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Many online marketers have asked whether Twitter passes SEO benefits to its users. There is no real indication that it does, but there is no indication that it doesn’t either. The best evidence for the case that it does is the search engines’ own practice of including tweets in search results. Both Google and Bing do this and Google even has a realtime search channel.

But, can you use Twitter to improve your website’s SEO?

I don’t think you should specifically focus on Twitter as an SEO tool, but I do think you should be aware of the possible SEO benefits from having a Twitter account and use that information to keep your tweets somewhat SEO-focused.

Here are the tips I’d offer:

  • SEO your tweet text – Just as search engines use anchor text to determine link value, they may use the text within your tweet to determine what a link is about. If so, slip your keyword into the text of your 140-character tweet without making it sound spammy.
  • Don’t use short URLs – Short URLs are URLs that redirect to your website. If Twitter passes link juice, those short URL addresses will get the juice, not your website.
  • Improve your Twitter authority – Just like the search engines use page authority in organic search, they could use the authority of the linker on Twitter to determine the value of a link. Keep your content of the highest quality possible and maintain your Twitter authority.
  • Diversity your links - Don’t just link to the same website over and over again. The search engines will definitely see that as a spam account. If you link to other sources often, then links to your own site will have more SEO weight.

These are not guarantees of improved SEO, but if you follow these practices, you are more likely to see SEO benefits from your tweets. Of course, there may be other reasons to not follow this advice. For instance, short URLs allow you to write longer tweets. So be sure you weigh the pros and cons of each suggestion.

Facebook marketers, don’t despair. You can be effective in marketing your website through Facebook. Here are 8 ways you can be more effective using Facebook for your public relations efforts (courtesy All Facebook).

  1. Post your content on Thursday.
  2. Release your news releases early in the morning. If you wait until between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., you’ll likely fall below the shuffle.
  3. Instead of short URLs, post your content using the full link.
  4. Place a Like button and a Send button on your website.
  5. Get familiar with Edge Rank. This is Facebook’s algorithm, which is based on certain key words such as “today” and “limited time only.”
  6. Facebook is one of the leading sources of traffic for 21 popular news sites. Be diligent in sharing your content.
  7. Words like “most” and “best” are the most shareable words on Facebook. Also, words that explain such as “why” and “how” are shareable as well.
  8. Facebook is the best platform for making a video go viral.

Keep these tips in mind when sharing your content on Facebook. Social media is becoming more and more important and Facebook is the leading social media site for PR pros. Let your marketing shine with Facebook.

Yahoo!, more than any other company, built the online display advertising market. While it was still considered a directory, Yahoo! started offering online display advertising and did quite well with it because, after all, it was the most trafficked website online for the longest time. Then, PPC advertising took off – primarily because Google was the first company to build a scalable model that addressed the needs of advertisers.

For the longest time, these two companies grew their respective advertising channels. Yahoo! focused on large corporations with big budgets who were used to advertising on television. Google focused on the small business and the entrepreneur who wanted to pay based on results.

Once PPC advertising caught on, smaller companies who were advertising with display ads online made the switch. PPC grew, online display advertising declined. Now, display ads are making a comeback.

And guess who’s leading the charge? That’s right, Google.

In fact, Google is now the leading online display advertising provider. Yahoo! is No. 2. And in a very close third is Facebook.

As AdAge points out, online display advertising revenues grew 23% in the first quarter of 2011, which means it grew faster than search. I think, very soon, we’re going to see a two horse race in the online display advertising channel with Facebook and Google competing head to head for the same customers. Yahoo! will fall to third and hold onto its share of the corporate advertiser – those companies who seem to be late in adopting the most innovative advertising models.

Who do you think will win this race? Will it be Facebook, the most trafficked online property today, or Google, with its lead in diverse channels and a proven scalable system?

One of the most useful website analytics tools is a heat map.

A heat map measures your traffic and its actions by showing you a colorful representation of that traffic. For instance, the hottest part of your website – the part where most of your traffic is navigating toward – will appear in red. Still hot parts of your website, but less hot than the red, will appear in yellow. It gets cooler from there.

