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Google has announced that Google Knol is going away. But not for good.

In actuality, they’re just changing form. But there may be more to it than simply a metamorphosis. It looks like a complete branding job and Google is getting out of the picture.

It appears that Annotum intends to keep the basic format of Knol while changing its platform to WordPress. But it’s unclear what else will change beyond that. Currently, Knol pages provide a link building benefit for authors – the few – who use them. But will Annotum continue that? Will Google place a higher priority on content published on Annotum? Those questions have yet to remain unanswered.

Furthermore, Annotum seems interested in targeting the scientific and scholarly communities, which is how Knol started out. But because Google didn’t put strict guidelines on the content, much of it became commercial. And that appeared to be by design. Some people suspect that Google encouraged commercial content. Whether they did or not is neither here nor there since the Knol domain will no longer be active after May 1, 2012.

Change is something Internet marketers have come to expect. And Google giving up on products not doing well is another. There’s no real surprise here. But if you have Knol pages, then you should either import them to Annotum or download them for other uses.

Aaron Wall is punching at Google again. This time he’s accusing the search giant of favoring big companies like Wal-Mart. At the expense of small companies. Here’s what he says specifically:

In the meantime, I expect Google to keep increasing search complexity such that it’s prohibitively expensive to make & market a small independent commercial website. That will force many smaller companies to live inside the Google ecosystem, with Google ranking the Google-hosted pages/products/locations for those companies, so that they can serve ads against them and get a bigger slice of the revenues.

In other words, small business owners will be forced to use Google-powered site hosting products because they won’t be able to afford to pay professional SEOs to do their optimization work. Meanwhile, big companies like Wal-Mart will be favored in the search engines unless small businesses use the Google-hosted sites, which will serve up ads and increase Google’s revenue at the small business owner’s expense.

Somehow, I don’t think that business model would work well for Google. What would happen when small business owners discover the game is rigged against them?

SEO is already plenty difficult for most small business owners. They either have to take the time to learn how to do it themselves, and most of them don’t have that kind of time, or they have to pay a professional anyway. Forcing small business owners into a corner doesn’t seem like a plan that would benefit Google.

Cyber Monday has been billed as the biggest shopping day of the season. But one pundit isn’t buying it.

Nevermind the myth-busting tone on that last one, does it really matter whether online merchants have “sold” consumers on the idea of shopping online on this particular day or if it truly indeed is the preferred day for shoppers? The fact is, last year, Cyber Monday was a record-setting day for online sales. And it looks like today could top that.

One reason could be that consumers are getting more comfortable shopping online. So what are you going to do about it?

If you are a brick-and-mortar retailer, then I’d say you need to start thinking about your own website, your own online store. Online sales will only go up from here. I don’t think we’ve even begun to see the scale of where online consumers will go. But if you aren’t online, then you can’t take part in the party. So get your website design plans underway.

It may be too late for this year, but there’s always next year. And the year after that. And then the year after that. Your plan now should be to grow along with the Internet. Don’t wait until you’re left on the outside looking in.

Internet marketing is an ever changing discipline. How to effectively market your business and manage your content today is nothing like it was ten years ago, or even five years ago. If you plan to do business online, then you’ve got to adapt to the changing landscape of online marketing. That means adjusting your aim and trying new things from time to time.

Social media has only been around a short while, but it’s undoubtedly the way to market your business online today. And I don’t mean in the usual way that most Internet marketers today think of as social media.

The big secret in this industry is that most Internet marketers are about five years behind the times. Yes, five years.

They’re still trying the hard sell. They’re still pretending like SEO is the holy grail of online marketing. And they’re still banking all their social media coin on social bookmarking. But that’s not what social media is all about.

What it is about is building relationships. It’s about attracting the type of person you want to do business with. Nothing more, nothing less.

When you employ a successful social media campaign, you’ll know in the gut that you’ve made the right connections. And many times that translates into positive SEO. But if that’s your end goal, then you’re doing it wrong.

