Images and How to Use Them Without Getting in Trouble

Images are an excellent addition to your website, blog post or social media and can help you get more shares and interactions. However, not all images on the internet are okay to use since there are laws that allow people to have rights to those images. Using just any image you find on the internet can get you in big trouble and leave you with a hefty fine!

Image Copyright Laws in Canada

We live in a world where images are so easy to find with just a click of a button but we can’t use any image we find since there is a cost for ownership of most images. It’s important to be aware of copyright laws in Canada to ensure you don’t get fined for using content you find online. Under the law, any image taken by any device (camera, smartphone, etc.) is subject to copyright. This means that if someone takes a photo, it is their photo and anyone else that would like to use it has to seek permission from the photographer. The photographer is not required to register their work to have it copyrighted since when the photo is saved (onto a smartphone or camera roll) it automatically is subject to copyright and is protected under copyright laws. Therefore, it is essential that we learn to keep these laws in mind because if you get caught using an image that belongs to someone else- you could be fined!

How To Find Great Free Images

There are many ways to find images that are free and can enhance your content.

1. Create your own images: Grab your camera or even your smartphone to capture some images! This allows you to be in full control of what the image will love like and leaves tons of room for customization. Also, having your own images ensures that the content is original and authentic.

2. Find royalty-free images on Google: When you search on Google, make sure you’ve clicked the “labeled for reuse” button! This allows you to reuse the image. See below:
How To Find Great Free Images on Google

3. Use Creative Commons to search multiple platforms to find free images: This site allows you to search for images easily and helps you find free images from various platforms. Check out our blog post on Creative Commons for more information.

4. Find free images online: Using sites such as allthefreestock.com allows you to search for various free images, videos, music and icons that are royalty-free.

5. Tools such as Canva: Canva allows you to edit your images and it basically works as an easy-to-use graphic design platform. It also has a massive repository of free images along with fairly inexpensive images (approximately $1 for a high-quality image).

6. Buy images: There are sites that allow you to purchase high-quality images. Sites such as iStock allows you to buy images for as little as $12 per image. You can also get a subscription for $40 per month that gets you 10 images per month.

If you’re ever in doubt, you can always check where that image appears online through TinEye. You simply upload your image or paste a URL of the image and this tool does a reverse search to find out where that image appears online.

Keep these tips in mind next time you add images to your content!


Link Building – 9 Ways to Get More Links to Your Website

What is Link Building

Link building is the process of getting external sites to link back to your site. The more of these links you have from high-quality sites the more this positively impacts your position in the search engine results pages.

Here at Out-Smarts, we often get asked to assess company websites from a search engine perspective, to ascertain why their page isn’t appearing higher on Google. One reason is that they don’t have enough backlinks to their website or they have the wrong kind of backlinks – links from other websites tracking back to their site.

The ChainDespite Google’s algorithm changes, links are still valuable online, the more your website has the better its ranking will be but you have to be really careful how you go about building links. Link building can be extremely time consuming, can seem like a fruitless task and if you do it wrong can be damaging.

Here are 9 ways that you can build links back to your site:

Link Building Techniques

1. Social Networks – use your social networking presence to link back to your site or blog posts. This will drive traffic to your site and traffic is one of Google’s rank factors (double whammy!). The links to your website in your social bios and about sections are really important to so make sure you’ve included those and updated them to https.

2. Directories and Citation Sites – beware the directories – there are gazillions of websites that simply list the URL’s of other websites (rather like the Yellow pages but online). Submit a link to your site only on directories that have a good page rank, are relevant to your target audience and locality but avoid the ones that ask for payment or reciprolinks and absolutely ignore sites that simply link farms – linking in those does more damage than good.

3. List Your Business on Google My Business and Bing Local – these are really high-value citation sites, if you are not listed on Google My Business, get on it!

4. Content – make sure that the content on your website or blog is great, it should answer the questions your buyers ask when researching and evaluating a purchase. The higher quality your content is the more likely people will find it and link back to it. Link to other key players in your industry, your suppliers and sources as this gives you a reason to reach out and ask for a link and to tag them on social to encourage shares (and traffic!).

