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A 404 error page is a page a web browser shows someone who clicks on a link to a page that no longer exists. This typically happens when a webmaster deletes a page or moves a page and forgets to redirect the old page to the new page. If you have too many 404 error pages your site visitors will begin to lose trust in you.

If you are deleting pages and not redirecting them to other pages then you’ll end up with 404 error pages. This might be a good time to review what happens when you publish a new page on your website or blog.

  1. If you are using ping services then you are pinging those services every time you create a new page. Those pings create new links to your new pages. Delete those pages and your visitors will only see a 404 error page.
  2. Subscribers to your RSS feed receive instant notification every time you create a new web page.
  3. Directories that list your website or blog will often link to your latest post or page.
  4. The search engines crawl those pages and index them in the search engines.

A 404 error page here and there won’t hurt you, but if subscribers and other readers to your website discover too many 404 error pages on your website, they’ll eventually stop trust you. You’ll look unprofessional. You want to keep those at a minimum.

Early last week we reported on how Most Small Business Owners Are Too Busy For Social Media. There are many different ways to view this problem, some of which we discussed in last weeks post. Another view that should be considered is whether or not small businesses were targeting the right social media outlets.

If your a small business person targeting a local or regional audience then you need to consider your options. It may not make sense undertaking a social media marketing campaign on Facebook or any of the other large international social media sites. Your audience is not international so why campaign in an international marketplace?

There are always local or regional social media outlets that could return much greater dividends for the time spent. Sure, they don’t have all the bells and whistles that Facebook or Twitter posses, but they do have one important factor – the users are nearly all potential customers.

As a local trader, would you advertise in the local papers or radio – or would you advertise in a big city daily or on national tv. The commonsense approach, and the cost factor, would make your local media more attractive. The same is true for online social media. Target those sites and then judge whether or not social media marketing was worth the time.

Search engine optimization is a tough game and sometimes you reach a point where your competitors have to0 many guns in their arsenal for you to outrank. If you can get to position two or three in search results, perhaps you can outsell them instead.

Meta tags are pretty much redundant when it comes to on-page SEO. The smart move now is to use those meta tags to outsell your competitors and the perfect place to start is in the description tag. This provides the snippet that searchers see in organic search results.

Rather than optimizing for keywords, try optimizing for clicks. This means using that tag to sell and like all sales pitches you need a call to action. Rewrite your meta description so that it gives the searcher a reason to click through – then invite them.

If you can get to the front page of the serps, particularly the results above the fold then start to concentrate on ways of winning those clicks. If you can out sell your competitors you should see a significant share of the traffic coming your way.

Here’s a woman who clearly has a competitive advantage.

What should you do if you find yourself in this man’s position, where your ex-spouse is now your business competitor and knows the inner workings of your business? I think fake reviews is the least of this guy’s problems. He needs to combat her built-in competitive intelligence advantage.

With Google Local’s recent change in how it will allow local businesses to list themselves, this man may not have much of a choice, but if possible he could realign his business so that his ex-wife doesn’t have inside knowledge on his operations. Otherwise, he may lose the competitive intelligence war.

Here’s a quick web design tip you can implement right away and it will only take a few minutes. It’s really a branding element you can use to help establish your brand online but it just takes one line of code.

A favicon is a little icon that displays next to the URL in the address box of your browser. You can create one out of your logo, or any image, in just a few minutes. Go to Favicon.cc and upload your image or create one. Follow the directions and save your favicon to your hard drive. It should end with the .ico file extension.

You want to keep your favicon simple. Not too complex. Just like your company logo. If done right, it will brand your website online.

Place the code for your favicon in the head section of your html in every page of your website. You’ll need to upload your image to your server then include the following line of code (enclosed in brackets) in your html:

LINK REL=”SHORTCUT ICON” HREF=”http://www.yourwebsite.com/favicon.ico”

That’s it. Now you have a favicon.

Twitter has a new widget that will surely be used as a viral marketing tool and has a lot of great potential. It’s called the Twitter List Widget.

If you haven’t heard, a couple of weeks ago Twitter introduced Twitter Lists. People have been going hog wild crazy over them. There are now thousands of lists on Twitter and the list of lists is growing. The list feature itself has grown into a viral marketing tool.

Now, you can take your own lists or anyone else’s list and create a widget for it, put it on your blog, and share it with the world. It’s one more viral marketing tool that you can use to spread the word about your brand.

To learn more about Twitter List Widgets and other viral marketing tools, visit Reciprocal Consulting.

Frank Reed at Marketing Pilgrim cites a survey by Citibank / GfK Roper in which 76% of the business owners surveyed (500 of them) said that social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have not helped their businesses to grow in the last year.

Well, I wonder why not? Could it have anything to do with the economy?

You might think so, but according to the same survey, 42% of the business owners surveyed said they have made greater use of their own websites and search engines to increase leads and sales. That’s not surprising. Search engine optimization has always had a better response rate than social media. But that doesn’t mean social media doesn’t have value.

Frank Reed nails it on the head when he responds:

Small town folks may be using social media but they aren’t telling all of their cool friends in some urban center how they just crossed the street and are now successfully maneuvering down another block to do that again. They live where people are trying to get on with life in a difficult economic environment. As a result they are not interested in the latest and greatest social media trends. They are interested in getting what they need at the right price from someone they trust.

For many small business owners, social media engagement takes a lot of time. But it doesn’t have to. Of course, putting time and money into building one’s website up should be the first order of business for anyone attempting Internet marketing. But social media features can be added to your website to give you a more rounded social graph and encourage your site visitors to engage with you in more ways than one. The study cited above doesn’t give any indication about whether or not the small business owners surveyed approached social media in the right way. It’s just a survey. What would the next 500 businesses say?

Content, links, meta tags, keywords … it’s all a sea of confusion, right? Which SEO factor is most important?

Links are important. They build link popularity. Relevance, page authority, anchor text, link age, they’re all important, right? Yes, they are all important. But links are the not the most important thing for SEO. Without at least one inbound link to your website, it won’t get crawled and the search engines won’t index it. But for search engine ranking purposes, links are not the most important SEO factor.

How about meta tags? No. In fact, Google doesn’t even consider meta tags for ranking purposes. Yahoo! and Bing still consider meta tags, but they aren’t the most important ranking criteria.

Is it keyword density? SEOs still talk about keyword density. In fact, keywords get a lot of airplay all around. Keywords in title tags, keywords in alt tags, keywords in anchor text. Yes, they’re all important. Even keyword density, to some degree, is important. But not the most important thing.

Content.

Quality, original content is the most important SEO factor online. There’s a reason “content is king” is the Internet’s chant. It’s not a campaign slogan. It’s reality. Content is the most important SEO factor. Over links. Above keyword density. And higher than meta tags.

Make your content shine and dress it up with great links, meta tags, and keyword considerations. But make your content the king.

There are two branches of SEO that every website owner should be familiar with. There’s on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

Your on-page SEO consists of keyword management, meta tags, alt tags, navigation, and other elements that exist on your page to help you produce effective SEO for your website. Off-page SEO consists of anything you do off of your website, such as building links, that produces SEO benefits.

One of the best things you can do off page is to list your website in directories. Many webmasters don’t know it, but you can submit your internal web pages to deep link directories and build links to those internal pages.

Neither on-page SEO or off-page SEO is more important. On-page SEO, of course, must come first. And it should really be your focus in the early days of website development. But after your website is built you’ll need to focus on link building and off-page SEO.