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One thing that all of us who use Twitter will need to keep an eye on in the near future is whether or not the URL shortening service we are using on Twitter is going to survive Twitter’s growth. According to Website Magazine – August 2010 issue – Twitter will be rolling out its own URL shortener soon. If that happens, look out. We could see an epidemic of URL shortening services going under.

If that happens then there will be thousands of links from tweets to web pages that will be broken. You’ll either have to go back and change the URL shortening service for those tweets or just eat it. Of course, if that happens then Twitter could automatically default to its own URL shortener.

If you use the same URL shortening service for other social media sites that you use for Twitter and Twitter drives that service out of business then you’ll also lose the links from those other services. There likely will not be any default to fall back on at those services – depending on the service, of course.

One of the benefits to Twitter’s URL shortening service will be metrics. You’ll be able to see how many people are clicking the link, retweeting the link and interacting with it in other ways. It’s possible that this could be a paid service so not everyone will have access to the metrics. Possibly. Keep in mind that I don’t have inside information.

Still, if Twitter does go public with its own URL shortening service, you can expect the way we all tweet to change accordingly.

It seems that Twitter has made URL shorteners popular again. But are they good?

Naturally, many URL shortening services do offer value-added benefits that you won’t get with your traditional long URLs. The primary benefit to any URL shortening service, of course, is that you don’t have to pass along those godawful long URLs that could take up three lines or more in print. And if that’s the reason you are using the service then more power to you. It’s a useful benefit.

But what you should know about URL shorteners is that they are not good for SEO. Use them sparingly.

Think about this. When a visitor to your website clicks a link you created with an URL shortening service, they are being redirected to the URL shortening service’s website then on to the end page where you want them to land. The visitor actually leaves your website (or the website of origin) for a few seconds while the URL shortening service redirects them to the destination page. Because of this redirect, the link juice that flows from the web page of origin flows to the URL shortening service’s website, not to yours.

You know that some of the important and necessary SEO elements are inbound links with relevant anchor text. You won’t get those benefits with URL shortening so you should weigh the importance of the service against any search engine optimization benefits you desire before committing to URL shortening.

When you survey the field of search engine marketing (SEM) it’s easy to get lost. There are so many different ways to get to the end goal. Sometimes you can achieve the same results using different strategies. Which one is right for you depends a lot on preference and style. There may not be a right way and a wrong way.

Search engine marketing has expanded a lot in recent years. There are many ways to go about conducting a search engine marketing campaign. Here are some of the ways you can use search engine marketing to boost your business’s performance in the search engines.

  • Search engine optimization – Yes, good old-fashioned SEO still works as a search engine marketing tool.
  • Pay per click marketing – PPC falls into the category of paid search and it’s one of the fastest ways to achieve great results through SEM.
  • Blog marketing – Blogging has become so popular in recent years that everyone knows what it is and you’d think the blog marketing arena is so saturated there’s not any room for more. But there is. And there’s always room for a better one in your niche.
  • Content marketing – Commonly called article marketing, content marketing is a little bit broader of a term that also includes marketing with articles. Effective content marketing includes using your network of like-minded website owners to market your content through their sites as well as your own.
  • Social bookmarking – Save your best pages on sites like Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit and watch your traffic, and your links, soar.
  • Link building – Building links is one of those things that everyone should be doing on an ongoing basis.
  • Social networking – Just because it’s social doesn’t mean there aren’t search engine marketing benefits. Add a well-optimized Facebook page to your online portfolio and you’ll know what I mean.
  • Video marketing – Marketing through videos is just now reaching the beginning of its run, but it will soon be one of the most important search engine marketing channels available.
  • Viral marketing – Not so much a channel as a strategy, viral marketing is much misunderstood. But it’s still a great search engine marketing strategy.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are literally hundreds of search engine marketing strategies you can try: Squidoo lenses, HubPages, Knol pages, Blogger blogs (and not just as blogs), customized search engines, Google Apps, etc.

The key take away here is to pick your poison and use it to boost your search engine rankings. Stay away from risky maneuvers and focus on the tried and true.

One aspect of link building that rarely gets talked about is online reputation management. Of course, in many ways, the reputation management benefits of link building are ancillary – they aren’t the main goal. But if you are cognizant of the impact that links can have on your reputation then you can influence your reputation online just by adding a few inbound links to your important reputation enhancement web pages.

For instance, let’s take your About page. Your About page likely has information about your professional reputation that you want your site visitors to know. But do you promote it?