5. Widgets  – add widgets that allow visitors to easily share your content on the network of their choice.  These links are not high value from an SEO perspective but they do drive traffic (which is important for SEO).

6. Relationships – ask partners, clients and organisations you are a member of to place a link on their site back to yours but only on sites that are relevant and appropriate within your area or industry. If you are already a member of an association make sure that your listing in these directories includes a link to your website.

6. Advertising – consider advertising online: Google Ads can be a valuable way to drive traffic to your site.

7. Influencer marketing – many influencers are happy to link back to your site, although many of them will charge you for it. It’s worth considering though as this can help you in a number of ways including extending your reach to there audience.

8. Outreach – make a list of sites that have a high domain authority or page rank and reach out to them asking for a link – you can do this by email or phone. One we got recently offered us a lifetime subscription to their software which caught our eye and made their communication stand out from others.

9. Blog Comments – we had written this technique off ages ago but a recent blog post from Neil Patel has us revisiting this. If you use blog commenting though you have to think your comments through and make sure they are valuable and related to the post so that it isn’t perceived as spam and deleted.

Thanks -wink- for the great Flickr image.

Updated July 2020


10 Tips To Hiring the Right Social Media Partner

Is social media one of the things on your to-do list that never gets addressed because you don’t know where to start, or how to use it effectively? Perhaps you have embarked on a social media implementation that has fizzled out because you have other more pressing priorities and don’t have the time to manage it effectively.  For many small to medium-sized businesses, social media is a conundrum and the solution is to bring in a social media expert to assist.

Hiring an expert in social media can be a great solution to these problems because it enables you to cut to the chase without having to worry about the steep learning curve social media can entail. It also increases the likelihood of your organisation achieving its social media goals more quickly, but only if you choose the right organisation or individual to work with.  Beware, if your chosen partner in this area turns out to be inept, you could end up throwing money down the drain, or worse, damaging your online reputation.

Here are ten tips that will help you determine how to hire the right social media help.

  1. Do a little research up front.  Google the person or company to see whether the results are related to social media.
  2. Find them on LinkedIn; check their referrals, experience and how long they have been doing social media related work.  If they don’t have a LinkedIn presence then maybe they are simply social media power users and not social media for business experts.
  3. Facebook and Twitter – check out their feeds – do they add value? Are they social media related? Avoid companies that have generic posts or worse, simply spout famous quotes.  Also on Twitter, consider their follower counts, and remember that quality is always better than quantity when it comes to those.
  4. How long have they been doing social media? – social media is a relatively new principle but generally, if someone has been doing this less than a year then they are still wet behind the ears.  Best to work with an organisation that has been doing social media for upwards of 2 years (we’ve been doing it for 5!).
  5. Do they ask the right questions?  I am often asked which questions to ask a social media expert from a hiring perspective (and I will get to those momentarily) but more importantly, you can determine whether a social media expert knows his or her stuff by the questions she asks you.  If she asks how many followers you want but doesn’t ask about your target audience, or about your business, then that should be a red flag.  Social media is not simply about being on Twitter or Facebook.  It is about using these tools strategically to build your business given your audience, marketplace, goals and resources, and a good social media strategist will take these into account.
  6. Do they have a business background?   Social media should be a component of your overall marketing and business strategy and should complement your missions and goals.  As such, a good social media expert should have a strong background in business systems whether it be through their education or experience.  Working with someone with no business background that has many followers can be a mistake.
  7. A good question to ask a social media expert is how do they monitor and measure social media success.  If they are flummoxed and don’t have a good answer then avoid them.  If their answer includes mentions, interactions, web traffic analysis, community, insights and your goals then they are more likely to be on the right track.
  8. Ask them why you should use social media.  If they answer that everyone is doing it then turn tail and run.  However if they ask if your competitors, clients and prospects are online, and if you want to attract the next generation of customers, then move on to number 9.
  9. Social media professionals often get asked about the ROI of social media. Again, if an expert has no answer to this then they probably won’t be the right partner for you.   It is much easier to track the ROI of a social media campaign than it is to track the effectiveness of some tradition marketing approaches such as billboard and newspaper ads.  A good SM person will know this and will point out that your ROI will be dependent on what you want to achieve using these tools.  They might give examples of projects they have worked on and how ROI was measured.
  10. Ask yourself if this is an individual or organisation that you can work closely with.  When considering outsourcing your social media effort, it is extremely important that you chose a partner that you can work well with.  Your social media will be a team effort and will likely involve lots of back and forth when maintaining your online presence, so work with someone you like and trust.

