Sales & Support 1-888-220-7361

The Reciprocal Consulting Blog

You are Browsing the January 2010 Archive:

There are as many ways to succeed at viral marketing as their are people doing marketing online. There is no one right way to conduct a viral marketing campaign. But there is one common element to every viral marketing campaign and there always will be. If you can tap into that one element then your chances of succeeding are greatly enhanced.

So what’s the key?

The key to any successful viral marketing campaigns to solicit others to do your marketing for you. How do you do that? There’s a real simple way to get others do your marketing for you – offer something of value.

Yes, that’s it. Make sure you offer something of value for free to those other people and they will do your marketing for you if they believe in what you are doing.

It is getting harder and harder to conduct a viral marketing campaign online due to the low barrier to entry and the number of people competing for attention. Your offer has to be outstanding. You have to offer something that is free and that people will find of value. Strike a nerve and they will promote your offering for you.

An excellent article on social media by Greg Sterling got me to thinking. In the second paragraph he says:

One day in the very near future Facebook is likely to supplant Yahoo as one of the top two Internet destinations, the other being Google.

At first, I didn’t think anything of it. But then I got to thinking on it. He’s right. Facebook and Twitter continue to grow (though Twitter is a long way off from overtaking Yahoo! in traffic while Facebook is within driving distance). It is quite possible, and maybe even likely, that Facebook will become the second most trafficked site on the Web. And if that happens then it is feasible that it could become the No. 1 site as well.

Spammers continue to bombard the search engines with bad results and the search engines find it more difficult to filter the spam out. Several popular SEOs have pointed this out. Given that, the mood of the public could shift from confidence in search to confidence in social media. But when will that happen? Could that happen? What do you think?

If you’ve never heard the term “phrase-based indexing” then let me give you a quick primer. The concept is based on clustering. Google’s search bot will go out and analyze pages that use certain phrases together. For instance, “baseball” and “home run”. Add to that the key phrases “base hit” and “strike out” and you’ll start to get a picture.

If a large percentage of pages on the Web that discuss baseball also use the other key phrases in the cluster then you have a high value set of phrases. Google can use this information for several purposes.

One purpose is to identify phrases that are popular among spammers. If the search engine can identify those then the spam can be filtered from the search results. But another purpose is to use the phrase clusters themselves for ranking purposes. A web page that successfully incorporates the cluster of phrases into its content could rank higher for the initial key phrase – “baseball” for instance – than a web page that simply re-uses the initial key phrases over and over again attempting to achieve the right density.

This is particularly telling because what it is really saying is that natural language writing is preferable to stilted keyword-based writing. The search engines have been treating content this way for several years. Understanding this will improve your SEO.

Search engine marketing has been going strong for a few years now. Social search is just getting off the ground. In fact, Google has made it a point to tackle social search and lead the charge. Only, there are some people who aren’t so impressed with how they’re doing it.

But let’s say that social search were a perfect animal – like organic search (I’m kidding, OK?).

At any rate, let’s just say that social search was at least as good as organic search has been when at its best. Would search engine marketing be any different? Would social search change the nature of search engine marketing? I’m betting it would.

Remember, there are two branches of SEM: Paid search and organic search. How would each of these change with social search? My guess is that each would change in a real sense, but not necessarily in a fundamental sense.

Here’s what I mean: PPC is based in large part on the principles of organic search. You do your keyword research, write a few targeted ads, and watch your rankings based on search engine ranking factors. Social search, however, isn’t anything like that. You still might do your keyword research, but you aren’t so much concerned with rankings. You are concerned with connections. So how will that change search engine marketing?

I think one very important way that search engine marketing will change when social search reaches full maturity is that brands will no longer need to feel threatened by lesser companies who are better at SEO. Brands can actually put more emphasis on their company culture and focus on the benefits of doing business. That’s as it should be.

Reputation management is often thought of as nothing more than increasing the number of ways you rank in the search engines for your name or brand while reducing the number of negative results for the same. While that is certainly one way to approach the subject of reputation management, it isn’t the only way.

Online reputation management is really about building trust. And it’s your job as a member of your team to help boost the company image and brand recognition through the tools at your disposal. Much of reputation management is simply interacting with your audience and engaging them in conversation on your blog, through social media, and using other online tools to reach your audience. Reputation management should be seen as an extension of your online marketing efforts.

