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You don’t think you’re a spammer. You’re just doing what all the other Internet marketers out there are doing. You’ve read all the popular SEO blogs and you write your content to their specifications. You’re one of the good guys. Right?

Maybe not. Your content could have some spam in it.

I’m not trying to jerk your chain. Really, I’m not. I’m simply pointing out a fatal flaw in the thinking of some Internet marketers. Here’s the flaw:

Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean it’s not spam.

Get it?

Stop Following The Spam Crowd

Stop following the crowd. The search engines want you to publish useful, natural, original content. They don’t want you producing unnatural, canned, recycled content just so you can get a link from that cool new website with lots of promise. I hope you can see the difference.

Webmasters, SEOs, and Internet marketers have been conditioned to think a certain way about marketing online, but the truth is there isn’t just one way to do it. There are thousands of ways to market yourself online. The best way is to use a plan that is unique to your business. And that involves the creation of unique content.

Unique content is content that only you can produce. If it looks too much like your competition’s content, then it isn’t unique. It needs to change.

If your content could have been written by anyone, then it’s likely spam. At best, it’s just plain bad content. Good content is content that only you can write. It’s content that is recognizable as your content. No one else could have produced it. To publish that kind of content requires skill. You can’t kick it out in ten minutes.

Search engine optimizers are a strange lot. Once we get an idea in our heads about how SEO ought to be done, it can take an act of Congress to have that idea removed. And I’m not being cryptic.

Most SEOs today will swear by the practice of link building, but there’s little evidence that an abundance of links will put your website at the top of the search engine results while a lack of links will keep your competition at the bottom. In fact, there are plenty of webmasters and Internet marketers who have risen to the top of the search engines doing very little in the way of link building.

That’s not to say that links aren’t important. But if you spend all of your time doing link acquisition the way it is taught in the popular SEO books of our day, then you will likely fail long term.

But link building is just one technique among many. Which SEO tactics you employ are not as important as the effectiveness of the SEO tactics that you do employ. If you want your SEO to push you up to the top of the SERPS, start by researching the keywords that your target audience is likely to use to make a search. Then write your content using those keywords without overdoing it.

Many SEOs fail because they think they have to target the most popular keywords in every niche. If all you want to do is rank, sure. But if you want to get your target audience to convert, then there’s a lot more to SEO than high search engine rankings.

Anyone who has owned a website for a couple of years or more knows that you have dips in traffic. There are highs and lows, peaks and valleys, and ups and downs. That’s really the nature of life. So did you experience a high or a low this Memorial Day weekend?

Depending on your niche you may have experienced a dip in traffic. If so, don’t sweat it. That happens. Many niches see dips over long weekends and holidays. Memorial Day is a day when a lot of people take a break from the Internet to do other things – like enjoy a barbecue cook out with their favorite neighbors and a case of beer, or to attend Memorial Day events that honor fallen veterans. Maybe both.

Traffic spikes happen and traffic dips happen. Your job as webmaster of your company’s website is to figure out a way to keep your current visitors coming back and to attract new website visitors over time. Don’t get wrapped around single events. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

So how do you do that? In a word, there are a number of ways that you can keep steady traffic flowing to your website. Here are a few ideas:

  • Blog daily
  • Stay active on social networks where your audience hangs out
  • Do some article marketing or guest blogging
  • Join a few forums
  • Comment on some popular blogs within your niche

>Website traffic is an up-and-down game. Always has been and always will be. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Did you know you can make your Facebook posts go viral and Facebook will let you know when it happens? That is, if you have a Facebook page.

A Facebook page is one of the best marketing tools you can have for your business. Facebook Insights is a tool that allows you to measure your effectiveness in posting to your Facebook page. You can do it too often and you can do it not often enough. Insights will give you a clear picture of your reach and let you know whether you should scale back or plunge on.

There are 4 key metrics with Facebook Insights.

  1. Reach
  2. Engaged users
  3. Talking about this
  4. Virality

Reach is the number of unique people who have seen a post on your Facebook page. Ideally, you want this number to be high. If you post too often fewer people will pay attention to you. Build up your readership by posting once or twice a week, but no more than once or twice a day.

