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Before you hire an Internet marketing firm, you should interview them. Find out what they do and how they do it. I’m not talking about quizzing them on their trade secrets. I’m talking about finding out if they are ethical in their business practices and if they really understand Internet marketing principles.

Here are 15 questions you should ask your Internet marketing firm before you do business with them.

  1. How do you budget Adwords to simultaneously maximize the number of clicks and minimize cost?
  2. How do you track and handle leads when they come in to your firm?
  3. How do you write your ad copy so people will fill out your contact form or call you?
  4. How do you decide what web sites to get links from?
  5. How do you get a new website indexed by Google and out of the “sandbox” in only two weeks instead the normal three month’s time?
  6. How important is it for your website to be WC3 Compliant?
  7. Is there a penalty for putting too many keywords in your meta-tags?
  8. What are the benefits of a “content management system?” What are the drawbacks?
  9. How do you know when to use a broad match, phrase match or exact match in a Google Adwords campaign?
  10. Will inbound “sitewide” links get your site banned?
  11. How do you find keywords that no competitor is bidding on, but that convert at half the cost and twice the frequency of conventional keywords?
  12. How do you measure conversions on specific sites on Adword’s content network?
  13. How do you bid keywords appropriately, knowing you will get fraudulent clicks?
  14. How do you set up a tracking phone number? Why should you?
  15. Where should a contact form be on a page? Which pages should have them?

When it comes to Internet marketing, not all firms are created equal. Do a little probing. How does the company do business? Does their style mesh with yours?

Mobile marketing is not something we talk about much on this blog, but I would like to address an emerging opportunity for small business owners. iPhone apps.

It seems that everyone is interested in having their iPhone app now. There’s a good reason for this. iPhones are popular, almost everyone has one, and everyone who has one is tuned in through apps. In the future, iPhone apps are going to be the way many people log onto the Internet for routine business.

Think about this.

  • If you own a book store, you could have an iPhone app that lets people put a book on hold – right through their iPhone.
  • If you are the owner of an auto parts store, you could let people order their car parts through their iPhone, and even schedule delivery.
  • Own a restaurant? Put your menu into an iPhone and take carry-out orders.
  • Own a bowling alley? You could have an iPhone app that allows your customers to bowl on their phones, and when they’re not iPhone bowling they can reserve their lanes.
  • A gardener can have an iPhone app that reports soil conditions based on weather, time of year, etc.

There’s really no limit to what you can do with an iPhone app. If you have an imagination you can come up with all sorts of things. The time for small businesses to take advantage of marketing and customer service through iPhone apps has come. Are you ready?

The first step to any good marketing is research. But that can entail any number of things. Usually, it means

  • Competitive intelligence
  • Market research data
  • Keyword research
  • Industry background research

And that’s just a start. Take a look at one of our case studies to see how a success start with market research ended with a well thought out plan that made our client successful.

While research is important, going through the steps to learn about the competition, the competitive landscape of the playing field, and your own keyword research will not necessarily guarantee success. You’ll also have to implement your plan.

There are a lot of moving parts to an effective Internet marketing strategy. There are content development initiatives to oversee, paid search initiatives, social media opportunities to exploit, and some additional research along the way to uncover unseen opportunities that might arise during the course of a campaign.

When there is so much at stake for the future of a company, you cannot afford to hand your Internet marketing over to amateurs. You need a professional to manage the process from beginning to end.

First, do your research. Then, take what you find and mold it into a plan. Execute your plan aggressively and monitor. Internet marketing success is not an accident.

Do you have a difficult time keeping up with Google’s algorithm? Do you try to follow it and make changes to your site every time a new algorithm change is announced, hoping that your changes are going to improve your search engine rankings? Here’s a word of advice: Stop doing that.

It’s a good thing that you are watching the search engines and seeing what they are doing. Keeping up with changes in the search engines and search technology is an important part of SEO and keeping your sites geared for search engine traffic, but that doesn’t mean you have to make changes to your website every time a new algorithm change is introduced.

In fact, most algorithm changes don’t require any changes at all. Instead, keep your eyes on the basics of SEO and let the search engines take care of the rest.

