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Online, visual information is powerful. Images, they’re very powerful. Videos are even more powerful. But infographics may be the most powerful images of all.

Infographics rely on two things – both powerful in themselves.

  1. Information
  2. Graphics

An infographic is simply a set of facts – or information – packaged visually. The information is cast as an image, or graphic, so that it is easy to consume, doesn’t take a lot of time to analyze, and provides a visual look at a load of information that might be more difficult and detailed to analyze in simple text form.

The downside to infographics is that they are difficult to SEO. Because they are an image rather than text, you have to treat them like an image for the search engines. The upside, however, is that a powerful infographic can attract a huge amount of links, which is outstanding SEO. You can actually use an infographic as link bait and improve the overall SEO of your website.

You should also include an alt tag for your infographic to give it that image SEO quality you desire.

Once your visitor shows up to your site to see the work you’ve put into the powerful visual presentation of your information, you should get them to share it with their friends by providing social sharing buttons. That can be additional SEO and a huge source of traffic.

Many small business owners are beginning to see the value in Facebook ads. There are plenty of reasons why Facebook ads can be better for marketing your small business than PPC. One reason is because of the better features for targeted marketing. You can actually narrow your Facebook ads down to more focused targeting.

You can also get creative with your Facebook ad targeting. Much more creative than with traditional PPC.

Here are five tips for making the most of your Facebook advertising, as shared by this article.

  1. Set your goals and plan. You won’t be very effective, with Facebook ads or PPC, if you don’t know what you want to achieve.
  2. Use creative targeting tactics. One example is to use your Facebook ad to say “Happy Birthday” to prospects a few days before their birthday. Try that with PPC!
  3. Choose text and graphics that compliment each other. This is very important and could increase your click-throughs tremendously.
  4. Create and test multiple ads. Instead of just creating one ad and going with it, do some multivariate testing with more than one ad.
  5. Be ready to receive the traffic. Make sure your Facebook page is updated and ready to handle the traffic you’ll get from your ads.

Facebook ads are a relatively new opportunity in PPC. Make them work for you.

One of the most powerful competitive intelligence tools in your arsenal is Facebook. There are plenty of ways to use Facebook, but you should know that because it is the most trafficked website online nearly every business in the world is trying to get there to get their slice of the marketing pie. So there are plenty of opportunities to spy on them.

Here are three ways to make the most of your competition’s marketing efforts on Facebook:

  1. Join their Facebook page – Many businesses spend all of their Facebook time managing their page and marketing through their page. If your competition has a Facebook page, join it. Check it often for updates and subscribe to their Networked blog if they have one.
  2. Sign for their app – Many businesses are developing their own Facebook apps. You should use those apps because they can be a clue as to what your competition might be considering next. Many apps tools later become marketplace offerings.
  3. Executive profiles – If you can get the names of your competition’s top executives, look to see if they have profiles. If so, send them a friend request. If necessary, send a friend request from a fake account or have your sister’s cousin do it instead. Be sneaky, but legal.

Competitive intelligence is alive and well, even on Facebook. Embrace it.

Google has spent the better part of 2011 clamping down on bad content. Not “bad” as in dirty or pornographic. Rather, “bad” as in not high quality.

In case you’re wondering, that’s what the infamous Google Panda was all about. It’s got everyone talking.

It’s also got everyone thinking. As well it should.

The most important thing to keep in mind is not that your content needs to be long. You might come away with that impression if you just looked at the surface of the Panda updates. What you should do, however, is look under the hood. Quality content is the name of the game.

So what is meant by “quality?” The truth is, quality is in eye of the beholder. And lest you think that in all cases Google is the beholder, think again. You should not be writing your content for the search engines, or for a search engine. Instead, write your content for your human readers. Quality is whatever your website visitors make it. Quality is what they want.

How do you do that?

For starters, ask yourself this question: “What do my website’s human readers want? What do they really want?”

Then, give it to them.

Quality isn’t about some search engine algorithm. It’s about delivering on a promise – the promise to feed your website visitors with the very best content in your niche. Do that and the search engines will be happy.

