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While Microsoft’s BING search engine isn’t exactly news, I thought I’d share my initial thoughts concerning it’s appearance on the scene.

Bing has brought a traffic increase to Microsoft. Exciting news for them, but don’t get excited yet! Whether you are in the business of Internet marketing or simply looking into your options for hiring an internet marketing firm, consider the following:

  • Making the Switch– before everyone rushes over to BING for their marketing needs, be it Pay Per Click or not, there are a lot of facets to each engine. While Yahoo! has been at bay in the number 2 spot under Google for a long time, there are many campaigns that don’t work on Google and do work on Yahoo! Just because a site is bigger does not make it better, and while jumping on any given bandwagon may seem like a good plan, there is no rush. Should BING continue in its success, it will only further establish the engine, and thus, it will still be there later on. Still, if you’re one of the people that can’t wait to dive into a new channel and truly believes that a new engine is the way to go, there are other things to consider first.
  • Duplicate Content– On a Google search, as a primary example, you will find multiple links to the same site. Between all links to the same domain, there will be home page links, interior links, and potentially file links, like .pdf files and the like. BING, however, is a different story. As of recently, the BING algorithm is designed to remove duplicate content, for the purpose of only showing the most relevant page on a given site matching the search query. This may or may not be a good thing for your site. Many sites might have many similar products or services listed on the home page or on interior pages, in which case a direct link to one product might not be optimal. For eCommerce sites, this could improve ROI since, assuming the product or service page is most relevant to the search terms, such a user would be inspired to buy the product or sign up right then and there. For some businesses, however, browsing is all part of the purchase process, so taking users directly to a product page may very well give them the impression that this is the only option they have. However, even under this circumstances, site optimization will play a role in the success of your online marketing efforts.
  • Site Optimization – Another thing to consider is the layout and organization of your site. Suppose users land on interior pages but do not find what they are looking for – are they easily able to access the home page, other similar products or services, and category pages from all corners of the site? It’s often difficult to find a perfect balance between enough options and too many options – and a website can become quite cluttered with too many links and poor layout / design, so a smart plan of action is to have a professional website, designed by an experience firm that not only understands design concepts and techniques, but it familiar also with Internet marketing strategies that must be implemented on-site. Whether you BING or not, be sure you or your hired marketing firm understands how the search engine being utilized works, and optimizes the site for such engines to return the best results.
  • Content– Thus far, it is rumored that BING weighs on-site content over all. This means that a site featuring picture galleries without ample description, sites lacking company’s information, and sites without rich context may be penalized for it. This doesn’t denote a negative effect on rank – just the absence of a positive one. Be sure there is rich on-site content to accompany all the beautiful pictures of your products, staff, facilities, etc. A site should read well in your language, because this is what search engines look for.
  • Complaints – Despite its swift jump to #2, BING has still received many complaints about how the engine ranks sites. For example, with giving equal weight to interior and home pages on a site, it may find a lower-ranking interior page to be more relevant, and therefore return that page lower in search results, where as a search engine like Google, which displays both interior and home pages, factors in the home page rank as well when considering the position of results. Another problem that many might find with BING, although not quite an official outcry from users, is the weight it gives to interior links compared to the weight it gives to external links. In recent years, it’s always been understood that while on-site SEO is important, it should not factor into rank as much as relevance. On BING, however, it seems that proper linking structure within a site will do more for your rank and relevance than it will on Google, which is known for giving much more weight to exterior links for both rank and relevance. This might be a problem, or it might be good for those with well-optimized websites.
  • Pay Per Clickon BING – As I mentioned above, BING’s algorithm is quite unique compared to Google and Yahoo, so for anyone planning to experiment with a PPC campaign on BING, approach with caution. I would not recommend ending a PPC campaign on Google or Yahoo just to replace it with one on BING. I’ve always said that exploring the options is a good way to feel things out and find what works for each business, so I would encourage delegating some budget, or even better, increasing a budget to see what BING can actually do for your company – just don’t put all of your eggs into this basket because it’s fresh and new.

