Posts Tagged ‘online marketing strategy’

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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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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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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Three More Ways to Fail Online

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

In yesterday’s post I wrote about failing online by becoming just one of the millions of unremarkable sites in the internet landscape.

Here’s another way to fail. Copy others. Think back to some memorable ads. “Where’s the beef?”, “Got Milk?”, “Ladies, your man can’t BE me but he can SMELL like me”. These ads have been copied and lampooned and even years later are still a part of our lexicon. Do you remember the knockoffs? I’m pretty sure there isn’t a product, idea, or service that hasn’t been spun as a takeoff on “Got Milk?”.  Can you remember even ONE of those?

The “Will It Blend” series on YouTube is memorable. I get a giggle every time I watch one of those. It’s original, it’s funny, it’s silly and it’s for a product I will NEVER be in the market for, yet I still go out of my way to watch new episodes. It’s the internet version of “Where’s the beef?”, sure to be around for years to come.

Are you having fun in your business? I can guarantee that if you’re stuck in the corporate think world, and you’re not having fun, you won’t be creating memorable sites, ads, articles or much of anything else that will stick out from the crowd. You’ll look, sound and feel just like everyone else, because you’re copying everyone else. How do you see YOURSELF? Are you the VP of Systems Analysis and Technical Development? Or are you secretly Chief Cook and Bottle Washer? If you see yourself as the latter, I’ll bet you’re a creative dynamo just waiting to explode.

Listen to the wrong people. The net has lead to lies and misconceptions being repeated over and over again until they become accepted as truths. Adolph Hitler was many things, most of them pretty bad. But he was also a consummate marketer, a shaper of minds. And he knew that telling a lie often enough, authoritatively enough  would make that lie become perceived as truth.

Reading the same thing on a zillion different websites doesn’t make it true. Online anyone can be anything. They can put the title “Dr.” or “expert” or whatever else they want with their name and it may only mean they took an online course in herbology.

Dig inside yourself – trust your own warning bells. Does the strategy, product claims, or anything else ring true? Is it logical? WHO is saying it? What are THEIR credentials in the field?

One of the oft repeated things I have heard in Internet Marketing circles is “well, he MUST know what he’s doing. He’s a millionaire!” Puleeze! He’s a millionaire because he got a million people to pay $1 for a useless ebook. He’s a master of human sheep shearing, not an SEO or online marketing expert!

Forget to target your ideal customer. This is a biggy. If you don’t know who you want to attract, who is a good fit for your products or services, how are you ever going to be able to satisfy their wants and needs? Don’t just say “well, my market is stay at home moms”. Hoy boy is that an over generalization!

Answer the important questions about that prospect.

WHY are they at home? Because they can’t find a job after college? Because they are married to a Neanderthal who won’t’ let them work outside the home? Because they made the choice to leave corporate life and raise a family? VASTLY different reasons mean VASTLY different consumers and mindsets.

What are they looking for from your product? Christmas money? A steady income? A move up in lifestyle?

Where are they? Living in concrete caves with millions of others? Watching the deer and antelope play in the hinterlands? Painting cuddly forest creatures on the shores of Gitchee Goomee?

Until you can answer everything there is to know about your IDEAL customer, you will fail trying to reach them with your message. You won’t really be answering the all important “WHO” you are trying to reach. And if you don’t know Who, you surely can’t answer the bottom line How Do I Get THAT Customer?

So there you have it – 3 certain steps to online marketing failure. Copy others. Listen to the wrong people. And don’t target your ideal customer.

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How to Fail Online – The Easy Way

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

By our very nature we humans concentrate on how to succeed rather than how to fail. But sometimes we follow what we think are the rules and success doesn’t come our way. When that happens, whether it’s our marketing campaign, our social media engagement, or our seo efforts we need to look at failure factors.

Why is your business online? Is it because everyone else is here? Is it because you can start an online presence easily? Or is it because you want to spread the word to more people than you could ever hope to reach in the physical world?

There is a very important unspoken rule about internet marketing. It’s not what you’re doing or selling, it’s how you PRESENT what you’re doing or selling. No matter what you do, no matter what you sell, someone else is doing it or selling it. The online world is teeming with both customers and competitors.

Getting lost in the crowd is easy. Being unremarkable online is easy. Failing online is easy. What’s far harder is to stand out in the crowd, to present your products and services in a way that is memorable, a way that people respond to.

Being humans we tend to use all our senses to remember people, places and things. Our sense of smell is one of the strongest memory triggers we have. My mom always got up before us and started breakfast cooking. I can’t smell a particular type of bacon frying without being instantly transported back to my childhood bedroom waking up to that smell coming from the kitchen.

But we don’t have smell-o-vision – yet. So we can’t use it to trigger customers and visitors.