Engaged users is the number of unique people who clicked on a post. Again, you want it to be high, but people won’t click if you don’t post engaging content.

Talking about this is the metric that measures how many unique people respond to a post. This includes Likes, shares, comments, answers a poll, etc.

And virality is the measure of the number of people who themselves have created a story from your post. It is calculated by dividing the number of people talking about your post by your Reach. Keep your readers engaged and post interesting content that they want to read about and your Facebook posts will go viral.

Social media is changing – again. Of course, online marketing changes daily, but big changes occur in the online landscape about every 3-5 years. I won’t bother going into the history, but trust me when I say we’ve seen big changes happen every 3-5 years for the past 20 years. In some years we’ve seen multiple big changes shake things up.

In the last year a new social media site sprung up that caught a lot of people’s attention. It’s called Pinterest.

The concept is simple. Users “pin” images and have the opportunity to write a little commentary about the images they pin on their pinboards. Their pins link to the original content on another website. As it turns out, Pinterest users are more likely to make buying decisions than Facebook users. Who would have guessed (note the sarcasm)?

On another note, LinkedIn is perhaps the best business-to-business social networking tool online. A survey shows that 30% of B2Bs see LinkedIn as a top marketing priority. Another 20% consider their company blog to be essential. Again, any surprises there?

So what’s the takeaway?

If you have not put your business into the social media arena, now is the time. Scope out which social networks offer you the best opportunity for a positive return on investment. If your site is highly visual, Pinterest may very well hold the keys to your success. If you are a B2B, LinkedIn has a lot to offer.

Social media is not a panacea for every business ill, but it is a good way to meet new prospects and develop relationships for your future business.

There was a time when content writers got a little concerned that their keyword density was too high. In fact, many early SEOs taught people to ensure their keyword density was somewhere between 1% and 5%. It seems a little silly now, but a lot of us bought into that line.

Here’s the truth: Don’t worry, be happy.

Your keyword density is not the issue. It can’t be too high or too low. The idea is to write great content. If you write awesome content that speaks to your audience, it’s well written, and it provides value, then you can have a high keyword density. You’ll still get your page to rank.

The most important thing to know about web page content is that it must be good content. Quality content that adds value to the Internet.

The problem with content that doesn’t meet the quality standards of the search engines is that it is usually deemed as spam. That could mean too many keywords on the page, but if it does, it likely means that the keyword is used in a spammy way that doesn’t provide value to your audience. In that case, the problem isn’t a keyword density that is too high. Rather, the problem is that your content quality is too low.

If you’re not a writer, you’d be better off hiring a content writer. Hire a ghostwriter who understand search engine optimization and will write great content, not one who uses spammy techniques and voodoo SEO.

There’s no doubt you’ve likely seen those articles with low quality content and links with very specific anchor text pointing to a very specific web page that is “relevant” to that anchor text. It’s straight down the line by-the-book SEO. But does it work?

It used to work like a charm. But since Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, it isn’t likely to work as well as it used to. Google is killing the web spam.

One thing we’ve seen in the last year is that Google is agnostic when it comes to SEOs going “by the book.” It’s not against Google’s nature to rewrite the book from time to time. They’ve done it several times in the past. One notable time was the Florida update in 2003.

When Google rewrites the rules on SEO, it’s like every webmaster in the world is starting from scratch and on equal footing. We all have to go back to the testing lab to see what still works and what doesn’t. That’s where we are now. Will those low quality articles with “by the book” anchor text links still work?

I’m betting that some of them may. Many of them will not. And it isn’t because the links are bad. I think Google is now judging link quality based on content quality.

To be sure, they always have. But now they’re serious about it.

If you want real quality inbound links to your website, you have to work harder. Today it isn’t all about the anchor text. It’s all about the quality – the content quality as well as the link quality.