All in all, I’m impressed with BING, but I can’t say I’m surprised at all. Microsoft has been around for a long time and they obviously know their way around IT. I’d say that a gradual transition is best, but even better when managed by an experienced Internet marketing firm.

Too often, it seems that SEO’s and those interested in hiring them alike get caught up with the numbers and the costs. It is true, Search Engine Optimization is a business, but this doesn’t mean that it must be approached with the utmost hesitation to engage in personal relationships. A lot of times, the interaction between a firm and a client will be the difference between success and failure, so it would only make sense that we should all consider these relationships to be as valuable as all the analytics in the world.

The first step to a healthy manager-client relationship is trust. It makes me a bit angry every time I see an SEO website with empty promises and bad practices they are sold with bells and whistles. It doesn’t help that much of the on-site copy for firms are not always an indication. Every firm should be proud of their services and know what they are capable of, so while an experienced firm will present their methods in a way that makes sense to the potential client and put forth a legitimate sales-pitch, the firm that potential clients should avoid are capable of writing the same sort of copy. This is why it is crucial to talk with a firm, ask questions, and be honest. There are people you’ll meet that are up front regardless of how feelings are affected, and as much as the initial reaction to such people may force us to dislike them, once we can see that they are upfront for the benefit of the other person, we have to admire them. This is how a firm should be with their clients. It’s important to know how to optimize a site, and it’s important to have the tools and knowledge to collect the necessary data in order to do so, but even more important is setting up a relationship with the client in which they are free to ask questions, express concerns, and are confident that the firm is doing everything it can to maximize their ROI.

Once a client can trust their SEO firm, the lines of communication must be strong and clear. Along with that trust comes the ability to continually interact under the same circumstances. It does no good to the firm or the client to sell an idea and then take the campaign in a direction that makes the client nervous or uncomfortable. Sure, a lot of this concern could be based on performance but even when a campaign is doing well, if the communication is not there, the client will have cause for concern. Every client should find a firm with which they can get in touch with easily and feel comfortable discussing their relationship, as well as the progress of the campaign itself. Healthy communication is just as important as a well optimized site.

Another aspect of any relationship is each member’s desire to see the other succeed. A firm should always rejoice in the success of their clients and personally deal with failures. While none of us would like to admit that some campaigns just don’t work out, there will be times when failure will occur, and even though the campaign is coming to an end, the relationship shouldn’t. Many times, the reason an SEO effort doesn’t succeed is due to poor timing. Many campaigns have a window of opportunity that might be missed at no fault of the client or the firm. SEO is part science and part experiment. The secrets of the Internet Universe are unobtainable to everyone, and no firm is an exception to that rule.

So firms, your clients’ websites are your own, and their succeess is yours! Clients, your firm wants you to succeed, and we know that you want us to succeed because that means that you are succeeding! The relationship between a firm and a client is a very important one, and it should never be overlooked.

For those interested in a relationship with an Internet marketing firm like Reciprocal Consulting, please, don’t be shy.

It’s no secret that bloggers contribute a lot to the opinions on the Internet today, as well as the efficiency of a lot of SEO campaigns. Old strategies are dying out because of the social media network, and bloggers are a large part of this (not so recently) new network. There are a lot of ways to promote your business through a blog, the first step of which is to start a blog!

This blog should offer something useful, neat, or just plain fun – whatever the case, you can’t expect to attract readers with bad content, so here are the first steps of a great blog:

