's no hardship. Once you've written the first draft, do edit and proofread. Check that you haven't overused your keywords.  Check your grammar, check your spelling (remembering that spellchecker can sometimes turn your sentence into something unintelligible). If you are unsure, run it past a colleague or ask a proof reader like me to help out. Print your article out and read through it - are you putting your point across, clearly? Do you have a call to engagement from your readers? Does it all flow well? Overall, does it make a point? Does it have a reason to be published?

A picture is worth...

Yeah, we know. Those 1000 words I mentioned earlier. So do use an image if you have one which depicts your topic. Feel free to use more than one, particularly if you're writing a personal blog as opposed to a business blog. Give your image an ALT tag so that readers with impaired vision can have its title read out to them. ALT tags help SEO too.

You've hit publish. Now what?

Ah, this is a topic for another post - getting your article out there on social media and other marketing tools. After all, this post is about writing a post, so I'll be sticking on topic with this one! As for this topic - has it helped you? Let me know and leave a comment below.

The name says it all – why your blog posts need good titles

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Free beer! It's an attention grabber, isn't it? What if you clicked on a blog post with the title Free beer! and found that it didn't mention beer at all, let alone free beer? You'd feel disappointed. What a waste of fifteen seconds of your life scanning a blog post to find out more about that non-existent free beer. It's vitally important that your blog posts have titles relevant to the content of the post itself, and that the title isn't too long. Keeping your title under about 40 characters is ideal. That way the entire title will appear in search results. The last thing you want is the latter half of your blog title missing in action from google. And use keywords in your post name. If your blog post is about a comparison of camera bags under $200, then 'camera bags' 'under $200' and 'comparison' are key words - as some of the major brands you talk about will be. So your blog post name could be: Comparison of camera bags under $200. That helps mightily for someone searching for a comparison of camera bags costing less than $200. It's far more effective than merely titling your post Camera Bags or Here's what you should be reading right now if you are looking for a camera bag that costs less than $200. Of course you should be using keywords in your blog post body too but that is another blog post... stay tuned for that one. Take your time to consider an appropriate title for your blog post. Grab attention with it by all means but make sure it's relevant to the post itself and does contain keywords. If in doubt, and you're a WordPress blogger, subscribe to the Scribe SEO Content Optimizer software, which will look at your title and post, recommend keywords and where you should make changes.

Monitoring your social media channels

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How much time each day should you spend monitoring your social media channels and seeing what people are saying about you or your business? An hour? Two? It sounds too hard, doesn't it? What about ten minutes a day? While you're sipping your morning cuppa. I found an excellent resource on Hubspot which explains how social media works to market your company, in case you're unsure or sceptical, and also how to monitor what people are saying about you and how to measure the impact on your business, i.e. what percentages turn to leads. This is a slideshow and while it unashamedly plugs Hubspot at the end, the information supplied is valid and relevant. If you're spending too much time monitoring your social media and wondering what to make of it, I suggest you view the show and enjoy your next morning cuppa. Here it is:

Does Telstra/Sensis just not get it or are they cunning? Musings on a phone book

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TelephoneI couldn't tell you the last time I looked up a name in the hard copy of the Telstra/Sensis White Pages. It sits in our garage, under a box full of plant seeds. If I want to know a number I usually look it up online or ring the free Australian service 1223. Don't ring 1234, it costs you a bomb. My mother, however, is in her eighties and just can't get the hang of computers. For her, the phone book is King. With the hard copy she can see who's missing from the new edition; at her age her friends aren't as plentiful as they used to be and if she hasn't heard they've gone into a nursing home or the great beyond, the phone book is a source of intel. So she was horrified to learn that households no longer automatically receive a free copy of the White Pages on their doorstep every July. Now that most people use either the internet or one of Sensis' directory lines (remember 1223, people!), phone books have passed their use-by date. If you want one, you have to phone Sensis and order one. So Mum did. She was cheerfully told that the directory she'd receive would be one book rather than two, and in a new, more useful compact form so it didn't take up as much space. It duly arrived and the reason for its compact size was obvious - the font used is so tiny that even I, who can read perfectly, had trouble focussing on it at first. Mum, recovering at that point from a cataract operation two days earlier, was only able to read it using a magnifying glass and a torch shining onto it. (Why a torch? Oh, those blasted low-wattage energy saver lights we all have to use these days. You can't read anything in her kitchen/living room let alone the phone book.) Now sit back and think of this. Who doesn't use their computer or a smart phone to look up  The likelihood is, seniors like my Mum. They are the prime audience for the hard copy phone book, but Sensis in its wisdom hasn't taken into account failing eyesight, cataracts and the other eye diseases older people are prone to. It has completely misread its main audience. Or has it? Could it be a more cunning plot? Did the smart marketing people at Sensis, keen to save a buck or two on printing costs, decide on the tiny print, realise oldies couldn't read it and then think, "Oh, wait! That's not a problem at all. They'll just ring 1234 Directory Assistance if they can't read the book and we can charge them a couple of dollars out of them every time they do." Call me cynical, but I bet the previous para is a pretty close précis of what went on in the Sensis marketing meeting.  What do you think?

