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Can you have too much exposure in a set of search results? It’s an interesting phenomenon and most businesses would answer no. Yet I know from my own experience from using search that there have been times when I have felt a little overwhelmed by the results. Let me explain a little further.

Every business wants to rank number one in search results – that’s the general principle behind search engine optimization. For some businesses, that has come relatively easy. In fact, the businesses that dominate the front page of Google, for example. Enter Coca-Cola as a search term and check the results:

  • Coca-Cola pay per click ad on top
  • at one and two in search results
  • Wikipedia entry
  • the Coca-Cola company site
  • Coca-Cola images

Apart from the Wikipedia entry, that’s total domination of the front page above the fold. For branding purposes, it’s great for Coke.  If I was researching this brand, my only options would be Wikipedia, to dig down a page or two in the search results, or (Google’s preference) redefine my search term. Of course, this is a brand name and you would expect a strong presence in those results.

Change the search term to just ‘cola’ and Coke still has a strong showing on page one above the fold, including a pay-per-click listing. Is that too much exposure? There are two ways to look at this. First – you are suffocating your competitors and not giving them an inch. A marketer’s dream. The second is that overexposure can harm a business and that a little competition is healthy.

What do you think? Should you aim for the ultimate total domination of the search results, or could that lead to overexposure and eventually harm your business? Would that pay per click budget then be better spent targeting keywords that you don’t rank so highly with in organic search results?

What’s the difference between a geek and a marketer? I guess there are a million answers to that question. My thoughts are fairly straightforward – a geek will tinker with code to make a page look good while a marketer will tinker with strategies that convert a page into sales. There are many online business owners that fall into the geek category – their sites look fabulous. But when it comes to marketing, forget it.

Of course, we also have to admit there are a lot of people marketing their businesses well yet their sites are letting them down because they look horrendous. Which camp do you fall into? More importantly, can you do both? Most do-it-yourself online business owners do try all with varying success.  It is possible to do both, but internet marketing is becoming harder all the time. Sometimes, what is important is to understand your limitations and to concentrate on what you are good at.

In the main, online business people, if they come from a business background, are good at sourcing products, good at managing the financial aspects of their business, and often quite adept at the Internet marketing side of the business. Learning to create polished websites, while a handy skill, could actually take one away from what is the real core of their business – getting customers through the door.

Web design is one of those areas that is often best left to those who specialize in that area.  Having a professional custom web design doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg either.  If you were to price your own time at a reasonable rate, and apply that to what could be 20-30 hours of tinkering (if you were to do it), then a professional’s fees will look quite small in comparison. Of course, because of their skill, they can produce decent websites in far less time than most nonprofessionals.

Who is running your business? Are you a geek with a really well-polished website, or are you a marketer who knows how to get the traffic through the door? If you’re both, the best of luck to you!

Press releases are one of those tools that most people put in the too-hard basket. If that’s you, then you should rethink their use. Press releases can be ideal tools for promoting brands, increasing the visibility of your business, and for gaining extra traffic. Press releases are also not that difficult to write or have published.

A press release is really just a short (or shortish) statement of facts. It follows the normal business document format of introduction, body and conclusion.  As a writer, you need to be able to incorporate some of your keywords while making the press release easy to read and, most of all,  informative. While it may be simply a statement of facts, it can certainly raise the profile of your business.

Because press releases are not widely used, they can help any business that does use them stand out from their competitors.  Create regular press releases and you build upon that exposure. You are also telling the world that you’re still around, and that you’re not a fly-by-night online business. What many businesses don’t realize is that press releases often show up in the news section of search results and when they do they often deliver decent traffic numbers.

If you are facing a limited budget, then writing and releasing your own press releases can be as effective as many other forms of online marketing. For a small fee there are sites that will heavily promote your press release – just be sure to read their guidelines first. Press releases may be old hat, but sometimes old hats are the best fit.

While everyone is talking about the threat that Facebook could be to Google, one article caught my attention that has analyzed whether or not Google could be its own undoing. This is not a new theory, of course. Every time Google makes a major change to its search results, people (many of them from the SEO field) start to make noises about how they are slowly killing off their own golden egg.

The trouble is, people have been making that claim since day one. In the meantime, Google has just grown bigger and bigger. I do agree with the article’s point of view when it comes to changes. Google has made a lot of changes lately, and it seems that Google is really placing its faith in local search. That’s fine at this time of year. Everyone is in the process of preparing for the Christmas – New Year season. This means food, parties and of course Christmas gifts.

