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If you haven’t heard of Google Panda, then I’d say you’ve been hiding out under a rock. Or maybe you don’t pay much attention to the search engines and their algorithmic changes. A recent change at Google, which everyone is calling Panda, has forced certain websites – like HubPages, for instance – to take a harder look at their user-generated content.

Some of the changes that HubPages has been forced to make include:

  • A ratio of words in content to product being promoted
  • No more pixelated images
  • No affiliate links
  • Higher quality standards on over-saturated topics
  • No duplicate content

I’m surprised that HubPages ever allowed duplicate content at all, but they did. And that’s one of the reasons that Google slapped them hard, killing them along with hundreds of other “content farms.”

Whether you agree with that decision or not, I think it will lead to higher quality articles on HubPages and it will benefit article marketers who use HubPages. It should benefit the entire ecosystem of online article marketing.

When it comes to article marketing, and any Internet marketing really, you can’t sacrifice quality. Your reputation is at stake with every article you publish. Don’t take the easy way in hopes that you’ll win on a short term gain. Your business is your livelihood and that’s a lifetime achievement.

From time to time you might find it prudent to take a look at your old content and analyze it to see where you might improve it. Sometimes information is outdated, or it could just be that your mission and company goals have changed. That’s OK. Make sure your content changes to go with it.

This is easier than you’d imagine. It doesn’t all have to be done at the same time. You can focus on specific content a little bit at a time. For instance, take a piece of your content each month.

For instance, maybe you take a look at one section of your static website and all of your past January blog posts (from every year) during the month of January. Then, in February, you look at another section of your static website and all of your past February blog posts. In March, you might hit your Facebook content and past March blog posts. Etc. etc.

Keep in mind that you aren’t just looking to make sure the information is still accurate. That’s only a part of it. You also want to make sure your old content is operating under current SEO conventions and hasn’t been de-listed from the search engines for a violation. You’ll also want to make sure that it is working for you in other ways. And strong, popular content might work well in other formats – as a print magazine article, for instance.

You want to analyze that old content to make sure it is still working for you. But don’t don’t agonize too hard over it if it isn’t.

I mean the one where Yahoo! – the former largest Web company on the planet, which has now fallen behind Google, Facebook, Amazon, and who knows who’s next? – sold Delicious to the former owners of YouTube?

It’s no joke. Delicious is now owned by a company called AVOS, which is owned by Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, co-founders of YouTube.

Yahoo! sent out an e-mail yesterday inviting Delicious users to transfer their bookmarks to the new company. Users have until July 2011 to make the transfer or they may not get to use Delicious any more even in its new form. They’ll lose all their bookmarks.

If you’ve been a religious or semi-religious user of Delicious, then you’ll want to transfer your social bookmarks. You wouldn’t want to lose any link juice your websites or web pages may have gained from the site.

Of course, there are other reasons to preserve your links as well. You wouldn’t want to have to apply for a new account and start over.

Our hope is that Delicious will be at least as good a social bookmarking service under its new ownership as it ever was. Yahoo! bought the site but never improved it. So it’s pretty much the way it was pre-Yahoo! If AVOS improves it even a little, Delicious could come back and be a social media force to be reckoned with.

Meetup is a website that allows anyone to start a group around a particular interest, take in members, and manage the group on an ongoing basis. It’s simple, really. Meetup is the platform that allows you to organize the group, but it’s important to point out that all the legwork involved in managing the group is still in your hands.

Meetup does charge a fee to organizers. You, in turn, could charge a fee to your members or meeting attenders, but if you are using Meetup for business purposes, then you might not want to do that. So what is the benefit of using Meetup?

Your primary benefit for using Meetup is that you have a popular platform. People looking for a group that meets around a common interest have been trained to search for such groups at Meetup. That doesn’t mean you can’t use other online sources for promoting your meetings. You can still advertise your meetings on Craigslist, local websites such as your daily newspaper classifieds, and industry websites. But Meetup is very popular and gets a lot of traffic from people who are looking for groups to attend.

Meetup.com is social media at its best. People have not given up on meeting in the real world, but often you will find that they being searching for real world events online. Meetup allows you to advertise your off-line events to an online audience that is continually growing.

