Sales & Support 1-888-220-7361

The Reciprocal Consulting Blog

You are Browsing the June 2011 Archive:

One of the most confusing aspects of link building for a lot of webmasters and search engine optimization professionals is how to build diversity into their link portfolio.

The reason this is confusing to so many people is because many webmasters trying to do their own SEO get stuck on a single keyword phrase for their anchor text. If you focus only on your primary keyword, then you are missing out on a lot of opportunities.

Also, a huge mistake is to focus all of your link building efforts on your home page. More natural link building involves building deep links to your internal pages.

Here are six things to keep in mind when link building so that you build a more natural and diverse link portfolio:

  1. Vary your anchor text. It is best to use between 5-20 different anchor text key phrases for each web page you build links to on your website.
  2. Do not just link to the home page. Most of your links should point to internal web pages on your website.
  3. Seek out links from a variety of types of websites (blogs, directories, forums, etc.).
  4. Don’t just target high PageRank websites. You should have a good number of links from low and mid-range authority sites.
  5. Build a few links from websites outside of your niche.
  6. Use non-keyword types of links too. “Click here” and “go to” type links can be effective in driving traffic and are natural link building phrases. Just don’t do it too often.

A diverse link portfolio consists of high authority links, low authority links, links from a variety of different types of websites, and a diverse set of anchor text phrases.

When you decide to market yourself using videos, whether you plan to upload to YouTube and Vimeo or place them on your own website, you’ll need to start somewhere. I recommend that you plan your video from beginning to end before you start shooting. And that includes writing a script.

Why do you need a video script? Two reasons:

  1. A script will help you keep your video on track. If you don’t veer from the script, then your end product will look pretty close to what you had in mind when you started. That’s exactly what you want.
  2. It will save you a lot of time.

Because the script is what keeps you on track, you will save a lot of time in the long run. There won’t be any running around in circles trying to figure out what to do next. You’ll have a script to follow. It will also cut down on chasing rabbit trails. Creative people often get an idea right in the middle of a project. You can always point to your script and say, “That doesn’t fit into the plan.”

Of course, if a really good idea does present itself in the middle of your video project, you can always scratch the script and start over. But be sure that, No. 1, the idea really is a good one, and No. 2, that you don’t try to incorporate it into the ongoing project you’ve started. You must either finish the one you’re working on and make your mid-stride idea a new project, or scratch the video project you’re working on and make your mid-stride idea a new project.

So how do you know when to scrap a video project? There are several ways to look at that. If it’s too costly to gain any real ROI from it, then it doesn’t need to go forward. If you’ve veered from your script and the project is getting out of control, you may need to start the planning process over so you can get back on track. If the video is really not fitting into your overall marketing plan, then you don’t want it going public.

Good marketing videos start with a plan. Your plan must include a well-written script that everyone can follow, and the end result should be known by the whole team before you start shooting.

I had to laugh. I’m not sure why Barry Schwartz was playing around with Google’s image search feature, but I’m pretty sure it could have been worse. He tells how he got hit in the face with the image of a pretty woman, who was also naked, when searching for his own name.

If you think the moral of the story here is not to be so vain that you search for your own name, then you’d be wrong. I actually think it can often be good to search for yourself just to see what pops up. In Barry’s case, it turned into a flattering moment. ;-)

Image search is by no means perfect. It’s not even close. Which is why Google allows you to report images that you think don’t fit your search query. And THAT’s the moral of the story.

When you search for images, you should report the ones that don’t fit you search criteria. The reason is quite clear. If we all reported the images that don’t match our search queries, then eventually Google will be able to improve its image search feature so that we don’t have to any more.

Search engine optimization is everybody’s business. It starts with your search queries, not your website’s rankings.

Everyone these days wants to go viral. They’d give their left arm (and probably a leg too) to see their content hit the viral craze meter boiling point. If you’re anything like me, you’d definitely like to see your content shake the virtual money tree. So how do do it?