Which is the best kind of online marketing for small businesses? Blogs? E-mail marketing? Social media?

The answer is as proverbial as the question. It depends. All three have their place and each is very effective when accompanied by the other two. That’s why we typically recommend a mixed bag of tricks.

Blog Marketing – Blogging is good for SEO, branding, and social media injection. If you use your blog effectively, you’ll gain search engine traffic, drive new traffic to your important landing pages, and develop a conversation around your brand.

E-mail Marketing – E-mail marketing is the perfect tool for keeping your audience in the loop. It can drive steady traffic to your landing pages and prepare your audience for closing the sale. Dollar for dollar, it’s the most effective marketing for most businesses.

Social Media Marketing – With social media, you can drive traffic to your website, build relationships, grow your brand, and keep your audience engaged.

Rarely is it a question of either/or. For most businesses, a combination of the above tactics is best. You can make your blog, e-mail blasts, and social media work together for the good of your business and your customers. Build your strategy around your business goals, then take action through the various tactics at your disposal.

I have no doubt you’ve likely heard of Twitter, but have you heard Paper.li?

Paper.li allows anyone to become an instant publisher by creating a daily newspaper that republishes tweets based on the publisher’s preference. When you establish a newspaper on Paper.li, you choose a set of keywords and triggers that Paper.li uses to find information to publish in your daily newspaper. Then, when each issue is published, it tweets your newspaper with @mentions of all the news spotters who have contributed to your edition. It’s an awesome social curation tool.

Social curation is something new. It essentially means that you “curate,” or compile, content from the Internet inside of a social media platform. Paper.li is the perfect example.

You can benefit from Paper.li without being a publisher. All you have to do is continue tweeting interesting links and Paper.li publishers will pick those up and run them in their newspapers. How does that benefit you? A lot.

As a news spotter, you get an instant profile on Paper.li. No need to even sign up for an account. Your profile lists all the stories that you find and tweet which get picked up by Paper.li publishers. Through that, you can gain new Twitter followers and even more readers to your blog. From that, you hope more business.

With Paper.li and Twitter you have the potential to create all the social buzz you can handle.

The rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers had a popular song a while back titled “Give It Away.” The popular lyrical refrain went like this:

Give it away
Give it away
Give it away, now

If you’ve heard the song, then you know the melody.

The philosophy behind the lyrics was one of altruism. If you have something of value, give it away. Your efforts will come back to reward you. It’s a timeless principle that is at the heart of more than one religion. And it’s also an important principle for Internet marketers.

“Free” has become a sort of currency online. Many Internet marketers have gone on to great success giving away their precious gems for free. And you can do it too.

When you decide to use the power of “free” to your advantage, take something you’ve produced – something of value – and give it away for free. Ask for nothing in return. Except one thing. An e-mail address.

This works wonders and leads to great things. The thing you give away for free has to be truly valuable – at least in the eyes of the recipient. When your freebie has value, the recipient will be more than happy to share their contact information. You can then use that for marketing purposes well into the future. Try it, you’ll see the reward I’m sure.

You want to find out what the competition is up to, right? Is a press release a good tool for that? Absolutely!

Of course, there’s not a lot of information you can get from a press release. You already know the name of the company and you probably know their address and contact information. But the one really important piece of information you can gain from a press release is what the company has been up to lately. That’s important news.

Chances are, you won’t know about new developments until they go public. That’s when press releases are written. But the press release can give you some insight into a company’s thinking about a new development.

What you want to do with the press release is drop it into your clipping file. You should have one of these for every competitor you do research on. Anything related to that competitor goes into the clipping file. News stories, press releases, D&B information, stock market reports, brochures and annual reports, and anything else that gives you insight into the company’s operations. As new developments roll out, have someone be responsible for doing the research and collecting the information.

Competitive intelligence is a cost of business you can’t ignore. If you do, you’ll fall behind.

You might get the impression, if you spend a lot of time watching the news, that because newspapers are dying off and the whole world is going online then press releases are a thing of the past. That would be wildly inaccurate. Press releases are, in fact, more important today then ever.

