Archive for October, 2010

Achieving Viral Content

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

In the last episode of “SEO Land” we discussed the true meaning of the phrase “viral content” and why it was important to have visitors talking to others about your site. Just as an aside here, did you know that women speak to almost 20 more people a day, on average, than men do? Seems to me that if you had a group of women passing your link around you could have instant virality.

The big question is – how do you create viral content? It’s not that difficult and you don’t have to drag a bunch of cute, cuddly animals onto your website. Remember we want to get the content talked about, not necessarily get 1 million YouTube views. While a cat playing the piano is a sure hit, it probably has nothing to do with your business unless you’re a piano tuner.

Number one – create a blog. A blog is a wonderful thing. It serves many purposes, both in SEO Land and as a source of viral content. If you think you can’t write, you’re probably wrong. You should be able to put your thoughts, feelings, tricks and tips into some semblance of written order. You don’t have to post every day, and your posts don’t have to be lengthy.

They do have to connect with the reader and be more than a “puff” piece or a restatement of company policy. There’s a reason people don’t read T&C’s or Privacy statements – they’re boring. They’re pretty much all the same. You won’t see them on Facebook or being re-Tweeted. Unless you ARE  Facebook and you’ve changed privacy controls for the third time in a month and stirred up a firestorm yet again.

That brings us to one of the most overlooked elements of viral content – controversy. No matter what industry you are in, there are controversial issues surrounding it. Nothing gets passed around as quickly as content links that address industry headlines. My dad always told me to stay out of discussions about religion and politics, and in the world of social media and blogging, that holds true, too. But a well reasoned post about industry events is always a good way to be noticed and “passed around”.

Whether it’s your blog or your website, have something useful. Tips, how to’s, widgets, a good collection of useful links – these are all ways to get your site frequent repeat visitors. Did you know that the phrase “how do I” is used more often in search than any other?

If your site has the answer to “How do I…?” your url will get passed around and bookmarked more than your competitors. I have a special bookmark section that answers my most frequent questions. Things like conversion calculators – how many feet make 15 meters? BMI calculators – how tall do I have to be to support the weight I’ve gained sitting in this computer chair?  Financial calculators, a cool site that lists all the codecs for video encoding, another one that gives  a short description of CSS tags, and many more.

If you can answer the “How” or “What” or “Why” questions for your industry, do it! Set up a reference area on your site, or blog about it. Keep it simple – an ordered list of how to do something step by step. Or what to do for XYZ. Become a one stop shop for YOUR industry and your site and it’s content will become viral.

We can’t mention viral content without talking video. And with video the same points apply. Don’t just do a “look at how wonderful my product or service is” video. SHOW people how to use it! Tell viewers how to do something and they will watch.

If you can come up with a creative way of using your product – do it. The single most watched product videos are the “Will It Blend?” series from Blendtec. They are irreverent,  silly, hilarious at times and have been featured on every major news site on the net.

Think bloopers. Is there something that shouldn’t be done with your product? If it won’t create a safety hazard – do it! With the camera rolling. When you make people laugh, they remember you. They feel warm and fuzzy. And then they open their wallets. Because they feel a connection with you, when you have ENGAGED them.

These are just a few ideas to get your viral content ball rolling. Look at your industry and start thinking about how YOU can stand out from the crowd. What YOU can do for your customer above and beyond what your competition is doing. And pretty soon you will be saying “They like me! They REALLY like me!” as those talkative women begin telling the 28 people they converse with every day about your company, your site, and your content.

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SEO and Viral Content

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Have you ever looked at a video on YouTube and seen views over 1 million, or even over 2 or 3 million? If you’re a red blooded marketing person you probably drooled as your eyes turned glassy dreaming about that many visitors.

You will hear internet marketers promoting software or programs or techniques that will give you viral content. But you will NEVER see numbers even close to 10,000 by using any of these “tricks”.  You see, these techniques forget a very important fact about content.  The content has to be something someone actually wants to watch/read/listen to.

One of the masters of the viral content game is OK Go.  Their latest video features a choreographed dance with dogs. More than 6.5 million people have watched it on YouTube.