SiteProNews has a great article about viral marketing. It tells you the 7 techniques that work to make content go viral (however, I’d say there are more than 7). Here are those 7 techniques, just in case your wondering:

  • Videos
  • Social media
  • Articles
  • Tweet/Retweet button
  • >Share widget
  • E-books
  • Newsletters

The beautiful thing is, all of these techniques work. And while the article is a good article, what it fails to do is teach you how to go viral using these techniques.

The purpose of this blog post is not to give you a step-by-step plan for your viral marketing efforts. Rather, what I’d like to do is to give you the very basis of viral marketing itself. Each of these techniques will work for the right kind of content. But what do you have to do before you start your viral marketing campaign? That’s what I’m about to tell you.

In a word, the one thing you have to do before any content can go viral is to make your content incredibly awesome. Bad content won’t go viral. Mediocre content won’t go viral. Good content might, but it isn’t likely. Great content, well, maybe it will go viral – on a good day. But there is a ton of great content online that hasn’t gone viral. What you really need is out-of-this-world awesome content. If you hit a home run on the creation part, then your content can’t help but go viral. That is, once you put it out there.

Every blogger at some point runs out of ideas and has to look for ways to spice up the blog machine. So how do you go about finding things to blog about? Matt McGee knows. He suggests:

  • Question-based keyword research
  • Look at your analytics (what are people reading most, and how are they finding your site?)
  • Q&A websites like Quora and Yahoo! Answers
  • Ask your readers

To be sure, there are more than five ways to find new blog ideas. In fact, there are hundreds of ways to generate ideas for content. Here are ten more ways to find new ideas for your blog content.

  1. Read other blogs in your niche and write about the same topics (be sure you don’t plagiarize or steal the content, and don’t take ideas from the same competitor every time
  2. Find an old post that was popular and write about the same topic from a different angle
  3. Visit a niche article directory; what are the most popular articles about?
  4. Use Google’s Wonder Wheel
  5. Where are your pay-per-click clicks coming from?
  6. Watch a few YouTube videos in your niche
  7. Current events – Is there something going on around the world that you can play off of?
  8. Your Twitter stream
  9. Facebook
  10. Use your RSS reader; scan the headlines till something pops out

As Matt says, there is always something to blog about. Just do it.

When building your small business website, the one you’re going to use for promoting your local service business, should you include affiliate links and promote products that aren’t yours?

There are two ways to think about this question. The first way is to consider those affiliate links exit holes. Anything that causes the site visitor to leave your website is an exit hole and it means you lose a sale. Does the commission you’ll make on that affiliate product make up for the income you’re going to lose by not acquiring that customer? If not, then you shouldn’t use the affiliate link.

Another way to look at this is that you’re going to lose some of your site visitors anyway. Not everyone is going to buy your product or use your service. They may not be in the market for your service right now or they might not be the right target for your service. Either way, you’re not going to make the sale anyway so why not offer them something else instead?

Both of these points are valid. You’ll have to decide which way of thinking appeals to you and decide to use affiliate product links based on your own goals and desires.

If you do decide to use affiliate links on your small business service site, do so with these things in mind:

  • Use them sparingly.
  • Don’t make the affiliate products the main focus on your site – that should be your services.
  • Place affiliate links where they won’t draw undue attention to themselves, but will be attractive and get clicked on by people who aren’t interested in your service today.
  • Think about your web design first. If affiliate links and widgets won’t look good with your website, then don’t use them.

Mark Schaefer thinks it is. Quite frankly, I think it’s been ugly for a long time.

The practices described by Mark at WebProNew, fake comments and the like, have been going on for as long as I can remember. They’ve been going on in blogs ever since SEOs have discovered that blogs are good SEO tools. Before that, forum comments were all the rage. In fact, today, the gray hat SEOs will hire people to write fake blog and forum comments that work together.

It’s a seedy practice, no doubt. And there is an ethical fine line. I mean, if a professional blogger likes your comment and tries to e-mail you with a response or to solicit a deeper relationship, that can lead to a real ugly scenario real fast. Do you respond as if you are a real person and lead them on, or do you come clean and tell them you are a fake? Either way, you lose. And so do they.

