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There are a variety of ways to go about managing your reputation online and I’m sure you’ve heard all the recommended ways of doing it, like:

  • Your own domain name
  • Social networking
  • Article marketing
  • Blogging
  • Social bookmarking
  • Direction submissions
  • Forum participation

All of those are great tools for reputation management, but those aren’t your only tools. There is one tool that is owned by a prominent company online, but that few people have really considered. It’s called a Knol page.

The interesting thing about a Google Knol page is that you can write it like an article for an article directory, but unlike most article directories, Google allows you to include links in the article. And it can be longer than a usual article. The idea is to establish yourself as an authority in your niche and drive traffic back to your website. It’s a great reputation management tool if you use it correctly.

It’s good that you want to advertising with PPC. It’s an effective form of online marketing and advertisers who have tried it have come away with huge successes. But before you start your PPC campaign there is something very important you must do. Fail to do it and you will likely fail to earn any ROI from your advertising.

The most important thing to do to prepare for your PPC campaign is to ensure that your landing page is optimized and ready for conversions.

Optimization is important for obvious reasons. The optimization of your landing page must match the optimization of your PPC ad. When you sync your optimization well then you’ll have a higher quality score and a lower cost per click.

But even more important than optimization is conversion readiness. It doesn’t matter how well you optimize your landing page if you do make any sales. The conversions pay for the advertising and create your ROI. Without a conversion ready landing page there is no hope of success with your PPC campaign no matter how well written and optimize your ads are. Get your landing page ready for the close before you open your campaign.

Internet marketing has few dos and don’ts. There are not a lot of rules and best practices is largely a matter of experimenting to see what works. Most Internet marketers today have learned from others who have gone before them and pioneered the strategies that are in common use. But there is one big, huge don’t – a practice that everyone detests and that will do your business more harm than good.

The big Don’t in Internet marketing is Don’t Spam. That’s easier said than done.

Most small businesses going online today to market their businesses listen to SEOs and Internet marketers who are simply trying to sell a service. Nothing wrong with running a business, but spamming the people you want to become your customers is not the answer.

Online, marketing is about building relationships, otherwise called Pull Marketing. It is about drawing people to you with a message that will make them want to see you out. It isn’t about “pushing” your product or service upon them in hopes that they will see its value. This kind of marketing is different than the kind of marketing that most small business owners are used to, but it is a type of marketing that is effective online. We hope you’ll see its value for you.

Competitive intelligence is one of the most important aspects of doing business online. Keeping tabs of your competition and what they are up to will allow you to respond more quickly to market developments. The following 4 tools are free and will enhance your competitive intelligence efforts and make your overall marketing much more effective.

  1. Google Alerts – This is a mainstay in every online marketer’s arsenal. It’s been offered by Google for a very long time. You can enter as many search terms as you want to and any mention of those terms will be e-mailed to you almost as soon as they are indexed.
  2. Twitter – You’ve no doubt heard a lot about Twitter, but you don’t often hear about it in terms of competitive intelligence. In actuality, it’s a great way to keep tabs of your competitors. Follow them and you know immediately what they are talking about. It’s a direct line to their communications team.
  3. Yahoo! Site Explorer – There has been talk that Yahoo! might do away with this tool, but until they do it’s a great way to check the back links of any page on the Internet. Enter your competition’s web pages and see who is linking to them.
  4. SocialMention – Type in an important key phrase for you and see who is talking about it, what they are saying and whether the sentiment is positive, negative or neutral. A great way to keep tabs on your competition’s social media campaigns.

These 4 spying tools are a necessity in today’s online competitive marketing culture. They’re all free and in just a few minutes each day you can know what your competition is up to.

One of the most important decisions you’ll ever make is whether or not to incorporate video into your web design. If you do then you’ll need to think carefully about placement of your video. Will you have one on every page of your website or just the home page? And where exactly on the page will you put your video?

