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All the search engines have a place for local businesses to claim a local listing. Google Places, Bing, and Yahoo! Local are all tied to the Maps feature at the search engines and each one has a way for customers to write reviews of the business. All the reviews – positive and negative – have the potential to help your business rank in the search engines.

You’ve heard the expression “content is king.” What that means is any content has the potential to help your site, or your business, rank.

Let’s say, for instance, that your business listing at Google Places has 50 reviews. Forty five of them are positive reviews and five are not. Even those five negative reviews are helping your local business listing rank at the top of the search results for searches related to your niche.

But your website can benefit from negative reviews too. Add a reviews page to your website and allow your customers to write reviews on your website. The more reviews you get, the more likely you are to have that page rank in the search engines for searches related to your business.

While negative reviews can help, you can encourage positive reviews by providing excellent customer service and by asking your good customers to write reviews. If you add your Google Places listing and your website’s reviews page URL to your business cards, brochures, and shopping bag inserts, you’ll encourage customers to write reviews of your business. Provide them good service in the process and they’ll be good reviews.

One subject that has been a matter of great controversy from the very beginning is whether or not ghost tweeting is ethical. Some people say it is. Others say there’s nothing wrong with using a ghost tweeter as it can save the business owner time while still taking advantage of one of the most powerful communication tools available today.

A huge controversy arose last year when Guy Kawasaki made it publicly known that he uses a ghost tweeter. Many social media marketers claimed that he was wrong for doing so.

Ghost tweeting can be an effective Twitter strategy if handled properly. Guy Kawasaki had his tweeters put their initials on their tweets following the fallback from his announcement that he uses them. You could employ a similar strategy or just risk your audience not appreciating that you don’t write your own tweets.

Before you decide to use a ghost tweeter, consider the following:

  • Will your audience get upset if they find out you are not writing your own tweets?
  • What is your Twitter strategy? Does it require that you write your own tweets?
  • Do you feel comfortable writing your own tweets?
  • Do you have the time to write your own tweets?
  • How is your competition using Twitter?
  • Could your business handle the controversy if your audience learned that you were using a ghost tweeter and you hadn’t informed them?

You might avert any controversy over using a ghost tweeter if you make it publicly known from the start that you are using one. Otherwise, think about your Twitter strategy overall and don’t implement it until you are sure that your strategy is sound.

A recent algorithm update by Google recently slapped popular article directory EzineArticles. The site lost traffic and commenced to cleaning up its directory to rid itself of problem articles. Then they underwent some quality changes of their own. One of those changes I find rather interesting.

Monitor Keyword Repetition – The use of any one keyword needs to be limited to no more than 2% of the total amount of words in your article. Take the total number of words in your article, and multiply it by 2% (ex. 450 words x .02 = 9 times). This will give you the maximum number of keywords permissible in your article.

In other words, keyword density is back.

Hold on a second, Lone Ranger. That’s EzineArticles, not Google. Don’t mistake this quality guideline for a search engine guideline. It is far from being that.

Search engine optimizers gave up on keyword density about five years ago – some of them before that. This guideline is likely EzineArticles’ attempt to control its own spam. They are trying to stay within Google’s good graces. And because of that, you might get the mistaken idea that Google looks at keyword density patterns. Don’t count on it.

I think it’s safe to say that Google does care about too much in terms of keyword usage, but I doubt that they are counting your keyword density. “Too much” is likely a moving target and changes from article to article.

Just thought I’d give you something to think about.

When it comes to reputation management, too many people don’t think about it until they need it. By then it may be too late.

Amazon has recently been awarded the most reputable company by Forbes Media and Reputation Institute. That’s quite an honor, but the surprising part is that the company didn’t win that distinction on the strength of its brand, but on the strength of its leadership. Other companies didn’t do so well:

  • Google – 9th
  • Apple – 46th
  • Microsoft – 47th
  • Best Buy – 78th
  • eBay – 81st

Many of these companies have strong products and brands, but its the leadership of a company that determines its reputation. Amazon proves it.

The criteria used to judge reputation for this award include:

trust in companies and leaders rather than product brands, multiple stakeholders and their interactions, and building a connection between a company’s reputation strategy and its business strategy.

If you’re wondering whether your company can be judged by these same criteria, the answer is yes. In fact, your business will be judged by these criteria – and more. Whether you are a small business or a multi-national enterprise, your leadership will determine the reputation your company maintains in the marketplace. Leadership, not products.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build good products that people want to buy. It means, in addition to building great products, you should focus on great leadership. That’s the best reputation management you’ll ever have.

Michael Martinez of SEO Theory has some interesting thoughts on what search engine optimization should be doing for us. I like what he has to say, but at this point he may be dreaming some kind of wild science fiction dream.

He says that semantic language indexing, which Google has been doing for a few good years now, is not the right way to go. Instead, he says, search should be a much more three-dimensional experience.