That’s not to say that all SEOs are bad people, nor that all SEOs are shady characters. Most are doing a good job. But I’d like to draw your attention to one of Mark’s comments:

This is a slippery slope that will lead to regulation. All it will take is one high-profile case that blows the lid off these practices. And we will all lose if we have to endure new rules and the cost of compliance.

I can feel Marks’ anguish. And he’s right. All it will take is one high profile case, a client who hires an SEO firm in good faith only to be made to look like a fool when the news breaks that thousands of blog and forum comments were fake. The only question is, Which Fortune 500 company will it affect, which industry? When it happens, it will affect all of us. What will the SEOs say then?

Brian Solis wrote an article about social media that I believe offers some real insight into how large brands are being “antisocial” when it comes to using social media marketing tools. The gist of the article suggests that these companies are using traditional marketing tactics in a more interactive way, which doesn’t really inspire online prospects to pursue their products and services. Is it a good point?

I think so.

One of the most important principles for any business person (whether a sole proprietor or the CEO of a megacorporation) to understand is that everything changes. Some things change faster than others, but everything changes. Particularly markets.

So with that in mind, how has marketing changed? In the last 20 years, it has become necessary for any business that wants to grow to engage with audiences online. That means through social media as well as paid and organic search. But the key word there is “engage.”

Here’s a news flash: Pushing your message out to your followers, fans, and friends is not engagement.

Engagement means that you interact, and to interact with your audience you need a human face. Simply tweeting links to your corporate content under an account that bears your company name is not engagement. I offer you these 5 qualities that describe what a truly engaged social media personality has to offer:

  1. An engaging social media strategy is personable. That means it not only tries to interact with followers, but it involves a human trying to get to know its followers.
  2. It is not self-centered. In other words, you don’t just link to your own content, but you link to other content as well.
  3. The strategy seeks to be a resource of helpfulness. That is to say, the content you link to should hold value in your followers’ eyes, not merely your own.
  4. The personality behind the account is consistent. You cannot build trust among your followers if you are not there every day. Turning it on and off again will drive people away.
  5. You must be reliable. Your social media content must be so valuable to your fans and followers that they come to rely on it.

I’d consider these the five pillars of social media engagement. Do them well and you won’t be antisocial. Do them poorly and you most assuredly will be.

Internet businesses have become their own entity. Even if your online presence is an extension of your real world business, it would be wise to consider a separate business plan for your website. Here are 5 key things to think about before starting your Internet business.

  1. Branding – There is a lot that goes into branding a business. Even an online business. Should your domain name be keyword-based? Many branded online businesses aren’t (Google, Yahoo!, Bing, just to name a few). Nevertheless, it is important to think about how you will brand yourself online.
  2. Search engine marketing – This includes search engine optimization as well as your paid search options. How will you ensure your website receives its just deserts at the search engine table?
  3. Social media – You’ll have to think about incorporating social media into any new business you start online. That includes which social media websites you’ll use and how you’ll use them.
  4. Traffic conversion – Traffic conversion is more than simply driving traffic to your website, though it does include that. You must think about how you will drive traffic, what methods and techniques you’ll use to perform that function, including possibly video marketing techniques, and how you will convert that traffic once you get it to your website.
  5. Web design – Central to any Web business is your website design. In truth, all of the above considerations will be integrated into your website design. You might as well consider how each of the above initiatives will be included in your web design right from Day One.

Every business is unique. By the same token, every Web business is unique. You must consider each of these five initiatives for your business right from the start. Don’t settle for any cookie-cutter plans because your business is not a cookie.

Skype and Facebook are becoming more and more intimate every day. If you use both, or one or the other, then you should consider incorporating their integration into your business model. There are some very powerful ways to use them for your business.

First, the integration: Late last year, Skype announced that it would add Facebook’s news feed into Skype as well as include all of your Facebook friends’ into your Skype phonebook. Recently, however, Skype announced that you do not have to log in to Facebook separately to use certain features. You can interact with your Facebook friends through instant messaging with Skype, Like their comments, and comment on status updates – all through Skype.