Free websites – you get what you pay for.

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FreeThis year I've seen a couple of campaigns designed to get Aussie businesses online with free websites and free domain names or free lessons on building your own. I won't mention them by name simply because - well, it's bad for my business! I don't build sites for free (but mine ARE affordable). However with anything that's free, you get what you pay for. (Note that you can have a blog site with static pages hosted on WordPress, Typepad or Blogger, and you can access a range of templates, all for free, however you can't host these sites on your own standalone domain name, and this post discusses sites hosted on your own domain name.) Yes, you can get up and running with your own website all by yourself, but I would suggest that if you go down that route, contact someone like me for assistance with graphics, SEO, and as part of that SEO copywriting. These days anyone can put a website up. You might have the best product in the world, but unless you know a bit about how keyword analysis works, how search engines work, and how to write copy that will use the system to your advantage, you're not going to get found. SEO is a real art, and with search algorithms changing at a rapid pace in line with website evolution, you need to constantly tweak your copy and keywords. I've seen so many small business sites let down with poor grammar and punctuation over the years that I highly recommend having a copywriter help you with your website material. The worst offenders are apostrophes: often popped in where they don't need to be and left out where they do, incorrect tenses and misuse of plurals. Poor grammar and punctuation looks unprofessional. Competition is tough out there. As well as SEO-friendly copy on your site and great graphics and images, telling your own story could make the difference between people buying your product or someone else's. People remember stories; they engage with them. Simply saying "Buy my widget because it's the cheapest" won't differentiate you from the competition, even with a good price. Saying "Buy my widget - I developed my widget as a result of there being nothing on the market that quite did the job. It took me ten years of experimenting to get it right, to tailor it especially for our local market and local needs..." is far more memorable, human and compelling as a sales pitch. People can relate to you and trust you. Look and feel is also a big part of the web experience. You not only have to grab your readers' attention with copy in the first five seconds, your site has to look professional and coherent. With free websites you are often constricted as far as design goes; apart from your logo there won't be much to differentiate you graphically from another business which has taken up the free site offer. Most free sites have a very limited number of templates and unless you're a whiz with coding or know someone who is, a limited number of options you can do with those templates. Often too you may be limited as to the number of pages or menu items you can list on your free site. You might not be able to expand your site in the way you want down the track. Free sites mightn't let you feed in your twitter and facebook feeds or offer a range of widgets and plugins. These are all items to think about if you're considering taking up a free site offer with your own domain name. Unless you're a marketing, copywriting or graphic expert, consider spending some money and getting professional help with your free site, or take the plunge and have a unique site developed. Domain names are cheap at the moment - from $9 a year and hosting with the fab Crazy Domains guys starts at $54/year. I can start you off with a micro-site to which you can add your own pages and menu items from $495, and it won't look like a free site built on the same template 50,000 other Australian businesses are using.

Working solo doesn’t mean going it alone

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Some of us don't like the sudden shift from working in a building full of people to working on your own. In my case it was one of the best things about starting up my  micro business. I can't work when I'm surrounded by people and constantly being interrupted. I've found a lifestyle that works for me. Having said that, it's important that, when you leave a team situation to working solo, you find someone compatible to bounce ideas around with, to keep your business creativity going. One of the best ways of meeting your idea-bouncing buddy is a business association such as a Chamber of Commerce or industry group. I'm part of Ryde Business Forum and much of my business comes from word of mouth contacts from other members, or direct meetings with other members. I'm also involved in joint projects with some members; pooling our complementary skills has given us the strength to address projects we might not have been able to win or manage on our own. You can't expect clients to drop at your doorstep, you do have to go hunting. When I started my business ten years ago I had ten probable clients on my list, all of whom promised me work in the industry I'd just left. None of it eventuated. The work came from Ryde Business Forum members instead. It wasn't instant, but it's been constant, and it's growing. You can also pick up work and meet fellow solo spirits from online connections - yes, think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and also websites like Flying Solo, which is an excellent source for micro business owners. Notice how people comment on posts? Get commenting back. Start chatting. See what happens. Social media is growing rapidly as a source for business leads and potential clients and partners. Yes, you can lose yourself for hours once you start reading blogs or finding out more about the people you're following on Twitter (or who are following you for that matter). But if it brings you a good contact, it's time well spent. And you probably enjoyed yourself and learned something along the way. I do recommend getting help if you're going to seriously use social media as a business tool - there are some fantastic social media coaches around and we can recommend one for you - as implementing a professional social media strategy will target and refine your social media usage. If working from home isn't a suitable option for you and you think you'll go crazy with only the dog for company, consider a serviced office. You'll have your own space but will meet other tenants in common areas, which could be useful in the bouncing-ideas-off category. My husband was in that situation before he moved to Sydney, and enjoyed meeting up with other people in his industry over a cuppa at the serviced office canteen. Serviced offices ARE expensive, so factor that in. Depending on the services you choose you can have a professional receptionist, access to admin staff and much more. Virtual offices give you the benefit of a receptionist and access to facilities such as admin/secretarial staff without the cost of the real estate that goes with it. Some virtual office firms like Servcorp (another RBF member) have boardrooms for hire so you can impress your clients. However... I can't count how many clients I meet at cafes for a discussion over coffee. Have a look around you next time you're in a coffee shop and work out how many of those tables are actually hosting a business meeting. Boozy lunches are a thing of the past. A chatte over latte and a muffin is the new short black. So, working from home means you, er, can have your cake and eat it too! What have you found good and bad about working from home or in a solo office? Has it been the best thing you've ever done? Or the worst?