It might be too late to make the announcement, but did you know that today is Small Business Saturday? You can learn a little bit more about it on the Small Business Saturday Facebook page.

The sponsors of this movement – American Express – are offering free in-store signage and e-marketing materials. Of course, today is the day so it might be too late to take advantage of some of these offers. But there’s always next year.

Meanwhile, the page was set up to help small businesses take advantage of holiday shopping. Other resources available through the page include:

  • Share An Offer – Which allows you to create an offer for your small business that shoppers can take advantage of.
  • Create A Facebook Page – Free.
  • Create A Video
  • Get Twitter Followers
  • Create A Buzz On LinkedIn – One of the best bets for small business owners.

You can also join the Small Business Saturday e-mail list and forum. That might be a good way to promote your business today, especially if you do any online marketing.

The event is sponsored by American Express. If you accept American Express, why not take advantage of Small Business Saturday. If not this year, then look for it next year.

There’s no doubt that SEO is a necessary component to your online marketing efforts. But what about branding? Is it necessary for online marketing? Which is more important?

Let’s take a look at the functions (purposes) for each of these efforts.

    Search engine optimization – The purpose for SEO is to get your content to rank in the search engines so that you can increase your website visitor traffic and convert it into sales. That’s obviously an important task, but if all you did was SEO in the way of marketing your content and your website, then you’d be woefully undershooting your target.

    Online branding – Online branding has a much wider reach. It can, and should, include SEO. But it should also include your social media initiatives and everything else you do – online and off line.

If you think of online branding as a part of overall reputation management strategy and your overall business strategy, then it is far more important than SEO, which is simply part of your overall marketing strategy. Granted, it’s an important part, but it’s not the only part worth considering.

In terms of online marketing, everything you do is a part of your branding effort. That includes SEO.

Last Christmas shopping season was a record-breaking season. In fact, Cyber Monday (November 29, 2010) was the biggest online shopping day in history topping $1 billion in sales. Are you ready for this year?

Whether or not we’ll surpass that landmark day in online sales this year is a big question, but it’s not out of the question. In fact, it’s quite possible.

Online sales have increased year over year for the past three or four years. The trend is developing. More and more people are getting comfortable shopping online and the Christmas season is the time when they are most likely to break down and whip out their credit cards. Online merchants should be ready. And if you’re not ready by now, you’re not likely to be ready.

What’s it take to succeed in online commerce? You have to have a website ready to take orders. That means you need an attractive web design with clear and easy navigation and a safe and secure payment system. The No. 1 factor in whether online shoppers are willing to buy from you or not is whether you build trust. If they don’t trust you, they won’t buy from you.

Cyber Monday is just around the corner. Are you ready? Let the shopping begin.

According to a recent survey, Facebook is the most effective social media website. Surprised?

A look at the numbers is really telling:

Very Effective:

  • Facebook = 36%
  • Twitter = 14%
  • Video sharing = 14%
  • LinkedIn = 10%
  • Review sites = 7%
  • Google+ = 5%
  • Local/daily deals = 5%
  • MySpace = 1%

Moderately effective:

  • Facebook = 47%
  • Twitter = 32%
  • Video sharing = 23%
  • LinkedIn = 24%
  • Review sites = 12%
  • Google+ = 7%
  • Local/daily deals = 6%
  • MySpace = 2%

Don’t use the site:

  • Facebook = 4%
  • Twitter = 24%
  • Video sharing = 47%
  • LinkedIn = 38%
  • Review sites = 65%
  • Google+ = 70%
  • Local/daily deals = 76%
  • MySpace = 81%

I don’t think anyone is surprised that more than 80% of small businesses aren’t using MySpace. What is surprising is that 76% of small businesses aren’t using the local and daily deals websites. Or that 65% aren’t using review sites.

While it’s easy to say that Facebook is effective for the small businesses that are using it, it’s really difficult to compare it to sites they aren’t using. Can we really compare?

Who’s to say that review sites and local deals sites wouldn’t be more effective if more businesses didn’t use them?

