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When a lot of people think about search engine marketing they immediately think about pay per click marketing (PPC). That is a part of it, but that’s not all there is to effective SEM. Search engine marketing is any type of marketing done through search engines, and that includes display advertising.

Of course, display advertising is probably the least effective of SEM strategies. Most small business owners are beginning to realize that now. But search engine optimization ranks as still one of the most effective search engine marketing strategies, and I suspect it always will be.

In some sense, social media marketing can be considered SEM. Real-time search is definitely search engine marketing. Video and image optimization are search engine marketing strategies too. As is mobile marketing when done the right way.

So you can that you have options beyond PPC. Search engine marketing is more than tossing money at keywords, it’s really about devising a strategy for drawing in new customers through the search engines.

It is difficult in life to escape getting a reputation. Everything you do tells who you are. That principle is even more important online where everything you do becomes a permanent record of who you are or who you used to be (and, consequently, who others perceive you to always be). Reputation management is the science of maintaining a presence online that you can always be proud of. It’s an activity that is inescapable.

Everything you do speaks. Online and off line. Whatever others see you produce becomes a part of your persona, or their perception of your persona. And it has a positive or a negative effect.

The idea behind reputation management is to present yourself in every situation in as positive a manner as possible and to address any negative or neutral concerns in a forthright and up front manner so that others see you as you really are. That’s a challenge in any environment, but doubly so online. That may be why so many people are shy of entering forums and making posts about themselves on blogs and other Internet properties. But you need not be afraid.

With a strong reputation management strategy backed by a solid philosophy, you can design your online perception from scratch and leave others think positively about you everywhere you go. It takes work, but you can do it.

Can you make money with smaller pay-per-click companies? You know I’m not talking about Google, or Yahoo!, or Bing. Those are the majors. I’m talking about the small companies and search engines. Some of them you’ve probably never heard of, such as:

  • Miva
  • Looksmart
  • 7Search
  • Search123
  • GoClick
  • Kanoodle
  • AdBrite
  • Enhance

This is just a small list. There are plenty more.

Most pay per click advertisers stick with the big three, but they are missing opportunities with the small search engines. The advantage to using the small PPC companies is that your cost per click will be lower – much lower. In some cases, keywords that you’ll spend $1 or more at Google or Yahoo! will cost your mere pennies at one of the smaller companies. The downside is you won’t get anywhere near the traffic that you’ll get at Google, but if you get any traffic for a fraction of the cost then it’s worth it. Right?

Yes, right. So don’t discount the small pay per click companies. They could be very profitable.

Social media marketing is a fairly young form of Internet marketing. It has caught on in the last couple of years and doesn’t appear to be just a passing fad. The number of social media websites that are growing and drawing attention to themselves is astounding. And some of the top websites online – Facebook and YouTube – are social media websites.

So when a big name traditional marketing giant like Pepsi abandons TV advertising, and on Super Bowl Sunday to boot, in favor of social media marketing, that’s big news.

Why would Pepsi do this? Well, I can think of a few reasons and I’m trusting they’ve done the math.

  • The Super Bowl’s audience is primarily U.S. households (granted, it’s a lot of households, but when you consider that social media marketing has no geographical boundaries, it’s a rather limited audience)
  • Dollar for dollar, social media marketing can deliver a lot more activity over time than a couple of Super Bowl ads
  • Super Bowl ads run for a very limited time, then – poof! – they’re gone; social media marketing will stick around a lot longer
  • Super Bowl advertising contains no search engine optimization benefit while social media marketing does
  • There is a much bigger chance that social media marketing can lead to Pepsi tapping into new markets than Super Bowl advertising

Let’s look at that last benefit. One of the biggest brands in China is Coca Cola. It’s huge there. Pepsi is hardly known. And the largest social media website in the world is a Chinese website. One very effective social media campaign in China could lead to Pepsi challenging Coca Cola’s hold on the market there.

That’s just one example. There are other markets worldwide where Pepsi is trailing Coca Cola and the younger audiences in almost every country (18-34 year olds) are social media users more than TV viewers.

I think this is a good move for Pepsi. I hope it pays off. If it works out like I suspect it will, Pepsi will have a very good social media story to tell in 2010.