As with any partnership decision, often the best place to start when looking for a social media expert to work with is to ask people in your own business network who they work with and whether they would recommend them.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of cowboys and snake oil salesmen claiming to be social media gurus right now, but if you follow the guidance outlined above you will be more likely to identify the right social media partner for you.  Or you could just contact Out-Smarts, we do come highly recommended!

 


Follow Santa Online

Despite this being his busy season, Santa has been really active online again this year

Follow Santa’s progress on Twitter via NORAD and his Twitter profile.

On Facebook there are several Santas – its hard to see which is the real one but NORAD is on there too keeping track of his whereabouts.

Santa now ships to Canada – oh wait, I thought he lived here: shifty You Tube promotion. Ho ho ho.

The Elf Leader shares some seasonal ditties on MySpace.

For more on Santa, check out his wikipedia listing.

Even Wikileaks is in on the act – revealing Santa’s personal documents earlier this month along with his naughty list – hope you are not on it!

And last but not least rumour has it that Santa uses an iphone app to track wish lists now.

I wonder how he finds the time.

Happy Holidays to you all. Thanks for following Out-Smarts this year. We hope Santa is good to you!


When I Started Blogging

Guest blogger Kerry Sauriol of Crunchy Carpets explains why small businesses should blog.

When I Started Blogging

A little while ago, I was attending an event held by the Enterprising Moms Network. As usual, I had to explain what Crunchy Carpets was. One woman exclaimed to me that she had never gotten into blogging and Twitter and all that stuff as she just never had the time.

This got me thinking about a few responses to that statement.

If she didn’t have the time, what did that say about me or the many women I know who are into blogging or social media?

The statement seemed to imply that a blog was a tool mainly for personal use: merely a hobby. Judging from the number of women I knew at that event that were using blogging and social media as business and marketing tools, I was quite taken aback by this assumption.

Many small business owners and entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed by the thought of adding one more activity to their already demanding days. Most then want to know in concrete terms what they will get out of a blog. What their ROI (return on investment) would be.

If your company has a website, adding a blog to it is the simplest and easiest way to reach out to your customers. A blog can add a human touch to your website. It gives you the space to reach out and communicate directly with your customer base.

The biggest lesson about blogging is ….you get out of it what you put in.

Companies can struggle with the difference between marketing and communicating. With marketing, you see the results of it quickly and easily in the form of sales that stemmed from that campaign. Blogging is different. Blogging is about relationship building. This can be tough to understand when you are focused on the bottom line.

This is true for both personal and corporate blogs.

Blogging shouldnt be demanding…but quality writing is key. Poorly written copy or a blog that is just all about marketing can put off a reader/potential customer. So yes, hiring a copywriter or professional blogger might be your next step.

Blog Examples

Agoo Clothings web presence is an amazing example of taking social media and community building to the extreme. Their site is more than an online store. Their blog is a mix of promotional copy and child and family oriented copy that they feel their readers (their shoppers) will appreciate. Add their HUGE Facebook activity and the promotion they do with personal (mom bloggers) and you can call their social media presence a huge success. Agoo wants you to know that the people behind the clothing line are family people too with kids of their own and so they can share an understanding with their buyers.

Raspberry Kids, another online child focused store already has a rich and readable website, but the blog has become not only a promotional tool, but a great insight into the life of the owner/operator of the company. She shares the ups and downs of entrepreneurship with her readers and customers. She is one of “us.”

