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If you’ve heard that social media is free and decided that you wanted to jump in on the action, start marketing your business on Facebook, and hope that it leads to new business, allow me to burst your bubble. Social media is not free.

Someone on your staff has to do the work, right? Suppose that person makes $30,000 a year in salary and they spend 20% of their time managing your social media campaigns. Your cost is $6,000 a year. Now what’s your return?

I’m not saying that measuring ROI on social media is easy, nor am I saying it’s desirable. Do you measure ROI on taking out the trash?

Not all activities can be measured in hard money. You do some things just because you know it benefits your business, even if you can’t measure the results. The good news is that you CAN measure some of the results of social media. And it DOES cost you money.

Since social media isn’t free, why not spend a little extra and have a professional who understands the differences between the various networks manage your campaigns? By hiring someone who knows how to navigate social media and present your message professionally and clearly managing your social media campaigns, you ensure that when you do spend money on it that you increase your chances of seeing a positive return.

We said it would happen and here it is. Google+ is being integrated into the SERPs as “discussed on Google+.”

This isn’t quite how we envisioned this would happen, but it’s not surprising. Google is constantly surprising us with innovations. The fact that Google+ has finally been integrated in the search results is enough proof that you should be using this new social media service. If you haven’t signed up for your Google+ profile yet, now is the time to do so.

I think it’s just a matter of time before you see nested Google+ comments in your search engine results.

Imagine searching for a particular topic and finding out that a couple dozen of your Google+ friends have mentioned that topic on comments to another person’s post. You may see their comment in your search engine results along with the original post on which they commented. If they all commented on different original posts, then perhaps you’ll get a list of those along with the nested comments.

There are a lot of ways this could be rolled out. Google is saying it’s a test, and it may very well be. But tests generally lead to practices – if they go well.

Keep an eye on Google+. I think you’ll see more Google+ content appear in your SERPs real soon.

If you’re one of the few companies that have yet to start a blog because you’re not sure it’s wise to invest the time and expense, then I’d say you are way behind the tugboat. A lot more companies are still not using social media, which is halfway understandable. Keyword: Half way.

But I believe that blogging and social media go hand in hand. You should do both, and you should do them together. At the very least, they are most powerful when done together.

Blogging is the practice of staying in communication with your target audience – customers and prospects – by way of a specific type of platform where you create posts as often as you like and discuss issues that are specific to the niche you serve. It’s a useful tool for branding, reputation management, search engine optimization, and social media marketing.

Social media marketing is an online marketing tactic that allows you to push your content out in various directions in order to get it in front of the people you want to do business with. Then, that content – if it is good – will pull your prospects back into your website. Preferably, you pull them into your blog and converse with them.

This is all a part of the online marketing funnel. It’s a recognized way of building relationships with your prospects and customers. It’s effective and I’d encourage you to give it a try.

If you’re jumping on the “clean up your links” bandwagon, then I have a few things for you to think about before you get started. First, take some time to analyze whether or not it’s worth your time. Link cleanup is a time intensive activity and if you don’t get a good payoff on the back end it will feel like you’ve just wasted your time.

That said, I’ve identified three ways you can go about cleaning up old links.

  1. The Kill Link Method – This method can be used for sitewide links, which are often low value anyway, as well as page-specific links. If you think a link may be hurting you more than helping, then send an e-mail to a webmaster and ask to have the link removed. Be forewarned, however, many webmasters won’t spend the time removing links unless you pay them.
  2. Anchor Text Exchange – If a link is passing value but you think you can improve it, then you can change its anchor text. Again, this might require an e-mail to a webmaster and maybe even payment. But there are a lot of links you might be able to control yourself. You can change your anchor text to make it more specific to the page it is linking to or to create more diversity in your link portfolio.
  3. Target URL Exchange – With this method you aren’t changing the link itself. Rather, you are changing the URL to which it points. If you discover that a link is pointing to the wrong page, you can rectify that easily. If you’ve added pages to your website and some of them are more specific to links you’ve created in the past, then this is the method you should use. You can also use it to cut down on the number of links pointing to your home page if you notice an imbalance between home page linking and internal page linking.