To make that decision you’ll need to think about eye tracking studies. The famous graph of Google’s eye tracking study shows that most visitors to a web site will have eyes on the top left corner of your web page. In fact, the eyes scan from left to right and top to bottom in a Z pattern. That should make it easy, right?

No. Not really. What’s the purpose of your video? Furthermore, what’s the purpose of the page on which your video is presented?

These are two very important questions. Some people use the video as a sales tool to get people to opt in to their list or become customers. In that case, a paragraph of text followed by your video on center page might do the trick. But I’ve also seen videos – informational videos primarily – on the right top side of the page next to the main content column. And I’ve seen on the top left of the page as well.

The key to video placement on the page is to think about your visitor. Will the video be the most important element on the page? If so then premium placement should be the order. If something else is more important then place the video where it will enhance the page but not be center of attention.

Video marketing has arrived and webmasters who decide to use video on their web pages will need to  experiment to come up with the best placement.

Just about every expert in viral marketing agrees on three key principles:

  1. Success depends on the crowd
  2. Give away value before asking to receive any in return
  3. Make it easy for others to share

No viral marketing campaign can succeed without word of mouth. Indeed, word of mouth IS viral marketing. The necessary ingredient is that what you offer is so valuable that others will willingly tell their friends.

Before you can expect anyone to spread the word about your offer, however, you’ve got to give something away. Give away value and you’ll have reason to expect others to give you something valuable in return.

Finally, in order to ensure that others will willingly share what you have to offer, you’ve got to make it easy for them. If you make it too difficult for others to share what you have to offer then they won’t help you. So the key to effective viral marketing is to give away free value and to make it easy for others to share with their friends. Do those two things and the crowd will help you succeed.

You’d think that the way some people talk about Twitter that it’s huge, huge, HUGE. But it’s not that huge, really.

When Bill Gates joined Twitter in January of this year the service reached overcapacity in just a short time. The same thing happened when Oprah Winfrey joined last year. That sounds to me like it’s too small.

Twitter is growing in popularity and every day it seems that another celebrity discovers the service. But few of them actually tweet about anything really worth hanging on your seat over. Ashton Kutcher rose to Twitter prominence fairly quickly as have several other celebrities. But we average Joes have to do it at a steady, even pace.

Twitter does have its purposes. It can be fun. And you can drive traffic to your website rather quickly. If you have enough followers. But you do have to be careful of the “I’ll follow you if you follow me” crowd. There’s not a lot of value there. There is value, however, if you attract a lot of followers who like you because you’re you.

Twitter may not be too big for its breeches, but it is big and getting bigger. And it looks as if it will be a powerhouse of a marketing vehicle. What do you think?

Search engine optimization is a multi-tiered marketing approach. You cannot simply add a couple of keywords to your search engine marketing campaigns and think that is going to be enough. The most important thing to know about search engine optimization today is that natural language optimization, or semantic language, is the road to success.

What does that mean?

Natural language writing is a style of writing that uses keywords for text enhancement, but it is not keyword-centric. In other words, you are not writing keyword-based content. You are writing content in such a way that it reads naturally, which is the way that people talk in normal conversation. Then you spruce it up with the right mix of keywords.

How do you know what is the right keyword mix? You settle on a primary keyword. That is the keyword you ensure appears in your title headline and multiple times on your page. Then, pick a secondary keyword and a tertiary keyword. Make sure they are related to the primary keyword, but not a variation of it. In other words, you wouldn’t use “truck driver”, “truck drivers” and “truck driving”. You’d be better off with keywords such as “truck driver” “eighteen wheeler” and “Big Rig”.

You don’t want your secondary and tertiary keywords to overshadow your primary keyword so use them but use them sparingly. And make sure that your SEO content reads naturally, not forced.

It’s called Universal Search. Google has been doing it for a couple of years now. Including videos in the organic search results for certain key phrases. Where do you think those videos are hosted? Most of them are on YouTube.