If you want to ensure that you have great content on your blog or website, there is one way to make sure that you always have great content. It’s called surveying your clients or site visitors.

If you ask the right questions, then you’ll get the right answers.

Ask your customers and/or site visitors what information they would like on a web page that discusses (fill in the blank with your topic). For instance, if you are planning a page on baseball hats, your customers might want to know the following information:

  • What size are they?
  • How large is the brim?
  • Are they adjustable size or are they made for one size head?
  • Is there a logo, writing, or a picture on the hat?
  • What material is the hat made of?

These are just a few of the questions your customers and site visitors would want to know about your baseball hats.

So now you can take that information and customize it to your situation. Find out what people are looking for when they search Google or Bing on your topic. Then, write your pages to answer those questions. It’s really that simple.

When you do it this way, you’ll not only ensure great content, but you’ll also ensure your web pages are search engine optimized.

You are likely familiar with the old 80/20 rule. 80% of your production comes from 20% of your employees, or money investments, or whatever. Well, online, there’s another 80/20 rule. It says that 80% of your website’s traffic comes from the search engines. The other 20% comes from other sources (direct, social media, etc.).

The actual number is more like 85/15, but let’s not count pennies. The point is, if most of your traffic is coming from search engines, then the majority of your budget should be in search engine marketing.

If you have $1,000 to spend on Internet marketing, you don’t want $800 of that going into social media when most of your traffic is going to come from the search engines. Instead, you should allocate 80% of that ($800) to pay-per-click advertising, blogging, and content creation. The remaining $200 can go into video marketing, social media, and other non-SEM activities.

This isn’t a matter of effectiveness. You can always test the waters and see if you get better results from video marketing, social media, or non-SEM marketing initiatives. If so, then by all means put more money into those channels. But you need to start with a base. That base is 80% search engine marketing and 20% other.

When you have a solid base from which to start your Internet marketing initiatives, it’s easier to track your results. You can set better goals and you can allocate your marketing budget appropriately.

Yesterday was Earth Day. I’m sure you heard all about it. So what did you do to show your green side?

You don’t have to go far to be green. Eco-friendly marketing is one of the most important ways a business can prove its commitment to the environment. And anything you do online is eco-friendly.

Got a website? You can say you’re involved in eco-friendly marketing. How about a blog? Call yourself the “Green Marketer.” Using pay-per-click advertising? That’s environmentally friendly too.

All you have to do to prove yourself eco-friendly in today’s terms is to stop using paper. Instead of printing out all those brochures, create a website. Instead of passing out your business cards at a networking function, take up social media marketing. Instead of buying that full page ad in a magazine, market yourself through PPC advertising. All of these are green marketing trends.

From search engine optimization to video marketing, online marketing is about as green as you can get. It shows that you care about the environment, but it also shows that you are willing to be a citizen of the 21st century.

Companies on the go today seek and find the best ways to market their business that don’t destroy the environment.

Adding a blog to your small business website can increase your SEO benefits tremendously. There are a number of benefits you can receive from a company blog, but these three SEO benefits are very distinct benefits you receive if you blog often and blog using the right strategy.

  1. Increased search engine rankings – Every blog post is treated like its own web page. That means every blog post has the potential to rank for your keywords on its own merit.
  2. More opportunities to rank – Every blog post you write invites the search engines back to your website to recrawl it. They will not come back to your site again until it is updated. Because your static site gets updated less often, you should have a blog that you update on a regular basis so that you can have your website crawled often.
  3. More navigational links – Because you can link from your blog to your main website, you can build more links. Those links will serve as important navigational tools for your visitors, but the search engines like links too. The anchor text you use for those links can push your web pages up further in the search engines in addition to the SEO benefits you get from the content.

A blog is one of the best SEO tools available for your website. If you don’t have one yet, now is the time to consider one.

Ask anyone who has been around for 40 years or longer and you’ll find that the ways of marketing a business have changed. What worked in 1960 was different than what worked in 1980 and what worked in 1980 isn’t what worked in 2000. Even the marketing strategies used today aren’t the same as what worked in 2000.