Rather than limit themselves to sending out press releases to local news organizations, many public relations professionals today simply submit their press releases to press release distribution outlets online.

This might be done in addition to sending press releases to pet news and media professionals at the local level or in one’s niche.

Since press release distribution is typically done online these days, it behooves a public relations professional to make sure the press release is optimized. You can’t rely on news professionals to search the press release directories to find your press release. You also want to optimize them for search engine traffic.

One reason why you want your press release optimized is because your audience doesn’t merely consist of media professionals. Anyone searching for information online can find your press release if you have optimized it correctly. And, in truth, that’s the way you want it to be.

If you share your links on Facebook in hopes that you’ll drive more traffic to your website or blog, you might think more about StumbleUpon for that purpose. On the other hand, maybe not.

This is a rather lame analysis on the differences between Facebook and StumbleUpon, but Cynthia Boris is right on one point, at least. Facebook was not designed to be a link sharing site – StumbleUpon was. So what’s that got to do with the price of tea in China?

Look at this like this. These numbers represent an aggregate of users. StumbleUpon now drives 50% of social media traffic referral in the U.S. while Facebook dipped down below 42%. Guess what? Search engine traffic is still up around 60% of website referrals. When seen in that light, both StumbleUpon and Facebook pale in comparison.

Still, let’s get back to StumbleUpon and Facebook. SU has been a heavy driver of traffic for years. But most Internet marketers know that traffic doesn’t convert well. Facebook is better for branding. Plus, because of its social networking features, the ability to build brandable pages, and Facebook’s app development features, the largest social media website on the planet is much, much better for small business branding.

Besides that, you’ll have to do your own comparisons for your own website. Many website owners can use StumbleUpon very effectively. Others find great success with Facebook. Aggregate totals say nothing about your ability to leverage any particular social media website.

There’s nothing wrong with StumbleUpon touting its success. And there’s nothing wrong with being a little critical of it too. StumbleUpon is a good source of traffic if you keep in mind what it’s good for.

Many small business owners spend so much time worried about web design concerns they often forget about the importance of web hosting. That’s a fatal mistake and it could cost you.

It’s not that web design isn’t important. It’s very important, but let’s draw an analogy. Should you design a nice big and beautiful house and start building it before you’ve bought the real estate to put it on? What if you design a house that requires a half acre lot, but you’ve bought a 1/4-acre lot instead? See the problem?

With web design, your problems can often be just as bad. Design your website and choose the wrong hosting for it and it can hurt you in the long run. You could have frequent service outings that take your website off line for periods of time and frustrate your customers. Or you could see your website getting hacked often because of lax security. All because you chose the wrong hosting company and the wrong hosting service.

When you are in the planning stage of your website, consult your web design company for their recommendations on web hosts. You could save yourself a lot of headache down the road by picking the right hosting company to begin with.

What is the most effective kind of marketing? Permission marketing. You know why? Let’s count the ways.

  1. Permission-based marketing is opt in. It isn’t interruption marketing. Because you have permission from your recipients to contact them, you are marketing to a warm list. That’s always better than going in cold.
  2. With permission-based marketing you have higher response rates. That translates into more revenue for you.
  3. It is less expensive. Look at e-mail marketing. You can send out an e-mail blast to a hot list of 10,000 recipients for the same price that you’d send out to 1,000 recipients.
  4. Permission-based e-mail marketing can be executed in conjunction with other types of marketing to increase its effectiveness. Drive traffic to your website with its powerful design features or get people involved in your nichesocial media site. Send people to your cool new video and close them on the sale.
  5. Permission-based marketing is more flexible. You can do it through e-mail, Twitter, Google or Yahoo! groups, Facebook apps, your YouTube channel, or any combination thereof. And you can combine your efforts with other forms of marketing to increase your overall effectiveness.

The most effective marketers today are using permission-based marketing channels. You should be too.