In truth, everything you do (and everything anyone in your organization does) is reputation management. It all affects how your audience views your brand. Whether you are writing a press release and sending it out or engaging through Facebook and Twitter, you are trying to send a positive image. Succeeding at that is the best reputation management tool you have.

If you’ve been advertising off line for some time then you are likely familiar with budgeting expenses. There are several strategies for setting advertising budgets. Which one you choose depends a lot on your business goals and your comfortability.

One way to budget for PPC is to take a percentage of your off line marketing budget and dedicate it to pay-per-click marketing. But how do you determine that percentage? You could just pick a number out of thin air, but I’d suggest that you take a number equal to an aggregate of marketing channels that are not working for you or that have not produced any positive results in a while.

Another way to budget for PPC, and this works well for fairly new businesses, is to take a percentage of your revenues and devote that to pay-per-click. Many companies use a 20% benchmark and adjust for their costs. You might be more comfortable with 15%. Pick a number and go with it.

Pay per click marketing should be seen as any other marketing channel. If it works for you, keep doing it. If it isn’t working, try to figure out why and change it. But do budget it.

If you are a small business operating locally and beginning to take an interest in Internet marketing then you probably have a ton of questions on your mind. You’ve likely done some off line marketing and have probably achieved mixed results. If you’ve done any newspaper advertising recently then you have probably not done so well. What else is there?

We’re not so bold to say that Internet marketing is all you need. You should probably do some off line advertising, but you have to be picky about where your money goes. Internet marketing can generally deliver better results on fewer expenses than print advertising or other off line alternatives.

Still, it’s best if you augment your Internet marketing efforts with a few off line or print ads, carefully selected, of course. Make your website the hub of all of your marketing communications and branch out from there.

Competitive intelligence is one thing. Comparative intelligence is quite another and if you want to really understand what your competition is up to then you need to have a basis for the comparison. There should be a benchmark.

A benchmark is a basis for comparing data. Your benchmark can be anything that makes logical sense, but it is generally one of two things:

  • An internal metric or milestone of which you are proud off or that you would like to test
  • An industry norm

Which ever benchmark you choose is up to you, but both of them require that you have a set of metrics in place to test your progress. While you are testing your own progress, you should also be testing your competition. How do they measure up against your benchmark? How do they measure up against you? How do you measure up against the benchmark?

These questions can only be answered with a quantifiable metric tool. Competitive intelligence is your best comparative measure.

Web design is deceptively simple. You’d think that all you have to do is design something pretty and people will flock to it and click the buy now button. But it isn’t really that simple. There is a lot to think about when designing a website for any business.

No. 1, design issues are just one concern. Not the only concern. Web designers and business owners also need to think about the following concerns:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Social media marketing
  • Paid advertising models
  • Driving traffic
  • Navigability
  • Metrics
  • User perception
  • Cost of development

Web design is a whole marketing plan, not just a one-time event. You can’t just throw up a web page and forget about it, hoping the world will come to see it. Just as important as design attractiveness are visitor ease of use, search engine optimization, and page-to-page navigation. Just for starters.

When it comes to web design, you can’t afford to leave it to amateurs. Let a professional handle your design work and increase your odds of profitability.

Mention viral marketing in a crowded room and you are likely to create a stampede. People will run to get away from the virus. But viral marketing is not bad. It won’t make you sick and it won’t spread to make anyone else sick, though it might spread to make them happy.

In a word, viral marketing is simply a method of getting the word out about what you have to offer that utilizes other people’s resources to spread a message quickly. The latest tool that has been used for this kind of communication is Twitter. This social networking tool has been used for everything from selling products and services to warn people of impending disaster, or spreading the news about disaster that just happened. It’s a powerful tool.

Though Twitter is a powerful viral marketing tool, it’s not the only tool that can be used for this purpose. Other social networks like Facebook and YouTube can be used as well. When you use these types of services to spread your message to others and persuade them to help you, that’s viral marketing. It’s fun, it’s catchy and it’s good.

Social media optimization (SMO) has come into its own. Not only do most webmasters today try to learn everything they can about search engine optimization and the methods the pros use to get ranked for their most important keywords, but they are also learning everything they can about social media optimization. Some webmasters actually spend more time on the latter than on the former.