Here are 7 online marketing strategies that work today and that will likely work ten years from now.

  1. Search engine optimization – Build a website and make sure each web page is optimized for search engine traffic.
  2. Pay per click marketing – Spend your money on clicks for a speedy response to your message and watch your income rise.
  3. Social media marketing – Use social bookmarking and social networking to connect off of your website, then drive that traffic to your web pages.
  4. Video marketing – Online video marketing has arrived in full force. Engage with your audience on YouTube and other video marketing websites.
  5. Start a blog – Write to your blog every day. The search engines love the fresh daily content.
  6. Article marketing – Write articles and distribute them online to websites within your niche. You’ll build your reputation and build links to your website.
  7. Claim your local business listing – Each major search engine has a local business listing associated with their Maps feature. Claim your listing if you are a local business.

There is no substitute for these 7 online marketing strategies. You can do more, but I wouldn’t dare do less.

A new report from Social Media Examiner details who is engaged in social media marketing, why, how they use it, and what benefits they are deriving by using it. It appears that small businesses and sole proprietors are making the most use of social media marketing and reaping the rewards in a big way.

The top benefits of social media marketing, as reported by those who are using it, are (in order of most beneficial):

  • More exposure for the business (88%)
  • Increased traffic to the website or subscribers (72%)
  • Improved search engine rankings (62%)
  • New business partnerships (56%)
  • Qualified lead generation (51%)
  • Reduction in overall marketing expenses (49%)
  • Higher number of closed sales (43%)

It’s difficult to argue with these results. If you are the type of person who looks only at the number of sales generated, you might look at this list and see a glass half empty. But look at the number again – 43%. That’s almost half the small businesses using social media getting increased sales. But look at the rest of the numbers.

Even if you don’t see more sales, increased exposure for your business is certainly a benefit. More traffic and higher search engine rankings are benefits you shouldn’t ignore. If you’re getting those and not getting more sales, then you might need to tweak your landing pages.

Social media isn’t going anywhere, and small business owners who employ it effectively are getting huge benefits. We think you can too.

Article marketing has long been a great way to build backlinks to any website. It’s been an SEO and Internet marketing mainstay since the very earliest days of the Internet. But Google recently updated its algorithm and really slapped the article directories hard. In fact, it beat down some of the biggest article directories on the planet. Now they’re trying to make themselves whole again.

I can’t help but wonder if article marketing through directories is ever going to be what it was. I highly doubt it.

Instead, I rather think that article marketing is going to change. It won’t die. You can still market your blog or website through articles, and you should. But I wouldn’t recommend that you distribute them through article directories.

So where should you distribute your articles? Here are four places I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Google Knol
  • Squidoo
  • HubPages
  • Other websites and blogs within your niche

Maybe you can think of a few other places to distribute your articles. But I think these are the top places today for publishing articles and for conducting article marketing. What will be the best places ten years from now is anyone’s guess, but we don’t do article marketing for ten years from now. We do it for today and tomorrow.

The Internet is in a constant state of change. Sites come and go either through mergers or acquisitions, or sometimes just folding. Recently, Ubermedia purchased social bookmarking website Mixx, which is now not live.

Now the news is that Ubermedia could be purchasing Tweetdeck with intentions to compete directly against Twitter in the microblogging space. Would that really change things a great deal?

It would certainly change things for Ubermedia and Twitter, and of course Tweetdeck users. The question is, would Tweetdeck users remain loyal to Twitter or would they switch to Ubermedia’s competitive site? Would they have a choice to continue using Twitter and Tweetdeck, or would Ubermedia’s competing site simply be another option? Those are tough questions.

I’m of the opinion that competition is always a positive, but when it threatens to divide loyalties, someone is going to lose. The question in this case is, who? As long as it isn’t social media users, I think the aggregate value is a positive for the marketplace.

What is your take? Are you a Tweetdeck user? How would you respond if Tweetdeck suddenly became an app that posted to a Twitter competitor and wasn’t allowed to interact with Twitter? Or what if the competitor was an option tacked on – would you continue to use Tweetdeck?