Link clean ups are very popular right now. Not everyone needs to do it, but if you do, you could very well see an improvement in your link portfolio.

You’ve been told you need to write great content in order to achieve high search engine rankings. So what do you do? Do you sit down and brainstorm topics so you can figure out which topics constitute great content? Do you hire a ghostwriter with 30 years experience in writing marketing sales letters to help you write great content? Or do you just write a few blog posts then start link building?

All of those answers are wrong.

Great content is hard to define because everyone has their own ideas about what it means. Is it accurate information? Is it well-written prose? Is it content that meets a real human need? Yes, it’s all of those. It’s none of them.

Great content is in the eye of the beholder, but it doesn’t have to be well-written. It can be poorly written as long as it makes a connection with its audience. In that regard, it could be two paragraphs of real gut-wrenching drama.

There is one thing that all great content has in common. It attracts attention to itself. Great content usually inspires others to link to it. Without prompting. In other words, you don’t have to send out requests for links to all your social media friends. You write the content, get it indexed, and it gets noticed. Then the links start to flow in.

If you see yourself starting to get links from every corner of the web because you wrote something on your blog or website, chances are, you just created great content. Figure out why people are linking to it and do it again.

This might come as a shocker, but there is nothing new under the sun. And that includes SEO.

In fact, if you are looking for “new and improved” as it relates to search engine optimization, then you are looking for the wrong thing. You’re better off with the old and the stale. I mean, stick what we know works.

So what is that exactly?

Instead of spending countless hours chasing links with your long tail keyword phrases, how about building yourself into a recognized authority within your niche? If you build a brand that people recognize and trust, then your online reputation will take care of itself. As will your SEO.

Now I’m not saying SEO is not important. And I’m not saying don’t think about SEO. What I’m saying is you should be subtle about it.

In terms of search engine optimization, the best SEO you can perform on your website is to publish quality content that people like to read. Sure, do your keyword research and throw in a few nuggets for the search engines, but don’t overdo it. Think in terms of “less is more.”

SEO is not a war game. Don’t treat it like one. Rather, if you work on your own reputation and deliver positive results to your customers, you will survive online.

Microsoft has decided that it’s time to start charging for the use of Bing’s API. In practical terms, what that means is any free SEO tool that you are currently using just might stop tracking search engine rankings after August 1. That is, unless the toolmaker decides to pay the fees Microsoft is asking.

That likely won’t happen unless the SEO tool becomes a paid tool. Free tools usually cost the makers money, or at least time. And no SEO is going to provide free tools that cost them additional money.

Is this a game changer for most SEOs? Not really? There are good paid SEO tools on the market right now, so if you’re married to your free tools, you should prepare right now to convert to a paid one if you want to continue monitoring your Bing rankings. Or, you just might have to relegate yourself to not following your Bing rankings.

I think this could kill Bing as a search engine. It’s not going to be competitive if there’s no reason for searchers to use them over Google. With all those toolbars out there using Bing as the primary search engine (Conduit comes to mind), it remains to be seen whether they will continue to provide the service if they have to pay for the use of Bing’s API. This will likely delude Bing’s share of the search market.

If you get a message inside of Webmaster Tools notifying you that you could have spammy links, don’t panic. Google is now notifying webmasters of links it doesn’t trust, but that may not mean your site is being penalized.

Evidently, negative SEO attacks are on the rise. This is when a competitor builds a lot of spammy links and points them at your site hoping that you’ll lose search engine rankings and pave the way for their rise. Attempts like this to affect search engine rankings usually don’t work because Google is able to ferret out the real picture in the link graph.

Anyway, Matt Cutts posted this on Google+.

If you received a message yesterday about unnatural links to your site, don’t panic. In the past, these messages were sent when we took action on a site as a whole. Yesterday, we took another step towards more transparency and began sending messages when we distrust some individual links to a site. While it’s possible for this to indicate potential spammy activity by the site, it can also have innocent reasons. For example, we may take this kind of targeted action to distrust hacked links pointing to an innocent site. The innocent site will get the message as we move towards more transparency, but it’s not necessarily something that you automatically need to worry about.

