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If you’re familiar with the popular microblogging service Twitter then you understand how you can pick up followers and direct them to your website. But can it go viral?

Listen to the gurus and you’ll think that Twitter is the breadbasket of the Internet. Build a Twitter stream, get 100,000 followers – or, if your Ashton Kutcher, 1 million will do – and drive that traffic like cattle, Baby! Is it really that easy?

As an old sage once said, nothing worthwhile is easy. And so it is with Twitter. It is worth the effort and it can go viral, but it is work.

The key to succeeding with Twitter is to find people to follow you who are interested in what you have to offer. But how do you do that? There are tools available, such as Twellow and Tweetlater, to help you do that. And you can find people to follow by keywords, by location, or by interest. Or you can just scour the follow lists of your friends.

Twitter is not in and of itself a viral marketing tool, but it can go viral if you are persistent and consistent in your marketing efforts.

You may have heard that Twitter, Facebook, and a few other social media sites were recently struck with a denial of service attack, otherwise known as DOS. And if you’re wondering what that is, it is essentially a strategic cyber attack that induces the use of multiple computers to send hits to a particular web server, or in the case of the recent DOS attack, several servers, for the purpose of overloading them to the point that no one can benefit from the services those servers provide. In other words, the server is struck with too much to handle at one time and shuts down.

Such attacks are more common today than they used to be. It may be because there are more servers to attack or because there are more people to effect. Or it could just be that there are more bad guys who are Web savvy enough to pull it off.

At any rate, for attackers to have shut down Twitter the way they did this past week, they’d have had to have had quite a few resources at their disposal. As a result of the attack, Twitter was inoperable for a day and has been slow for most of the past week. The other social media sites attacked were able to ward off the attack successfully and weren’t affected. So you might be wondering how you can benefit from social media optimization efforts if that kind of thing can happen.

Well, it’s a real concern. But don’t fear. It doesn’t mean you have to shut down your business. Be careful who you associate with online. While Twitter’s server was affected and not your personal hard drive, if you mingle with the wrong crowd you could open yourself to vulnerabilities. Download a copy of the latest spyware or malware software and keep your firewall up and running. Be selective about who you let in on your profile. It’s business, but it isn’t monkey business.

Many times, clients ask us if they have to pay for ranking for keywords that they weren’t targeting. The answer is no.

Most importantly, you never pay a cent for showing up for keywords that you aren’t targeting. In fact, long-tail searches that weren’t planned for can bring in a lot of converting traffic as well.

Every website will inevitably rank for certain keywords and phrases that weren’t being targeted. It’s a part of the natural order of the Web. Some of those keywords will actually prove to be beneficial for you.

It’s nearly impossible to predict what people will search for. Google has said that a 20%-25% of its search queries are brand new searches that have never been seen before. That effectively means that you’ll see a certain number of queries in your server log delivering traffic to your site in unexpected ways. That’s the power of the long tail.

If you can target long tail searches over a long course then you can penny and nickel your way into top search rankings one long tail search at a time. Eventually, if you win enough of the long tail phrases, you’ll start to rank for the general search phrases in your niche as well. And you’ll see loads of traffic coming to your site just because you were persistent enough to pursue the long-tail strategy.

The Content Network is Google’s network of advertising websites on which they place ads. You can actually select your websites when running a PPC campaign by narrowing your Content Network focus to keyword-based, placement targeted, or both.

A keyword-targeted campaign on the Content Network is just as its name implies. You select the keywords that you want to target and Google will place your ads on web pages that are optimized for those keywords. There are advantages to doing this, but we don’t recommend this strategy for all customers across the board. Whether or not you wish to target by keyword depends on a number of factors and if you think that your targeted keyword could be used on a number of sites where your targeted visitors won’t traffic then it will just waste your time and money. That’s what you want to avoid.