According to Ok Go’s lead singer Damian Kulash, “Content succeeds online,” he said, “because it brings people joy, it makes them smile — it’s interesting enough to be passed along to friends and family members. That’s no stunt,” he said, “it’s just a matter of making something that’s genuine and interesting.”

There’s no amount of savvy or gaming the system that is going to make people like things that are not likable.

We can expand that last statement  (which completely explains why all those programs and techniques won’t work) to read “There’s no amount of savvy or gaming the system that is going to make people like things that are not likable or useful.

Here’s the thing about the net – it’s built around people. Long ago the page rank of a site was an indicator of how many other sites found the content likable and useful. But guess what? Things have changed. Now actual real people “like” content and share it with friends, colleagues, and family. Social has overtaken the net and people, not sites, determine who has the best content. (Which is why page rank doesn’t matter nearly as much as it once did.)

Take a good hard look at your content. Does it talk about you? How great and good and wonderful you are? Be objective – is that content anyone wants to spread to their circle of people? Probably not, unless you have one of those foot long gold statues that are given out at awards ceremonies in Hollywood.

What is your content doing for your visitors? Is it educating them? Is it answering questions for them? Is it making their lives easier? Is it entertaining them?

Are you providing a place for lively discussion of ideas on your Facebook page, your blog, or your forum? Have you built into your site or your social media efforts an engine that will allow more and more content to be built up over time? A repository of useful information in your field?

Or is your site like the millions of others on the net –

  • page one – welcome to my site
  • pages two through 1000 – here are my great products with a one line description and a fuzzy, out of focus product image
  • page three – all about me
  • page four – contact me

This yawner formula is certain to make you a part of the thundering herd of similar sites and prevent you from ever “going viral”.

You see what works on YouTube – the basics – entertain, impart USEFUL knowledge, provide LIKABLE content, works with search engines as well as with people. The more likable content you have, the more the engines will visit and the higher you will climb in the rankings, bringing more and more visitors to your site. Those visitors are asked a ton of questions every single day that begin with “Where do I find…”

This is what viral truly means. When the answer to that question is YOUR site, and YOUR URL gets passed around in FaceBook, Twitter, eMail, and Smart Phone conversations – you’ve GONE VIRAL.

Your site will never achieve the Holy Grail of Viralizm unless you have that likable content in place.

How do you create likable content? Stay tuned and tomorrow I’ll go into the nuts and bolts of how to create that likable content.

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Search Engine Marketing = Location, Location, Location

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Realtors have always stressed the importance of location and property sales. Google seems to have paid rapt attention to these lessons. In an effort to further personalize the search experience, local returns are now taking even more precedence over other search results.

In a change implemented early this week, Google has at last added a location setting that makes my geeky SEO expert’s heart sing. They have added a setting in the left sidebar that allows me to change my detected location.

Why does this make me happy? You see, if I’m looking for a Chinese takeout around the corner, I like Google showing me a neat little map of my neighborhood and a synopsis of the local joints. If I’m trying to research keywords or find a client’s rankings, localization tends to backfire. If they’re located in Canada, I had to jump through a few online hoops to get relevant results that weren’t centered in the heartland of the US.

Based on where your computer is plugged into the net changes SEO results dramatically, even if geo-targeting is not important to your business. There are two areas of concern that you, as a site owner, need to be aware of.

Let’s look at the Chinese takeout example first. If you sell takeout boxes for Chinese food, you could be shoved far down the results page due to localization. You may have checked your rankings this morning to find that your hard won page one position has dropped to page two or worse!

Not every keyterm will return local results. You may have to revisit your SEO efforts and research some new terms that won’t be butting heads with local results to continue to attract your desired audience.

You may also hear your SEO experts celebrating a new page one ranking, while you’re looking at results that still show you in position 24. Their location may not have the local competition that your location is experiencing.

From Google’s standpoint localization means returning more relevant results. Google’s thinking that Wiki articles on the history of Chinese food is probably secondary to local restaurants is correct. But for those of us who make our living from the engines, this thinking adds another layer of complexity to our optimization efforts and raises the stakes in the game of Search Engine Marketing.