There are two reasons why you might want to know what keywords the competition is targeting:

  • So you can target the same keywords
  • So you can identify keywords they are missing and capitalize on them

The competition is certainly targeting keywords. But are they targeting the right ones? Are they targeting the keywords that you should be targeting?

Keywords are not all created equal. Some of your competitors may actually be targeting the wrong keywords. Your goal should be to identify the right keywords and to go after those aggressively. That means studying the keywords that the competition is (and isn’t) using and studying the keywords that searchers are searching for. The right tools can make that process much easier for you. And your competitive intelligence initiatives will go a long way toward making you successful.

PHP is one of the most versatile web design languages available today. There is so much you can do and the options are very wide. You virtually have your choice of server types, hosting, database options, and many other variables. One of the best aspects to PHP is its ability to embed easily into HTML.

While you can embed PHP into HTML, unlike HTML, it is a server-side language. HTML is a browser-based language.

Web design is a lot more robust with PHP. You can script forms and do all sorts of other server-side scripting with PHP. You can also write command line scripts for your web pages. And you can also design desktop applications. But that’s not all.

PHP is compatible with all the major operating systems – Linus, Unix, OS X, Windows, and many more.

With PHP, your web design has so much more flexibility and a wide range of web design options is available to you. I highly recommend the use PHP for web design, not in place of HTML, but in conjunction with HTML.

Earlier in December, Google announced that personalized search will apply to all searchers even if they are not logged into their accounts. That means they will be getting personalized search results on every search query. Will that benefit you or hurt you?

I don’t think it will hurt you if you are SEOing your web pages the same way you have been. Effective SEO is effective SEO.

However, personalized search may not do you any favors if you don’t consider one very important detail: Searchers who find your competition before they find you and like what they see may never find you. That’s why it is very important to do everything you can to ensure that your website is found. And that means expanding your Internet marketing efforts beyond the organic search listings.

It is more important now than ever that you use every available means to get traffic to your website and that your website offers a solid user experience so that your visitors want to keep coming back. Otherwise, you could be relegated to irrelevance forever.

Viral marketing can play a key role in this. All you need is one really relevant viral marketing campaign to get a load of traffic to your site and convince them they want to stick around. That’s the hard part. The easy part is knowing that’s what you need.

When it comes to personalized search, it’s not the end of the world. It’s only the end of the world for those websites that can’t leverage their marketing efforts in the right way.

I must admit, I’m getting tired of all the newfangled URL shorteners appearing now. I blame it all on Twitter.

In the old days it was Tinyurl and a few other struggling upstarts trying to compete for space in the URL shortening arena. Of course, there was no money in URL shortening so it was just a service to help webmasters who wanted a short URL – largely to help affiliate marketers mask their affiliate IDs and conceal the fact that they were sending their site visitors to another site to make a quick buck. But things have changed.

Twitter has made the URL shortener a necessity and not just a choice. While no marketer is obligated to use Twitter, not to do so is to miss out on a growing opportunity. I think it’s here to stay and will likely become an important part of doing business online. But you have to communicate in 140 characters or less.

Since Twitter has asked us all to share our favorite links online in 140 characters or less, there have been a ton of new URL shorteners appear on the scene to help us do that. The best ones offer link tracking so you can see how many clicks you are getting on those links. And now savvy webmasters are using those URL shortening services on their own websites.

Recently, Google announced their own URL shortening service – Goo.gl – which can only be used on its own site. And now, the latest, Youtu.be. Doug Caverly recommends using it for YouTube videos. I don’t know. Do we really need another one?

I’m all for social media in any of its forms, and YouTube is one of the best social media websites around, but what if they all had their own URL shorteners? How silly would that be?

Bill Slawski takes a walk down memory lane by showcasing some archived screenshots of search engines from a decade ago. It’s interesting to see what Google, a new upstart, looked like back then. And even better to see some of the sites that are no longer around. But the best thing about Bill’s post is the final comment, “I’m wondering what they might be like a dozen years from now.”

Yeah, I’m wondering too.

And here’s my speculation. I think the search engines will be fully social. Not only will you be able to visit Google and search for real-time information and expect relevant results, but you’ll be able to share Facebook-like information and provide “status updates” in real time as well. Facebook might even be one of the leading search engines. And Google could be one of the leading social networks.