The search engines change their algorithms for different reasons. Sometimes they are correcting or compensating for other factors in the algorithm in order to balance out the importance of the factors being considered for ranking purposes. Other times, they are combating spam or addressing negative issues that affect the entire search community. Instead of guessing at what the algorithm means and how you should respond, focus on the basics and doing what is right.

The age of Internet video has arrived in full force. It has become one of the most effective forms of online marketing and the options for video marketers are expanding all the time. You are not limited to YouTube, although YouTube is the most trafficked video sharing site online.

More and more, we see niche video marketing websites popping up. That’s good news.

  • MusicTV Share, for instance, is a niche video website that caters to independent musicians and their fans.
  • Jesus TV is a video website specifically geared toward a Christian audience.
  • Then there’s Qube TV, the YouTube alternative that bills itself as the Right Wing video sharing site.
  • Anime Lab is a niche video site focused on, you guessed it, anime.
  • Teacher Tube is a video website dedicated to providing instructional videos on all sorts of topics.
  • WonderHowTo is a niche website focused on providing how-to videos on a variety of topics.

These are just a few of the niche-related video websites online. There are plenty more. Video marketing is in and you can get started with great videos at an affordable cost.

For a free consultation on your video marketing needs, contact us today. It’s easier to get started than you think.

Your first impression is a big deal. And you only get a chance to make one. That’s why your web design has to be top notch, not just good.

There are three types of web design companies:

  • Search engine optimizers who also do web design
  • Companies that only do web design
  • Companies that design killer websites that are SEOd well

While web design is important, it’s not so important that you should forget about search engine marketing. In fact, a good web design actually takes into consideration the latest SEO techniques and tactics with search engine rankings in mind.

In truth, it’s a balancing act. You balance a beautiful image with great rankings. When you play this balancing act well, it will show in increased traffic to your website and your web pages ranking for the important content you want to rank for. It’s a two-tiered system where both parts are equal.

Web design firms that only do web design can make your site look good, but they won’t get you ranked. You’ll end up having to hire an SEO company to make it rank, and sometimes your SEO company has to make changes to the website.

If you hire an SEO to do web design, then you run the risk of a site that doesn’t leave a good impression. There’s no reason you can’t have both good SEO and awesome web design.

We’ve reached a new level of social media euphoria. A story about Bing’s successful Farmville campaign is giving marketers something to think about. Maybe you should think about it too.

According to Bing, Farmville now has more visitors than Twitter. If that’s true, then Farmville could be the next big marketing arena. Or, let’s rephrase it, any of Zyng’a Facebook applications.

So what did Bing do? Essentially, they promised to give Farmville users farm cash if they became a fan of Bing on Facebook. A really simple thing, really. But it worked. Thousands of people responded. Many of them wrote about it on their own blogs. And now, Bing has 400,000 new fans. Voila!

Can you do it too? Maybe not on that scale, but I see no reason why any small business can’t wage a similar campaign through Farmville, Cityville, or any of the other thousands of Web applications out there in Internet game land. Think about all the places you can go: Yahoo, Apples’s iPod Touch, Fubar if you’re into online dating, Facebook,, or just search for online multiplayer games.

What Bing did isn’t really new, but it does break new ground in social media marketing and online game playing. Now it’s your turn. How are you going to reach your customers in this new social media world?

There has been a lot said in recent months about the various group deal sites – particularly Groupon and Living Social. Bing have now entered the fray with Bing Deals, and while it is really no more than a deal aggregator, it will make finding a deal easier for consumers. However, what is important to note is that Bing is teaming with DealMap, and they deliver thousands of local deals every day.

For many marketers, promoting their businesses through these channels may deliver more sales than through what is now consider ‘traditional social media’ channels (how quick the Internet moves – two years ago we spoke of how social media was the ‘new’ marketing option – now it’s ‘traditional’). If you have been offering special deals through Twitter, for example, you may find that sites like DealMap offer an even bigger stream of sales.

It begs the question, is social media too saturated for this type of marketing? Or more importantly, do you need to change your marketing strategy to match the habits of consumers. It’s clear that consumers are starting to prefer sites like Groupon and DealMap when looking for special deals. With these services really working hard to target the mobile market, and with mobile devices getting smarter, it makes sense that consumers will access them in larger numbers.