Particularly, Martinez suggests:

  • We should be searching for objects, not information
  • The search engines (RE: Google) need to get away from keywords
  • Search should be individually configurable
  • Every individual should be able to compile his or her individual library of information that is taken from the “main” library of information (the Internet), which is cataloged in such a way that it mimics the Dewey Decimal catalog system of a library

In other words, Google has it all wrong. And all the other search engines too since they are chasing Google.

Michael Martinez says the current search system is a failure because it is based on crowd-based metrics. We are choosing information based on what someone tells us is popular. But in order for that metric to have value, the searcher must be able to select the crowd whose opinion really matters.

I can see where Martinez is going with this. Clearly, we’re nowhere near that paradigm. But while we’re waiting for the search experts to figure out a better method, we’re stuck with marketing to Google. Search marketers have no choice but to work within the system that is available to them. And that causes me to ask, do you consider our current search model a success or a failure?

Twitter is one of the most interesting and powerful tools on the Internet. It’s real simple really. You type in 140 character messages and your followers respond. Or not. But, like anything, it can be used for good or bad.

One user decided to play a hoax and tweeted “RIP Jackie Chan.” The viral response was spectacular.

Tzvi Balbin, using Malcolm Gladwell’s tipping point philosophy, explains how this happened. I think he’s stretching it by saying that all the Twitterers who retweeted the message are salesmen, but I agree with his analysis overall. He even manages to pull in Rudy Giuliani to make his point.

When it comes to viral marketing, Twitter is an impressive tool. One simple message sent to the right person at the right time can lead to a domino effect. Get your message in front of the connectors within your niche and if they like it you can bet a large percentage of their audience will like it too. Viral marketing almost always involves reaching the most influential people to help you spread your message.

@forumn00b piggybacked on the authority of @tweetmeme, a Twitter account with more than 60,000 followers. Of course, popularity itself is not an indicator of viral success. Your message has to be the right message for the audience. If you do it right, viral marketing can set off a social media frenzy. That’s what you’re looking for.

GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons seems to enjoy being the center of controversy. He’s come under fire for his racy Super Bowl commercials and lost business on account of it. Now, he’s shooting elephants and has a ton of people ticked at him for that.

The issue is, he posted a video of the escapade online. It would have been bad had he gone to Africa and shot the elephant then had it reported on in the news, but he shot himself in the foot on this one. And it doesn’t seem to bother him.

I’m not sure that there is any amount of reputation management that Bob Parsons can do to dig himself out of this hole. He went looking for this controversy and, it seems, he went out of his way to attract it. Now he’s forced to defend his actions by focusing on interviews with media outlets. Wouldn’t his time be better spent doing something else?

He had to have known that posting the video would lead to this much controversy. So is that why he did it? Some people are claiming it is.

There’s a fine line between being controversial for the sake of controversy and making controversial claims to draw attention to yourself in hopes of gaining new business. I can’t imagine anyone seeing the video and saying, “Just what I’ve been looking for – a CEO that loves shooting elephants. Let’s switch to GoDaddy.” Can you?

In fact, many high profile clients are leaving GoDaddy because of the video. This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder if Bob Parsons may be a little bit unstable. He couldn’t have thought it was a good thing, or would be perceived as a good thing. Could he have?

If you were to use your entire keyword list for a natural search marketing campaign, it would cost you a fortune. And you might spend a year or two learning which keywords are performing best and which ones are more profitable. We can do that in a month or less with pay-per-click advertising.

By using PPC to test your keywords, we can group those keywords into tight target groups and test them against different ads and landing pages. Using a multivariate approach helps us to gain a better understanding of your keyword effectiveness.

Let’s take an example: If you have three landing pages and five ads that can be rotated to test your keyword list and find that you have one keyword that performs well consistently on all ad and landing page combinations, then we know that’s a strong keyword. But if another keyword consistently fails to achieve any meaningful results, then we know it’s a weak keyword. We can strike it from your list and not waste our time creating content for natural search.

This approach saves you money and time. You will not have to wait a year to determine that certain keywords are ineffective for natural search and the small investment in PPC you make to determine that will save you tons of money on the back end.

Viral marketing is something that everyone wants, but few people really know what it means. It’s a bit of a fancy word. We know it when we see it, but we’re not sure how to go about accomplishing it for ourselves. A WebProNews article can shed a little light on it.

Jonah Peretti describes viral marketing in real simple terms:

Simply, stuff that has the best opportunity to spread is stuff that people want to share with others.

So the essence of viral marketing is really finding something that appeals to a lot of different people. If one person likes it, you’ve got one fan. If a thousand people like it, it’s viral material. Take that to the hundred thousand person level and you’ve got viral content on the go.

How do you create content that goes viral? Is it planned or does it just happen? There are examples of both kinds of content, but I think the best kind of viral marketing is planned.

Your content must possess three qualities if you want it to go viral. It must:

  1. Appeal to a large number of people
  2. Be published and in a format that is easy to share
  3. Be a positive representation of your company or brand

With those three qualities, your content has the potential to go viral. Think about what your audience likes. Give it to them. Then the promote the Dickens out of it.