If you can do all of that through Skype, then you can interact with customers, perform customer service functions, and even sell to your Facebook friends through Skype. It won’t be long before you’ll be able to make phone calls and hold video conferences on Facebook through Skype.

Here’s a tip: Add a Skype call button feature to your website. When you get questions for customer service, or questions about your product, from your Facebook friends, invite them to your website to call you through Skype where you’ll answer their questions directly in real time using voice and video. From there, it’s one small step to closing a sale.

If you have $185,000 laying around, you’ll be able to purchase your own top level domain name extension starting in 2013. ICANN will start accepting applications in January 2012.

While this looks like an opportunity for large corporations like ExxonMobil, Wal-Mart, Facebook, et. al., I can see an opportunity here for small businesses as well.

Let’s say you sell televisions in Port Arthur, Texas. And suppose Magnavox and RCA both have been approved for owning their own TLDs. I can see these companies selling domain names to their dealers for a fee, which would allow consumers to find information quickly about the brand names as well as know at a quick glance where they can go to purchase these brands locally.

It’s also a way for corporations to be able to have more control over their brand’s image. If the company owns its own TLD and is aggressive in protecting trademarks, they could effectively shut down any website not on their own TLD simply through a court order.

Brands that truly want to control information about them online could have a blog, a forum, several information websites, and a load of other domains at their own top level domain extension. The big question would be, How will those TLDs be treated by search engine algorithms?

Debra Mastaler lists several “new” linkbuilding methods, but it seems that these methods aren’t so new after all. In fact, if we run through the list, we’ll see some pretty common strains:

  1. Document sharing (used to be directory submissions)
  2. Retweet buttons
  3. FutureTweets (or scheduled tweets)
  4. Use tools to determine when your Twitter audience is most active and schedule your tweets and retweets for that time.
  5. Use Twitter Search to find hot topics (or Google Trends) and write about those topics on your blog, then retweet them during peak Twitter times for your audience.
  6. Grow your Twitter base.
  7. Use linkbait.
  8. Run your pages through Copyscape and request content thieves to link to you (and I’d add, if they don’t do so, ask them to remove your content).

Essentially, what Debra is suggesting that link builders do today is the same as what they’ve always done except that the tactics are updated for a social media world – particularly Twitter (isn’t that the same as saying that social media IS SEO?).

Here’s the bottom line: Keep building links, but you don’t have to abandon the old ways of doing it. Just update your methods to take into consideration current popular and trending social patterns. Let the search algorithms take care of the rest.

Everyone wants their product or service to receive good reviews. Unfortunately, bad reviews happen. How you perceive and respond to those bad reviews, however, can lead to positive results for your company or negative results. If you want to see the most positive results for your product or service reviews, try to refrain from attacking your reviewers after they have reviewed your product negatively.

James Redner could have used that advice recently.

Redner, a representative of The Redner Group PR firm, represented 2K, which is the creator of Duke Nukem Forever. After several reviewers gave the game a bad review, Redner lashed out on Twitter. He was later fired.

The outburst may have been justified, but it’s rarely a good idea to lash out against reviewers who give you a bad review. Instead, try to learn from their comments and move forward with providing your customers the best products and services available.

If you feel the need to respond to negative reviews, do so respectfully. Try to keep the following points in mind:

  • Instead of telling reviewers they are wrong, offer reasons why you think your product is a good product and invite users to respond on your blog.
  • Start a discussion about your product, not the review.
  • Try to keep the conversation going on your web properties, not elsewhere on the web (such as Facebook and Twitter).
  • Make your product or service the focus.
  • Ask your product users if they agree or disagree with the review. People trust users more than they trust reviewers.
  • Be thankful to all reviewers even if they give a bad review. They are, after all, giving you free publicity.
  • Keep your message positive.

If you use social media effectively and keep your comments focused on the benefits of your product or service instead of on bad reviews, then you can often turn a negative into a positive.