The second area of concern is WHAT is shown for those local results. Again, using my Chinese takeout experiment, the number ranked eatery began with a customer review. And it was NOT a good review! By this time I was truly in the mood for Chinese food and believe me I skipped right over the result that began with “There was NOTHING about my experience that was good and I would never recommend…”

WHY did this review show front and center? This poor site owner had never optimized his Google Places listing. Nor had he gone even further and checked out the other directories that appear in those results and made sure he had a proper profile setup in those.

You will never make 100%  of your customers happy. And it’s a fact of life that an unhappy customer will be more likely to write a bad review than a happy customer. Trying to remove bad reviews is a bad practice. But you can mitigate those bad reviews. You can answer them in a calm, respectful manner, apologizing for any errors or omissions. How you answer a bad review carries weight with other potential customers. No one expects that all reviews will be glowing. As netizens we’ve all seen our share of the impossible-to-please review writer.

If there are ten glowing reviews, two so-so reviews and one review trashing the service, that one bad review won’t carry much, if any, weight with a prospect.  But if that one review is a part of your first page description – ah then that’s totally different!

What can you do? Do your homework. Optimize your Google Places listing. Find the other directories and all reviews of your company. Institute a campaign to get MORE reviews. Fresh reviews will drive that older bad one down the list.

Last, but not least, listen. If you are getting similar reviews that point to a problem – handle that problem. Acknowledge it, fix it, and then reply to the reviews letting your current and prospective customers know that you ARE listening to them and you ARE taking appropriate action.

As Martha Stewart would say – “Localization and reviews are a GOOOOD thing” and adding a local setting to the sidebar is a great move from Google.

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Why SEO AND Social Media Marketing are an Investment

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Are you one of the companies who feels you don’t really need to spend any money on SEO or Social Media Marketing? I know times are tough. I know money is tight. And I know that many companies are tightening the budget. Search Engine Marketing isn’t free. Neither is Social Media Marketing. And cutting corners or even eliminating online marketing efforts completely can look attractive. But money invested in your online marketing can be the best investment you ever make for the health of your bottom line.

Let’s look at SEO first. Do you know what percentage of your visitors are finding your site from organic search? If not take a look at your Google Analytics. If those aren’t available, take a look at your raw server stats. If those are unavailable hop over to Alexa.com and look at their numbers.

Is it 60%? 10% ? 85% ? If it’s above 50% – will you be able to replace that many of your leads and prospective customers without spending any money in any other channel? Can you afford to lose those visitors? The net is a competitive arena, and if you don’t continue a link building campaign, if you don’t continue to create and distribute quality content, you will lose your organic traffic.

Maybe you’ve heard that Social Media is where it’s at. So you might consider pulling your money from the Search Marketing campaign and throwing it all into Social Media marketing. You’ll get some Social traffic, but without a properly optimized site it’s like pouring water into a leaky bucket.

Maybe you think that you can pull ether one or both inhouse. After all the mail room guy says he knows all about Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. And he probably does – as a user of those services. But will he know how to set up the profiles in a way that gets them found by the right audience? Will he know how to conduct the conversations that will get users interested enough to visit your site?

Social Media has two important areas. Setup is the most important. If your setup is not done well, you’ll be building on a shaky foundation laid in quicksand. Social Media is a conversion layer NOT a sales channel. You CAN NOT SELL DIRECTLY to friends and visitors on your Social Media channels.

Social Media is like a good ShamWow infomercial. It introduces your and your company and products to prospective buyers. You have to get them interested and then make them want to buy, and then convince them to buy from you.

With SEO they are ALREADY interested, you just have to move them to your site and show them what they want.

Tapping someone to run a Social Media campaign who knows how to use Social Media, not how to market Social Media is like taking your receptionist who knows how to use MS Office and having her pitch your new operating system software to the folks in Redmond.

If you are thinking about cutting back on your SEO or Social Media efforts, or doing one without the other, remember – you’re playing in the big leagues. The day is long gone when you could throw up a site and get visitors and sales almost by default. You’re competing against brands and companies who command armies of experts.