From these two examples, you can see how well the addition of a blog to your web presence can enable your business to connect with your community.

Marketing today has a far more touchy feely vibe to it than the days of traditional marketing, and for some this may feel frivolous, but I do firmly believe that community building, relationship building through the internet is the way to building a solid business in the real world.

If you already have a company site, the addition of a blog is a simple and inexpensive step. Talk to your webmasters and they should be able to help you or talk to Out-Smarts.

If you don’t have a website, platforms like WordPress are simple and easy to set up and there are many free templates out there that can be customized without needing a degree in code. WordPress.com is a free system and their .org site is where you can set up a blog with your OWN URL and host.

If you need a writer for your blog, there are a lot of us out there!! And we are all so talented and ready to help.

About Kerry

Having discovered that children don’t give annual employee evaluations, Kerry jumped at the chance seven years ago to be a stay-at-home mom. She has found she can more than handle being called a stupid head by her two eldest and sweetly precocious children instead of being fired by her peers.

Kerry’s hold on sanity is her computer and the world of mommy bloggers. She can ignore the chaos created by three kids, three cats, a dog and patient husband and find the peace it takes to come up with her latest post at her personal site Crunchy Carpets . Apart from obsessive Tweeting and Facebooking, she can also be found haranguing people to post on her other site Wet Coast Women.

Blogging has brought her the opportunity to meet amazing people, speak on CBC Radio and be interviewed by the Globe and Mail on a few occasions.


Marketing to Bloggers

For this blog post, we invited Kerry Sauriol to tell us about the other side of marketing to bloggers: the blogger’s perspective. Kerry has built a large a loyal following though her blogs Crunchy Carpets and Wet Coast Women (see bio below). If you are considering a blog outreach campaign (especially one aimed at mommy bloggers), this is a must read post.

Marketing To Bloggers

When I started blogging, it was purely as a creative outlet and an amazing way to meet people out there in cyberspace. Later, as I discovered the local blogging community, it also became a great way to make REAL life friends.

I have loved the community that is mom blogging.

What I wasn’t really prepared for was discovering what a commodity the mom bloggers of the world are to marketers and big business.

Granted, women count for 85% of the US purchase decisions, and the mainstream media is saturated with ads targeting us over products from soap to well…soap.

According to much of the pitches that are now arriving in my inbox…..I am VERY excited about things like mops and ham.

Courting mom bloggers has become a huge business. Cars are handed out; trips to Disneyland are offered as well as exclusive getaways at destination hotels where the corporations set up mini conferences for their new brand ambassadors. All for want of a positive post.

According to a survey by PQ Media, an alternative-media measurement firm, roughly, $50 million is spent courting bloggers to extol the virtues of their product. Very little of that money is actually seen by the bloggers writing the reviews.

It is now taken for granted that a review blogger, especially a mom review blogger will happily work for product or free all expense trips to things like the Toyota plant. And for the most, this is true.

For myself, if it is a product or service that I use or would use and I think talking about it would be REMOTELY interesting to my, readers, I will usually be happy to write something up.

For other mom bloggers, they want nothing to do with PR pitches and make no bones about it.

Other mom bloggers feel that our time and our blogs are worth more than some free product.

And that is the main point that all marketers must realize, there is no ONE mom blogger type. What works with one will not work with another. Before you send out your email blast to your mom blog list, do your research.

Read the blogs you are about to pitch to. Make sure that this is the TYPE of mom who will be interested in your product.

Yes, TYPE of mom. I said it. There are so many types of moms….all convinced that there way is the right way, that if you annoy the wrong type, you will be in a world of trouble. And by trouble I mean PR nightmare.

Ask Nestle.

Ask the Corn Refiners Association and (ironically) Mom Central.

While some moms will be happy to enjoy free webinars in return for positive press regarding their love of Betty Crocker or High Fructose Corn Syrup, there can be many more who will not be so thrilled and be more than happy to tell their online world why they are not happy about it.