Groupon, Living Social, and DealMap are not for every business. However, they do offer a simple method of targeting consumers in their environment. Consumers don’t necessarily visit Facebook or Twitter to find a good deal – instead, they visit those special deal sites. If you are into special deals, then you may want to consider checking those sites out. Internet marketing is continuing to evolve. You need to evolve with it. You will be promoting where the customers are wanting to be promoted to, and that doesn’t happen too often.

Google’s recent changes to it’s search algorithm has caused quite a storm with the biggest casualties including article directories. Article marketing has been one of the core marketing tactics used for over a decade. It offers a unique opportunity for people to have their content published in places away from their own sites – sometimes even having their content reprinted on quality sites, or picked up by national publishers.

This is one situation where those who use article marketing can have a serious beef with the search engines. Over the years, these search engines have encouraged the use of article marketing, so long as the content was unique. Furthermore, users were encouraged to republished that content so long as they included the resource information at the end of the article.

Having been encouraged to use these marketing tactics, users now find their efforts will account for nothing. Links have not been followed for some time, and now the content will struggle to appear in search results. That’s a real slap down.

So what of the future? Does article marketing still have a future? I think it may have but it may need a real overhaul. My first thoughts run to sites like Google’s own Knol – has that been affected by the new algorithmic changes? My first impressions are that it hasn’t been affected at all and that could be the model that future article sites need to look at.

The Internet is steadily evolving, and from a search point of view I can understand the search engines not wanting to see the same articles being published across numerous sites. I also question whether or not some sites have their internal structure right. Article marketing will survive, the question will be – in what sort of format and where?

Google recently updated its algorithm and the result has seen Google take some heavy criticism. Labeled the ‘Farmer Update’, the update is reported to target content farms that are full of poor quality content. In the lead up to this update, much was said about Design Media, in particular it’s content site eHow. Reports to date suggest that eHow probably benefited more than it lost following the update.

At the same time, there are many sites crying poor because they copped a hit in search results. These are sites that are businesses and who have good reputations within the online community, certainly not ‘content farms’. The problem is, their sites have internal flaws which, to Google’s algorithm, look like content farms.

The problem with the algorithm change is a simple one. Just because you’re a content farm that doesn’t mean your content is poor. On the whole, eHow’s content is probably average to poor – but there are some very good articles mixed in with the good ones. And the same could be said for millions of ordinary websites, especially mom and dad style blogs.

For many website owners, especially those whose site is their business and their livelihood, the only way forward is to engage a professional to undertake an audit of their SEO strategies. Businesses tend to get caught up in these updates, often unintentionally, but the end results could cost them that business.

If you run an online business, particularly one that has hundreds or even thousands of pages, engage an independent SEO professional who can undertake that audit. Your website may be fine – but in ninety percent of cases, an SEO audit does pick up on errors. Who knows? Fix those little errors and you may climb even higher in the search rankings.

Search engine optimization is a process that is commonly thought to be about getting high search rankings. It is also thought to be about gaining as much traffic as possible from free (organic) search results. In a way, these are misconceptions. Let’s break each one down to see what SEO is really trying to achieve.

High Search Rankings – One misconception is that being ranked at number one is what everyone should be aiming for. This is not always true. SEOs primary aim is to position a page so that it generates the best traffic possible. Recent changes to Google’s Webmaster Tools has highlighted for many business owners where their best ranking is. In many cases, a business will receive more traffic from position two or three rather than from position one.

Traffic, Traffic, Traffic – SEO is not about gaining as much traffic as possible. If you want traffic, you can buy it by the thousands for pennies compared to the cost of SEO – but that traffic will be worthless. SEO is all about obtaining the best traffic possible. Targeting keywords that prospective buyers are using is just the first step. Giver 100 converting visitors to 1000 non-converting any day. In this case, it’s definitely not size that counts, it’s quality.

Search engine optimization should really be concentrating on getting your pages appearing in the best position possible in search results. It should concentrate on targeting the ‘right’ keywords that will lead to sales, not just any keywords associated with your niche. In a nutshell, SEO is all about delivering quality traffic and that means traffic that is ready to buy.