With placement targeting you can choose the specific sites you want you ads to run on. For instance, if you sell cowboy boots then you’ll want your ads to run on sites that might sell cowboy hats or other western wear, or you may want your ads on sites that attract a large traffic base of country & western music listeners.

The Google Content Network offers many more opportunities for advertisers and can often lead to more conversions and more targeted traffic.

Google announced its new social collaboration tool Google Wave at the end of May and since then that’s what everyone has been talking about. Mashable has an entire category of blog posts dedicated to it.

If Google Wave will be able to do everything that they say it can then it could prove to be as good a reputation management tool as anything. But it could also prove to be a reputation management pitfall. It will likely be both.

Think about it. You’ll be able to communicate in real-time with the entire world. Think e-mail, IM, and Twitter combined. Real-time goofs, gaffes, and bouts of genius all rolled into one. Still, pitfalls aside, if it can do all that it’s billed to do, it will be a revolutionary communication tool – even better than Twitter.

But a tool is only as good as the hands that are holding it. Do good with it or use it for bad, but it’s there. Google Wave promises some great reputation management benefits with the following features:

  • Wiki
  • Applications and extensions
  • Embeddable waves
  • Open source
  • Playback
  • Drag and drop file sharing

That’s powerful stuff and if you’re serious about managing your reputation online, you’ll find real usefulness from these applications.

The surest way to ensure you do not exceed your budget on your pay-per-click advertising is to set both a monthly and a daily budget. The key is to keep your PPC ads running during peak times without going over your monthly ad spend or using all of your ad spend before the end of the month.

Let’s say your monthly budget is $1,000. If you just set your budget limit at that amount and set your ads to run then you could spend your entire budget before the end of the month. Advertisers have found their budget depleted by the 15th and their ads won’t run any more until the first of the next month. That means your ads won’t run for half the month, leaving you with wasted time and wasted money.

To prevent that from happening, set a daily budget that is lower than or equal to the prorated amount for your monthly budget. In other words, divide $1,000 by 30 days and you get $33.33. You don’t want your daily budget to exceed that amount. Set it slighly lower, say to $30, and day that you hit that amount your ads will stop running. But they’ll pick up again on the next day allowing you to run your advertising throughout the entire month without exceeding your $1,000 monthly budget.

Another way to control your PPC spend is to find out when your ads are clicked on the most and run your ads only during those times. If you find that 75% of your clicks are between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday then you can set your PPC account to display your ads only during those times. That will cut out a portion of the time when clicks are low and save your budget.

The unique advantage a service business has over a retail store is no inventory. You have no holding costs. Until the last 15 years, if you owned a service business your options were fairly limited in where you could do business – and how you could do business. But the Internet has changed how service businesses can interact with their customers, and it has changed who their customers are.

There are certain types of service business – like barber shops and auto mechanics – that require a physical location in order for those businesses to thrive. But that doesn’t mean you are limited to your physical location in terms of Internet marketing. You have other options.

Most service business professionals think that Internet marketing consists of setting up a website to advertise their services. Sure, that’s one option (the most obvious one, actually). But it’s far from the only option.

As a service business you can make money on the Internet in other ways. You can’t cut someone’s hair or replace a carburetor online and you can’t do those things for customers 2,000 miles away either. But you can sell information products or lead persons interested in those services to an affiliate product or service and earn money from that. Or you could earn money from advertising of similar products and services that don’t compete.

When it comes to Internet marketing, there are as many ways to accomplish it as there are types of people and businesses. There is no right way or wrong way. There are effective and ineffective ways. We’d like to help you find the best way to market online for you.

Is there a difference between competitive intelligence and actionable intelligence? Actually, there is.

Competitive intelligence is any intelligence undergone that leads to a better understanding of the competitive landscape within your niche. Actionable intelligence is any intelligence you can use to improve your marketing position within the marketplace. Sometimes these two kinds of intelligence intersect, but sometimes they don’t. You hope you gather actionable intelligence about your competition and that you are able to act on it in time to be profitable.