An article at WebProNews has an interesting take on marketing online. It says that effective marketers do four things well:

  1. Reach their target audience through traditional media
  2. Use digital new media well
  3. Promote by being a media company
  4. And spread their content by social media

Two things are interesting about this approach: No 1, search engine optimization isn’t mentioned at all, and, secondly, you’re being asked to become a media company.

Now, wait a minute, you say, I never intended on doing that! Now, not so fast. All that means is you think outside of your own website.

Here’s what it really means: You set up one or two, maybe even three or four, online media websites that reach a different target audience or that provide a different publishing service. For instance, it could be a blog or it could be a community wiki. Maybe it’s a forum. It could be anything as long as it gives other people a platform for their voices. In other words, become an owner of media resources and not just a consumer of them.

There actually is a lot of wisdom there. Besides the profit that can be derived from these media websites that you own, there is also a branding element. You can spread your brand out in more directions and reach more people, which leads to more business. It’s just something to think about.

Oh, about that SEO – let’s assume that any community or media sites you build will include a healthy search engine optimization plan. It just makes good sense.

Neil Glassman says it is.

There are two sides to reputation management. There’s the reactive side and the proactive side. Social media can be used for both, but it’s most effective when used proactively.

Reactive reputation management is the practice of using social media, SEO, and other online marketing tools to combat negative information about your company. Most companies that engage in online reputation management are being reactive, but if they had a proactive approach to begin with then the reactive approach might not be necessary.

Why wait until your company’s reputation has come under attack before you start trying to improve your company image? It should be an ongoing thing.

The proactive approach to reputation management is an ongoing strategy of highlighting what is good about your company. Do you support a particular charity? Do you give to local community organizations on a regular basis? Do your products help the environment? These are all social responsibility positives for you and your brand. You can use social media to bring attention to these initiatives at any time in your company’s life.

Online reputation management is not a zero-sum game. Your reputation in the marketplace is based on a number of factors that lead to an aggregate perception of your brand without regard for what your competition is doing. Manage it well and it doesn’t matter what negatives there are – the positives will outweigh them.

Online marketing maven Seth Godin has this saying that if you can gain 1,000 true fans, then you can make a living on your trade. “True fans” are defined as those people who follow your every move and will buy anything you put out. Of course, it’s harder to earn that kind of loyalty than you think. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

But, truth is, it really is easy. People make it hard.

The surest way to earn fans is to provide value. Period. Do one thing really well consistently over time and you will earn your fans.

That’s what Michael Jackson did. You might not be a Michael Jackson fan, but a lot of people are. It’s because he provided them music that they could relate to. He entertained them. They got their money’s worth when they bought a Michael Jackson album or went to one of his concerts.

You could take the most successful icons of any sector of business and say the same thing. They are successful because they consistently provide value.

In business, your medium is your blog or website, your social media, your reputation. Provide consistent value over time and you’ll earn your true fans. It really is that simple.

Social Media Marketing just keeps getting better. The latest news is that a new Facebook app allows you to call any of your Facebook friends on your Android phone for free. Isn’t that nice?

Rumor has it that an iPhone app is on the way, and Skype is also in the process of developing a Facebook app.

Does anyone else see the potential in this?

Instead of relying entirely on your Facebook page, posting on your friends’ walls, and advertising to them with paid ads, you can just pick up the phone and call. You’ll have a direct line to their ear.

If you’re having trouble imagining how that might play out, think about this: You get an e-mail stating that someone wrote on your wall. It’s your friend in Saskatchewan and he says he has started shopping for an item that you happen to carry in your store. Why e-mail him, or Facebook message him? Why take the risk that he’ll miss your wall message? Instead of taking that risk, just call him and tell him directly that you have the product and close the sale while he is on the phone.

Of course, you can still post a message to his wall. He may not see it, which is the reason you want to call too. It’s another way that you, as a business owner, can leverage Facebook for better business. And I see this getting even better – not just for Facebook, but for all social media.

Professional directories and search engines pose a terrific opportunity for any professional to increase their search engine optimization benefits.

Such directories often allow you to add a link to your website. Sometimes you have to pay for this link, but it can still benefit you as Google often does not penalize directory listings. However, they can, so make sure you are using a reputable directory and not a spam farm.