A while back, when blogs were still in their infancy stage, Google updated its algorithm to diminish the value of reciprocal links. That was a long time ago. Around 5 or 6 years, probably.

If you listen to the average SEO, reciprocal links are bad. You shouldn’t have them. And that goes for Blogroll links as well, reciprocal or not.

I’ll have to disagree. Blogroll links and reciprocal links are not bad. They’re not necessarily as good as other links, but you won’t be penalized for them unless they are spam links or paid links. So why do so many SEOs think they are bad?

Post-Penguin, it’s even worse. More SEOs are coming out of the woodwork advising clients to kill their Blogroll links. Why?

The idea is that they are outbound links and siphoning off link juice from your inbound links. It makes sense on the surface. If you consider that an inbound link gives you 2 points and an outbound link takes away a point, then you should just get rid of the outbound link and you’ll have 2 points again. Unfortunately, that’s not how link building works.

Besides the fact that outbound links have the potential to send traffic away from your blog, they can also give search engines clues about what your site is about. So they actually DO have some SEO value.

Think in terms of relevance. Does linking out to that site establish a relationship based on relevance? And I’m not necessarily talking about keyword relevance.

If you own a local small business, you could link to other local businesses even if they serve a different niche and that’s OK. You could link to other sites you own. You might link to sites owned by your relatives. If it makes sense for your business or web property, it’s OK to do it. Is that SEO who doesn’t know your business in a position that make that judgment? No, he’s not. And if you don’t hire him, then he won’t be in that position in the future either.

When it comes to website design, there are very few absolutes. But I would argue that there are some, namely, the elements you choose to place above the fold.

Anything above the fold, that is the area that can be seen on any computer monitor in any browser without having to scroll down or over, is prime real estate no matter what website we are talking about. If you want to make the most of your website design, include these 5 elements above the fold.

  1. Your company logo – It goes without saying, but your logo should be above the fold. Preferably, it should go in the header. But you definitely want your website visitors to see it on your page, for branding purposes if anything.
  2. E-mail opt-in form – Do you have a mailing list? If so, make sure your opt-in form is visible above the fold. You will get a lot more opt ins.
  3. Navigational elements – People who visit your website want to find stuff quickly. Make it easy for them. Include your website’s navigation above the fold.
  4. Content – If the only thing your website visitors see when they arrive on your website is your header, then you will lose a large number of them. Make your header visible, but don’t let it take up the entire real estate above the fold. Include some valuable content in that space as well.
  5. Contact information – If you want people to call you, add your phone number to your website in a visible location above the fold. If you want them to Skype you, then make sure your Skype address is visible above the fold. Whatever your primary means of contact is, make it visible above the fold.

>Website design is a creative exercise. A lot of things can be left to the imagination of your designer, but make sure these elements are above the fold on every website you own.

You know a strong call to action is a very important part of your sales literature. If you don’t ask your prospect to take action, they might just sit and listen and not take any action. You have to let them know what you want them to do and when to do it.

Here are 5 dynamic ways to use a good call to action.

  1. Your landing pages – Here’s an obvious one. You have a great sales page that describes your product well, includes photos and maybe even a video. But does it have a call to action? A strong call to action will increase conversions.
  2. Anchor text – Does your anchor text motivate people to click or does it just provide some keyword-based bland text for SEO effect? Nothing wrong with SEO, but give it a call to action.
  3. Meta descriptions – Your meta descriptions will appear in the SERPs as search snippets. Do they motivate searchers to click on your page? If they were strong calls to action they would.
  4. Your Facebook posts – It’s great that you use Facebook as much as you do, but do any of your posts include a call to action? Make people click the link. Tell them to do it.
  5. Your tweets – There’s not a lot of room for error on Twitter, but one way that many marketers miss opportunities is to include a link without a strong call to action.
  6. Your PPC ads – Want people to click your ads? Give them a strong call to action and they will click all day long.

Take control of your online marketing with calls to action. They get people where you want them.

The Wall Street Journal tells the tale of two businesses that are losing their shirts due to the recent Google algorithm change. The problem is they were a doing a lot of things “right.” That is, the way that online marketers have been doing them for years.