Let’s say you decide to use a heat map and discover that you have a page on your website that shows the hottest part of the page to be on the top right, but a link that you really want your visitors to click on is on the top left side of that page. Based on the information you see on the heat map, you should move that link over to the top right side of your page so that you can increase the number of visitors who click on it. More than likely, after you move the link, you’ll see that click-throughs have gone up.

Heat maps are an essential tool of metrics that any website owner can use for improving website development. You simply watch your visitors, see what they do, then tweak your website to match their expectations. Pretty simple.

Facebook is one of the most powerful social media tools online. Of course, it’s also the most trafficked website online so it makes sense that any business would want to have a presence there. But what about local business? Can Facebook benefit businesses with a local presence that may not want to market themselves internationally? Absolutely. Here’s how.

  • Facebook Places allows you to edit community pages that are local to you. For instance, if you live in Boston, Massachusetts, use the Facebook search feature to find the Boston, Massachusetts community page. Anyone can edit that page. Once you make an edit, future editors who are also friends of yours will see that you’ve made changes to that community page.
  • Friends Lists allow you to create lists of your friends who may have something in common, such as friends who live in the same geographic area. You can post updates that only those friends see.
  • Local Business Listings, like Facebook Places, are community pages that anyone can edit, except that they are for businesses. Yours could very well be there, created by Facebook. All you have to do is click to edit the page and monitor what others write when they edit. You want to be sure no false information about your business is published.
  • Create your own Facebook page for your local business.
  • Post events and promote them through Facebook Events.

Facebook is a powerful way to promote your business online to people you may already know or that you meet in the process of doing business in your local area.

It’s difficult to ignore Facebook. It’s the most trafficked website online and there’s a good chance that you use it even if to a limited degree. But is your site integrated with Facebook?

Facebook integration is easy to latch onto. Who wouldn’t want to be integrated with the most trafficked website online? A lot of people, actually.

When 42% of people using (or not using) a particular Web property express concerns over privacy, it should stop and make you think. No website has come under so much scrutiny over privacy issues as Facebook. It’s been criticized from every corner of the Web. And if your website is integrated with Facebook, then this should be of concern to you.

On the one hand, the benefits of Facebook integration cannot be denied. You are effectively given access to its billions of users worldwide. More realistically, you have access to every Facebook user interested in your niche. What percentage of them care about privacy?

Facebook integration becomes a major issue when you know how your customers feel about privacy, and about Facebook privacy in particular. If enough people refuse to interact with your site because of privacy concerns, then Facebook integration could work against you. This is one area where a little market research can go a long way. Do you know your customers that well?

Is social media a sham? Are social media marketers bad for your business? Veteran journalist and social media consultant Peter Shankman would have you believe they are. Don’t hire them, he says.

Enter Rand Fishkin, to the rescue.

It’s important to note what the purpose of social media is. Peter Shankman has it almost right. He says it’s to make you money. Well, that’s why you went into business, right?

In actuality, social media marketing is the same as any other marketing. It’s to position your company as the place to go for your particular core business. In other words, to position you as an expert. You hope that makes you money.

Admittedly, many “social media experts” are lousy salesmen. Many of them are ineffective in their approach to marketing through social media. They may understand the tools, but they don’t understand the methods well enough to close the sale. Or maybe they think their job is simply to drive traffic to your website and leave the sales to you.

Whatever the case, you are the expert in your business. You don’t have time to plan and execute social media campaigns. That’s why you hire someone else to do it for you.

There’s nothing wrong with being an expert – even a “social media expert.” If you can prove your expertise with results, then you deserve the business that comes your way. On that, Peter Shankman is wrong.

There is nothing about marketing online that is as much a lie as the idea that you can purchase off-the-shelf search engine marketing plans that anyone can use. Yet, many online marketers will try to sell you one of these solutions with no thought about the type of business you are running. Call it “online marketing in a box.” It doesn’t work.

The only truly effective way to go about search engine marketing is to create a custom plan. What works for one website or business may not work for another.

For instance, not everyone needs video marketing. Some Web businesses, however, couldn’t do without it. And that’s just one example.

Is social media marketing right for you? Maybe. But even if it is, the social media marketing plan you finalize for your business will look very different than the plan for another business. That’s because you have a different product, a different clientele, and therefore require a different strategy. Your social media marketing strategy should be tailored to your business.

