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The world of Internet marketing acts very much like the known universe. It expands. In fact, it is expanding now at a very alarming rate.

In the old days, Internet marketing consisted largely of building a website – very primitive website – ensuring that website was indexed by the search engines and doing some e-mail and article marketing to drive traffic to that website. But things have changed drastically since those days.

Website design and development has become much more sophisticated. Tracking tools have allowed for Internet marketers to measure events that could not be measure 10, or even 5, years ago. E-mail marketing has changed. And there are some new Internet marketing kids on the block:

  • Blogging
  • Pay Per Click Advertising
  • Social Media
  • Podcasting
  • Video Marketing

Just to name a few.

Article marketing, too, has changed. The advent of Twitter has become a game changer for many marketers. And it’s useful for driving traffic – even more useful than some traditional marketing methods.

The bottom line is that Internet marketing is rapidly changing. For the better. There are a lot more opportunities for success today, and many more being introduced every day. If you get lost in the milieu, look for a qualified guide. Find someone who offers Internet marketing consulting and who can walk you through the steps as you learn on your own. You’ll be glad you did.

One of the most important tools at your disposal, and it’s free, to spy on your competition is well within your reach – Google. So how can you use the search giant as a competitive intelligence tool? There are a number of ways.

  • Links – If you type in links: followed by the domain name then you’ll get a list of links that point to the site. Great for checking backlinks. You can see which ones are most valuable, which pages they are linking to (and from), and gauge the value of your competition’s links with just one click.
  • SES – Search engine saturation is the number of pages a domain has indexed at Google. Using a search engine saturation tool, you can figure out how many pages your competition has indexed at Google.
  • Meta Data – If you visit your competition’s website and look at the meta keywords tag on their home page then search for that keyword in Google, you can find out how many pages on your client’s site rank for that keyword.
  • Google Analytics – With Google Analytics you can benchmark your site against your competition. Know where you stand in relation to the competition for important metrics like traffic, page views, etc.
  • Google AdWords – You can also spy on your competition with Google AdWords. Target their most important keywords for a test campaign and have someone go up at different times of the day to perform a search using the search terms you have bid on to find out if your competition is bidding on the same keywords. You can also judge how much they may be paying per click based on where their ads fall in relation to yours.

Google has several tools you can use to spy on your competition with. Competitive intelligence is one of the most important aspects of running a web business. Don’t leave it out.

Spend any time at all on website design and you’ll quickly learn of an organization called W3C – or World Wide Web Corsortium. You’ll likely hear that using the W3C standards to build and design your website are necessary to ensure compatibility with current web standards. I hate to burst your bubble, but there’s no requirement to follow W3C standards.

That’s not to say that the W3C hasn’t benefited the Internet at all. Headed by the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, the consortium does work hard to establish open lines of communication between webmasters and others who use the Internet. In fact, many of their suggestions are well worth listening to. But if you build a website that doesn’t comply with W3C standards, if you are using HTML code that can be read by browsers then you will likely build a website that is accessible by Internet users. You don’t need W3C approval.

The code that you’ll see at the top of some source code behind websites, you know that code that says your site is approved by W3C, it’s not really necessary. It is nice to have. It can build trust in your site. But if you’re missing it, no big deal. The real issue is to build a website that is accessible and provides your site visitors with benefits.

If you are a Twitter user, or just getting started with Twitter, then you might be wondering whether or not it can be used for viral marketing. The answer – the short answer – is any tool can be used for viral marketing. Whether or not it is effective is another question. Better yet, a good question is can you make it effective?

A viral marketing tool is only as good as the person using it, and the plan. Articles make great viral marketing tools, as do videos, but not every marketer has learned how to use them. The same goes for Twitter.

Read the latest guru’s e-book and you’ll get the impression that Twitter is the best viral marketing tool since cotton candy. And it can be, but there are certain rules of etiquette and best practices that one must learn before trying to employ it. And it’s best to learn those from someone who understands the territory. I hesitate to say “expert” or “guru”, but it does need to be someone who is knowledgeable and experienced in the different nuances of the technology. Even if you do it yourself, it makes sense to consult with a Twitter consultant.

Is Twitter a viral marketing tool? Yes, in capable hands it is. Your goal should be to make your hands capable.

