Sales & Support 1-888-220-7361

The Reciprocal Consulting Blog

You are Browsing the May 2010 Archive:

An article in the New York Times about small businesses that Twitter offers a few tips on how to Twitter as a small business owner and one of the rules is “Don’t be boring.”

In fact, we summarize this article with the following points:

  • First, listen – Twitter is great for listening to your target audience. You can get some great feedback from your followers.
  • Don’t be boring – Emphasis mine. Hey, keep it interesting, or entertaining.
  • A live FAQ – Answering questions that your followers submit is better than having an FAQ on your website. It’s live and interactive.
  • Create a focus group – This format takes getting feedback a step further. It’s an interactive focus group. The example in the NYT is a bakery that invited followers to show up at the store and taste a recipe then give feedback on it. That’s one way to get them into your store!
  • Start a soapbox (for thinkers) – This is a pretty popular Twitter strategy, but one that works. Submit links to interesting articles about your niche. Make them interesting! But you are getting people thinking and if you do this well you’ll turn those links into interesting questions that your followers can answer.
  • Start small – Really, there’s no shame in being small. You don’t have to have 100,000 followers to be successful with Twitter. Some of the most successful Twitterers have only 1,000 followers, or less.

Twitter is a useful tool and nothing to be afraid of. Take some time to familiarize yourself with it before you jump in. Then, when you’re ready, develop a social media strategy for your Twittering.

Google has confirmed rumors that a recent algorithm change has taken place, and that’s a rare event. Not the algorithm change; that happens all the time. But Google confirming reports of an algorithm change rarely happens. Nevertheless, Google is pretty specific about who is affected by this change.

Here’s what I find interesting about the news:

Based on Matt’s comment, this change impacts “long tail” traffic, which generally is from longer queries that few people search for individually, but in aggregate can provide a large percentage of traffic.

In other words, there are some sites out there that are going to do better with their long tail keywords and other sites that won’t do as well. So here’s the question: Which are you?

You should know by now if you’ve seen a rise or a drop in your long tail search rankings. If you see no effect then your site probably hasn’t been affected at all. But if you’ve seen a rise in long tail keyword rankings then Google has helped you; if you’ve seen a fall in similar long tail keyword rankings then Google socked it to you. But don’t take it personally.

These types of algorithm changes are about one thing: Providing searchers with the best web pages for their search queries. If Google made this change then it’s because they believed that the search results were dominated by a certain class of webmaster to the detriment of others. I think this change means that top-notch SEO is not always necessary, but knowing how to do it will improve your changes at getting good rankings.

Ever since Google started  selling convincing AdWords campaigns to small business owners, newspapers have been in decline. Their advertising customers have been giving up the newspaper ads and doing PPC instead. The revenues have been falling.

I guess they’ve tired of that so now newspapers are selling SEO services. Is that a good thing?

I suppose for the newspaper, it is. But what about the customer?

There is one edge that newspapers have over professional SEO firms. They know their customers. And they can offer personalized local optimization services based on the needs of their customers. So I guess that’s two edges. But can newspapers perform SEO?

I think the only way that will work is if the newspapers employ SEO professionals on staff, or outsource the SEO work. Reporters are not SEO professionals. Advertising representatives are not SEOs either. So it seems to me that if newspapers are going to survive as SEO companies then they need to hire SEO experts. What do you think?

Facebook has officially announced that it has changed its privacy protections for users. Specifically, the changes indicated will

While the jury is still out on whether or not these changes will be effective in giving users the privacy they want, from the face of it there could be a slight hindrance to marketing through Facebook. The question is, by how much?

And the answer is, no one knows. Not yet.

But if users can block third party sites more easily then your marketing efforts through Facebook could be hampered to a degree. If users can block your applications more easily then that could hamper your marketing to a degree as well. Now it’s up to you to figure out how you will navigate those hurdles.

The only sure way to overcome these types of user-control hurdles is to build trust your brand. If users trust you then they will recommend you to their friends. If they trust their friends then you’re in like Flynn. That’s not really any different than it has been in the past. The only real difference is you’ll have to work harder to build that trust. Are you up to the task?