You know those social games where people answer questions about you? Here are some of the questions that are frequently asked of gamers, who answer them about their social media friends:

  • Do you think So-and-So is cute?
  • Do you think So-and-So ever lied in a job interview?
  • Would you like to go on a date with So-and-So?
  • Do you think So-and-So would steal from their employer?
  • Would So-and-So make a good boss?
  • Would you like to see So-and-So dance like Michael Jackson for money?

These are actual questions of a Facebook app called Get Revealed. They’re fun questions to answer about your friends and it can be fun to see what your friends think about you. But should you, or is it just a silly time killer?

Many business people would say it’s a time killer, but there is one reason why you might want to do it. Your friends are typically people you know, but you may not be doing business with them. By playing the game with them, you could be opening yourself up in a new way, allowing them to gain some insight into the true you. That could lead to a deeper relationship and finally a business relationship.

One thing is for certain, though. If you don’t play the game, you’ll get nothing.

While we are proponents of Internet marketing – pay per click advertising, social media, search engine marketing, video marketing, etc. – we still believe that there are traditional marketing tactics that still work. The question isn’t whether or not you should be using traditional marketing, but which traditional marketing tactics you should be using.

When it comes to looking up phone numbers and addresses, many people today will go online before consulting the traditional Yellow Pages. And a website, of course, is a wonderful thing to have for lots of reasons.

Traditional marketing collateral like business cards, brochures, billboards, and radio and television advertising are still very effective in reaching the right market. But often, the most effective off line marketers are marrying these tactics up with successful online marketing campaigns that include but not limited to

  • PPC advertising
  • Website development
  • Video marketing
  • E-mail marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • and social media marketing

When you combine effective traditional marketing efforts with effective Internet marketing, you increase your own branding and marketing power exponentially.

Many TV advertisers, for instance, plug their websites and social media profiles in the ad. You can do the same in your radio spots and other offline marketing materials.

Don’t give up on traditional marketing just yet. Just add it to your online marketing efforts for greater effectiveness.

One question that often arises when a company decides to build a new website is, Should we include an online media kit or an About Us page? It’s a good question and a distinction should be made between the two.

The About Us page is typically a page that describes your business in such a way that potential customers can analyze and determine the benefit of doing business with you. It’s written for potential customers.

By contrast, an online media kit is written for journalists, reporters, and media organizations. Its purpose is to give the media professional some background on you and your company and to serve as a source of information for their initial background questioning. If you are on the lookout for publicity, then any media professional will be interested in calling you and asking specific questions about you, your background, and your qualifications. The purpose is to establish you as an expert in your niche.

Your online media kit should answer those questions so that you don’t spend too much time on the phone with media professionals answering questions that they should already know the answers to.

So, should you have a media kit or an About Us page? For many businesses, it would better serve your web design needs to have both.

How do you promote your blog? Do you do it effectively? Do you do it at all?

Of course, there are more than one way to catch a tiger. What works for one business may not work for another. Typically, however, a business can benefit from a multi-pronged approach to promoting their blog. If you are looking for ways to promote your business blog, try these 5 methods.

  1. Really Simple Syndication – RSS feeds. Every blog should have one. When a subscriber clicks the orange RSS icon, they will subscribe to title=”blog design”>your blog and receive a notice in their news reader every time you update your blog.
  2. Subscribe By E-mail – Some people just haven’t figured out RSS yet. Include a Subscribe By E-mail button for those readers.
  3. Blog Promotion Newsletter – Similar to Subscribe By E-mail, you can send out a weekly or monthly blog promotion newsletter to drive steady traffic to your blog. Your subscribers will look forward to getting your newsletter every month and revisit your blog.
  4. Social Media Marketing – Promote your blog through Google+, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and the many other bookmarking services online. Use social media effectively.
  5. Video Marketing – Upload a new video once a week to your YouTube channel. This will drive new traffic to your website and blog on a regular basis.

Use these 5 methods to promote your blog and you will see your traffic climb steadily.

Is your business slow? What do you do to drum up new business in your down times? When the market slows down and you have a deficit in customer relations, do you get proactive? Do you spend money? Here are five ways to turn your slow business into a thriving business during any economic circumstances.