But the really cool thing about the net is that you can STILL level that playing field and you can go head to head against the giants AND WIN if your experts are good at building foundations, engaging in the right conversations, and making your site appeal to your prospects.

Holding back on your online marketing investments can prevent you from building up the momentum you need to overcome your competition. Holding back on your online marketing investments means you won’t see your conversions increase even if your traffic doubles. Holding back on your online marketing efforts means you will lose market share and stop growing. And in the online world, if you stop growing, in time you’ll just be another web site languishing at the bottom of those 5 million pages that aren’t in the first 100 search results for your products and services.

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Social Marketing and SEO

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Site owners who have come onboard for the wild Social Media Marketing ride probably don’t see the common tie between Social Marketing and SEO. Oh sure, Facebook backlinks to your site help drive traffic and rankings, but there is something much more important that ties all of the social world to SEO land.

The underlying rule in Social is exactly the same as the number one rule in good search optimization results. You have to give before you get back.

Those business entities building out their social profiles so they can push their products have hit a ten foot thick brick wall. Quite simply – pushing product on Twitter and Facebook isn’t a good strategy. In fact it can have some negative results – quickly.

The response from consumers in these channels is as clsoe to instant as you can get online. Consumers are giving the same response in SEO land, but it’s more muted and registers only as a fast click OFF your site, to be seen and noticed only in the “bounce rate”.

In the land of blue birds, you’re more likely to get a pithy one liner “u r lame dude”, or in theFaceBook universe “Go peddle your stuff somewhere else. This isn’t the place for it.”

The idea behind Social Marketing efforts is to ENGAGE the consumer. To give them good content in exchange for their “like” or friendship. Just like it’s older brother – SEO – content matters. Quality content. Engaging content. Content with some value.

The best links in search come from sites that find your content useful, interesting, and valuable. They NATURALLY want to link to you because of your content, not because of your sales message.  Becoming an “authority” site, trusted by Google only happens when you are trusted by surfers and other sites.  Authority sites with good, NATURAL linking strategies are rewarded with higher rankings.

Friends and followers talk to each other about you

In the land of electronic water cooler discussions, your engaging content is rewarded by “friends”. Friends talk to others in their circle and recommend the good, warn about the bad and trash the ugly.

When you were in grade school you probably found out that you couldn’t buy friends. Or at least if you could, it wouldn’t work for long. You ran out of money, or the other kids complained to an authority figure, or your “friends” took your money and then turned their back anyway.

You can buy links. You can buy “friends” on Twitter and Facebook and even YouTube. But it won’t work for long. Get caught by Google or the social giants and you could get a virtual size 15 boot in the posterior. No sit down with the principal and a cry for leniency here on the net.

You have to give before you get. You have to have good content, or a good offer. “Friend me and I’ll give you x amount of days on a subscription. Friend me and I’ll give you this super cool whiz bang product.” That’s as close to buying friends as you can get.

But think about this. About a year ago Ashton  Kutcher threw down the gauntlet to CNN and said he could hit 1 million followers on Twitter before they could. And he did it. In the Social Media scene, being a part of a movement, a part of a group, a part of a cause if you will, yields the really big numbers.

Ashton Kutcher and CNN ENGAGED their audience. They bypassed greed, and the other deadly sins and went straight to the mind. Irreverent, funny, silly, maybe even stupid, but it WAS engaging! And CNN now has more than that first million followers and I am certain that they haven’t limited their engagement to fluff Tweets and updates on their Farmville progress!

They have leveraged those followers and friends into an audience that visits their site and consumes even more content.

Social Media AND SEO marketing efforts need to ENGAGE before the visitor, friend or follower can be LEVERAGED into a customer. Keep that in mind and you may just find Social Marketing is YOUR new best friend.

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Internet Marketing By The Numbers

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

I am a stats junky. I have gotten my addiction to statistics as they involve internet marketing under control to the point that I no longer run desktop tickers with traffic numbers. I have to admit I still sneak off a few times a day to check Google Analytics, an SEO ranking report or two, and sometimes peek a glance at a beautiful PPC campaign graph.