Twitter has changed its policies to let publishers and developers know that if they make money from advertising by publishing Twitter data as a primary function of their website then they could be paying Twitter for the privilege of using that data. Do you think that’s a fair deal?

Of course, Twitter is talking about charging only the large publishers at this time, but whose to say that wouldn’t eventually trickle down to the small fellow? After all, data licensure is data licensure.

If I understand this correctly, this would be akin to buying the rights to use movies in your business presentations. That happens all the time. If the licensure fee is worth it to you and you can profit from it then it’s a good thing, right? Well, many online publishers are already making money off of Twitter data and it seems that Twitter is getting tired of not getting any of it.

What do you think? Should Twitter get a piece of the action?

Internet marketing is too important a task to leave to chance. It is important that you do a few things to set up your campaigns and measure your results along the way. Without measuring your results you cannot know what is working and what you need to change.

The first step to planning an effective Internet marketing campaign is to take inventory of your business. What are your strengths? What are you good at? How do you differ from your competitors?

You should write down your core values and mission statement. These are your guiding principles – offline and online.

After you have written down your core values and mission statement and discovered how you fit into your industry and how you differ from your competitors, you can begin to set your budget and line out how you will market yourself online. Your Internet marketing plan should contain, at a minimum, the following details:

  • Your website – The hub of your Internet marketing plan. How many pages will you need? What keywords will you target? Figure out your approach to search engine optimization and build from there. Make sure your website design represents your core values and mission statement.
  • Pay Per Click Marketing – Will you incorporate a pay per click campaign into your Internet marketing strategy? If not then state so in your plan. If so then you need to set a budget and plan your keywords.
  • Social Media Marketing – Will you use social media? If so, which sites will you benefit from the most? What percentage of your overall marketing budget will be devoted to social media? Be specific in detailing your social media marketing plan.
  • Blogging – Will you benefit from a blog? Include the details of your blogging strategy into your plan as well.
  • Video Marketing – Will video be a significant part of your Internet marketing strategy? Will you embed video on your website or simply use it as a traffic generation tool? Outline your video marketing plan in as much detail as possible.
  • Other Marketing Initiatives – What else is important to your Internet marketing strategy? Include it in your plan. Whether you plan to use article marketing or mobile marketing, put it into your plan. If there is anything you plan to incorporate into your online marketing plan then it needs to be written down.

Don’t worry about whether you’ll stick to your plan completely. At this stage you are simply making a plan. You can change it later. You can modify it as needed. But failing to plan is planning to fail and no one wants to engage in Internet marketing only to fall on their face. Least off, you.

Twitter is one of the most misunderstood social media platforms. On the one hand, you can’t really call it social networking. It’s got some social networking qualities, to be sure, but it’s more like blogging in a real sense. That’s why it has been a category all to itself – and the many Twitter clones on the market – called microblogging.

Twitter is a great place to start, and join, conversations. But too many marketers are flocking to Twitter to “build a list”. However, many of those lists are unqualified lists of followers that have no interest in the person they are following. On Twitter, reciprocal following has little value.

The value in Twitter comes from the marketer’s ability to attract people who are interested – truly interested – in them as a personality. You could call it “personality marketing”. Some people call it “conversational marketing”.

To be most effective on Twitter, don’t focus on gathering a quantity of followers. Rather, focus on spreading useful niche information and draw people interested in that information to you. That’s how you win followers who will buy from you.

Back in the old days of link building, two sites would get together and agree to link to each other using their most desirable anchor text and promising to link from the page with the highest PageRank. Often, those sites wouldn’t even be related in content. The practice worked – for awhile.

Today, that practice will get you penalized. As a result, there are thousands of SEOs running around telling people not to accept reciprocal links because they are “black hat”, “evil”, “not good”, “bad practice”, etc.
But, they’re not.

Reciprocal links are still valid if they are natural links. That means, if you would link to each other anyway because it’s good for your customers then it’s a good link, reciprocal or not.

Problems with reciprocal linking come in when site owners try to game the PageRank and search engine ranking system by trading non-relevant high-PR links. These links rarely do what they’re supposed to do if you approach the topic with some level of common sense and go about it naturally.