Most of them, not all of them. But YouTube is the most trafficked video site online and the second most popular search engine. That means that video content found at YouTube is highly valuable to the search engines. You can get your YouTube videos to appear online for search queries and have those videos rank reasonably well for the key search terms you are targeting.

The first step, of course, is to produce a really good video that people want to watch and share with their friends. Secondly, upload it to YouTube.

Beyond that, how do you optimize for the search results page?

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you optimize your video content on YouTube for the search engines:

  • Use your video title as an opportunity to target the right key phrase.
  • In the text portion of your video upload, describe your video accurately using the proper keywords.
  • Establish a YouTube channel with your keyword in it.
  • If you include links in your YouTube video, make sure they point to a relevant page on your website.

Video optimization is just now getting its start, but you can be sure that YouTube videos will have as high a chance to appear in the SERPs as any content can.

Bill Slawski wrote a blog post about what famous social media websites were before they are what they are now. Those on the list include:

  • Digg
  • MySpace
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Yelp

I thought it was interesting to see what these websites were before they were the famous and popular sites that they are now. Then it dawned on me, could the histories of these websites come back and haunt them?

I doubt that any of these sites will suffer any lasting reputation damage due to a failed business model of the past, but it is important to point out that if you buy a used domain name, it could be damaging to your business model if that older domain has been involved in shady or black hat SEO tactics. Link selling and other nefarious promotional tactics will be attributed to that domain name and you could start off on the wrong foot, with the deck stacked against you before you even get started.

All that last paragraph really means is that you should do your due diligence before you purchase any domain names.

So what about that reputation? I think, once successful it doesn’t matter. If a previous business model for a domain name doesn’t work out it likely won’t affect what your website is today. There may be exceptions to that rule, but you should analyze any business model from every angle before you implement it. Sometimes a bad idea is just a bad idea and there is no real reason for failure.

To truly be successful at any kind of marketing you have to be able to measure your results. Without actionable metrics you cannot make the changes to your PPC campaigns to make them profitable. Therefore, analytics is the most important aspect of your PPC campaign.

You not only need to be able to measure the traffic to your landing pages, but you also need to be able to measure the effectiveness of your PPC advertising. That means you’ve got to know your conversion rate, both your overall conversion rate as well as the conversion rate from your PPC ads. Segmentation of your results is paramount to a truly actionable metric.

So how do you achieve that? There are a number of ways to get the best analytics results from your PPC campaigns.

  1. You can create a separate landing page for each PPC ad or campaign
  2. Make sure that your PPC ads are optimized for different keywords than your other advertising efforts
  3. Keep a close eye on the times that your ads run and the number of visitors and results you get during those times

Without knowing how effective your PPC campaigns are you’ll never be able to improve your results. Metrics is key to your success.

Marketing Pilgrim writes that even though small business owners are talking about social media marketing, they’re not really running campaigns that are integrated with their other marketing programs. In fact, these marketing campaigns, along with blogs and microblogs, are “in the silo”.

The silo is a term used to describe a marketing tactic that is not a part of one’s overall marketing program. It is in fact standing out on its own.

The obvious question here is, Why are marketers not integrating their blogs, microblogs and social media campaigns into their traditional marketing efforts? Are these programs seen as separate, or different, than traditional marketing? Is it because the small business owners don’t really see the connection?

Whatever the case might be, it is important to consider that your marketing efforts will be much more effective if you integrate your online and your off line marketing rather than put your Internet marketing into a silo. You want your company to speak with one voice. It can’t do that if it’s living in the silo.

Competitive intelligence is a necessary part of conducting business, both online and off line. But when should you do it? Should you do your research on your competition before you conduct your keyword research, during your strategic planning, during the marketing phase or at another time in the business cycle? The short answer: Yes. The longer answer: Throughout the business cycle.

The technical answer is, you should never stop competitive intelligence research.

Competitive intelligence is really the act of monitoring your competition to see where you might have an opportunity to compete against them head to head or respond to a market development with your own development. In essence, competitive intelligence is an ongoing mission.