If you do get concerned about negative SEO attempts on your website or if your site is penalized and you believe it was unjust, submit your site for a site review from within Webmaster Tools. Google is usually pretty fair about these things.

Heatmapping consists of making a visual display of data or information using colors of the spectrum to illustrate degrees or values along a pre-defined continuum. In other words, it’s a colorful graph that helps you analyze specific data. It is often used by eye tracking specialists to help webmasters and web publishers view their website traffic and the places on their web pages that get the most views.

Eye tracking has become very important for a number of reasons. Some analytics packages allow web publishers to use eye tracking software to gain data about which elements of a page get the most reads.

So how does eye tracking help?

If you have an opt-in box, for instance, in the upper left corner of your web pages and you want to see if your website visitors are looking at your opt-in box and deciding not to enter their e-mail addresses and sign up for your newsletter, then eye tracking can help you make that determination. Or, if you employ any type of advertising on your page and you get paid by the click, then eye tracking can help you determine the best place on your web pages to put your ads.

That’s just two uses for eye tracking. The heatmap generated by your eye tracking code helps you get a visual understanding of your website views and where your site visitors are spending their time on each page. You can get this information at a glance.

If you understand the elements of your web pages that get the most attention from your site visitors, then you can make your website more profitable.

If you’ve changed the way you practice search engine optimization as a result of recent changes in Google’s algorithm – specifically the Panda and Penguin updates – then you were likely doing SEO wrong to begin with.

Here’s a secret of the SEO profession: Real SEO is the same today, tomorrow, and always. Sure, there might be minor adjustments along the way, but for the most part the rules of SEO are pretty constant.

How you say? Consider these:

  • Good SEO relies on great content that is original, unique, and valuable.
  • It all begins with awesome on-page content.
  • Links are good, but go for quality, not quantity.
  • Don’t do anything stupid.
  • If you think about your site visitors first and the search engines second, you shouldn’t go wrong.
  • That’s not to say you shouldn’t think about the search engines at all.
  • Don’t count keyword densities.
  • Vary your anchor text.
  • When building links to your website, try to consider traffic potential from any site you aim to get a link from.

These principles have always been important to search engine optimization. Nothing has changed. Panda and Penguin didn’t change the rules. They only enforced the re-enforced the rules that were already there.

Instead of chasing search engine algorithms, chase targeted traffic. You’ll go further.

One question that local businesses often have is, “What are the limits of geotargeting.” The question really has no easy answer as there are a variety of ways to make use of geotargeting.

When it comes to local search engine optimization, geotargeting to a specific country is not necessarily local. In smaller countries, geotargeting country-wide may be sufficiently close to locally optimizing your website that you can get away with it, but we’re talking about really small countries. Most industrialized nations don’t fit that bill.

Country-wide optimization in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the UK, Australia, Russia, Germany, France, and other large nations is not generally considered local. To drill down to the local level you have to target individual cities or ZIP codes. In cities like Amsterdam, London, and New York, even targeting the city may not be local. You may have to target individual boroughs such as Manhattan or Queens. Even then, that may be too broad an area for local SEO.

Local SEO is best defined as that area which your business serves as long as it falls within a reasonable distance from customers who may patronize it. Chain stores that serve multiple locations across a specific geographic area may have multiple local areas for SEO purposes.

It is best, when thinking about optimizing your website locally, to check with the search engines for their policies. This is especially true is you plan to make use of Google Places and Bing Local-like services.

If you’ve been measuring your Facebook analytics on a regular basis and observing your data religiously, then you may be disappointed at the recent news that Facebook has updated how it measures Reach through Insights. This recent announcement says Facebook is going to begin measuring Reach by the number of people who scroll down on your page and actually load a news story.

What? You mean that’s not how they’ve been measuring Reach? No, evidently not.

This is rather startling news when you consider that Facebook Insights has been active for a while now. And marketers have been relying on it for information regarding their brand page engagement, but this recent change in addition to the announcement that Facebook is now going to start including mobile views means that your Reach data has likely not been very accurate until now. Essentially, it means that your historical data is completely worthless.