The question on everyone’s mind is whether or not there is a social media site poised to give Facebook a run for its money. Right now it seems that Google+ might have the mojo, but getting small business owners to try it seems to be the challenge.

If you are a small business owner and you’re ready for social media, are you going to try Facebook? Do you see an alternative?

One of the Web’s best tools for search marketers has seen its final days. Yahoo! Site Explorer is officially dead.

Yahoo! Site Explorer was the only free place on the Web that offered webmasters an opportunity to see what sites were linking to them and which websites were linking to their competitors. Just about every webmaster on the planet has used it and most used it on a regular basis. Even search marketers who cheered when Yahoo! got out of the search engine business have at one time sang the praises of Yahoo! Site Explorer.

Now that Yahoo! Site Explorer has died, webmasters have only one way to get link popularity information that is actionable intelligence.

You can sign up for Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools – and you should – but you won’t get the same level of information on links from either one of those sources. Neither Google nor Bing shares information on what links they are counting as good links any more. So the link popularity metric is all but dead unless you can get it from a paid source.

All webmasters should thank Yahoo! Site Explorer for being of service while it was alive.

Not very many people think of performing SEO on PDF files. After all, they’re not web pages.

Ahh, but they are crawlable. And that means you should make an attempt to perform best search engine optimization practices on them.

Here are a few tips to help you SEO your PDF files better.

  • First, break large PDF files into smaller documents. If you have a small e-book of 150 pages with 10 chapters of 10-13 pages each, then break each chapter down into its own document. Tag each document with relevant keywords.
  • Make sure the PDF is text-based. Search engines like text and crawl text. Be sure to fill out the author, document title, description, file size, and modification date fields.
  • Make your links within the document easy to find for the search engines. Don’t bury them. And use anchor text and good title attributes for those links as well.
  • Make sure the search engines can read the PDF file format version number.
  • Just as you would for a web page, make sure the PDF document reads logically. There must be a logical flow of information so that the search engines can more easily ascertain what the document is about and index it accordingly.
  • Finally, ensure links from your web pages to your PDF document use the proper anchor text and title attribution. Those links are vitally important.

Performing SEO on a PDF document is largely the same as performing SEO on a web page with a few subtle differences.

Are you familiar with the term “long tail” in relation to SEO and website optimization? If not, here’s the lowdown.

Think of a many-headed hydra. In Greek legend, the hydra was a monster with nine heads. Those heads were quite dangerous. If one got you, it hurt. And of course, if you cut one off, then another one grew to replace it. The Greek hero Hercules had to fight a hydra one time – you know, mythologically speaking.

Many search engine optimizers approach SEO like they are fighting a hydra. They focus on the head. But if you focus on the head, even if you defeat one (that is, manage to take over its search engine ranking), there are two more ready to sprout up in place and challenge you to work harder. This type of SEO is very difficult to beat. You can go after the most popular search phrases and risk fighting more and more powerful and dangerous heads (competitors) or wise up and go for the long tail instead.

The long tail in SEO are the less popular phrases that can be just as powerful yet easier to defeat. That hydra had a tail. It was long. And it could sweep around and knock you off your feet. But if you managed to cut it off, nothing grew in its place.

Long tail keywords are like that hydra tail. They’re easier to defeat even as powerful as they are. Knock your competition off the pedestal and there aren’t as many competitors there to try and replace them. It’s easier to win.

Define “more effective.”

Article marketing has been around a long time. At one time it was the preferred link building method of savvy online marketers. Then social media came along.

Social media has never really been about building links, per se. It was about making connections, but it had the side benefit of helping you build great links – if you did it right. And article marketing could lead to great connections that increased your bottom line.

So which one is more effective?

If you’re talking about sheer marketing power, I’d have to say article marketing. Only, today we do it differently.

If you write great articles and get them published on high traffic websites with a lot of authority, not only can you build great inbound links for your website, but you can also drive loads of targeted traffic to your website. The key is to target the right venues for your articles. And if you do that right, those articles will be online for years allowing you to reap the benefits of article marketing for a long time.