Many webmasters spend a lot of time building inbound links to their important landing pages, as they should, but neglect to build links to their Contact page and About page. Instead, they let their internal website links serve as the means of driving traffic to those pages. But you can actually build reputation enhancing links to those pages as well. How?

Here are a few ways you can build inbound links to your reputation enhancement pages and use link building as a reputation management tool:

  • Press Releases – When you send out a press release to online press release distribution websites, make sure that you include a link to your About page with important anchor text regarding your name or reputation. You might include a sentence like this in your press release:  “(Your Name) is a recognized expert on guinea pigs.” Let “expert on guinea pigs” be your anchor text.
  • Social Networking Profiles – When you link to your website from your social networking profiles, link to your About page. You might say something like, “For more information about raising guinea pigs see (Your Name)’s online bio.” Link “(Your Name)’s online bio” and let it serve as your anchor text.
  • Social Bookmarking – Why not just social bookmark your About page at some of the popular social bookmarking sites? Ask your friends and most valued customers to do so as well.
  • Like Button – Add a Facebook Like button to your About page.
  • Request Links – Request links to your About page. You’d be surprised how many people actually will link to your About page if you ask them to. You might even provide them with some choices of anchor text for their links.
  • Blog And Forum Signatures – When you comment on blogs and forums, occasionally link to your About page instead of your home page and other landing pages. You should vary your links anyway. Just be sure to throw your About page into the mix with appropriate reputation enhancing anchor text.

Reputation management is becoming more and more important online. Why not use the activities you are already engaged in to improve your reputation and the perception that others will have of you and your business?

I read somewhere on another blog (don’t remember where now) that running a PPC campaign is like renting traffic. The analogy makes sense, but if you think that renting is a bad thing then think again. Renting traffic can actually pay off.

There is a difference between renting and owning, however. While PPC is like renting traffic, SEO is more like owning it. Here’s how they differ.

When you spend $100 on a PPC campaign and receive 100 visitors to your website then you’ve paid $1 per visitor to read your offer. But let’s say that you close 1 in 10 of your visitors or, to say it another way, you have a 10% conversion ratio. Each sale costs you $10. But you only pay for that sale whenever you have your PPC ads turned on. Stop the advertising and you stop the sales and the traffic.

Measuring ROI is a different thing altogether. Let’s say you sell pink widgets for $20 each. For each sale you pay $10 to obtain you also earn $20 to close. But that’s not your profit. You also have material costs. Let’s say it costs you $3 to make your widgets. Your profit is $7 for each widget you sell. There’s your ROI.

SEO works a little differently. Let’s say you pay an SEO professional $500 to optimize your website. Your conversion ratio is still 10% and let’s say that you get 1,000 visitors from the search engines each month. That means you make 100 sales every month and at $20 each you earn $2,000 on your search engine traffic the first month. That’s an ROI of $1,200 the first month and $1,700 every month after that.

Obviously, the money you can earn from SEO has a lot greater potential than the money you can earn from PPC. But, realistically, you have to wait 2-6 months for that SEO traffic to become profitable. If that $500 investment doesn’t start paying off for 6 months then you do not realize an ROI for 6 months on your investment whereas you can realize an ROI on your PPC the very same month. It’s a lot more immediate.

Question: Would you rather earn $70 additional income today or $1,700 additional income 6 months from now?

Consider that your $70 ROI will add up to $420 over a 6-month period. If you re-invest that money into other vehicles then $420 could turn into more. So don’t knock the lower numbers today that you can earn from PPC. I’d recommend that you utilize both channels – PPC and SEO – for your online marketing efforts.

BTW, the numbers in these examples are not reflective of actual sales and ROI numbers. They could be higher or lower for both PPC and SEO. Some companies actually earn higher ROIs from PPC.

You’ve likely heard a lot about Facebook pages. In fact, if you are a small business owner then you’ve probably heard a lot of good things about them and likely have heard that you just have to have one. Well, it’s not quite that simple.

Yes, Facebook pages are good Internet marketing tools if you implement them effectively, but they are not necessarily good marketing tools for every type of business. Some businesses wouldn’t do well with them at all.

For instance, if you manufacture commercial aircraft engines then a Facebook page probably won’t work for you.

One way to tell whether or not a Facebook page is the Internet marketing tool for you is to evaluate your target market and assess whether or not that market is likely to be found on Facebook. If you don’t see the opportunities for engaging your audience through Facebook then it is highly unlikely that a Facebook page will be a big payoff for you.