And so my next key point about marketing to bloggers is BE PREPARED. Make sure you are aware of how mom bloggers are using social media. Facebook is dominated by women. Women and moms LOVE social media. What a mom blogger posts on their own site travels far beyond their RSS feeds….twitter sees all.

This can be a great thing for a marketer or a very bad thing. If your product is REMOTELY controversial make sure you are prepared to field discussions online about your product. Do not leave this up to the blogger.

When marketing to mom bloggers, you have to be very clear about what you want from them and their blogs. Are you looking for an advertorial or do you want an actual honest review. Be clear and honest in your pitches and expect the same from the blogger.

Build a relationship with the bloggers you work with. Get to know them. The better you know and understand the bloggers you are dealing with the better the posts and results of the posts will be.

Understand that a mom blogger tends to be a mom first and a blogger second. If you are inviting a mom blogger to a marketing event, childcare or being allowed to bring children to the event will be key to the attendance of that blogger.

And again, remember that while yes indeed you may be giving product or trips to the bloggers for free. Their time and their sites are valuable. Respect that and the bloggers will respect you in turn.

About Kerry

Having discovered that children don’t give annual employee evaluations, Kerry jumped at the chance seven years ago to be a stay-at-home mom. She has found she can more than handle being called a stupid head by her two eldest and sweetly precocious children instead of being fired by her peers.

Kerry’s hold on sanity is her computer and the world of mommy bloggers. She can ignore the chaos created by three kids, three cats, a dog and patient husband and find the peace it takes to come up with her latest post at her personal site Crunchy Carpets . Apart from obsessive Tweeting and Facebooking, she can also be found haranguing people to post on her other site Wet Coast Women.

Blogging has brought her the opportunity to meet amazing people, speak on CBC Radio and be interviewed by the Globe and Mail on a few occasions.


How To Get More People to Like Your Facebook Page

** This is a very old blog post – There’s an update version here – How To Get More Likes on Facebook

Facebook is quickly becoming a major challenger to Google when it comes to web traffic. Not only can Facebook drive traffic to your website but the traffic it brings is more targeted, more likely to visit more pages and more likely to stay longer. This, combined with the fact that having a Facebook page can help you reach and communicate with new audiences, means that Facebook should be a major component of your social media strategy (especially if your audience is the consumer).

Once you have created a Facebook Page for your organization the challenge becomes attracting an audience and getting people to “like” your page. Here are 10 tips that will help you do so.

Tips To Get More People to Like Your Facebook Page

1. Content – content is key to growing your following. If your content: adds value (by that I mean tells your audience something the didn’t already now) and stimulates conversion, more followers will come.

2. Website widget – add a Facebook widget to your website so that people can click from there to like your page.

3. Invite friends – use the suggest to a friend link to find and send invites to friends but be selective and only invite Facebook friends who might actually be interested.

4. Add your Facebook Page URL to your business cards. Once you have 25 Facebook “Likes” you can request a vanity URL like ours: http://www.facebook.com/outsmarts -which is much more concise and easier to fit on your cards.

5. Tell people – when you are networking both online and off, tell people about your page. If you use Twitter or other social networks, link and tell your followers in those forums too.

6. Update regularly – update your Facebook page regularly (refer to 1. when doing so!). You should update at least once a day but not so frequently that your posts become intrusive and annoying.

7. Place an ad – Facebook ads are highly targeted. Use them to spread awareness of your page with people who will be interested. You might be surprised as to how many new “likes” this will generate. You can also use Google adwords campaigns but this isn’t as effective.

8. Avoid selling – it is not good Facebook etiquette to simply use your Page for promotional purposes. Use the 20/80 rule and ensure that you only promote your company, products or services 20% of the time (focus the rest of your posts on adding value and building loyalty with your followers).

9. Make your Page Stand Out – use FBML to make your Facebook page more unique and attractive to potential new followers when they first pop by.

10. Promote your Page – make sure your Facebook Page URL is highlighted on all direct marketing and traditional advertising vehicles, add “Like on Facebook” information to letters, packaging and shipping materials to spread the word in other media.