Sound is high on the list. I will bet you still do an instant flashback to your first kiss when you hear “that” song starting to play. But sound is tricky. “That” song for me could remind me of the worst date night of my life.Is your site a yawner or does it stand out in the online world

Sight is next. Not quite as good as the other two senses, but it certainly is one we can use in our online marketing efforts. And using visual elements to stand out from the crowd is something most sites don’t do. I don’t mean that super flashy opening screen. I mean our sites and their elements themselves.

Most sites today are made from some sort of template. And most of them blend right in with the next one. And the next, and so on. Oh the colors may change, but everything else is a yawner.  Nothing memorable about them.

But you start reading anyway. And before long you’re trundling off to the next site on the list. That is,  unless you’ve gone to sleep reading the deathless prose on that site and nodded off with your forehead kissing the keyboard. “Our company is dedicated to serving you, our customer with the best products at the most reasonable cost, thus saving your department wasteful management costs and future equity development in the fine field of widget making and mannufacturing”.

Yuck! First of all you’re not the best just because you say so. As a customer I decide who is best. Second of all if I want a droning speech I’ll turn on CSpan. To quote a memorable ad campaign – Where’s the beef? Where’s the excitement? Where’s the difference between you and everyone else?

When you started your company, when it was only a gleam in your eye, some notes on the back of a napkin weren’t you excited? Didn’t you clearly see the differences between you and your competitors? Didn’t you present yourself with that excitement and those unique sales points to everyone around you? Didn’t you shout it from the rooftops to the point where you stopped getting invitations to backyard barbecues and luncheons with your friends?

One company I ran was started during the dot com era. In my presentations to investors I included a Doonesbury cartoon poking fun at the “burn rate” my competitors were so proud of and pointed out that our company was different because we actually MADE money not just spent it. We didn’t always get the cash we were after but we were memorable! We received all sorts of help from some very unexpected places because we stood out in their minds and were remembered weeks and months later.

Does that excitement and uniqueness come through on your website? Or are you a yawner? Will I remember your site? Will I remember YOU? If I don’t I sure won’t be bookmarking you or friending you or subscribing to your YouTube channel.

You are different. Your company is different. Your presentation of yourself and your products should be different. If they aren’t, you’re just fading into the ongoing “noise” of the net.

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Writing Your Way to the Top of Google

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

It’s been said that Content is King on the net.  This truism is just as important today as it was ten years ago. Written content is the single best way to get to the top of Google and stay there. It’s also a good bet written content will get you to the top of Bing, too.

The content writing is just the beginning. You can’t write beautifully constructed prose and then wait for visitors to beat a path to your online door. You must “get the word out” byPost to your blog and other blogs, too. submitting your articles and press releases and hitting the social media circuit.

Here are some of the types of written content that help rankings:

  • articles
  • press releases
  • blog posts
  • social media posts
  • content pages

All of this written content must be optimized for your keyterms. In other words, you need to use those keyterms in the titles and the body of each piece of content.

Let’s take a fast look at each content type.

Articles – There are a zillion article directories all over the net. The directory takes your well written article and posts it for other webmasters to come along and use on their own sites. It’s free for them to use, but they MUST include your author information and the url link back to your site.

Well written, content heavy articles are a good way to get two or more backlinks. One from the directory itself and one from each of the other webmasters who post your article on their site.

Please do not send the same article to 100 directories This creates duplicate content and many of the best article directories will NOT accept an article that appears elsewhere. I know this is a popular idea with supposed search engine experts, but it’s a bad idea. Google knows it and doesn’t even count any links coming from the vast majority of those directories. They DO count ones from good, trusted directories like eZineArticles.com. Concentrate on the top 5 or 10 GOOD directories and don’t go over to the dark side of article spam.

Press Releases – while it is very doubtful your press release will be picked up by online or offline news agencies, even though this is a claim put forth by the same “experts” who spam 1000 article directories, PR sites give nice backlinks. There is an art to writing a good press release, and you should study the suggestions at sites like PR Web to become familiar with how to write an effective Press Release.

Blog Posts – we’re not just talking about the blog on your own site. There are many other blogs out there and you can make your own posts to some of them. You should also put your article on pages at sites like Squidoo and HubPages.

Social Media Posts – Facebook Fan pages, Twitter, and other social media sites are becoming a big part of Google search. They are looking to these sites for the fresh content they crave and you need to be sure you are providing that content with frequent keyword rich posts and tweets.

Content Pages – you should have good, content laden, keyword rich pages on your site. While these pages don’t have to be updated that often, they should be well written and should have your keywords well represented.