Yet, one of them admits that he did buy some links. That alone could have affected his business.

Article marketing, however, has been a mainstay of Internet marketing since the very first days of the Internet. Still, read a few of the articles in the popular article directories and you’ll see why Google saw the need for an algorithm change. A lot of the recent discounted links and content are low quality articles in these directories. And they’re promoting legitimate businesses.

If you are a small business owner, you have to be careful where you get your online marketing advice. There are still companies touting the old ways of doing things – the way they’ve always been done.

You can’t do things the way they’ve always been done. Not any more. Today, your online marketing has to be as unique as your website. Your content needs to be original, your links natural, and your publishing credits diverse. You should get your message in front of your audience, wherever your audience is, rather than relying on sites like EzineArticles and Squidoo.

I’m not saying you should abandon these websites, but here’s the bottom line:

If you’ve heard of link diversity, you should also try a little content diversity. It’s the new way of marketing online that businesses should have been doing all along.

You hear it every day. Some SEO says you have to write a keyword-based meta description to make sure the search engines use your content in the SERPs and not their own. OK, here’s the truth: You don’t need a meta description and you never did.

You first need to understand what the meta description is for.

Its purpose is to get the searcher to click on a search result and visit the page. Therefore, it needs to have a strong call to action. But does it need a keyword in it to be successful?

Yes. And no.

Understand that Google sometimes uses the meta description and sometimes not. Your web page could be returned for any number of search terms. You might target one search term and do it well enough to rank No. 1 for that search term. Good for you. But there will also be other search queries your page could rank for. A web page could rank for 500 or more search queries on any given day. Google will NOT use your meta description for every single one of those search queries.

Google will take text from a page itself to use as meta description based on the search query at that moment. It’s a split second decision. If your meta description best suits the SERP result, it will be used; otherwise, Google will use on-page text.

So when then do you need a meta description? Why not let Google choose the SERP snippet for every query?

SEOs fall on every side of this issue. Some say write a keyword-rich meta description every time. Some say don’t do it at all. Others say do it sometimes and sometimes not. I say you have to pick your path and do what is right for each page of your website.

Most times, a keyword-based meta description with a call to action targeting your primary keyword is a good thing as long as you understand that other search queries may have a different search snippet taken from your page. You can’t control every variable. Don’t try.

Some Internet marketing tactics are timeless – they will always work. You may do them poorly and in that case they may not work. But if you do them well, then they will work.

Here are 6 Internet marketing tactics that worked when they were first used, work today, and will work until the technology on which they are based dies.

  1. E-mail marketing – Whether you send newsletters, e-brochures, or product giveaway postcards, e-mail marketing is a marketing tactic that simply works. Anyone can do it.
  2. Blogging – Blogging not only is a great marketing tactic, it’s good for SEO. That may be why it will always work.
  3. Social networking – Social networking can take many forms. In the past it was known as forum marketing or bulletin boards. Today, it’s just simply social networking. But no matter the form, if it involves socializing (even online), then it will work. Networking is networking.
  4. Word of mouth – Word of mouth always works. Online and off line. Online, word of mouth takes shape in the share icons you put on your pages. You do put them on your web pages, don’t you?
  5. Visual imagery – TV advertising is still alive and well. Online, it’s called video marketing. Yes, it works just as well as TV advertising.
  6. Paid advertising – Free advertising is great, but it may or may not work depending on the venue. Paid advertising works. Off line, print newspapers and magazines offer display ads for your dollars and boy do they work. Online, PPC is the best paid advertising you can get. It’s the equivalent of your hometown newspaper ad.

There’s no question about it. These online marketing tactics work. They always have and they always will.

It used to be that all you had to do was write a decent page of keyword-based content, add some meta tags, and then start building links. If you were even halfway good at it, you could expect to achieve respectable rankings. SEO is a lot harder now.

Specifically, on-page SEO is a lot harder now. And it’s getting harder.

What’s making on-page SEO so hard? Why is it getting harder?