Social media has its benefits too. Reputation management, authority, relationships. But you have to keep your marketing in perspective. What works best for you?

Should you host your video on your own website or should you host it on video sharing sites like YouTube?

Answer: It depends on your video marketing strategy.

There are times when you might want to host your video on the video sharing websites. If your intent is to submit the videos for promotional purposes and drive traffic back to your website, then that is a legitimate marketing practice. If the video isn’t going to be viewed on your website at all, then it’s certainly viable to host them offsite.

I won’t say that you should NEVER host your video elsewhere and embed it on your site, but it’s not a practice that we generally agree with. If you want to use the video for marketing and traffic generation purposes BUT you also want to feature it on your blog, then you might host your video on YouTube. However,

if your intent is to feature your video on your own website rather than use it to promote your website, then you should host it on your server and on your own website. Don’t host it at YouTube.

When it comes to creative marketing – like video marketing – there rarely are hard-and-fast rules. Just do what makes sense.

You cannot manage a website without traffic. It is the lifeblood of any online business. So how do you drive traffic to your website? How do you ensure that your website is profitable when you are building your business?

Here are 5 incredible sources for website traffic no matter what kind of business you are running online:

  1. Search Engines – Search engines are still the No. 1 driver of traffic to most websites online today. That’s why we always recommend that you dedicate a portion of your online marketing budget to search engine optimization.
  2. Pay Per Click Advertising – PPC ads are immediate. You can start a campaign today and see business results today. Yes, you pay for the clicks. But if you do it right, it will be profitable. And the results are instant.
  3. Newsletter - An e-mail newsletter is one of the most profitable investments you can make. After more than 20 years, it’s still one of the most effective online marketing tools. You can take e-mail subscriptions right from your website and deliver your newsletter electronically more cost efficiently than any other kind of online marketing.
  4. Videos – Online video marketing is just as effective as TV advertising and much more cost effective.
  5. Social Media Marketing - The best thing about social media is it allows you to build relationships off site, then you can drive that traffic to your website for the close.

Use these five online marketing strategies together for incredible traffic generation results.

Phone call tracking is one of the useful metrics for companies who want, and need, a phone number on their website. You’ve spent a lot of money on that website. Wouldn’t you like to know if it’s working for you?

With phone call tracking, you can track your incoming phone calls no matter where they come from. You’ll never miss another phone call. You can block the calls you don’t want to get. And you can calculate your ROI, record your phone calls, and track local as well as international calls. All at no additional cost to you.

Never wonder how effective your Internet marketing campaign was ever again. Whether you want to implement a PPC campaign, a social media campaign, or a video marketing campaign, you can track your incoming phone calls.

Inbound call tracking allows you to measure the results of your Internet marketing campaigns and determine if they are successful or not. If your marketing efforts succeed, then you can re-run them another time. Or learn from your mistakes.

Try inbound phone call tracking today. Use an 800 number and measure your total ROI so that your online marketing efforts can be more effective.

Fresh unique content on a regular basis is probably more necessary now than it ever has been. If you haven’t learned about Google Fresh yet, you should read up on it.

Due to the Google Fresh update, it is likely that your static content will fall in the SERPs if you do not have a strategy for updating your website on a regular basis. That means coming up with ways to keep your content fresh and interesting.

Here are five ways to do that:

  1. Add a blog to your website and update it daily.
  2. Start a forum on your website and appoint someone to be the moderator.
  3. Write and publish periodic press releases.
  4. Build a community around your brand by allowing user-generated content on blogs, forums, and other UGC community assets.
  5. Post often to social media.

Maintaining a constant presence in the search engines ensures that Google does not forget about. It also ensures that your audience doesn’t forget you. Your website will grow all the more if you continue to update it with fresh, unique content that is deemed valuable by your community.

This is why community-oriented and news sites tend to do better in the search engines. Don’t just build web pages then forget about them.