In social media terms, your signal-to-noise ratio is the amount of valuable content that you provide versus how much idle chatter you engage in. Is your noise level too high? If so, then you can increase your social reputation by lowering the noise and improving your signal-to-noise ratio.

The question for anyone interested in improving their signal-to-noise ratio is, How? How do you go about this?

It might seem like a no-brainer, but there are two ways to improve your signal-to-noise ratio. You can increase the amount of social media content you produce focusing on value; or you can focus your efforts instead on reducing the noise. But to do either, you must first be able to measure your signal to noise. How do you do that?

Panorama has a list of 100 social media monitoring tools, but most of them have to do with measuring what other people are saying about you. What you need is some measure of what you are saying through social media and how much of it is valuable. This will tell you whether your signal-to-noise ratio is high or low.

Klout is one social media monitoring service that measures your influence across Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the three largest social networks. But it does have its limitations. The first limitation is that your influence is measured on the basis of your interaction with your friends on those networks, but if your friends aren’t using Klout, then it won’t be accurate. You can invite your friends to join the service, which is free, and I recommend that you do.

But to truly measure your signal-to-noise ratio, look at how much influence you have on the social networks and compare it to the number of your followers who interact with you. Do you have 1,000 Twitter followers with only 15 of them who retweet your messages or respond to them? If so, it could be because the bulk of your followers don’t see value in your messages. What can you do to change that?

However you measure your signal-to-noise ratio, the important thing is that you increase your signal and decrease the noise. Are you doing that? How?

A hyperlocal news site decided to kill its website and focus only on its Facebook page. The owner/publisher shares his lessons learned.

What I find really interesting about what Brad Rourke had to say about his Facebook venture is in the very last paragraph. Specifically:

In closing, Sonderman asked Rourke how he would handle Facebook strategy if he worked for a mainstream news organization, and he replied, “I would look at it as a place rather than a source of eyeballs. I would have a Facebook bureau.”

In other words, just as a news agency would have a separate bureau for its satellite editions, it should consider a separate bureau for its Facebook edition. For instance, a Miami newspaper that also prints a great deal of news about Jacksonville might have a Jacksonville bureau, complete with its own editorial staff, graphic department, and ad sales team. Rourke is suggesting that news agencies adapt the same strategy to Facebook.

I think it’s a good idea, not only for news organizations but for businesses as well. What can you do to make your Facebook page stand out? How can you attract new business through your Facebook page? By making it an entity all its own.

This is a novel idea and one worth considering. Businesses should count the cost in terms of human capital and resources. If they can justify the expense, rather than try to drive traffic from Facebook to their website, maybe they should try to capitalize on the traffic they get in their Facebook bureau.

How do you use Twitter? Or, do you use it?

If you’re like most people, you’ve flocked to Twitter to see what the big fuss is about and you’re not quite sure how to use it. What is this thing called Twitter? There’s so much going on yet you haven’t quite figured out what to make of it, or how to use it.

Rest assured, there are as many ways to use Twitter as there are people using it. It’s a very flexible and versatile social media tool. That’s one of its strengths.

I know people, for instance, who simply use Twitter to listen in on what is being said in cyberspace. They use it for competitive intelligence. They also use it to hear what their customers are saying. They follow who they want to follow, then listen.

There are other people who just can’t seem to say enough. Any time something happens around the world, they have to tweet about it. They tweet their blog posts, they tweet the natural disasters, they tweet their grandma’s pea soup, they tweet other people’s blog posts, they tweet industry insider news, and the list goes on. Which way is the best way to use Twitter?

In truth, there is no best way to use Twitter. Most business owners and managers can benefit from using Twitter in a variety of ways, and that includes both listening and shouting. The key to effective Twittering is to figure out your strategy before you start, and to be consistent over time. But don’t be afraid to change your strategy midstream either.

Are you one the many webmasters trying to figure out how to bounce back after being slammed from the 2011 Google Panda update? You can beat it and it doesn’t take a great deal of effort.