There are several reasons why on-page SEO is getting more difficult with each passing day. For starters, Google changes its search algorithms more than 50 times a day, so it’s near impossible to keep up with the changes.

Secondly, there are so many search factors to keep up with that no one can feasibly master them all. And we can’t be sure any more just how much weight is given to specific on-page factors such as keyword density, keywords in subheads, meta tags, page titles, etc. Plus, the addition of schemas and structured data means that some SEO factors may be subject to certain conditions and your rankings may or may not have to do with anything related to those conditions.

For instance, all else being equal, if you use a particular bit of structured data and your competitor doesn’t use any, your competitor could still rank higher for you on some search queries even if you rank higher than him on others.

SEO is getting to be more and more subjective all the time – subjective in the sense that each page is judged on its own merits without consideration for what’s going on in other parts of the web.

There are basics to on-page SEO that every webmaster should pay attention to, but beyond those, your best bet is to test, experiment, and measure. No two web pages are a like and no two search queries are either.

Many SEOs are still selling spam links to their customers. These are links sold under the guise of “link building.” The problem is, they don’t really provide any link juice. Google has shut them down, which means you should avoid them like the plague.

  1. Article marketing – Article marketing used to be the bomb. Then it bombed. Google killed article marketing when it began penalizing article directories for content spam. Link spam went with it. Essentially, if you write articles just for the link value, then you won’t get any link value.
  2. Paid footer links – You get an e-mail from someone who wants to buy space on your blog. They offer you a nice price for a site-wide link, but it’s not related to your niche. So where do you stuff it? In your footer. No one clicks those links, right? Right. And Google pretty much ignores them. They could even penalize you if they detect that paid link.
  3. Web directories – Like article marketing, web directories used to be high value links. Then everyone started doing it and there went the neighborhood. These days, very few directories are good for links and the ones that are are highly specialized and probably require some form of payment.
  4. Social bookmarking sites – Two years ago social bookmarking sites were great for links. Not any more. They went by way of directories and articles. Low value if any at all.
  5. Forum spam – I’m surprised there are people still doing this. Don’t set up a profile in a forum just to get links. It doesn’t work.
  6. Blog comments – Blog comments are cool if you provide value to the discussion. If you are just commenting to get a link, guess what? The search engines know it.
  7. Profile spam – So you heard about a new social networking site. It’s popular and gaining users faster than Google can ban link spammers. So you join, add a profile, and link to every site you own. Bad idea. You just wasted your time.

Doing things just to get a link rarely works. Add value and you’ll get the link you want. Be sure to add value.

Video production is a worthwhile endeavor if you have a purpose. And video marketing certainly can deliver traffic if handled with the right amount of patience, a good plan, and a good video.

Before you start your video production you should ask yourself a handful of questions. Start with these:

  1. Who is your audience? – I don’t just mean your business target. I mean the target audience for your video. Narrow it down to a specific subset of your total audience. Not all marketing messages will appeal to every segment of your audience, so define the audience for that specific video.
  2. What is your budget? – Budget matters. If you want to include a particular element in your video but budget constraints won’t allow it, you need to know that before you start production.
  3. What is the goal for this video? – Without a well-written objective you likely will not meet it. Know exactly what you want your video to accomplish for you before you start producing it.
  4. Does it tie in to another promotion? – If so, which one? Some videos are standalone. They are their own promotion. That’s fine, but if your video is being produced to tie into another promotion, then you need the input of the team that is putting that other promotion together.
  5. What is your deadline? – Define your deadline before you begin. Then work hard to stay on schedule.

Every aspect of your video production and timeline need to be defined before you begin production. Don’t leave anything to chance.

In light of the Penguin update you’ve probably been hearing a lot about quality content. In fact, since the first Panda update, every SEO in the world has come out in favor of quality content. It makes you wonder if they were in favor of quality before they got beat down. They certainly weren’t talking about it then.

So why are they talking about it now?