On the other hand, if your audience is on Facebook and has a proven history of interacting with brands through Facebook pages then it just might be a useful tool for you. But you still need to evaluate the value of the Facebook page to your unique business environment. Do you have someone on your staff with the skills to build your page? Will they have time to maintain the upkeep of the page? If the answer to both of these questions is no then you might have to hire someone to do these things for you. Can you afford to do that?

While Facebook pages are effective Internet marketing tools, like all tools, you have to know how to use them, have the means and wherewithal to do so and understand where you are going with them. If you’ve done the proper research and have decided that a Facebook page is an Internet marketing strategy you wish to pursue then plan it well and execute it even better.

If you want quick, clear and concise competitive intelligence information then there are two online sources that are easy to use and very affordable. They’re free.

One of them you are likely familiar with. The other one you may not have heard of, but it’s still just as useful. In fact, the reliability of the information may actually be better than that of the first source. So what are these two sources of free competitive information?

  • Wikipedia – Everyone knows about Wikipedia. That is, everyone who’s conducted a Google search. You’ve likely seen Wikipedia land at the top of the search results a time or two. While not all of the information to be found in Wikipedia is 100% reliable, you can usually pick up some good competitive information about the companies in your niche. But not always. If you are the creator of a new niche of business then you won’t have competitors, but you get my drift. You can find Wikipedia here.
  • The Free Library – The Free Library is an article directory unlike any other article directory. Most of the articles are original content. And they’re also valuable pieces of information. You can search for articles on any topic by topic, author, title and keyword. It’s like a virtual library right at your fingertips. Find information on anyone or anything. You can visit The Free Library right here.

When it comes to competitive intelligence, don’t leave these two free online sources out of your research.

When it comes to online marketing and web design there are certain things that every marketer considers to be absolutely true, then there are certain things that are debatable. One of the things that often comes up for debate is the relationship between design and content. Which do you favor?

Before you answer, consider some of these points:

  • An ugly website can still make money
  • If you do not capture your visitor’s attention in 3 seconds then they will go elswhere
  • No one buys anything online until they read something that makes them click the Buy button
  • Pictures tell a thousand words
  • You don’t need a thousand words to sell
  • All other things being equal, people will spend more time on a pretty website than on an ugly one

Some of these statements may seem contradictory, but each step on its own is worth a goldmine of wisdom. But what do you make of “an ugly website can still make money” and “people will spend more time on a pretty website than an ugly one?”

Can both be true?

Yes, actually, they can. You need to keep in mind that content is what sells, not design. However, a beautiful web design can enhance a user’s experience. If your site visitors are turned off by the design of your website then they may not stick around to read the content. But if they do read the content and it doesn’t sell them on your products or services then your design won’t either.

Bottom line, web design and content go hand in hand. Make them work together.

It is generally recognized that Hotmail was the first successful viral marketer. Started in 1996 by two visionaries of Internet marketing, the plan was simply to provide free e-mail addresses to anyone who wanted them. Whenever someone signed up for an account and began sending e-mails there was a message at the bottom of the e-mail inviting the recipient to get a free e-mail address. The more people who used the service the more Hotmail received free advertising and the more people signed up to use the service. It was an overnight phenomenon.

Hotmail was also followed by other copycat services – free web-based e-mail services. And that was really the beginning of viral marketing. After Hotmail, other marketers began to see opportunities to promote themselves for free or to get other people to promote their offerings for free.

Viral marketing works on that principle. Get others to do your marketing for you and if it is successful then an idea can take off and spread virally in a very short period of time.

Hotmail may have been first, but there are other ideas that have gone viral since Hotmail. YouTube has been instrumental in seeing certain videos spread rapidly. Other social networks like Digg, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have also done well in helping ideas to spread. And, of course, e-mail is a viral marketing mainstay.

No matter the medium, if you have a hot idea and you can get that idea to catch on then you can have a viral marketing sensation.

A few weeks ago Google rolled out a new beta within its Local Business product, which it changed to the name of Google Places. They began allowing select cities to offer Tags on their Google Places listing. Now, Tags has been rolled out to all 50 U.S. states.

Tags can be used when your local business has a video, offers coupons, wants to showcase a restaurant menu, feature photos, or just highlight its website. In essence, it’s another way to remain competitive. There’s just one catch.

These Tags aren’t being used to affect search engine rankings.

So why do them then? Well, you should use Tags on your Google Places listings to make them stand out more. Your Tags will allow you to present your Google Places listing in a unique way and showcase features of your business website or online presence that will make your business stand out from the competition. There’s really no better optimization than that.