I think Google Wave is the start of a new direction for search engines. You’ll likely be able to search the Web from your desktop – even the “desktop” of your cell phone. There may even be an MP3-size device or Blackberry-like contraption on which you can do all sorts of things including search the Web, send text messages, phone your mother, and project 3D holographic images on your boardroom wall (well, that might be a stretch).

I’m looking forward to the next decade of search. I believe we’ll see some striking technological innovations and likely from some unexpected sources. The part I’m wondering about is what will search engine optimization be like?

You might think, with all the talk of social media, real-time, and video/viral marketing, that SEO is not as important as it used to be. Don’t be fooled. It’s still as important as ever and, if anything, is more important than it ever was.

There are two things more than anything else that influence the importance of SEO – increased competition and search engine policies.

Regarding competition, there’s not a lot you can do other than try to out-optimize your competition. That requires some competitive intelligence, but it also requires some aggressive search engine marketing and keyword research. You need to know what people are searching for and how you can meet the demand for information better than the other guys. That’s a bit of a no-brainer.

The tough one is search engine policies. They change, and they can change drastically. Sometimes without much notice. But they rarely change in ways that are unforeseen and illogical.

For instance, in the past couple of years we’ve seen the search engines go from offering 10 blue links of organic results to offering a handful of organic links along with images, video results, and listings from other verticals. Savvy web marketers should have seen that coming. The rise of the verticals almost ensured that would happen. And people demanding better search results all around was a huge factor as well. Plus, it just makes sense. People searching for information on a given topic may not necessarily be looking for a website – they could be looking for a video or an image.

So, search engines change. And that means SEO can sometimes change. But, again, it rarely changes in ways that can’t be unforeseen or that are totally illogical. Just because your friends are going social doesn’t mean that SEO isn’t still necessary. It is – now more than ever.

Search engine marketing is becoming an integral part of doing business. Not just business online, but business in general. And the reason it is becoming so important for businesses who want to get ahead and stay ahead is because there are so many people online now and more and more going online every day. People are starting to trust the Internet.

It took awhile, but it’s happening. Search engines are becoming as ubiquitous as utility companies. They’re accessible from anywhere and they have all the answers.

Well, maybe not all of them. But all of the important ones.

Remember when telemarketing became all the rage? Every company that wanted to increase its position in the marketplace conducted a telemarketing campaign. Then consumers started blocking the calls, or acquired Caller ID and didn’t answer the phone. Then, e-mail marketing became popular. Search engine marketing is the new telemarketing. If you want to get ahead, this is where it’s at.

But how do you do it? It’s not easy. Like telemarketing, it looks easy, but it is something that you’d better learn in a hurry or let the professionals do it. When it comes to search engine marketing, who do you trust?

It’s been a couple of years or so when Google introduced the concept of universal search. This is organic search on steroids. OK, maybe not on steroids, but more diverse than ordinary organic search.

Universal search is the fusion of several verticals into the search results for any particular search query. For instance, type in “Elvis Costello” at Google and you get Internet radio results followed by organic search listings with links to websites (remember when you got 10 of those and that was it?) and some images results and videos thrown in at the bottom.

That’s universal search: Several verticals on the same search results page. This is good and bad. If you were among the top 10 organic listings then you may have fallen off the first page to be replaced by a video, image, or Internet podcast result. But if you have a video clip of Elvis Costello, an image of him on your website, or an audio clip then it’s a positive.

The news here is that there are more overall search results on the page with fewer organic listings. The verticals have captured some of that real estate. Here’s the reputation management lesson …

What if you were Elvis Costello? Or replace Elvis Costello’s name with your own. Will you see image, video and podcast results? Should you?

Well, if a searcher were to search for your name, that’s what they should see. And if they did see that then you’d be boosting your reputation much more than you are now. Imagine having an organic listing with a link to your website, a video, an audio listing, and an image all showing up on page 1 of the SERPs. That’s some powerful reputation management. Wouldn’t you agree?

Pay per click advertising has its place. A good business with a good marketing plan can use PPC to do great things. But is it a substitute for SEO? Absolutely not.