1 set of Yellow Pages, unread, free to good home

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How do you find out phone numbers?I'm a voracious reader; anyone who knows me knows that. But sitting gathering dust in our garage are books we don't even unwrap any more until it's time to throw them away - our telephone directories the White Pages and Yellow Pages. We never read them; never need them.  We moved them to the garage a few years back as they were cluttering up our miniscule living room, and there they have remained. At first we consulted them, but once they had a pile of gardening stuff on top of them it was easier to just go online than unpack the phone books. So these days if I want to find a specific person or business, I search online through the White Pages. I don't ring Telstra's 1234 service as it's too expensive. However, people, 1223 is a free directory assistance number from residential landlines on the Telstra network. Remember that and use it. Telstra doesn't promote this free service as they'd rather make money from you. If I'm searching for a non-specific business in a particular industry, I'll use Google. If I want a local handyman I'll firstly ask the neighbours who they used and were they happy with the result, or try the local newspapers. Re the newspapers, I'll then research the handyman on the internet to see what people are saying about him, if anything, or if he has a website I'll read it. If all else fails I'll use the Yellow Pages online. The one thing I don't do any more is read the print versions of the telephone directories. In an effort to win me back to these wonderful tomes that do duty in countless houses holding up broken bookshelves and other pieces of furniture, Telstra has issued our house with a mini Yellow Pages aimed at our section of Sydney. "Glovebox-sized," it markets itself hopefully. Poor thing, it gets no trips in our cars. My husband's glovebox is full of CDs and my old Golf doesn't even have one. Just some door pockets filled with rural maps and umbrellas. I did carry a "Glovebox-sized" Yellow Pages in the back of my car for while, and threw it out when:
  • I discovered it was three years out of date
  • I'd never used it
  • It was covered in oil as my spare oil bottle had leaked
My husband and I both own iPhones, so we have access to the White and Yellow Pages online when we're out and about. We don't need another bit of stuff in our cars which we won't use. My mother is in her 80s and relies on the print version of the directories, albeit with good lighting, spectacles and a magnifying glass. When each new directory arrives she compares old friends' entries with last year. If she hasn't heard from them in a while and they're not in the directory, she presumes they're in the hereafter instead. For her, home delivery of the directories is a must as she doesn't use a computer or smart phone. [pullquote_left]Why is there not an opt-out service for people who don't want the hard copy directories?[/pullquote_left]I suspect there are thousands of if not at least a million people like me, who use technology to find who and what we need. People who chuck their unread (but hopefully unwrapped) directories in the recycle bin each year. It's got me wondering how many trees are felled needlessly for people who just don't need their directories? And how much of the production and print cost is taken up in our account fees. Telephone directories are delivered automatically to every household and business. Why is there not an opt-out service for people who don't want the directories? Now to the big questions for those of you reading this who own your own business:
  • If you're a business, do you spend your advertising budget on the Yellow Pages?
  • Online and/or print?
  • If so, do you believe you're getting value for money and the number of customers you want from that ad spend?
  • Would you buy, at enormous expense, a large display ad if you're not one of the major players in your industry? (ie if you're competing against Canon Australia, or Harvey Norman, do you match their ad size?)
  • Or do you use only Google adwords or a split between Adwords and the Yellow Pages?
  • Perhaps you're promoting your business using a targetted Facebook ad campaign?
  • Is the Yellow Pages actually relevant to your business?
I'd be interested to know what small to medium businesses are up to when it comes to using the Yellow Pages to market their businesses. Is it a dinosaur, or is there still a need for your business to use it? As for me, I don't advertise in the Yellow Pages; much of my business comes from referrals or my own website. Would I advertise in the YP? No; I'm in an industry where I believe people who want to find me will go online rather than open a phone book.