Producing good written content is time consuming. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that you can offshore content writing and forgetting that it serves as a representative of your company as well as a backlink. If you do contract for this task, be prepared to pay well for good, well written articles. Paying minimum wage will get you minimal copy that is mostly pure fluff. Good articles and blog posts run in the $25-$75 range – per article. You get what you pay for, and hiring someone for $2.50 an hour will get you some pretty awful content.

If you’re serious about moving up in the rankings, you need to commit to a good written content strategy. Well written articles and Press Releases for long term results, well written Facebook posts, and several daily Tweets for that “fresh” content that is becoming so important.

With a well thought out and well scheduled strategy you CAN write your way to the top.

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Are you Ready for Tomorrow’s Customer?

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Web 3.0 and the Evolution of the Internet MarketingYesterday I rambled on about Web 3.0 and the evolution of the net. But what about tomorrow’s shopper? There’s some pretty exciting changes for them just around the corner, and anything that changes a customer’s experience is going to change how business owners must deal with that customer.

Back in the old Web 1.0 days it was a  common belief that all you had to do was toss up a web site, built by your neighbor’s nephew’s son for a 6 pack of Snickers, enter your products and you were done. Customers would come in and buy and you’d never have to deal with them again. Until they whipped out their wallet and bought again of course.

Customer service is important and many companies seemed to think it was totally unnecessary for online shoppers. Boy were they in for a surprise! Not only did the web sites who offered really good followup and proved to shoppers that they would still love them in the morning thrive against their larger and better funded competitors, Web 2.0 came along and demanded transparency on all levels.

Web 2.0 is the great water cooler of the internet. People gather around and make comments, share their experiences and recommend (or trash) companies and products. You can’t hide behind a corporate image or do business as usual with cleverly spun releases when something goes wrong.

I was going to take a flight to Cleveland – and yes I have family there because that’s pretty much the only reason people will put up with the incredible hassle of flying to Cleveland. I was checking Twitter to find out about an airline I hadn’t flown before when I caught a conversation from a disgruntled flyer. Lost bags, late flight, missed connections – the whole ball of wax. But someone at that airline company had their head wrapped around what Web 2.0 is all about. They responded in a courteous, friendly manner at the Twitter water cooler. They made the angry customer feel that he was being listened to and corrected his problem, along with a generous apology and a hefty flight voucher.

I flew that airline, even though there were others that had more positive consumer comments in other parts of the Web 2.0 arena. I did it because Twitter gave me a glimpse behind the curtain, because I could see their customer service in action. And yes that impressed me far more than the other airline’s boring corp speak tweets that merely mouthed slogans and read like ad copy.

Web 1.0 was the primordial first steps from the ooze of college Univac systems. The novelty, the “wow” factor. An awful lot of people didn’t get it. (Remember all those startup companies that crashed and burned?) Web 2.0 is the great block party. Neighbors meeting neighbors, sharing their lives, in excruciating detail at times. Sharing their opinions of companies, products, services.

Now let’s think about the next part of the shopping experience. If I want to find a restaurant all I have to do is hit a smart phone and I can see everything I want to know about them. Directions, comments from customers, all the things I need to make up my mind where to dine at that moment.

Now let’s expand that a little. I’m in a grocery store, wandering down the aisle with my iPad. I hit the bar code and suddenly I have the ingredient’s list for that product, comparisons to similar products, consumer contributed recipes that use that product, a coupon for it, store prices for it within x miles of my current location, recall notices, everything and anything I could want to know about it right there in front of me. That’s one tiny example of the driving force behind Web 3.0 – personalization on a grand scale.

Look at your web site. Do you describe your products and services in great detail? Or are you content to say “Blue Widget – great for kids” ? Do you engage and interact with your clients and customers – beyond the testimonials in your side bar “Bob is the greatest guru on the planet. U r in rt place” ? Is your site written in corp speak? “John is dedicated to providing differential experience levels to all Yak herders in the homogeneous arid and semi arid caverns of Iolo.”

As internet marketers and search experts, we will be challenged by the companies who do not “get” Web 2.0 yet, let alone Web 3.0. Those who don’t realize that  they MUST engage their audience to prosper. If these business owners haven’t wrapped themselves around the community aspects of Web 2.0, it’s doubtful they will be prepared to enter the uber personal world of Web 3.0.

I well remember arguing with clients about using the word Best. Online the consumer determines who is “best” in the field, no matter what the owner may think! The wise owner does not become enraged at negative comments, but engages the customer and uses those comments to improve, while letting the world of the web see what they are doing. Those companies are well equipped, with the right mindset, to enter the super personalized world of Web 3.0. They know that there are millions of buyers out there, and they need to engage, educate and constantly win their hearts and wallets.

Remember – your competition is only one tiny mouse click away. With Web 3.0 odds are good they’ll be sharing the same screen with you. Are you prepared to get personal?

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