When it comes to profession-specific directory listings, there are two types. The first type is the official old-fashioned directory where you submit your listing and it is either approved or unapproved by the directory owners.

The second type of directory really isn’t a directory at all. It’s a search engine. You don’t have to submit your website because the search engine will list it automatically.

An example of the second type of directory is MyVeterinarian.com. Their search engine is powered by Google, which means if you have a website indexed by Google, then it will appear in the profession-specific directory as well. This benefits you in two ways.

First, if someone conducts a search for a vet in a specific area at that search engine, then you could be found there. Secondly, the link to your website from the profession-specific search engine could pass on some link juice and help your website rank better for the right search term. Presto! Two benefits.

I highly recommend using profession-specific search engines. There is not a lot that can go wrong.

The key to effective online writing is to have your readers click a link and read your story, blog post, etc. Headlines are the tools that writers use to make that happen. Here are some of our best tips for writing great headlines.

  1. Keep it relevant – Your headline should tell your reader exactly what to expect from your article. If your article is about bobsledding, then your headline should make it clear that’s what the article is about. Readers don’t want to click a link and find out your article is about something else.
  2. Make a promise and follow through – Every good headline makes a promise. “100 of the best restaurants in Chinatown” is pretty specific. The reader knows what the article is about and expects to be told what the best restaurants in Chinatown are. It has a promise. The hard part is delivering on the promise, but it’s also the important part.
  3. Show how easy it is – Some headlines do this better than others, but if the reader thinks it is easy to get the benefit of reading your story, then they’ll read it. “3 ways to jump a rope,” “1 simple tweak …”, and “5 ideas to spark …” all tell the reader that the answer to their question is just one click away. It’s really easy.
  4. Don’t try to be clever - You may think it’s cute to play with words and offer a double entendre. Some of your readers will too. Others will be turned off by it. But the real reason you want to leave the clever out of your headlines is because it doesn’t sell the story. A reader might laugh at your clever headline, but she likely won’t read the story.

Follow these tips to successful headlines and you’ll watch your readership grow.

The Law of Reciprocity states that if you do something nice for someone, they will feel obligated to do something nice for you, and they will.

Imagine being a business owner in your local hometown and discovering a new restaurant. You tell your friends how wonderful it is through a service called Hotspot, which, by the way, has recently been rolled into Google Places.

Later, let’s say, you discover the owner of that restaurant is a big user of Google Places and Hotspot. So you friend him. He friends back and notices that you liked your restaurant. He comes to your bookstore to thank you and then saves your bookstore as a favorite place.

That’s The Law of Reciprocity in action.

There’s no better place to practice The Law of Reciprocity than in your own back yard. That is, in your own hometown where you can become friends with other small business owners that are local to you. You patronize their business and they patronize yours. Now, you can let all your friends know about your local connections and personalize your local search experience as well.

Google Places seems to be getting better and better. It’s certainly good for local small businesses.

Many SEOs are still optimizing websites as if they are living in 1997. And they’re teaching their clients to do it too. I’m going to set the record straight about 6 SEO tactics that are ineffective and a complete waste of time.

  1. Keyword Stuffing – It’s hard to believe, but some SEOs still believe that if you put 2% keyword density into your web pages, then it will help you rank. It won’t. This is a total waste of time.
  2. Meta Keywords – No major search engines care what you put into this meta content field.
  3. Search Engine Submission – Directory submissions can help you. Search engine submissions can’t. The major search engines will crawl your website. You don’t need to submit your site to them.
  4. Header Tags – If you think H1 and H2 tags are going to push you up the rankings, think again. They look nice, but they only help your site visitors. That’s important, isn’t it?
  5. Multiple Pages For Similar Keywords – If you think that optimizing a page for “widget” and another page for “widgets” is going to give you a competitive edge, then you are dreaming. That’s especially true if most of the content on those pages is the same.
  6. Nofollow Attributes – Putting a nofollow attribute on your internal links for your privacy policy and terms of service is not going to help you increase your link popularity on important pages. It just won’t.

No serious SEO will tell you these tactics work. If you hear it, run the other way.