More important than when is how. What methods of competitive intelligence are acceptable and which methods are deemed unethical? Obviously, if it’s illegal then you shouldn’t do it. It is often frowned upon to plant a spy in your competitor’s business to steal trade secrets. But you can monitor market developments to see what the competition is doing publicly.

Competitive intelligence is important, but not so important that you should risk you reputation to gather information. Stick to ethical behavior and you’ll be just fine.

Web design is an important part of doing business online. In the old days, if you had a website it was enough. People were not expecting attractiveness. But today, an ugly website won’t do. Your website needs to have a pretty face.

Your first impression as a business will often be your website. If it looks cluttered and unorganized then people will have that impression of your business and you will lose sales. It is vitally important to focus your web design efforts on three key areas of first impression:

  1. Attractiveness of design
  2. Search engine optimization
  3. User functionality

If you ask which of these is more important, the answer is none of them. They are all equally important. Your web design should be attractiveness enough to keep people interested long enough to read the content. The content needs to search engine optimized so that it attracts the right people through search engine marketing channels. And it needs to be functional and easy to use for your visitors. Miss the mark on any of these and you’ll lose sales. But it all starts with a pretty web design.

Viral marketing is not so much a method as it is a skill. You can perform a viral marketing campaign in a lot of different ways. Some of them are more effective than others. Some may be more effective for different types of businesses even. Some types of viral marketing that marketers have tried in the past include:

  • Article marketing
  • Blogging
  • Link baiting
  • Link building
  • Video marketing
  • Podcasting
  • Forum marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Social bookmarking

Which of these methods you use for your viral marketing campaign depends a great deal on your goals, your strengths and your audience. For a long time article marketing was considered the king of viral marketing. Then it was blogging. These days it is video marketing. But the best viral marketing campaign is a mixed campaign that uses more than one method and incorporates a strategy of cross-pollination.

Social communities are a dime a dozen, but existing ones are not always the best ones. YouTube, for instance, has a lot of competition. Some of the competition even bills itself as an alternative to YouTube, like the conservative-leaning political video sharing website QubeTv.

The big question is, should you join one or start your own. And the answer is “yes”. Or, more friendly, “both”.

There really is no reason you should shun other social communities, even if they compete with you. If you find a social community that fits in with your niche and you can see value in connecting with people through that community then you should join it. But you don’t have to limit yourself to that community. If you see some shortcomings in that community that can be rectified with one of your own then feel free to start your own. There are benefits to doing so.

Some benefits to starting your own social community are:

  • You become the owner, you set the rules
  • As the owner of the community you can brand it
  • Owners of social communities become experts in their niches
  • It’s another vehicle through which to sell your products and services
  • You can earn revenue through social communities in other ways
  • Being the owner of your own social community means people will want to build a relationship with you

Of course, managing a social community is hard work and time consuming. But the benefits can be worth the expense and the hassle. Still, it’s just one way. Join a few other communities in your niche to get a feel for what the playing field is like before starting your own.

To truly understand how SEO works today you need to have an understanding of the history of SEO as a marketing strategy. Search engine optimization did not develop in a vacuum and it won’t evolve into what it will be tomorrow without the developments that are occurring today. There is a continuum and it can be traced.

To begin with, SEO did not really get its name until after Google came on the scene. Before Google, Internet marketers were optimizing their websites but they didn’t really call it that. However, that “optimization” was very primitive compared to how it’s done today.

Meta Tags, Backlinks And The Rise Of Google

At one time, pre-Google, all you had to do was add a bunch of keywords to your meta tag list and you’d rank well for those keywords. It didn’t even matter if those keywords appeared in your page content or not. You’d still rank. Hardly seems fair, does it? That’s why Google rose to such prominence as quickly as it did. The company introduced a whole new paradigm.

When Google came along, no one was interested in analyzing back links. Today, that seems intuitive, but at one time no thought it was important except for two guys with the software to make it happen.