The one thing that I keep hearing over and over again is that webmasters had pages with minimal content just disappear from the SERPs all of a sudden. No amount of link building will fix the Panda slide. You need content.

There are generally three types of content pages that were affected en masse from the Google Panda update:

  • Product Pages – These are pages with a picture of the product and a description. There are so many websites with an e-commerce system where the product pages contain one or two lines of description and that’s it. You need to do more to describe the product. Add more content and see what happens.
  • Review Pages – Product review pages generally contain a short description (if that) and a visible star rating or other system that allows visitors to vote on how well they like a product, movie, song lyrics, etc. Again, you need to add a fair level of content on that page to fix the problem.
  • Location Pages – These are pages that contain a location or directions to a store front. They have traditionally contained minimal content, but rather than simply host a map that is pulled in from Google Local, try adding some content with directions to your location from various known landmarks.

There are other types of pages that may have been affected by the Panda update. In most cases, if you just add a little bit of content, you can see your pages rise again.

When businesses go online to learn how to participate in Internet marketing campaigns that work, there is usually a lot to think about, a lot of new information to take in for those business owners and managers. The problem is how to process it all.

What I always suggest is to take it a little bite at a time. You can’t learn everything in one day. You can’t become a master of every art in your lifetime. Don’t even try.

The key is to start with the basics. Study a little bit about web design before you do anything else. What are the best practices for web design for businesses of your size and in your industry? Study the competition to see what they are doing that you like and that you don’t like. Then analyze what is effective.

Remember, you are only studying the basics at first. At some point, you have to rely on the advice of experts because you are nowhere near that status yourself.

After you have learned the basics of web design, move on to another topic such as search engine optimization or pay per click advertising. Again, take the time to learn the basics before moving on to something else.

It takes time to truly learn how to successfully manage an Internet marketing camnpaign. It’s not going to happen overnight. With the proper guide, your business can achieve a little success and move on to greater success – one step at a time.

One kernel of truth that every Internet marketer must keep in mind is that everything changes. E-commerce, in particular, is in a constant state of change. And according to WebProNews, Facebook is going to be a big part of the future of e-commerce. But how, exactly?

Well, author Chris Crum offers several ways that Facebook could lead us into the future of e-commerce.

I really like what he says about offline currency. He predicts that Facebook credits will become a kind of offline currency where purchasers will be able to use a credit card or a plastic pay scanner like a credit card to pay for purchases with their Facebook credits. That’s pretty nifty.

Another possibility, and a variation of this, is that mobile phone users will be able to sync up a Facebook payment app with an in-store app that allows them to pay electronically simply by transferring their Facebook payment data digitally through infrared, or possibly through a QR code-type of symbol.

There are all sorts of possibilities with this. E-commerce is definitely changing, and Internet marketers who are serious about doing business online will have to keep their eyes on their innovations that occur and take advantage of the most promising new methods of doing business in the cyber world. Are you there yet?

If you type “I don’t get” into the Google search field, the second topmost recommendation the search engine will give you is “I don’t get Twitter.” There must be a lot of people who don’t get Twitter in order for that search query to be the second most recommended by the search engine. Go ahead and click on the result and you’ll see 1.7 million search results for that query. Wow!

That could mean that something is broken with the social media website. If there are that many people not getting it, then perhaps something needs to change.

Seriously, though, I don’t really get why people don’t get it. It’s a social networking website where people follow people. Other people follow other people. And everyone following anyone can see all the “tweets”, or messages, that all the people they follow post. The problem is, your Twitter feed is updated in real time so if you follow 100 people and 50 of them post a message within 30 seconds of each other, then you’ll see all 50 messages run by like a ticker tape. What’s to get?

You can pretty much consider Twitter an opt-in/opt-out message forum, or newsreel. I think what makes it difficult for most people to get about Twitter is that none of the messages you read in your feed are related. They just seem random. I kind of see it as Facebook without the threaded comments or the game applications.

So here’s the question: What does Twitter need to do to make people “get it?” Or is Twitter just fine the way it is?