  1. Build a new website. There’s nothing that says you should stick with one website. If you have a business with clearly defined multiple markets, title=”build a new website”>build a website for each market. When your business slows down is a good time to start planning for the next wave or upsurge. Put your extra time into something productive.
  2. Initiate a PPC campaign. Many small business owners cut back on the marketing budget when business is slow. That’s when you should step up your marketing efforts. PPC is the perfect vehicle since you don’t pay for a click until after you receive it.
  3. Make a video. Since you have some free time on your hands, why not create a video. You can put it on your website or distribute it through YouTube and other video marketing channels.
  4. Connect with a new audience. Social media engagement can be time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. In truth, you should be engaged through social media even when your business isn’t slow, but what better time to get engaged than when things slow down?
  5. Refine your SEO. You can always find a way to improve your search engine rankings. Prowl your website for new SEO opportunities, and take them.

Instead of fretting about your business being slow, take action. Find new opportunities to connect to old customers or go out and find new ones.

Social signals are becoming more and more important in search, and I mean beyond Google simply counting and weighing the importance, relevance, and authority of links.

For instance, if you are logged into Facebook, you can go to Bing and see what your Facebook friends like. On YouTube, or anywhere.

Google, in an attempt to face off with Bing, created its own social network called Google+. When you conduct a Google search, beside each search result you’ll see a +1 button. If you +1 an item and you set your preferences on Google+ just right, then your friends will be able to see what you plussed on your Google+ profile page, and you they.

But Google takes it another step further than that even. On the search results page, you can see what items your friends have shared on Google+ and you can see other items they have shared on any social network – including Facebook.

Are these social signals exhaustive? Not by any means. In fact, they are just the beginning.

Social search is in its infant stage. I believe social signals in search will become much more important and we are only getting started. It will be exciting to see where the search engines of the future will take us. I can hardly wait to get there.

Every now and then I run into a new copywriter or a business owner/blogger who thinks it’s OK to copy/paste content from another website or blog. You’ll hear all kinds of excuses about why they thought it was OK to steal someone else’s work, but it’s not.

You might hear the question, “Is website content copyrighted?” Yes it is.

The website may or may not contain a copyright notice. If it does not, that doesn’t mean that the content isn’t copyrighted. It just means that the owner of the content chose not to put the copyright notice on the site. It isn’t legally required.

If you do see a copyright notice (it usually appears in the footer) along with a statement like “All Rights Reserved” or something similar, then it should tell you that the person who owns that website intends to enforce their rights. If you copy/paste their information, then you are likely in for a lawsuit. That includes photos and images.

It is best to never let yourself get into the habit copying and pasting information from other sources. If you do so, you should credit those sources. Always provide a link back. Even then, use discretion about what it is you are borrowing. You can’t just lift the content, link to the source, and be on your way. Fair use laws generally allow for additional commentary on your part, but the test is you have to provide some kind of added value.

Be careful when you write your own blogs and website content. Don’t plagiarize, don’t borrow content, and don’t copy/paste.

This blog post is not intended to be legal advice. Consult an attorney before making legal decisions.

Google+ has been getting a lot of attention lately. After breaking a growth record of 25 million visitors in its first month, some Internet marketers are speculating that it could siphon traffic away from Twitter and/or Facebook. But will it?

I suppose anything is possible. Maybe Google Plus’s privacy features will take some of Facebook’s traffic away, but I doubt that it will have a huge impact. Maybe its commenting and interactive features will lure people away from Twitter, but I doubt it will do much of that either. There are reasons to see Google+ as just another social media site to add to your current stream of meeting places.

But then you have to ask the question, How much time do I really have for social media? Can you manage a Facebook profile, several Facebook pages, a Twitter account, LinkedIn, and Goolge+? That’s a lot of media.

The best question for any social media site is “Where is my audience hanging out?” Answer that and you’ll be able to see where you should hang out too.

Google+ has a lot of value. I think its uses will grow and transform. And I think it will attract a lot of users. But I don’t think it will replace what we’ve already been using. But that’s just me.