Every search engine marketing plan rises and falls on its own merits. Just like every website and every business. You cannot take a generic online marketing plan and make it fit your unique business.

Custom search engine marketing is the strategic implementation of a plan based on careful study and market research. Don’t buy into the hype of off-the-shelf marketing products in a box.

More important than keyword density, more important than ensuring you put your keywords in all the right spots, and more important than inbound anchor text with a solid keyword pick is your keyword selection to begin with. Of course, I’m not talking about whether or not you choose keywords. I’m talking about making sure you choose the right keywords for your business.

Keyword selection is about more than picking the right keyword for the best search engine optimization practices. It’s just as much about choosing the right keywords for your business.

For instance, if you sell red widgets, then you would not want to optimize your web pages for the term “yellow widgets.” You would attract all the wrong customers. But I see businesses doing this all the time. More often, I see businesses targeting a generalized keyword when drilling down to a nichier, narrower keyword would deliver better targeted traffic.

Here’s another for instance. If you sell industrial construction materials, optimizing your website for the keyword phrase “construction materials” is too broad. You want to narrow it to “industrial construction materials.” This will eliminate anyone looking for construction materials to build a house. You want to attract people looking for a specific type of construction materials.

Keyword selection is very important. Make sure that you are not only optimizing your web pages for keywords related to your niche, but that they are the right keywords for your business.

One marketer takes issue with companies that promise you the moon and the stars – or 1,000 Facebook Likes – in exchange for your hard-earned money. I totally understand why.

Here’s what’s happening:

Most clients pay this company between $1,000 and $3,000 dollars a month and this company increases their “Likes” exponentially. It works; they do gain these clients thousands of Likes in a very short period of time (two to four months.) Most of the posts that gain these Likes are similar to those pictured above – 4 or 5 of these a day – sometimes posted within seconds of each other at 6am.

Have you paid someone $1,000 to get you a lot of Likes with Facebook questions such as “Like this page if you’re glad it’s Friday?” If so, shame on you.

Those types of Likes are low-value Likes. That’s not to say that all Likes are low value. You have to be careful who you’re asking to Like you, what exactly you are asking them to Like, and why you’re asking them in the first place. All those things affect your bottom line.

The real value of a Facebook Like is not in the Like, but in what happens after the Like. Do you get them to your website? If so, do they stay? Do they buy something? Is your bottom line affected in proportion to the amount of money you spend on the campaign? If not, why not?

Facebook marketing works if you do it the right way. The wrong way is to spend money on low-value Likes that don’t lead to business. Targeted marketing is the best approach – even on Facebook. Don’t lose your head, and your pocketbook, chasing Likes.

When it comes to link building, measuring which links are taking hold and which ones are not is very important. Yahoo!s Site Explorer has been a tool that webmasters have used for many years and it has been considered the best free online link checker available. But it’s changing.

Exactly how Site Explorer is going to change is anybody’s guess, but Yahoo! has announced that its integration with Bing will lead to an inevitable change in Site Explorer some time in 2012. Here’s a snippet from the announcement:

When Microsoft fully powers the Yahoo! Search back-end globally, expected in 2012, it will be important for webmasters to use Bing Webmaster Center as well. The Bing tool will manage site, webpage and feed submissions. Yahoo! Site Explorer will shift to focus on new features for webmasters that provide richer analysis of the organic search traffic you get from the Yahoo! network and our partner sites.

The bold text is mine.

Just what are these new features? No one knows. But if they improve Site Explorer, then they are welcome. For now, however, webmasters can go on using Yahoo!s Site Explorer as they always have – analyzing their inbound links and looking for new link building opportunities. My hope is that these features will not go away.

Predictions show that local search ad revenue will increase by as much as 10% per year through 2015. Furthermore, 30% of all searches performed by then will be local in nature. That spells it out loud, if you’re listening: Get on now to get ahead.

By “local search ad revenue,” let’s be clear what we’re talking about. It’s a clear reference to pay-per-click advertising. And that leads us to an obvious question: Whose revenue?