The best SMO in the world is also the simplest. You don’t even have to leave your website. The goal is to get your site visitors to do the work for you.

If you’ve visited many websites at all then you’ve likely seen the share buttons. They come in various sizes, shapes and colors. Some say “share”, some say “bookmark this” and some use another phrase. But there is almost always an icon, a chicklet, and a link that allows your site visitors to easily share your content on their favorite social sites. And some even allow your visitors to e-mail your content to their friends.

The key is to learn your audience. Are they heavy Digg users or Stumblers? Are they Twitterers? Do you use e-mail more frequently?

If you learn the online social habits of your visitors and provide them an easy way to share content in their preferred content and at their preferred online haunts then you’ve got a big piece of the social media puzzle solved. The rest, as they say, gravy.

There is a new practice in article marketing using SEO tactics on the cheap. It’s called article spinning. The practice is simply taking an old article and putting it through a computer software program that mixes it up and changes the sentences around so search engines don’t recognize it as duplicate content. The problem is, it is duplicate content and usually the articles don’t make a whole lot of sense.

For instance, the article spinner will take a sentence from the third paragraph and make it the opening paragraph. It might even exchange a keyword for another pre-selected keyword. Then it will take a sentence from the bottom of the article and make it the second sentence while moving the first sentence of the original article to the third sentence spot and thus forming a new paragraph.

The article spinner rearranges the entire article this way. And marketers actually use them.

I’m not going to say that the articles are poorly SEOd. By bot standards, the SEO isn’t bad. But the writing is usually horrendous. I don’t know how people make money with these articles, but some do.

It’s almost always better to use original articles. Original content in any format is always best. The search engine optimization will almost always be better, but the writing, which is always for humans any way, will nearly always be a big step up. And your reputation will go along with it.

If you’ve been watching what’s going on with Google lately, it looks as if the company may pull out of China over cybersecurity and human rights issues. If it happens, that will drastically change the dynamics of the world wide web. It will certainly be noticeable in China where Google has 30% of the search market share.

Today I noticed on Google a link below the search box to “Information, resources, and ways you can help survivors of the Haiti earthquake.”

Search engine marketing is more than buying clicks. First and foremost, it’s about using the search engines to get your message across. That includes organic search and paid search.

Both of these incidents – the large one and the small one – affect search engine marketing in some way. If Google pulls out of China, that will leave a lot of businesses in China with one less alternative for reaching their customers. It could also slow down progress toward a more open China. And Google’s link to more information about helping the Haitians is the perfect example of how search engines can be used to make a difference in the world. That’s true even if, maybe especially if, you own the search engines.

Search engine marketing continues to be a growth industry. It is not today what it used to be and it won’t be tomorrow what it is today. Keep you eye on the changing nature of the web and look for opportunities to make your search engine marketing efforts better and more effective than ever.

Online reputation management is really about one thing. Presenting yourself in the best light possible. Also known as “putting your best foot forward.”

It really doesn’t matter what tools you use. The whole point is to make yourself look good. You are running a business.

Reputation management can best be described as a positive and a negative. The positive is you telling the world who you are and what you do. What you’re good at. The negative is combating negative reviews or comments about you or your business. The reality is, most businesses don’t have to worry about that last part. Still, it’s good to be prepared in case you have to.

The best negative defense, of course, is a positive offense. You want to make yourself available in as many places as you can and in as many high profile places that you can. That means Facebook.

Facebook is a good place to meet people. All you really have to do is make friends and interact with them by writing on their wall and responding to what they write on yours. Post photos and videos and links of your favorite places. By simply doing what you do best and sharing who you are with your friends and contacts you are performing the best reputation management that you can in a natural way. It’s really that simple.

Yesterday we discussed recessions and Internet marketing. The same rule that applies to Internet marketing in general also applies to pay per click marketing specifically. A recession is when you should step it up, not slide it down.

Many of your competitors have already slowed down on pay per click marketing. They’re spending less than they were a year or two years ago, and some of them aren’t spending at all. That means you have less competition for your keywords.

Less competition in the pay per click arena typically means lower CPCs and higher CPRs. If you do your marketing well and keep your quality score high then you can manage a pay per click advertising campaign to the best success ever.

Pay per click marketing isn’t voodoo science. Nor is it rocket science. All it takes is a good head and a good plan. A recession can very profitable.