First, you need to realize that 80% of all clicks from a search engine to a website are clicks on an organic search listing. So even if you manage a great PPC campaign you can expect to only get 20% of your clicks from PPC. That doesn’t mean you should just forget about it, however.

Still, PPC is not a substitute for SEO and it never will be. It should augment your SEO campaigns. You can target the same keywords in both your PPC campaigns and your SEO campaigns. In fact, you should. But at the end of the day, they are two different marketing tools and they are used for two different purposes – to reach two sets of the same market. You need both.

Internet marketing is not for everyone. There are some definite dos and don’ts. But the world of Internet marketing is not made of the dos and don’ts. It is really made of the principles that tie it all together. Things that just make sense. But which of the principles are most important?

Well, there are plenty of Internet marketing principles that we could name. Probably too many. So I’m not going to run through the entire list of them. But I will name a few:

  • Internet marketing is not about numbers, but about finding the right audience.
  • Don’t panic
  • Work hard every day and learn something new
  • Don’t get stuck on one technique
  • Remember, it’s not all about you

That’s just a few important principles right off the top of my head. But which Internet marketing principle is the most important? I’d say the most important thing you need to know about Internet marketing is this: It all begins with that first step. Make it a good one.

When it comes to gathering competitive intelligence, the information you can obtain legally and ethically is only as good as the tools you use. One good tool for gathering information on your competition’s organic SEO campaigns and PPC campaigns is KeywordSpy.

KeywordSpy allows you to search for information in several ways – Domain, Keyword, Destination URL, and Ad Copies. You’ll probably use the Keyword search most often, but the others do come in handy.

When you search for a keyword at KeywordSpy you get a boat load of information on several competitors. You get keyword statistics on PPC competitors, including CPC and search volume. There is even a nice pretty graph to show you the history of your competition in PPC.

You also get an overview of related keywords, which is nice because it also shows you the CPC and search volume for each of those keywords. Then you get samples of PPC ads from your competition.

Another great benefit is an overview of your top competitors, comparing organic SEO information and PPC information on each one. You get a nice list of the keywords for each of those competitors and how many keywords they are using for PPC and SEO.

I would definitely recommend KeywordSpy for conducting competitive intelligence before embarking on any PPC or SEO campaign.

It is easier now than ever before to get a website. You can practically throw one up yourself with no training and no web design background. With some popular content management systems on the market – WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, et. al. – you can build a site from scratch without knowing any HTML or code. And many web hosts offer sitebuilders for free. Sign up, pay your small monthly hosting fee, and start building. Easy, right?

Yes, easy. But not necessarily a benefit.

There is still search engine optimization to contend with. And just because you can build a site with no knowledge of web design doesn’t mean you should. Surveying websites built by designers and non-designers, even designers who use content management systems, there is still a big difference. And it’s noticeable.

Let’s face it, good web design requires specialized knowledge in the following areas:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Graphic design
  • HTML (hypertext markup language) – Even if you use a content management system to build your website, a working knowledge of HTML is helpful.
  • CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) – Again, even with a content management system, you might want to make some tweaks to your site sitewide and a working knowledge of CSS will be helpful.
  • JavaScript and PHP – Two more coding languages that can be helpful.
  • Working with images
  • Copywriting
  • Sales – Writing for the web is selling; if you can’t write sales copy then you’ll need to hire someone who can.
  • Web standards
  • Online marketing strategies

As you can see, there is a lot to learn when doing it yourself. You can take the time to learn it and fail by trial and error a few times until you succeed, or you can hire a guide to help you. Web design isn’t going away any time soon. If anything, experts in web design will always be needed.

Now that the search engines have introduced real-time search as a part of the search results, you can bet the viral marketers are beating down every path to find a way to capitalize and exploit every opportunity. But how many opportunities are there in real-time search?

Well, the opportunities are there, but you have to know how to find them. The website that gets the most attention in real-time discussions is Twitter, but real-time and Twitter are not necessarily synonymous. When it comes to search, the search engines throw in results from a variety of sources – not just the most popular ones.

For instance, Google “Dallas Cowboys” and you’ll get results in real time from Twitter and a variety of news sources as well as the Cowboys’ own website. Run the same query at Bing and you may not get real time results at all (I didn’t).

By the same token, you could just as well get results from Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube in your real-time results.