Ask yourself this question, “If I link to this website will it benefit my visitors?” If not then don’t do it, even if the other website owner promises you a high value link. If you can answer the question in the affirmative then go ahead; even a reciprocal link will be better than no link.

There is a florist in New Zealand performing community penance for hijacking the Google Local listings of her competitors. I rather think she should get jail time, but that’s an aside.

If you have a local small business and you want to start marketing your business online but don’t know where to start, Google Local is the perfect place. You don’t even need a website. But if you don’t claim your business on Google Local then someone else just may do it for you and take any traffic or business that you might have received had you done it.

While this is considered criminal, consider that it could happen from someone in another country hijacking your business listing. If that happens then you may never see justice.

It’s best to prevent it from happening before you see your business in a compromised situation. Claim your business on Google Local, Yahoo!, Bing and Ask.com. It’s free and it will save you a ton of headaches.

When you’re approaching 500 million users is not the time to make a move like this. Of course, because of Facebook’s unprecedented growth, I’m reasonably sure that this would not have followed were it not for nearly 500 million users.

You don’t need 10,000 fans to know that Facebook almost cut out over half of its fan page customers and maybe more. I think they may have realized that themselves after the backlash.

But keep something in mind. When you’re in the growth stage of a business, you can’t afford to step on as many toes as this decision would have done. And certainly not on a segment of the market as vocal as the small business community, a community that tends to vote with its feet.

Did Facebook make a mistake? Yes, in all likelihood it was a big mistake. But it could have been bigger. At least they relented.

One of the great truths about online marketing in general is that personal is more effective. Internet citizens do their best to avoid advertising. The old interruption form of advertising is shunned like the plague. Therefore, online advertisers have learned to make their ads look more like entertainment and less like advertising. During the “entertainment” they try to make a personal appeal to the hot buttons of their audience.

What makes online advertising, including PPC, effective is that personal connection – the feeling that a specific ad was written just for me. When you can make that personal connection then you can say that your advertising is working.

But how do you do that with PPC?

There are a number of ways to achieve the personal connection you want through PPC advertising. Here are a few tips:

  • Imagine that you are writing your ad for a specific person.
  • Narrow your keyword targeting down to the smallest denominator.
  • Remember that the purpose of your ad is to get the searcher to click on it and visit your landing page
  • Use personal pronouns such as “you” and other words that make the searcher feel valued

Your PPC ad should have a personal effect to it. Make sure yours are not impersonal and detached.

If you are trying to grow an e-mail opt-in list then you’ll want to take advantage of one strategy that many successful online marketers have used over and over again. It’s called a squeeze page.

A squeeze page is a single web page that is written for one purpose and one purpose only – to solicit a visitor’s e-mail address to be used for marketing purposes. It is often a short, well-written page with a strong call to action. However, lately, many online marketers have been getting more creative with their squeeze pages, including videos, audio, multimedia presentations and even second and third pages.

Search engines have taken a hard stance on squeeze pages in the last couple of years and have considered them spam if not filled with the right amount of content. That’s why many marketers have started adding additional pages to their squeeze pages.

Squeeze pages are useful for building opt-in lists, but you have to have a successful and proven strategy. You can drive traffic to your squeeze pages through PPC, social media, organic search, directories and any other acceptable online marketing vehicle. Try using squeeze pages and see what kind of results you get.

Facebook has reached the level of ubiquity that the rest of us covet. Because of that, it is likely that you’ll find your competitors hanging out there, lurking and even interacting with your customers. You could be among them, spying on them as they do so. But you have to do it discreetly.

First, Facebook doesn’t allow business accounts so it is likely that your competition isn’t out there promoting themselves by writing on people’s walls. At least, not as a corporation.

They likely have a fan page (as should you). And you can become a fan of the page, but that’s an obvious CI strategy, isn’t it? Let’s do something less obvious.

Try to find out the names of top people in your competition’s companies. They likely have personal Facebook accounts. One way to do that is to look at the list of followers of the company’s fan page. If you can figure out who the first couple of followers were then they are likely employees. Follow them.

But, let’s back up. Your Facebook account should be in your own name. Better yet, find someone in your company who isn’t a high profile employee (in other words, their names don’t appear on press releases and prospectuses). Get them to follow your competitors. They’ll blend in much more easily.