But you have to be careful. There are some things that are illegal when spying on the competition.

In general, competitive intelligence simply means surveying what the competition has to offer its customers from the perspective of a customer and then turning that into data that you can use to beat them in the market. But some competitive intelligence doesn’t really mean anything that you can act upon for marketing purposes. For instance, you might find out that employees of Company A within your niche all drive Porsches. It’s nice to know, but does that help you be a better marketer for your company?

On the other hand, if you find out that employee morale is higher at Company A because they have a dress down Friday and catered lunch then you might be able to use that to improve your company’s relationship with your employees. That could in turn lead to better relations with your customers. That’s actionable intelligence.

Other forms of actionable intelligence about the competition includes:

  • The price of competitive products
  • Benefits of a product that are enjoyed by the company’s customers
  • The size of a company’s marketing budget
  • Which keywords they use in their AdWords campaigns
  • The size of the company’s website
  • Which calls to action are effective
  • What subdomains the company owns

There are countless other items of competitive intelligence that can be considered actionable as well. And if you take the time to find out what the competition is up to, you’ll likely learn that you can act upon a lot of it.

God, we sure hope so.

Pardon the bad joke, but viral marketing is a misunderstood science. Too many webmasters think if they follow some blueprint then they’ll get boat loads of traffic overnight because they used so-and-so’s winning formula. But viral marketing is not about winning formulas. It’s largely a hit-and-miss proposition and some of the most successful viral marketers have more failed campaigns than successful ones.

The reason you hear so much hype around viral marketing initiatives is because the ones that win big really win big. That’s when people start talking.

But you don’t have to make a million dollars in order for your viral marketing efforts to pay off. You could have something go viral on a small scale and pay off. It just depends on the size of your market.

The main ingredient in any viral marketing campaign is creativity. You want your marketing campaign to target a specific market with something that will get their attention. When it does, they’ll talk about it. And they’ll help you market your business or product without so much as even a request. Often, you can’t even predict what will go viral. It sometimes is something you didn’t even plan on. When it is, you just grin and eat the butter.

Social media optimization is a fancy word Internet marketers use to describe the best practices of marketing a business through various social media channels. Some of those channels might include:

  • Blogging
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • Delicious
  • StumbleUpon
  • BlogCatalog
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

That’s just to name a few. There are countless other social bookmarking and social networking sites out there to participate in as well.

Social media optimization involves a few principles that, if followed, will help you reach the right target audience for your message and drive traffic to your website. What are the principles? Glad you asked. These are the principles that we recommend for the best social media optimization practices:

  • Create unique content
  • Engage your audience through a blog
  • Provide a way for your readers to bookmark or share your content
  • Distribute your content through RSS, aggregation, and various channels of social media
  • Participate in other people’s channel marketing initiatives as well (ie interact)
  • Be genuine, not fake
  • Use SEO

The idea behind social media is to be conversational. You can do that without being pushy or overbearing. You can also do it and still ask for the sale. Before you jump into a social media campaign, take time to study what social media is, who is using it, and how they are doing it.

Search engine optimization is the one thing that every person doing business online needs to know how to do, or hire someone who knows how, but few businesses take seriously enough to make the investment. Everyone seems to be excited about prospects in social media – and we agree, there are some exciting opportunities to be found in social media marketing – but when it comes to optimizing their websites for search engine traffic, so many small business owners are lost.

They don’t have to be.

SEO really isn’t hard. There are some basic principles to optimizing web pages, but simply knowing the principles isn’t enough. There are some ins and outs that an experienced guide can help you with.

One of the most important principles, for instance, in optimizing websites is link relevance. Most people focus on link quantity. But link quality is even more important than quantity and involves building links back to your website focused on the right keywords for your site. It’s just one part of SEO, but it’s an important part.

If you really want to learn how to win in the search engine game, it helps to learn the most important principles of the game, or hire someone who studies those principles every day.