You don’t have to share my love of stats to keep your finger on the pulse of your online marketing efforts. And if you aren’t into the crisp, clean truthiness (thank you Stephen Colbert) of stats, don’t worry. Watching just two numbers will give you a good overview of your campaigns.

For all my love of stats there are only two numbers that I really keep my eye on. The first is the number at the end of the month that represents what went into my bank account.  I don’t care how many programs there are that will track everything related to sales and internet marketing efforts, at the end of the day the only number that matters is the bank account balance. Traffic might improve that number. A better call to action, professional copy, better site navigation, a one click checkout – all of these can contribute to better conversions and a higher bank balance.

But the one tried and true, absolute best way to know if my internet marketing efforts, my search optimization, and my conversion programs are working is the increase in money I can deposit from one month to the next.

The second number I look at is the cost of acquiring those sales. Your accountant probably calls this Cost of Acquisition.  There are several ways of acquiring a customer and each one has it’s own cost.

You’ve probably heard of PPC or Pay Per Click advertising. Here’s how the process works.

You research and choose the keywords that will bring your perfect prospect to your website. You write a three line text advertisement or have a banner or video or some other rich media ad made for you. Then you bid on those keywords to place your ad. Bid high enough and it will be seen on the first page of every search for the keyword phrase that ad targets.

If you use Google, you will often be looking at $5 or more to achieve that good ad spot. The more competition you have for your keyphrase, the higher the PPC cost. So if your ad cost $5 per click, and it took 50 clicks to produce one sale, your TRUE cost of acquisition for PPC is $50. You have to  count the cost of kissing the frogs who clicked but didn’t buy. If your “ad spend” is higher than your sales numbers, you need to go back to the drawing board and revamp your PPC campaign.

Another way of acquiring a new customer is CPA – or Cost Per Action. You place your ad on other sites, or pay other people – affiliates – to send you customers. To put your ad into a CPA network is similar to a PPC campaign but the customer must take action. Fill out a form, enter an application, place a phone call – some sort of prospect action needs to occur before payment is made. The cost for this action is often a percentage of the product price. CPA cost of acquisition can range from 3% to 75% of each sale depending on the product. If this number is higher than the cost of making your products and keeping your doors open, you need to lower your CPA percentage.

With the advent of social sites, you can do a campaign that rewards things such as “likes” on Facebook. The cost to acquire a “like” is currently running between $1-$5.  This is NOT a sale, but a potential customer via the friend network of social sites. Since you don’t know when or if these new found friends will purchase, this cost of acquisition can be difficult to measure against sales.

Last, but certainly not least is organic traffic. Organic search traffic is NOT free. It takes time to research the keywords, set up and implement the linking strategy, the right source code changes, the compelling copy. But in the overall scheme of things, organic traffic can be the best “bang for your buck”.

Let’s say a site redesign with a top notch copy writer and SEO expert involved in every step costs $5,000. In six months time you get 50,000 visitors and a conversion rate of 40%.  your cost of acquisition works out to $4. If your product or service sells at even $5 – you’ve made a very tidy $95,000 profit!

So there you have it – your bank balance and the Cost of Acquisition are the stats that can quickly tell you the effectiveness of your online marketing strategy.


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When Online Marketing Consultants Are Like Bad Mechanics

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

I have had an ongoing adventure over the past two months that has me frustrated, annoyed and ready to tear my hair out. Last night as I was thinking about the latest wrinkle in the situation it suddenly dawned on me that my offline experience was probably pretty similar to many site owners online experiences.

I have an older truck that has been a cherished member of the family for several years. She has one bad habit – she eats starter motors for breakfast. So when her latest one gave up the ghost, and being 1100 miles away from my favorite mechanic, I hopped online to order a new one. I wasn’t willing to pay the sky high prices at the local Auto Zone, so I got a “bargain” online. It arrived and was the wrong part. It looked about the size to power a Yugo, and was definitely not going to do an F350 much good.