Those two guys started Google, whose search ranking algorithm was based largely on the number of inbound links pointing to a particular web page. Soon, Internet marketers started dropping their meta tag strategy in lieu of a backlink strategy. Back links became the new currency.

From Backlinks To Semantic Natural Language

Over the years, Google has tweaked its ranking factors to include more than just an analysis of the number of inbound links to your site’s pages. Quality of links, relevancy of links and link diversity are important too. And there are more than 100 other factors Google considers as well. And then there are Bing, Yahoo!, AOL, Ask and many other search engines. Each one has their own ranking criteria.

One consideration that the major search engines look for today is natural language, or semantic language, syntax. While keywords are still important, successful web page do not need X number of one keyword phrase per Y number of words on the page, what marketers call “keyword density”. Instead, it’s important to put your keyword phrase in the right places on your page and in proximity to other important elements on the page. And to write naturally for your site visitors just as you would if keywords were not important.

In essence, the search engines are looking for the best content for every keyword phrase they rank pages for. If you stuff your pages with keywords just for a ranking then you are doing yourself and your site visitors a disservice. It’s basically shooting yourself in the foot. Trust me, that hurts.

When it comes to search engine marketing there are some dos and don’ts. But we tend to think in terms of principles. You can get started with search engine marketing in just a few simple steps and it’s not that hard. Be prepared, however. You will need to spend some money.

  1. Step 1: Make a tentative plan. Don’t just wing it. Search engine marketing involves planning and execution. Your first step should be to plan.
  2. Step 2: Research. Why is this step second? Because you really should know what general direction you are headed before you start your research. The research will guide you in a more specific direction. What kind of research? Competitive. Keyword. Opportunity.
  3. Step 3: Adjust your plan. This is where you hone the details. Take your research and make the best plan you can. Include a budget and be specific about your goals.
  4. Step 4: Open accounts. You’ll need accounts with pay per click companies. Set up your accounts based on your budget set in step 3.
  5. Step 5: Implement. Remember, it isn’t all about pay per click advertising. Search engine marketing also involves organic search. Make sure they work together.

Now that you know the steps to get started in search engine marketing, why waste time?

The best reputation management is a multiple channel distribution of your content. The more often you appear online, and in as many places as you can appear, the better off you are. And it’s not just to combat negative reviews of you and your business.

Google will only index two pages on any one website for a particular key term. That means if you want your brand or name to have search traction then you’ve got to hit it on several channels – your website, your blog, the Internet Yellow Pages, a local review site, a couple of different social networks, a video website, etc. The more channels you grab onto the better off your reputation will be, especially if someone does begin to attack your reputation online. By taking hold of several channels at once you’ll make it more difficult for negative reviews to appear.

Unfortunately, most people take a reactive view of online reputation management. You need to be proactive. The best defense is a good offense, even with reputation management online.

New pay per click advertisers often wonder where they should get their keyword list. The obvious answer is from your initial keyword research – the same place you get the keyword list for your organic search campaigns. But that’s a little too pat. And the answer is not so cut and dry. There are other ways to get your keyword list.

  • Borrow from the competition – Have you analyzed your competition’s PPC and organic search campaigns? If not then hop to it. It’s a great resource for your own keyowrd list.
  • Your own referrer logs – Study your referrer logs from time to time to see what key phrases people are using to find your site. You can often find phrases that you haven’t targeted. If some of those phrases turn out to be popular phrases then you’ll have a few gems in the rough.
  • Google Zeitgeist – This little known product from Google will show you what search queries have trended each day.
  • Google Trends – Another product from Google. It allows you to look at trends over time, which can tell a story all its own.
  • Twitter Trends – Twitter Trends tells you what is popular right now. This is real time data and if you hit your new keyword trends just right you might find a gold mine.

There is really is no right or wrong way to find new keywords for your pay per click campaigns, but if you think creatively then you can likely find your own.