What about after the holiday season? Will local search still be as necessary? If you do a search for almost anything at present, the results are often dominated by local search and images – too bad if you are doing a research assignment. Where Google has made improvements that may help is in its Google Instant and relevant search areas. Whether a user’s history will be sufficient to help fine tune search results is yet to be fully tested.

It is hard to imagine the Internet without a dominant Google, yet to many people, that is exactly where we are headed. I have my doubts. Google has weathered many storms over the years and only continued to grow. They are making it harder for SEOs to do their job, but search engine optimization is still delivering results despite the changes being made. Is Google ready to implode? Not yet – there’s still plenty of kick in the old girl.

Can you build an online business without the help of free traffic from search engines? In simple terms, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” In fact, most online businesses are built without the help of search engine traffic – at least, the free organic traffic that comes from search results. The reason, it often takes months before a website’s pages start to appear on the front page of search results.

If that’s the case, can you continue to run a business successfully without traffic from organic search results? Again, the answer has to be yes – if you’re prepared to work at it. There are many businesses surviving on pay per click marketing including pay per click from minor search engines where ‘quality scores’ are not an issue.

The biggest move in non-search marketing is social media marketing, particularly sites such as YouTube and Facebook. They say that YouTube is the second largest search engine online. That may be so, but it does take time and effort, and sometimes money, to put together videos that are of an acceptable quality. Even then, there is no guarantee that viewers will actually visit your website.

Facebook is another story. Being the most trafficked site on the Internet, it is quickly becoming one of the major target areas for business. Add Facebook’s own advertising program and the opportunities are there to succeed without search. If you can steadily build an email marketing list from your social traffic, so much the better.

There is, however, a certain irony in building a business without the reliance of search. Over time, your pages will rank (unless you block them). You will start to get a trickle of traffic from search engines and it will have an impact on your business, even if it’s just a small impact. If that’s the case, then why not incorporate some of the basic tenets of search engine optimization. It doesn’t take a lot of extra effort, and the benefits down the track could be significant. Can you succeed without search? Many businesses already think they do – notice I said “think!”

The cost associated with building an online store can be anything from next to nothing to thousands of dollars, depending of course on how complex it needs to be.  There are alternatives that many businesses are having success with. Google and Yahoo! both offer stores and GoDaddy has a similar setup. You could opt for eBay, Amazon, or perhaps even The latest player that is having a huge influence is Facebook.

A number of questions spring to mind, the first being whether you need to include an online store on your site. With so many options available, wouldn’t it be better to use them instead? This is really a yes/no question since it depends on your product and who your target market is (and where they are).

Facebook is an interesting option. Being the most trafficked site on the Internet, there are potentially millions of customers just waiting for the right products – and they are shopping though Facebook. The potential for viral sales is huge – if you have the right product at the right price.

All that aside, having your own custom designed online site store hosted on your own website certainly adds more credibility to your business. The most successful online businesses are those that utilize a number of outlets, including their own, in such a way that they don’t diminish their own brand. Facebook is definitely worth investigating as are the Yahoo! and Google stores.

The best approach for your business is one that you can manage easily, helps to increase sales, and at the same time helps to promote your business.

All to often we take a very black and white view of things. If a product sells for a $100 with a $50 profit, and we know pay per click conversions run at 10% (for arguments sake), we can then determine what the maximum cost per click is to stay in profit. But what if your product sells for $20 and the cost per click is $17-$18 (or more) – should you stay in the market?

If you take the black and white approach, then most definitely not. Fortunately, we don’t live in a black and white world, it is in fact brightly colored. So too is pay per click. There are times when paying those high prices may make extremely good business sense – in fact, you may need to if you want to stay in business. Cost per click and cost per sale are not the issue – what you should be determining is the cost per customer over the lifetime of their patronage.

If your business is trading in consumables, or products that customers are always coming back to, then your aim with high cost pay per click is not so much to convert to sales (although that is nice). Your aim is to capture an audience that you can retarget time after time for repeated sales. Email marketing is ideal as is social media marketing. Being able to capture their email address and to have them follow you on Facebook and Twitter is the ideal. A perfect sign up form should now include all three options in one.

