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Social networking has become so important today that you’ll hardly find an Internet marketer not doing it. If you do, they probably aren’t very effective. But you can get a leg up on your competition by spending some time doing a little social networking. To do it correctly, it’s important to identify the right type of social network for your need.

Here are 5 types of social networks you might consider for your online marketing needs:

  1. Plain Old Vanilla – If you haven’t heard of Facebook, then you probably live under a rock. It’s not the only plain old vanilla social network online, but it is the most popular.
  2. Social Bookmarking – These sites, like Delicious.com and countless others, allow you to save a link with a summary of your favorite web pages.
  3. Question & Answer – Getting more and more popular every day, sites like Quora and Yahoo! Answers allow users to log on, ask a question, and get an answer from the crowd. Sometimes you’ll get several answers that you can choose from. And the community can often vote on the best answers.
  4. Video Sharing – These sites – sites like YouTube and Vimeo – allow users to upload videos that others can view online. And you can use them to drive traffic back to your website.
  5. Blogging Communities – Blogging has become the trend of the decade. So why not join a blogging community. There’s one for women called BlogHer and then there are more generalized communities like LiveJournal. They are places for bloggers to meet, share their ideas, and network over conversations.

There are plenty other types of social networks as well. Pick the type that best suits your needs and jump right in.

I’m surprised at the number of business owners who will go out of their way to jeopardize their reputations all for the sake of getting a few notches higher in the search engine rankings. Many webmasters will spend a couple of hundred dollars a month to buy links, then when Google slaps them down they wonder what happened.

What happened is they didn’t respect their own reputation.

Google Panda is the latest major update to get a lot of webmasters. Many of them thought they were following Google’s guidelines, but they failed to understand the real purpose of the guidelines. They went about their link building practices as if following the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of it. Namely, that searchers (and search engines) are looking for natural patterns.

Don’t ever forget that the search engines just want your content to appear naturally – to searchers and to their robots.

Reputation is very important. Spam is more than just getting cross with the search engine guidelines. It’s anything that a normal user of the Internet would find unattractive.

If you catch yourself playing around in the gray areas, ask yourself this question: “If someone else was doing what I am about to do, would I think they were engaging in spammy behavior? Would I like it? Would I do business them?”

If you’d answer Yes, No, and No to those questions, then don’t do it.

Reputation matters because without it you have no business. It doesn’t matter how good you are at SEO, social media, or something else. If your reputation is shot, your business is dead. Protect it at all costs.

I was surprised to read that the average number of social media accounts for businesses doing marketing online is somewhere around 178.

Really? Do you need that many?

Personally, I think one account at the popular social media websites is enough. If your employees want a personal account at LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, then allow them the privilege of their own personal accounts. You might even give them some leeway in promoting corporate events and products – with some guidelines, of course. But you don’t need multiple social media accounts.

In a word, it’s overkill.

I would add that it is time consuming and costly to manage more than one account at any social media website. If you have 30 Twitter accounts, you’ll need that many employees to monitor and manage them. Maybe – MAYBE – one employee can manage 3-5 of those accounts, but that would be a full-time job. You still have to pay their salary.

A better use of time and resources is to have one account at each social media website. You have your marketing team manage those accounts – one manager per account. And make sure they talk to each other. You want your social media accounts to work in tandem, not against each other. Make it easy on yourself, not more difficult.

People and businesses new to Internet marketing often think that if they link from one page to another on their websites, then that will be enough to drive traffic. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Good links do two things really well: Provide SEO benefits and drive traffic. But how?

Let’s deal with traffic first. The best way to drive traffic through links is to make your links good calls to action. That means, they ask the reader to do something – click. That can be a direct asking as in “click here” or an indirect asking as in your link anchor text being enticing enough to say “click here” without saying “click here.”

So let’s talk about that anchor text.

Anchor text is the phrase you use for creating a link. It can be “click here” or “the best apple pie in Frisco.”

Notice how “the best apple pie in Frisco” piques your interest. You want to click that phrase because you wonder who’s got the best apple pie in Frisco and you hope the answer will lie on the other side of that link. That’s a good call to action.

It’s also good anchor text that passes SEO benefit. The benefit is the relevancy of the link to the page being linked to. If the linked-to page has valuable information about apple pies in Frisco, particularly the best apple pie in Frisco, then that phrase becomes valuable and relevant anchor text.

The best links you can create on your site from one page to another use great anchor text that passes the best SEO benefit AND it serves as a great call to action. Do both. You’ll come out a big winner.

The best time to start thinking about whether your website is mobile ready or not is when you start developing your site. One tool that comes in handy for a savvy website developer intent on building a mobile-ready website is mobiReady.

So what should you incorporate, or not incorporate, into your website to make it ready for mobile browsers?

For starters, strip your website of all Flash elements. The won’t be visible in most mobile web browsers. Also, frames are difficult to parse for mobile browsers as well, so dispense with them too. And while you’re at it, strip away any code that bloats your website and makes it load slowly. If your website is too large, mobile web browsers will have a difficult time seeing it.

If you’re building your website on a content management system, try to find a module or a plugin that converts it for mobile browsers or makes it easier for mobile browsers to parse. Again, test your website on a mobile test page before making it live.

Mobile browsing is here to stay. And with smart phones becoming more and more popular, it will some day be as common as browsing the web on a home computer. You might as well get ready for that day now.