John Battelle is a brilliant man. He recently wrote a two-part blog post where he challenged search engines on two fronts:

I see two paths toward that goal: one is creating applications on top of “ten blue links” which help me organize and aggregate the knowledge I process while pursuing a search query, and the second is making my searches social, so I can share the process of learning and learn from those who have shared – not unlike Vannevar Bush’s “Memex” concept.

I’m not quite sure what he has in mind on that first point. It could be anything from the ability to make notes, which Google currently allows, to saving an individual search result to be included in subsequent search queries so that ongoing topical searches can be conducted – as opposed to strict keyword searches as they are done now. I can actually see some value in that type of aggregation.

But John Battelle goes further to suggest that search engines should be more social in nature. That would put a completely different spin on the nature of search. To actually include humans – other humans not associated with the search engine – in one’s search process combined with the other elements of search as we know them today and what they could be ten years from now, that would revolutionize search in ways that have not been done as of yet. The problem is, we’re a long way from there right now. Will we ever get there?

Can search engine optimization – the practice of influencing search results using keyword placement, link building, and other tactics – and social media optimization – the practice of writing content that appeals to the denizens of social networks and designed to get them to share it with their friends – ever meld into one product? Should they? What do you think?

I was discussing link building today with a friend and we both agreed that link building is important. But neither one of us were willing to say it was the most important thing. You can build all the links you want to a poorly optimized website and you likely won’t get too far. But we’ve all seen the results of the Google Bomb, right? The problem is, one algorithm change and those bombs blow.

But on-page optimization is fairly constant. If you stick the basics – good content, clean code, fast load times, light on the images, proper keyword management, internal navigation – then your website should do well. Inbound links can never serve as a substitute for poor on-page optimization.

However, if you have a well optimized website with all the right design and content elements then a good link building campaign can enhance it tremendously. Link building should be seen as a supporting activity for good on-page SEO. It shouldn’t be a primary optimization tactic.

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a powerful method of making money. Unique to online marketing, it consists of more than building a website and watching them come. SEM involves testing, driving traffic, and closing sales by generating leads through pay per click advertising, search engine optimization, and paid inclusion forms of search engine marketing.

SEM is not new. Even before Google and pay per click advertising, online marketers were using search engines to build their businesses. But SEM has become more sophisticated. It is a science as much as an art.

At its most effective, SEM can build your business in a splash, but most businesses see their revenues climb steadily. The first step to effective SEM is to build a well optimized website with a good clean design and ready to convert traffic to sales. If your website isn’t ready to convert then it doesn’t matter how much traffic you drive to it. It will all be lost opportunities.

When it comes to SEM, the best place to start is with a plan. And if you have trouble coming up with a plan on your own, you might want to consider an SEM consultant.

Reputation management is quickly becoming one of the most important aspects of doing business online. You never know when a competitor, an employee, or a customer will go on the warpath and start messing with the world’s perception of you and your brand. But you can combat the negatives long before they start cropping up. And you can do it with a tool that you should already be using.

I’m talking about your blog. Your company blog is the best reputation management tool you have. You know why? Because you own the means and the velocity of production.

Look at it this way: A blog can be updated every day – even multiple times a day. And every blog post is a separate web page. The more web pages you produce that use your brand or company name, image, or likeness in, the more content you spread around. And the older that content is with the more links it can gain, the better off you will be in the long run. It makes it harder for the naysayers to move their content up.

Of course, you can never make it impossible for them. But why give them a small hill to climb when you can manage a daily blog and make that hill bigger. A blog is your best reputation management tool.

Pay per click marketing isn’t so new any more. A lot of people are doing it. Some are more successful than others. Some people swear by it. Others swear at it. But no matter your view on pay per click advertising, there is one thing for sure. It is unique among advertising models and there is one thing in particular that makes it a special kind of advertising.

Pay per click advertising provides one benefit that no other form of advertising offers. Quality, targeted traffic.

You know that traffic is important to any web business. Get no site visitors and you can’t get any business. But even better than loads of traffic is moderate targeted traffic. I’d rather get 1,000 good quality leads than 100,000 paint pellets on a wall. Pay per click offers targeted traffic. If one does it right.

What that means is, if you do your keyword research well and you define your market followed by a well-written ad targeted toward your ideal audience and that uses a strong call to action, you should do well with pay per click. The size of your budget doesn’t matter. What does matter is the quality of your advertising.