High cost pay per click marketing is popular across many niches. Jesse Laffen has an interesting post that is worth following up on related to this issue. Just because the costs are high in pay per click marketing doesn’t mean you can’t make a profit – you just have to measure those costs across extended data.

In years gone by, Internet marketing was very much search dominated; in fact, you could say that it was very much Google search dominated. As each month goes by the need for a holistic approach becomes all the more important. The marriage between Microsoft and Yahoo! may not have been made in heaven, but it is starting to have a impact, even if in inconspicuous ways.

The relationship between the search engines and social media will also need to be taken into account, especially when you have arrangements such as that between Bing and Facebook. Just another reason to start considering Bing in your search marketing approaches. Social media may well impact on search results in the future, bringing a new dimension to how you interact in this area. Suddenly, the emphasis may not be on two-way communication; it may shift to how to gain as many ‘likes’ as possible.

Of course, when we talk about a holistic approach to Internet marketing, we are looking well beyond search. The approach that needs to be addressed now is one that involves both search marketing, social media marketing, and into the future, well-targeted offline marketing – even for businesses with only an online presence. We can see examples of this approach with large sites like Amazon and eBay.

For local businesses, the inclusion of local search will be important, and with it, social feedback such as reviews. Mobile applications are making access to the web through mobile devices much easier. The day will come when a customer will swipe their mobile device over a barcode, scan the business’s website for the latest specials, promos or freebies, while having the opportunity to review and rate that business – all in real time as they are eating their pizza, returning damaged goods, or meeting friends for a night out.

Just to add another layer of difficulty to the mix, each channel is becoming a little more reliant on another channel as we move on. Search is relying on social to help provide data on the ‘best of the web’. Local search is relying on reviews and ratings to determine search rankings, meanwhile social media has not quite got to a stage of going it totally alone without search – Facebook may well be the first to do so. Time will tell.

The old saying about having all your eggs in the one basket comes to mind about now – I think it’s time we changed that. The Internet’s the basket; the time has come to have a variety of different eggs in that basket.

We are heading towards that really silly time of year where post after post tries to predict what 2011 will look like. It’s interesting to go back to last year’s predictions and, surprise surprise, apart from the social media and its effect on internet marketing, few made predictions either accurate or worthwhile. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking forward – if you’re in business, then that should be a constant in your life.

What is interesting is to look back over the last twelve months. What has worked (and what hasn’t)? I don’t necessarily mean within your own business either since you should be making note of what your competitors are doing, what is working for them, and whether or not you have made up any ground, lost ground, or shot ahead of them.

You should also be looking at how others are using social media, particularly Facebook, and comparing it to your own attempts. Social media marketing is by no means new, however, the approaches required on sites like Facebook is new. A lot of businesses taking the Facebook approach are doing so without any history to guide them – much of it is trial and error – so we can learn from their attempts.

I don’t need a crystal ball to see where internet marketing is going. Social has become the main channel and that is being mastered in two ways: offering something unique or special; and by opening your business to true multi-way communications. Search is not dead, social is not yet king, but customers are increasing online at a rapid rate. Our internet marketing has to satisfy their needs using the best in pull marketing.

Social media is becoming an important tool in people’s lives but we should be aware of what we say, when we say it, and how we say it. We should also be careful that unconnected threads aren’t connected by others to reveal sensitive information. A recent article from the AMA advised doctors on how they should approach social media, particularly when it came to social interaction with patients. The Australian AMA has gone a step further and advised doctors about the content of their discussions.

The Australian AMA points out the problems of seemingly unrelated discussions or comments and how they could be connected to reveal sensitive information. To quote from their article:

…’s the comments you made a month ago saying which hospital you work at, two weeks ago saying which ward you work in and then the comment from today about the adverse outcome for a patient you treated,” Dr Bonning said.

“When you stack those three things up together it’s suddenly very easy to identify who the patient was.”

It is very easy to make a disparaging remark about your competition, without naming them, and then to make other comments at other times which, when connected, make it quite obvious who you are disparaging. In our litigious society, this is an issue just waiting for a test case, and if it’s successful, a flood of follow-up cases.

You have a number of choices. You either track closely everything you and your employees say, or you take a great deal of care when disparaging others. The same is true when it comes to sensitive information. As with the doctors in the above quote, what seems like harmless comments today could become online reputation management busters tomorrow. While it’s smart to track what everyone else is saying, don’t forget to track your own conversations.