Now isn’t that sly? It’s also good competitive intelligence.

Is there a difference between web design and web development? Actually, there is. But sadly, most small business owners don’t really know what it is.

Web Design is about one thing – making your website appealing and attractive to your target market.

Web Development, on the other hand, is about making your website functional and helping your visitors find more easily the information they are looking for. There are a variety of strategies for accomplishing that task.

While web design is concerned about elements such as logo design, sidebar widths, header and footer appearance and photo/video presentations, web development is more concerned with elements such as navigation menu protocols, conversion funnels and usability studies. Of course, copywriting and SEO are also very important.

I won’t say that one is more important than the other, but it does help to know the difference. Your web development team should include a good web designer. But it shouldn’t consist only of a web designer. At any rate, if you are setting up a website that you hope will make you money then you should think about web design within the framework of your web development strategy – not the other way around.

Every day almost you hear about a successful viral marketing campaign. Many times they just happen. They’re not planned. And sometimes it isn’t even something that is marketed. It’s just a video or an article that becomes popular for some reason. It’s like serendipity.

But can you plan a viral marketing campaign? Are those things plannable?

Well, every marketer would like to think so. And, in truth, yes, you can plan a viral marketing campaign. But planning something and seeing it through to completion are two different things. Sometimes the plan just doesn’t work out.

So what’s it take to make a viral marketing plan work? It takes more than a plan. I guarantee you that.

However, it starts with a plan. If you don’t plan for the viral marketing campaign – and I mean every detail down to where you intend to submit your content and who your target audience is – then you might as well plan for it to fail. You can’t leave it to happenstance. Or serendipity.

That said, don’t expect your viral marketing campaign to succeed just because you planned it. You have to also monitor your efforts, and your results.

When you’re ready to build a viral marketing campaign and see it through to completion, find a viral marketing expert to guide you through the maze.

Rich snippets – the idea sounds great in principle. Enter data using a special code that the search engines recognize and have that data added to your pages listing in the search results. Ratings, prices, telephone numbers, opening hours; it all sounds great – in principle.

Judging from many of the responses on Google’s Knol page on the subject (unanswered questions at that), you would have to wonder if they were worth the effort. I think it is for a number of reasons, namely:

  1. It’s the way of the future. While Google isn’t using them extensively as yet, the time will come when this data is used across the board. Including them now means your pages are prepared and you wont have to go back through your pages to update them later.
  2. They are being used now. While there is no guarantee that your rich snippet will appear your search results, many are. The only saying “you have to be in it to win it” comes to mind. If you don’t include rich snippets, you wont see them in your search listings.

When it comes to winning a click from a user, the more relevant information you can have displayed in the search results the better. If your competitors are showing rich snippet information and you are not, there is a good chance they will win the clicks – that’s not good for your business.

That title may sound a little far fetched and, compared to Facebook, 17 million US Twitter users isn’t a lot. But then, it really does depend on what those 17 million users are actually doing. Edison Research has releases an interesting three year study on Twitter usage and the numbers are looking good for marketers.

When it comes to awareness, 87% of Americans are aware of Twitter (88% for Facebook) so the brand is out there. We all know that Twitter is growing at a fairly fast rate, but how valuable is it for your business? To begin with, two-thirds of Twitter users access the site using their mobile phone. This often means they are accessing information while they are out and about – that’s a great time to hit them with special offers if you have a bricks and mortar business.

Other interesting stats include:

  • 42 percent use Twitter to learn about products/services;
  • 41 percent user Twitter to provide opinions about products and services;
  • 31 percent use Twitter to ask for opinions about products and services;
  • 28 percent use Twitter to look for discounts or sales;
  • 21 percent use Twitter to purchase products/services; and
  • 19 percent use Twitter to seek customer support.

That data suggests that Twitter users are more open to receiving product information than perhaps those on Facebook. It also means that Twitter could be a valuable tool for keeping an eye open your competition. With 31% of users looking for opinions on products and services, you want your brand or business being recommended, not your opposition. If it isn’t, you do at least have an indication of what online marketing areas need a boost.

Twitter is small compared to Facebook, but it is still a valuable resource when it comes to marketing and getting your brand out there. It is also a great resource for spying on the competition. Can you afford to ignore it?