SEO is a science/art that changes over time. Strategies that worked ten years ago may be employed differently if you want to see the same results. Article marketing is one SEO tactic that is still useful, but successful Internet marketers aren’t doing it the same way they used to.

Let’s be clear about what is the purpose of article marketing. It’s actually three purposes.

  1. Link building - Yes, article marketing can help you build inbound links to your websites, but it’s just one reason you write articles and seek publication on other websites.
  2. Reputation building – Articles are also great for building your reputation as an authority in your niche.
  3. Pre-selling – If you write your articles the right way, your prospects will be pre-sold. That is, they’ll almost be ready to buy when they land on your website.

Ultimately, you want to drive new traffic to your website. That’s why you write and publish articles. So why not go to high traffic publishers with a high authority rating? Three such websites are listed below.

    Knol – Google Knol pages are great because you can put your links right in the article.
    HubPages – Build knowledge hubs where each article focuses on a specific topic within your niche.
    Squidoo – Created by Seth Godin, Squidoo allows you to build lenses around specific topics where each lens consist of multiple articles that link back to other places on the web.

All three of these high PageRank websites are great traffic generators and awesome link building tools. They’re perfect for article marketing.

We’re continuing to deliver the latest news on Google+ developments and here’s another reason you should join the service. If you are a PPC advertiser on Google’s AdWords platform, then you can see social annotations if you turn them on.

I believe social annotations are going to become a key metric for a lot of online marketers. They could very well be a major part of your PPC campaigns going forward, and it’s real easy to see why.

Dan Friedman of Google’s Inside AdWords Crew says that 71% of shoppers online make decisions based on the recommendations of their friends and family. If that’s true, then you give your fans every opportunity to +1 your content, PPC ads included. When a searcher calls up a search results page and sees that their friends have +1ed your ads, they’ll either +1 it themselves or click on the link. It could increase the effectiveness of your advertising.

At the very least, you’ll have a key metric to judge the effectiveness of your advertising. Getting tons of +1s? Then you’re making an impact. Getting +1s but no click-throughs? You can evaluate the reasons why. Getting +1s and click-throughs but no conversions? Check your landing page.

Social annotations are here. Now it’s time to try them.

The latest development in the Google+ saga is that the search engine is telling searchers how many +1s a particular search result has in their local area. That’s pretty awesome.

The question is, How can this benefit your business?

I look at it as like a metric. It’s nice to know how many +1s your content is getting around the world. For instance, let’s say you write a blog post and within 30 days you discover that it has 200 +1s. But what if you found out that 125 of those +1s were local to you? That would be a useful metric, right?

I think it would certainly be a useful metric if your business is a local business. It can tell you how effective you are at reaching your audience and that’s always good knowledge.

Another thing Google is telling searchers is who shared a particular page of content through Blogger. This could potentially make Blogger a much more valuable piece of real estate for SEO purposes, and for social media marketing purposes.

If Google keeps making these kinds of changes to its SERPs, then Google+ could become a much more valuable social media outlet than people are currently giving it credit for. This is worth keeping an eye on.

It’s just been about three days since Google rolled out business pages for Google+. Already, some people aren’t happy.

It’s not that people don’t have legitimate beefs. They do. Google+ can certainly improve. In fact, many users agree on the top 10 things they’d like to see on Google+.

But let’s get real. Google+ will improve.

I don’t remember a time in its history when Google didn’t make an attempt to continuously improve a product or service it introduced to the public. They may not have succeeded, but they tried. The company has a long list of failures, particularly in the social media realm. But they always try to improve what they’ve made available to users. That’s the way Google operates.

I for one believe that Google+ will improve. Business page for Google+ will improve. There’s no reason to go crying that we haven’t arrived just yet. Perfection is a nebulous goal.

The big question that every business should be asking right now is, Do I need a Google+ account or a Google+ business page right now? I think it’s safe to say that you will likely want one at some time. When you jump on the Google+ bandwagon is up to you and your staff. But now is the time you should start discussing it.