During a recession or a slow economy one of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is to cut down on the amount of spending they do on marketing and advertising. This is a mistake because most of your competition is doing the same thing, but customers still spend money in a recession. They just spend less on the essential services. Chances are, they will spend money with your business if they know it is there.

Internet marketing is usually one of the first expenses cut because so few businesses really understand it. They’ll continue spending money on Yellow Page and newspaper ads, which are not trackable and cost more in the long run, even though Internet marketing can bring in more lucrative results.

Instead of cutting your spending on Internet marketing, try finding new ways to get more for the amount of money you are spending. For instance, if you are spending $500 per month Internet marketing services like pay-per-click and article marketing, try diverting that money into other services like blogging and Twitter instead. Test your results and track every move, but keep your message in front of eyes that want to see an opportunity to do business.

Competitive intelligence is gathering information on your competition that can help you be a better competitor. You should know that there are legal and illegal ways to gather this information, ethical and unethical. Twitter presents a great opportunity and is an ethical, legal way to spy on your competition.

When you set up your Twitter account, be sure to follow your competitors so you can keep track of what they are saying. Use a desktop application like Tweetdeck or Seesmic Desktop. Create a panel just for your competition and add your competitors to that panel so you can track them more easily. This allows you to see the tweets that your competition put out without being mixed in with all the other tweets you see in your tweet stream.

Another way to spy on your competition, and this works if you want to be clandestine, is to set up a dummy account on Twitter. Your dummy account should have an innocuous name that doesn’t connect any way to your company. In other words, don’t use your company name or a variation for the Twitter account name and don’t put your company’s URL in the profile. For e-mail, use a separate Gmail account. You don’t want the Twitter account traced back to your company in any way.

Next, subscribe to all of your competitors. Don’t subscribe to anyone else. Just subscribe to your competitors and keep an eye on what they are tweeting.

That’s two ways to use Twitter to spy on the competition. What tools do you use for gathering competitive intelligence.

If you are a heavy social media user (and I highly recommend that you be) then I have a hot web design tip for you. Add a widget to your sidebar or a prominent position on your website that shows your latest tweets and social media activity.

These widgets are relatively easy to make. If you use WordPress as a blog or CMS then you can add a plugin that does this for you. If you are designing your website with straight HTML then you can go to one of the many widget websites and create a widget.

The best placement for your social widget is at the top of your sidebar or the bottom of the right-hand sidebar. If your social reputation is important to you then prominent placement of your widget above the fold will make sure it is visible to all your site visitors. But if you take a look at eye tracking software then you’ll find that the most looked at parts of a web page are the top left corner and the bottom right corner. People tend to scan from left to right and top to bottom starting in the top left corner.

A widget showing your latest tweets and social media activity can get you more followers on your social networks and on your blog. I highly recommend this web design tip.

Google controls the social web?

It’s not hard to imagine. Besides the search engines, the most popular websites in cyberspace are social sites (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter). And Google is in the race to control the social web with such tools as Google Wave and Google Friend Connect. Plus, real-time search, personalized search, Google Reader, and the list goes on. What will happen when Google controls the social web?

Viral marketing will always be the same. Friends tell friends and they tell friends. But I have a feeling that when Google is involved the terms and results will explode beyond imagination.

Chris Crum of WebProNews interviewed Matt Bailey, who said that you can run a successful business online without Twitter. Really? I thought Twitter was all that and a bag of chips.

Actually, he’s right. You CAN run a successful business online without Twitter. In fact, everyone did before 2005.

When it comes to social media, there’s a new brand of hype. What happens is, the online equivalent of the jet set (the early adopters) do some experimenting. When one of them finds a workable formula for a new social tool they start to tell their friends. Their friends do an experiment and confirm the report. They tell their friends. Before you know it, the news steam rolls and the spammers start moving in. Hype builds more hype.

But the reality is, you can do without the hype. What I mean, don’t get sucked into it. You should start the hype, not follow it.

Hype is really another word for viral marketing. It works. When you are the subject of the hype you’ll know it works. When you are the one being dragged around by the hype, all you can think about is, “Man, this sucks.”

Well, let’s not get dramatic. Social media optimization is not about following the hype. It’s about creating it. And you can run a successful business without Twitter. Of course, you can run a successful business with it too.