If necessary, design a separate website for mobile browsers that looks like your company site but is built just for mobile users.

Media today is not what it used to be. For most people, media is a conversation. John Battelle says it’s not TV.

As Seth Godin has been known to say, “Markets are conversations.” Are you discussing, or dictating?

With the rise of social media, websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, marketers now have to get good at holding conversations. Your audience expects a dialogue. Are you providing it?

I like John Battelle’s distinction between dependent media and independent media. He places sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ in the “dependent” category because bloggers and members of a market niche depend on them for delivering their messages. And receiving those of others. “Independent” media consists of blogs, niche communities, and other websites owned by individual bloggers and website owners.

If you are still dictating your message to your audience, then you are likely alienating them. This is the age of conversations. Join them or start them, but don’t shun them.

Savvy marketers in 2012 use their blogs as launching pads for conversations. They then invite their audience to engage and join that conversation where it is happening. Sales take place only after the marketer has built up trust. You earn that trust by respecting your audience.

Today’s media is social media. You aren’t on TV any more.

A brilliant post at SEOmoz illustrates how Google uses its own SEO guidelines to rank its own pages higher in the search engines.

Consider this:

How has Google won so much real estate on their own search pages in such a short period of time? Do they cheat? No, not really – more on this later. Google wins by employing really smart Search Engine Optimization techniques – the same SEO practices available to any online business.

What Cyrus Shepard doesn’t tell you is that Google knows its own algorithms better than anyone else. It has the inside information. Facebook doesn’t. And that’s one of the reasons that Facebook is at a disadvantage.

On the other hand, the SEO principles that Cyrus shares in his post are pretty much all common knowledge. They’re things that everyone – even Facebook – at this point should understand.

One really telling point is how Facebook blocks Google from crawling its profile pages. As Cyrus points out:

Facebook actively prevents Google from crawling most of its content, allowing big G to access “Fan” pages, but limiting information from regular profiles. Now that Google+ has entered the social game, this policy puts Facebook results at risk of dropping in rankings and losing search real estate.

On the one hand, Google+ has an advantage in the search engines because it is owned by the largest and most popular search engine. On the other hand, Facebook doesn’t employ sound SEO tactics anyway, so if you take away the Google+ advantage, Facebook would still be at a disadvantage.

So what’s the lesson here? No matter what business you are in, think about how search engine optimization can help you reach your goals.

Now that Google Knol is dead, is there an alternative that you can use for your articles?

Yes, there is. It’s called Blogger. That’s Google’s free blog service.

You can use Blogger as your own article directory and there are two ways to do it.

First, you can start one blog and periodically post your articles there and link back to your company branded blog or website. The second way to use Blogger as an article directory is to upload each article you want to post to its own blog utilizing your primary keyword as the blog subdomain.

Both strategies work well.

Blogger has been listed as the second most trafficked social media website, ahead of Twitter by more than twice the traffic.

Of course, this Nielsen report doesn’t consider YouTube. Still, that puts Blogger into the high traffic arena, and it’s good for SEO as well. Being owned by Google, you’d expect no less, right?

The key to using Blogger as your own article directory is to not overdo it. You don’t want to draw undue attention to yourself as a link spammer, but you do want to use the tools at your disposal to build good inbound links. Blogger is great as a link building tool, and it could send you some additional traffic as well.

Rand Fishkin is at it again. Predicting the direction of search for 2012. He does it every year.

Two things stand out in this year’s predictions:

  1. “SEO without social media will become a relic of the past”
  2. “Google will make it very hard to do great SEO without using Google+”

These two predictions are intricately linked. If SEO and social media go hand in hand, then that includes Google+. If Google forces search marketers to using Google+, then that will enhance the need for social media overall. I agree with Rand. It’s coming.

Google could see this as a way to control link spam. Which brings up another one of Rand’s predictions: “Google will finally take stronger, Panda-style action against manipulative link spam.”

These three predictions seem to be linked in ways that make sense. If you are using Google+ to improve your website’s ranking prospects, then you aren’t out building questionable links. Link building, as we know it today, could be a thing of the past after 2012.

I think a lot of SEOs would welcome that change. A lot more will hate it.

But it could be a way for Google to finally kill link spam once and for all while improving the search results for users – especially users who are also on Google+. What do you think?

In the current landscape of search engine marketing, it isn’t enough to get your content published, crawled, and indexed. You want to own it. You want it working for you. But there is a major obstacle to that happening for many webmasters.

It’s called duplicate content.

Duplicate content is a phrase that has scared a lot of webmasters into unnecessary paranoia. The problem with duplicate content has always been scraping, not two articles by the same author that are somewhat similar.

Look at it this way. You have two articles that overlap. They are both on your website and clearly have you as the author. What’s the worse that can happen? In Google’s world, you could have one of the articles de-indexed. While that could be an inconvenience, it pales in comparison to an article you wrote being de-indexed while the same article with someone else’s byline being catapulted to a No. 1 ranking. That would hurt.

Google’s problem with duplicate content is knowing which version of an article came first. If they get it right, no problem; if they get it wrong, that’s a problem.

When you publish your content on the web, article directories may not be the best place to go to. That’s because you are competing with thousands of articles and if your article appears elsewhere on the web, there’s no guarantee that your article in the article directory will be recognized by the search engines. Send original content to niche publishers that link back to you with a bio. Make sure those article are indexed fairly quickly.