The search engines, of course, will be profiting from that growth. However, that doesn’t mean that others won’t profit as well. Local businesses that learn how to leverage online advertising – particularly PPC advertising – will also profit. They will profit from the traffic they receive from that advertising.

Are you ready to take that leap into local search advertising? You should be. Historic studies show that PPC advertising pays. Advertisers who use PPC to drive traffic to their websites and who learn to harness the power of the written word on their landing pages do rather well.

Here’s the big difference between the PPC advertising of the past and the PPC of the future: It’s going local. All that really means is that local businesses are going to enjoy a lot more of the benefits that global businesses have been enjoying for the past few years. Are you ready to get in on that?

In the 1980s, it was chic to buy a mailing list from a list broker who might promise that the list was targeted to a specific type of customer within a specific industry. You could call the list or use the list for direct mailing. Either way, you were spending money. And if you used the list and it brought you some business, then you were effectively buying targeted sales leads. You were buying customers.

Can you do the same thing online? Can you buy targeted sales leads or customers online? You sure can.

It’s called pay per click advertising. With PPC, it’s all about buying clicks. You bid on what a click is worth to you, write an ad that draws attention, point your link to a landing page, and snag the contact information from your prospect.

These types of leads are solid leads because they have responded to your calls to action. They responded to your ad. Then they responded to your landing page with a request for private information. If you use an autoresponder with a double opt-in process, then they’ve given you permission to contact them twice. They couldn’t spell it out for you any better.

So what do you do with those leads then? You market to them. Aggressively. Tell them what you have to offer and how much is costs. Sell them on the benefits. When you close a sale, it’s because you effectively bought a lead. A targeted lead.

An article at Marketing Pilgrim says that small business owners worry about obtaining new customers. In fact, they lay awake at night thinking about it.

Is that you? Do you lay awake at night worrying about where your next customer is coming from? Don’t. It could come from any number of sources – if you take action.

Prospecting for new clients takes time. And it is costly. More costly, in fact, than retaining the customers you already have. But if you don’t do it, what will happen? Many small businesses find out what happens when they are no longer providing a service after two to five years.

You can’t let worry freeze you. Running a small business is about taking action to attract new customers and keep the ones you have happy. Here are a few tactics that other small business owners have used to do just that:

  • >Built a website
  • Employed search engine optimization on their website
  • Drove traffic with pay per click advertising
  • Produced online videos
  • Engaged in e-mail marketing
  • Spent time on social media

All of these tactics are effective if employed correctly. They’re not the only tactics that work, but they do work. They are much more effective than worrying. So stop worrying and start taking action.

We’ve extolled the virtues of pay per click advertising over and over again. We’ve also praised the benefits of local search marketing. But what about local PPC? Is it all that?

Yes, it is. And a bag of potato chips too.

Our take on local and PPC marketing is that you should always drill down as far as you can in any channel you are trying to develop. If you are optimizing your website for search traffic and you are a business that caters to a local clientele, then you should be targeting your SEO efforts to local traffic. If you are using PPC, then you should be targeting your PPC efforts to local traffic as well.

This drill down is much more effective, believe it or not, than the alternative. Just think about it:

If you sell widgets and you write your PPC ads to appeal to people searching for widgets without a local geotargeting key phrase, then you’ll be paying for traffic that you may not want. But if you sell widgets in your local shop and you want to reach a strictly local business, then local PPC makes a heck of a lot of sense. Geotarget your ads and you’ll pay only for local clicks, not global.

Not only is local PPC effective, but it is often more effective.

Web writers are not hard to find, but if you want a solid one – a good one – then you have to look in the right places. Where do you go to find a good Web writer?

First, determine your goals. What do you want the content your writer will create to do for you? Is it going to be online sales copy? Blog posts? Information-only writing? Technical? The skills your Web writer possesses will need to be in concert with the tasks you want them to perform.

After you’ve made the determination about the type of writing you require, sign up for an account at one of the many freelance websites online. Run an ad for a Web writer based on the goals you determined in the above step. Be sure to spell out specifically the skills you are looking for and the type of work you expect your Web writer to perform.

You can also run a Craigslist ad, but weed out your candidates very carefully. Craigslist is a hit or miss proposition.