But how do you capitalize on the viral opportunities? Well, if you focus on the social media sites that are relevant to your marketing offering and just run a viral marketing campaign the same way you normally would then your efforts stand a much better chance of appearing in real-time results if you are successful at going viral. In other words, instead of focusing on getting into the real-time results for a relevant search query you should focus on prosecuting an effective viral marketing campaign and the real-time results will take care of themselves.

WebProNews visited with some search and social industry professionals in Chicago and came away with a list of 10 discussions in Internet marketing that are relevant for today and the future. Six of those 10 discussions are relevant to social media in at least a small way, but most of them hit the social media relevance factor directly and head on. Here are the 6 discussions on social media you should pay attention to if not get involved in:

  1. Ranking In Real-Time Search – Real-time search has become synonymous with Twitter, and partly Facebook. You can’t argue that this doesn’t have some serious social media marketing connection. Plus, it’s interesting.
  2. The Future Of Online PR – Online PR used to be about getting found in the search engines. Now it’s about getting found. Anywhere and everywhere. More than likely, if you use online PR in the future then you’ll be doing it through at least one social media outlet.
  3. Lessons from Political Social Media – President Obama wasn’t the first to make social media relevant for politics. That was Ron Paul. But the nation’s chief executive did do the most in making it relevant for the rest of us.
  4. Small Businesses And Social Media – Any discussion of social media must involve small business and the ways that average business owners can benefit. This discussion is a must.
  5. Moving Beyond Google – What’s beyond Google? A lot of things. Like Facebook, Twitter, and the loads of other social media websites out there ready for you to leverage for your business.
  6. Optimizing for Mixed Media Search Results – Mixed media optimization involves search, social, video, and viral marketing. Your arsenal of online marketing tools is as varied as your imagination. This is one of the best discussions you’ll ever witness.

That’s six out of 10 and they’re all related to social media in some way. The other four discussions are about search and PPC and they’re just as interesting. Get involved in these discussions now. Or learn more about social media optimization.

Test question: Which links are more important (multiple choice):

  • a. Outbound links?
  • b. Inbound links?
  • c. Internal links?

No, it’s not a trick question. The answer is, All of the above. Sorry, that wasn’t an option. You pass by default.

All links serve a purpose. It isn’t merely navigational. Outbound links can send traffic to other websites and cause the people you want to buy your widgets to leave in mass droves. But that’s not what you want, is it? Still, carefully placed outbound links can serve a useful SEO purpose.

Inbound links, too, can benefit you in your search engine optimization goals. As well, internal links can be SEO gold.

In fact, internal links are just as important as inbound links for SEO purposes. Both are better than outbound even though outbound links can be good for SEO. Internal links with the proper anchor text can pass just as much SEO link building juice and inbound links and are easier to get. That’s why an internal navigation structure for your website is the No. 1 link building method for most SEOs. It should be for you too.

Yahoo! was one of the companies that pioneered search engine marketing. Back then it could be called directory marketing. It was one of the first companies to use paid inclusion and the company still relies on paid inclusion to some degree. But not as much as it did in the late 1990s.

Since purchasing Inktomi, Yahoo!s search technology, and Overture, which used to be WordTracker’s main competition, Yahoo! hasn’t really done anything innovative. They dropped Google as their primary search technology provider in 2004 and that kind of sealed the deal on their own fate. It might have been the biggest mistake Yahoo!s ever made. Since then they’ve done nothing but trail and slip.

Recently, however, Yahoo! announced that they’ve incorporated Twitter into their search results, providing Yahoo! searchers with real-time results. There’s nothing innovative about that. Both Bing and Google beat them to the punch. But Yahoo! did do it a little better.

Yahoo!s incorporation of Twitter into its search results includes an algorithmic formula for obtaining relevance to the search query. You’d have thought that Google would be the first to do that. No, it was Yahoo!

Now the question is, where will search engine marketing go from here? If searchers can rely honestly on relevant real-time search results, will that spawn a whole new industry of spam, or will it lead to greater search satisfaction? Will Yahoo!s reputation climb as a result of this new industry development?

My guess is that Bing and Google will respond with a relevance algorithm attached to their real-time search results as well. Search engine marketing, in the future, will likely be real-time based to some extent. But by how much?