  1. Choose a good theme that is relavant to the business and optimize the blog with related keywords. This means content rich, organized, and easy on the eyes. Whether you’ve shelled out for a self hosted blog or your blog is hosted on a blogging site, there are plenty of free themes for WordPress blogs out there. We generally recommend WordPress because it is more professional and better for SEO purposes. Choose your URL based on the company name. You may have to get creative if there are other businesses out there with similar or same names.
  2. Generate valuable content. The content should be consistant (posting at least once or twice a week), and contain useful information, interesting news, fun facts, or neat pictures. Whatever theme you’ve gone with, maintain it! If you decide to change things up in the future, do so gradually. Organize the blog with an “about us” page, a way to contact the administer of the blog, and utilize the perma-link option, so your post URL’s can be read in plain English and associated with the content on the blog (as well as potential search queries that can lead to the blog).
  3. Don’t ignore old posts. A lot of bloggers have the tendancy to post and be done with it. The problem there is that after awhile, this content is virtually useless to search engines. A lot of things are taken into consideration when an engine decides to show an interior page as a result, but recency is part of it. If the post hasn’t been touched in 6 months, it might as well not be there. One way to keep things active is to re-visit old posts and see if there’s some piece of information that needs to be added, or something that might need to be changed if something about the company has also changed. Just be sure to inform readers of changes made to avoid confusion about the posts. A strikethrough on over omitted sentences is common, and a notice of something added is also typical in posts that have been edited.
  4. Encourage Discussion. Once the blog begins to get a readership, post about topics that motivate visitors to state their opinions. The key is to hit a topic that many people have a voice on, but not to be extreme in a “company” opinion on the matter. You can take a bit of a risk posting an extreme opinion on any matter, and feul a comment-hosted-argument, which doesn’t make any blog look that great. The advantage to the administer of the blog is the ability to delete inappropriate content posted as comments (or to not approve them at all if comments first require approval), but readers can catch on to this and feel like you’re only doing so to protect your reputation, and not have a legitimate discussion about the topic.

Beyond regular posting and blog maintenance there is a world of SEO that can be done for a blog, but these basic beginning steps are necessary for a search engine optimization effort to be effective for the blog. For more information about social media and search engine optimization, feel free to get in touch with Reciprocal Consulting, an Internet marketing firm that can help.

These days, it seems like everyone has a blog. While the vast number of blogs on the Internet might seem to lessen the chances that your’s will be the victum of hacking or spamming, the greater quantity of blogs out there only encourages more of these annoying pests to attack.

In the Internet marketing world, spamming has unfortunately become a popular way to get free links, referals, etc. While legitimate Internet marketing firms such as Reciprocal Consulting look down on these sorts of black hat practices, the most annoying thing about these spammers is that some people actually click on these links, hence giving them a reason to continue to do it. If everyone knew how to spot spam and no one ever clicked a spam link, they would probably die out, but unfortunately this is not the case.

So, as long as there will be spammers and hackers, there will also be those who wish to put an end to it, and a lot of these programs are not only free, but coded specifically for your needs. The best example is a self-hosted WordPress blog. Due to ever growing popularity, the WordPress blog has become a prime target for spammers, both human and robot controlled, but by the same token, so has the number of anti-spam WordPress plug-ins increased. There are also a few other ways to protect your self hosted WordPress blog.

  • Choose your password wisely– it may seem like elementary knowledge but believe it or not, many people don’t know what makes a password good. The first step is to choose something that is easy to remember, or something that you can write somewhere you will always be able to look it up if you forget what it is. Worst case scenario, you can always have the password sent to your email address, but that should only be the last resort. I personally have a password that includes numbers and letters, both lower and upper-case. The further your password is from a coherent English word or phrase, the better, which is why the combination of numbers and letter is best.
  • Check your settings– The WordPress self hosted blog has a lot of built in features to help protect your blog, many of which can be found in the settings. Many times, an effort to allow more user interaction via comments on a blog will result in more spam, so what I have found to be the best settings for comments is allowing anyone to post, but first requiring myself or another admin to approve the comment. Once a comment is approved for a user, then comments from that user no longer require approval. This way, anyone who’s posted before can feel more welcome posting, which could increase visitor loyalty. There are also a number of great plug-ins available on the site which can help you deal with spam and security. These are conveniently organized by category, so performing a search for “anti-spam” or “security” should get you a plug-in that works the way you want it to.
  • Watch Those Links– WordPress blogs have a handy feature on the dashboard that tells you who is linking to you. This is a great way to network, but also a good way to see when people are linking to you, even if you don’t want them to. Should you encounter a website that is saying bad things aboout you, or one with a large readership that might send unwanted traffic your way, you can easily see this and send a kind email over to ask the administrator at the other site to remove the link.

There are plenty of more advanced tactics to protecting your blog, but these are the most basic, and believe it or not, the ones most often overlooked.