I’d also recommend hanging out in writers forums. Since most of the people in these forums will be writers, they’ll be a bit more loose, sort of like an after work bar time situation. That’s a good thing. It allows you to get a little more personal before you hire them. Do they really have the skills you need? Are they the kind of person you can associate with?

Good luck in your search for a Web writer. When you find one you can live with, guard him with your life.

Just when I thought that everyone online had given up on free web-based hosting, I bump into someone who swears by it. Really. I was shocked.

The reason this person liked the free hosting was because it was, well, free. But that was about the only benefit. He did go on to say that he was happy with the search engine optimization benefits he was getting (I checked and his website was ranked No. 2 for a great keyword and a geotargeting add-on). He was also impressed with the design features, the fact that his host could add a blog to his site, and the analytics available for his website. All of that was good news.

But there is one big overriding risk to using a free web-based host, and that risk is too great to accept any of the benefits. What if that host disappears overnight or decides to shut down?

This happened to long-time free host Geocities. Remember it? It was owned by Yahoo!, then Yahoo! decided to shut the doors. All those website owners had to transfer their websites to other hosts. NOTE: Free web-based hosts are not compatible; you have to download the content, then copy it back to the new free host. It’s not easy.

If you have a traditional hosting company, any time you build a website and you want to transfer it to another host, it’s just a matter of transferring files to your hard drive and then uploading them to the new host. Easy.

Word of advice: Stay away from the free web-based hosts.

Is it possible to improve search engine rankings overnight? Let’s say you have a few keywords that are attracting search engine traffic, but you know that you rank at the bottom of page one or on page two for those keywords. What should you do?

Consider that about 90% of searchers click on page one results. Also consider that more than 80% of searchers click on one of the top three listings on page one. It makes sense to try to increase your rankings for those keywords that are moderately successful.

What you want to do is identify those keywords that are sending you traffic but whose search engine rankings are below the top three positions on page one yet not further down than page three. Got that list? Now, start a link building campaign that focuses on building solid anchor text links for those specific keywords.

This process should take no more than a month or two. If you build good links – that is, focus on links from high authority web pages, use specific anchor text, stay away from spam in any form, and stay consistent and steady – then you can increase your search engine rankings in just a short time.

Link building is a time consuming process, but it is well worth the effort for the pay load on the back end. It won’t happen overnight, but it can happen.

Content and links go together like peanut butter and jelly. Or like a hot dog and mustard (or ketchup if you are under 10 years old).

Seriously, building content is one thing. You can write great content and even make it shine for the search engines as you sprinkle it with your favorite keywords, but you’ll find that your best content really takes on a life of its own when it starts to attract links.

Links serve some very important purposes:

  • Inbound links are used by search engines to determine the authority of a web page relative to other web pages on the same topic
  • Links are a reflection of your brand
  • Links can serve as a reputation management tool
  • Links are a very important path for traffic to your website
  • Links often serve as a clue to website content readers about the nature of the content on a web page being linked to
  • Outbound links can be a way to attribute a source upon which your own ideas are based.

Links serve many purposes, but they are important because search engines use links to crawl the web. A web page cannot be crawled by search engine robots – hence, cannot be indexed – unless there are links pointing to it.

When it comes to building your content, don’t just think about the content itself. You should also consider how links – your own as well as any the content itself might attract from somewhere else – can be used to enhance the content and make it more valuable for your audience.

Autoresponders are nice tools. They allow you to capture the contact information of your prospects and communicate with them automatically based on their given permission. The way they work is really simple.

Your client fills out a web form on your website. The contact information for that lead goes into a database, which you can access at any time via web-based login. Immediately upon filling out your web form, the contact receives an autoresponder message at the e-mail address they gave you in the contact form. If they are opting in to a subscription, then there will be a link they can click on to verify their e-mail address. If they do not click, they receive nothing further from you. If they do click, you have a contact for life (or until they unsubscribe).

While this technology is awesome, it’s barely the scratch of the surface on what autoresponders can do. You can program an autoresponder to send messages to each contact at specific intervals. Those pre-written messages will be sent out on each timed trigger you program into the autoresponder.

Lead management is something you can’t afford to miss out on. With the proper website design and marketing advice, you can keep your leads in constant check.