So off to the net I go, and order from another company, while jumping through the phone calls and RMA process with the first company. Second part arrives, it looks much better, but it too is incorrect. By this time I am getting annoyed, and have the old part in hand. I march down to the Auto Zone and pay their sky high prices for the correct part. Installed and finally back on the road again. Life is good!

Ummm NOT. Next day my poor truck is not healthy. I now have three choices. Call in yet another mechanic to come out and see what’s wrong. Call a tow truck and have it towed many miles to the ONLY mechanic I know in the area who might do a decent job. Find the issue and fix it myself.

Armed with some online books and a shred of common sense, I did find the problem and will be fixng it soon. It was in a “jury rigged” battery cable repair made years ago by a less than sober, but very cheap, mechanic. It is also probably why I’ve been eating up starter motors. And boy howdy did the whole experience make me miss my favorite expert mechanic!

So here I am waiting for several hundred dollars to make it’s way back to my credit card. Out the shipping costs of sending the wrong parts back. And wasn’t able to go play in the traffic for almost two months.

Think about it. Haven’t you gone through the same thing with SEO experts, or internet marketing consultants orDon't monkey around when it comes to an online marketing expert even online marketing products? Your site isn’t converting well anymore, it’s a little long in the tooth, so you decide to hire someone to refurbish it. Or you need more traffic so you look around for a search engine optimization company.

You find that prices for SEO work and conversion specialists and site designers is certainly NOT minimum wage level. But your receptionist has a boy friend who “does a lot of stuff online” and he’ll help ya out for just a few bucks. Or maybe you look around online and find the sites that match online job seekers with online employers. Hey even better! Minimum wage in THEIR country is a lot less than minimum wage in America!

And then the fun begins. Your results are less than stellar. Your traffic goes into the basement. Your rankings are no where to be found. You’re banned from You Tube for duplicate content. And the good article sites won’t let you back in because they say you spammed them. And your new site design is tiny orange letters on a black background that is readable only by a 12 year old gamer.

Bottom line here? Whether you’re fixing the biggest truck Ford ever made for non commercial use, or a 1000 page online retail site, paying for expert help saves time, aggravation and money. The mail room boy isn’t going to be able to design your site so it converts. He doesn’t have the time to keep up with industry changes or hone his skills. Your cousin’s wife’s brother-in-law isn’t going to be able to optimize your site while working the night shift at 7/11. He too can’t keep up with the ever changing search landscape.

And that guy writing your articles for $5 a pop? You know, the one sitting in that country with the monsoons and landslides? His articles may read ok in his native language, but they sure do lose something in the translation to English!

I’m going to have my truck on the road, as soon as I find the time to replace that bad cable. And the first thing I”m going to do is drive it to the expert mechanic 15 miles away and have it checked out. I want to make sure there isn’t anything else “jury rigged” by that inexpensive mechanic that will rise up and keep me off the highway. I learned from my mistake.

Is it time for you to have your site checked out by a real online marketing or seo expert?

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10 Steps to a Smooth Move

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Sooner or later you will probably end up moving your site. Perhaps you have a new name and are moving to an entirely new URL. Perhaps you’re undergoing a complete redesign and moving pages. Even if you’re just moving to a new host, an online move can be every bit as stressful as a brick and mortar move.

You need to be aware that the search engines are used to seeing you in a specific location, offering specific content arranged in a specific way. Change location, pages or content and you could lose rankings and traffic if you haven’t taken steps to prevent that loss.Follow these steps for a successful site move

You need to look at your site and determine

  • Which pages are well ranked for which keyterms
  • Which pages drive traffic – both organic SEO, paid advertising, and social search
  • Which pages have internal and external links
  • Which pages are most visited by your audience and the level of engagement and conversion on those pages

Once you have these pages identified, you can draw up your “moving list” and get rolling