We’ve discussed online reputation management a few times on this blog. But we haven’t really made a huge connection between Twitter and reputation management. Is there a connection? Can Twitter be used as a reputation management tool?

As a matter of fact, it can. And it really should be. I wouldn’t leave it out.

Consider these facts about Twitter:

  • It’s a great way to connect with hundreds or thousands of people simultaneously
  • Attracting followers on Twitter means that people are in interested in YOU, in what YOU have to say and how YOU say it
  • Twitter messages are now being indexed in real time by all the major search engines
  • Twitter is great for driving new traffic to your blog or website
  • If not already taken, your name as a Twitter profile could end up being a top 10 result on Google (that’s great reputation management)

Reputation management is a multi-channel proposition. Make Twitter one of your channels. It is one of the best online reputation management tools to show up in years.

Veteran SEO Stephan Spencer wrote a blog post for Search Engine Land that has sparked a bit of controversy. In this blog post he wrote:

Ok, no one says “da bomb” anymore, but you get the drift. Monitoring keyword density values is pure folly.

A commenter took issue and wrote:

Folly? Hardly. If you’re trying to rank for a keyword, you want to make sure you use it a few times on a page. That’s just common sense. Of course, you don’t want to overuse a keyword, or it might come across as spammy. Any smart SEO pays attention to KW density.

The logic here is a bit spurious. There are two true statements followed by a non-sequitur. Yes, you must use your keyword enough times on a web page for it to matter. And, yes, if you overuse it then you might be tagged as a spammer and your web page de-listed, or diminished in rankings. But that doesn’t mean that keyword density is something you should be counting.

Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz says:

The formula for keyword density – a percentage of the total number of words on the page that are the target phrase – is indeed folly. IR scientists discredited this methodology for relevance decades ago. Early search engines and information retrieval systems already leveraged TF*IDF as a far more accurate and valuable methodology.

The Wikipedia link was added by me.

Back to keyword density. It’s not important. I’d say there are three keyword factors that are much more important than density:

  • Keyword Placement
  • Semantic Language Relevance
  • Anchor Text

This is not necessarily in order of importance.

What I mean by placement is the location within your web page of your keywords. The Title tag is very important. It’s the most important place for your keyword. First paragraph and last paragraph are also important. H tags are disputed, but I’d say they are somewhat important. I’ll stop there.

Semantic language relevance is a reference to the use of synonyms within a web page document. If you are writing about fighter planes and you mention Tomcats, Messerschmitts and Skytrains then those words will do more to rank your web page for the term “fighter planes” than using the phrase “fighter planes” with a density of 5% throughout your web page document. Don’t buy the keyword density hype.

Finally, anchor text is undisputed as a major search ranking factor. Use your keyword in your internal anchor text. It’s much more important than keyword density.

I’ll have to agree with Stephan Spencer on this one. Search engine optimization is denigrated with talk of keyword densities.

A lot can be said of organic SEO and I’ll have to admit, you can’t really run a Web business without it. The lion’s share of Web traffic, even today, comes from organic SEO. It’s a necessary component to Web success.

However, PPC is the bedrock of Web marketing. Not SEO.

Why do I say that? Because pay per click marketing is a pay now-buy now model. When you operate a successful pay per click marketing campaign you know you are getting good traffic. You know it from the results. You paid for the traffic, but you paid for traffic that responds and it happens quickly. With SEO, you could wait for months to see your results. With PPC, it’s instantaneous.

Well, almost.

Rarely will you find great PPC keywords by running an organic SEO campaign. If you did, it would take months to figure it out. But webmasters do use PPC to find new keywords for their organic SEO campaigns all the time.

Another reason I can say that PPC is the bedrock of Web marketing is because it can also be used as a basis for determining website valuation. Cost per click is an important metric that domainers use to value Web properties they are interested in. They know that if a website can command a high cost per click on a pay per click campaign then it is in a competitive niche. Niches garner that kind of competition in only one way – there’s money to be made. It’s a profitable niche.

So when you think about how you want to conduct your next marketing campaign online. Think about combining your SEO and PPC efforts. That’s how you should be doing it anyway.