SEOs have always been interested in whatever is going to make their websites rank higher in the search engines. At one time that meant counting keywords and focusing on keyword density. Even after it was evident that keyword densities didn’t work, many SEOs kept advising their clients to count keywords anyway.

Then there was link counting. And anchor text manipulation. Link building became a spam game between SEOs to see who could acquire the most and the best links. Many of them won. Then along came Panda.

Getting boinked isn’t fun. Especially if it costs you money. But if you focus on producing quality content, then you don’t have to worry about getting boinked. And this hasn’t changed. Quality today means the same thing it meant in 1998. The only thing that has changed is that now every SEO on the planet wants to focus on it.

Quality content means writing content that your readers want to read. It means providing useful and valuable information on a topic that is important to your audience. If you can do that, you’ll rank for the right key terms.

When most people think about geolocation services they think about pinpointing a particular business or landmark on a map. To be sure, that is one method of geolocation. However, a new type of geolocation service is becoming more and more popular.

Since smartphones are gaining in popularity, many people are starting to use geolocation services that tell where they are located at a specific time.

For instance, if you’re sitting in a Starbucks in your town, you can use the geolocation service to tell your friends and fans precisely where you are. Then they could find you on their smartphones and meet you right there. Is that useful?

Yes, I think so. Not just from the perspective of a consumer or citizen looking to meet up with other citizens, but also from the perspective of a business owner.

If you own a business where people tend to congregate or meet in large numbers, then why not place a QR code in your store window so that people can scan it with their smartphones and make geolocation easier? Better yet, place an upright brochure on each table in your restaurant or at strategic locations within your business with that QR code prominently displayed and see how your customers use geolocation services to bring you more business.

All it takes is a nudge. If you simply offer your customers an opportunity to spread the word about your location and about your business, then you’d be surprised how geolocation services can give your business a boost.

Chances are, if you’ve got a website, then you have some kind of analytics installed. If not, you should. How are you going to tell where your traffic is coming from and how much of it you are getting?

You’ve also likely heard by now that Google Analytics is free. Indeed it is. Totally. And you can use it to gather all sorts of useful information about your site visitors. But is it enough? Can you survive on Google Analytics alone?

I think for new websites Google Analytics is enough. You really want to see how your site grows over time. But as your website grows and you take on more search traffic from a variety of sources, you probably want to use an alternate analytics services to compare your metrics.

I’m not saying you should replace Google Analytics. You can keep it installed. There’s nothing wrong with it as a service. But there’s no perfect metrics package.

The point really is that you want to corroborate your data, especially the actionable data. By comparing the numbers you get from two or more analytics sources, you ensure that you are getting accurate data. It’s actually more actionable when you can get reports and actionable data from more than one source. Wild fluctuations between the two can be analyzed and judged according to reality and your expectations.

Google Analytics is good, but I wouldn’t rely on it completely forever. Your SEO is more important than that.

A new study shows that Facebook would earn 22% of the search market share immediately if it launched a search engine right now, today. This actually brings up two questions for me.

  1. No. 1, why doesn’t Facebook have an adequate search feature then?
  2. And, two, what if the search engine just wasn’t any good? Would that share drop off considerably once users decided they didn’t like it?

Of course if Facebook did have its own search engine, that would strain its relationship with Bing. I can’t see that Bing and Facebook would continue to have the relationship they have now if Facebook were to develop its own search engine. So I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Thirdly, if Facebook had 22% of the market starting out and it did build a search engine that people would use, it would likely siphon off some market from Bing. It could very well end up at the 40% market share neighborhood and leave Bing flailing like Yahoo!

Building a search engine is a difficult thing to master. Certainly, 22% of the share of the search market would put Facebook at No. 2 in the search engine competition. However, creating value in search is not easy to do as both Yahoo! and Bing have discovered.

I’m not saying Facebook shouldn’t build its own search engine. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be good if they did. I am saying that simply building one wouldn’t necessarily mean it would be good.

What do you think? Should Facebook build its own search engine? Would it be worth trying if they did? Would you use it? And one more question: How would that affect search engine optimization practices?