  1. Be SURE to tel your SEO expert about the move well in advance of the planned moving date. Your search experts need to institute their own plans to preserve as much traffic as possible during and after the move.
  2. Do not set up a  redirect of all page URLs to only one page, section, or URL of the new site.
  3. Do a domain level page by page 301 redirect of the old site to the new one. Your host, webmaster, probably even your SEO expert can handle this correctly. This will help preserve current traffic.
  4. Test each page to be sure it is appearing correctly on the new site. Don’t move everything at once, do it section by section testing as you go.
  5. Check each page for keyword structure and try to keep the same density, location and weight on the new site for those terms that bring you the most traffic. (Terms for which you are highly ranked.)
  6. Keep the same directory structure whenever possible. In other words, make sure your menu selections retain the same names, your images and resources are in folders on the server with the same names, sections of the new site correspond to the same section on the old site.
  7. Check both internal and external links and update as necessary.
  8. Keep the old site domain for at least 6 months and maintain the 301 redirects for that length of time.
  9. Create 404 error pages so that when errors occur, visitors receive a message helping them navigate to the new page. Remember to customize your error pages with your own text and even images to give your visitor a better experience.
  10. Last, but possibly the most important, keep both the old and new sites verified in Webmaster Tools. This way you can easily see crawl errors the spiders may encounter and any 301 redirects that may not be working as planned.

If you follow these steps, you will be able to retain most of the traffic levels the old site had. You will lose some traffic, it is inevitable. But if you plan ahead, that loss will be minimal and you will recover quickly.

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How To Win The Internet Marketing Game

Friday, October 8th, 2010

I feel incredibly fortunate to have lived through the beginnings of the biggest revolution our society has ever witnessed.

The Internet.

It may be called the Electronic Revolution, it may be called the Digital Divide, but make no mistake. Computers, smart phones, and electronics all have on thing in common – the Net. In less than two decades it has swept just about every corner of the world, changing our lives and how we view ourselves and others forever.

The faceless, nameless millions who work, play, shop and hang out online are really not so faceless. There is a real live human being behind every keystroke, behind every post, every sale, every tweet. And yet we tend to forget that those real people exist.

When I put my first site online back in ’98, a community site that in it’s own way was a precursor of the socialReal people are behind internet marketingmedia world we know today, I was stunned. I sat there in all my geekiness watching stats. OH someone from Germany just paid a visit! How cool!. Hey there’s a person from Norway! Oh and look – East Bofunk is hooked in, too!

I sat at my computer into the wee hours of the morning watching people coming to my site from all over the world, people I didn’t know, had never met, people who were mere wisps of electronic signal. I visualized these people, they were more than just dots or numbers, they were real people reaching out to me across thousands of miles and THEY WERE BUYING my services – without my having to do a single thing.

This was heady stuff! And then these people started conversations on my forums. They exchanged information with each other, they talked about the net and their own lives. They were real people, there was flesh and blood behind those electronic signals. A hundred sites, then ten thousand, and today 10 billion are serving these people in ways never imagined. An integral part of their lives, a place some call home. A social revolution undreamed of just a short time ago.

Today, 92% of babies born have their picture online before they are 6 months old. Today, smart phone carriers breeze through a living maze in minutes thanks to Google Earth maps. Today, we have a front row seat to every event happening anywhere in the world (except maybe China) whether it’s a flood in Pakistan, a political upheaval in Iran or the new Fall line of a major fashion house. Today, 1 in 3 products is bought online.

Are you a part of this revolution? Are you engaging your audience on Twitter and Facebook and chat boards? Or are you still waiting for a flesh and blood person to walk through your door? Even if they DO walk through your door, they will be changed. They will be better informed, thanks to their online research. They may ask you why you have negative reviews about your shipping process. They may ask you what your Facebook Page address is in case they have questions after the sale.

You see, no matter how much things have changed, no matter how much online marketing and social networking have become a part of the sales process, your customer is STILL real. They are still flesh and blood, they still respond to the same sales process, just in a different media.

Have you embraced the social revolution or are you being trampled by it? If you don’t understand it, if you don’t engage in it, you’re not hanging out where your customers can be found. And you’re losing prospects and sales.

It’s easy to jump in. Just remember that those faceless people are real. The way you speak to them when they walk into your establishment, or call you on the phone works just as well in online marketing as it does offline. No matter how far reaching, or how pervasive the revolution, one thing has NOT changed. REAL people are sitting at that keyboard. The same people who used to walk in or call your business.

The only difference is now you can reach a LOT more of them, and they won’t be your real life friends and neighbors. Make them your digital friends and neighbors and you’ve won the internet marketing game.

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Online Marketing Lowlifes

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

In the brick and mortar world you know when someone is going to try to rip you off. They often have a mask and carry weapons of individual destruction. In the online world it’s different. Your business can be robbed and you won’t be seeing a person in front of you demanding that you empty the cash register, but the results can be asDigital burglars cause more trouble than real world ones bad or worse online.

Most of our clients will forward emails they receive about some of these scams, for which I am eternally grateful. I stand as a the guardian at the gate for our clients on a wide range of these scams. Some are easy to spot and block, others not so easy. With all my years online, with all the scam knowledge I have achieved, I’ve been scammed and badly burned myself and lost a promising business in the process. Here’s two of the latest nefarious schemes making headlines in my part of the online world.

Let’s say you get a link request from a company for an unnamed web site wanting to link to you. They offer to pay you to include that person’s link on your website. Sounds good -right? Ummm maybe.

First be aware that Google frowns on paid linking, although paid ads are ok. There can be a fine line between links and advertisements.

Who is this unknown website? What neighborhood do they inhabit? Are they an adult site in disguise? I will not submit a client video to some of the video sharing sites because they will end up cheek by umm other body parts with scantily clad women doing some pretty incredible exercises with other people that you won’t find on the cover of self improvement magazines. I don’t believe you want your video on the features and benefits of your company hanging around that neighborhood.

Link trades can put you into the same neighborhoods and your new link to unsavory neighbors can have lasting repercussions.

Likewise you could be enticing your site visitors to click on a link that could install malware or take them somewhere they really shouldn’t be visiting. Every time I see an email with a cash offer attached to a link my “bad guy” radar goes up.  There ARE some places that do this for a living and they ARE reputable and they perform a much needed service. But it pays to ask questions and check things out before jumping into any deal with anyone. You wouldn’t open the door of your house to just anyone, you shouldn’t open the door of your website to just anyone either.

Now that Google Places has really taken off, the bandits are in full swing with a hostage scam that’s been around since Google Maps first started years ago.  Several people have shown up in the Google Places Help Forum recently reporting a similar dilemma. Case in point was a limo business owner who posted

My business has a couple address that are both listed and claimed in google maps. However, if you do a search of my domain name, you will see three pages of results, all but two of which are wrong.

The wrong listings have a bad phone number, random business name, and random address, but it does list my company domain. These listings have already been “Claimed by owner” so we cannot go in and fix them.

This was brought to our attention today by a phone call from a “marketing expert” who pointed out this problem and how it could get us banned from google. When we refused to pay him to correct the problem, he threatened to flag our real listings and get them removed/penalized if we didn’t pay him. This person obviously created about 25 fake listings with my domain in another Google Places account before calling to point out this “problem” and is holding the ability to delete them hostage… There is no way for us to correct the listing.

So the slimeballs hijack your address, put a bunch of phony info and multiple listings in there which can hurt your business, then demand money to restore it to you – the rightful owner.

Google SHOULD be issuing a warning about this practice – but they aren’t. Google SHOULD be making it easier to correct this – but they haven’t.

There is NO way any single person, no matter how vigilant, can be aware of the internet scams popping up every hour of every day on the net. There is no digital lock that will prevent all of these lowlifes from attacking you.

Vigilance and common sense will go a long way. If it sounds too good to be true – it is. If you don’t throughly investigate a situation, you’re asking to be fleeced. If you don’t listen to the tiny voice inside you, you’ll be sorry probably for a very long time. If you don’t think you’re a target – you’re wrong. If you think the bad guys just hang out on Facebook, think again.

The net is a wonderful place to do business. It’s the great social watering hole, bringing together an incredible mass of interesting people. And unfortunately, some of those people are from the dark side.

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