You might see the announcement that mobile views will now be included in your Reach numbers as good news, but my question is, Why wasn’t it included before? Facebook’s announcement doesn’t tell us.

I hope that this data helps you and that you are able to use it to improve your social media marketing. Otherwise, you’ll be operating on inaccurate data.

It’s no secret that video marketing is picking up speed. More and more companies are figuring out that online videos drive traffic and increase engagement. Surprisingly, the Fortune 100 companies have figured it out too.

Remember, just a couple of years ago marketers were asking, “Where are the global corporations? Why aren’t they making inroads into Internet marketing?” It turns out, now they are, and they’re doing it with video.

In 2010, only 50% of the Fortune 100 companies had YouTube channels. Last year, that number was 57%. This year, it’s 79%. What changed?

I think they’ve figured out that people will actually watch their videos. They’ve been told that no one wants to watch a boring commercial if they don’t have to. After all, when the commercials come on TV, we go to the fridge. Evidently, that isn’t necessarily true. Some people DO like the commercials.

In fact, 2 million viewers subscribe to the Fortune 100 channels, and these companies are keeping their viewers engaged.

That’s good news for the small business. If the global companies can do it, then you can too. The key to effective video marketing is to entertain first. Keep your audience engaged by giving them some reason to return to your channel over and over gain. Feature real people doing spectacular feats, or entertain them with your skills. Tell them a story. Do something that will get their attention. Don’t be a salesman.

One of the biggest fears that many online marketers have, and this is thanks in part to Google’s own stated policies and in part to SEOs beating the fear drum, is duplicate content. Sometimes it is a founded fear and other times it isn’t.

Duplicate content is when you have the exact same content on two different pages of your website or on different websites. Syndication is a different matter altogether.

Syndication is the licensing of your content to be published in various places around the web. The syndicated author gets a byline on every article and on every website on which that article appears. The publisher gets quality content from an author who can back up her writing skill with expert knowledge. It’s a win-win.

The syndicated article also lends itself to other benefits for the author. You can get quality backlinks to your website, new traffic to your business, and prestige for being published in a reputable publication.

With duplicate content, you get none of those. You get one byline and that’s it. The search engines discount the duplicate content and the benefits fall by the wayside.

So what’s the difference? How can you ensure syndication instead of duplicate content?

Generally, the distinguishing characteristic of duplicate content is that it does not come with an attribution link. The content sits on several websites and looks like it’s been published on each website with no connection to each other. This is bad. It does no one any good. The search engines will just give credit to the first article that was published – and you better hope that was you.

With syndication, you get the link. You get the credit. Everyone knows who wrote the article and all those inbound links giving you credit help you rank higher in the search engines for the keyword that content was optimized for.

It doesn’t matter what format your content takes. It can, and will, generate leads for your business.

If you write a lot of blog posts, then you engage in blog marketing. Your blog content will either generate more leads or repel leads away from your business. How you write your blog content is the determining factor. Are you making it personal? Are you relating to your reader – talking to her rather than talking at her?

E-mail content also generates leads. Is your content respectful? Does it draw your reader in? Is it published too often or not often enough?

Website content also generates leads. You might think your navigation layout isn’t important, but it is. Does it lead people seamlessly to the content that they are looking for? That matters because if people land on the wrong landing page, you could lose a customer before you get one.

Video content can also generate leads. In fact, if you put a video on your website that has been produced professionally and carries a strong message, then you could increase your business leads.

Never forget. Your content generates leads. But you have to write your content with an audience in mind,and respect your audience too.

If you think about it, you have a process or method of conducting business. Maybe it’s systematic and maybe it’s not. But have you considered teaching others how to do what you do?

It’s not hard. If you have a website or a blog, then you can turn them into teaching tools for your business.

Several popular online marketers use this method to grow their businesses. You can too. It starts with a well-designed website that is focused on providing a service or offering a product that is in demand. After that, it’s all about finding followers and teaching them to do what you do.

That’s easier than it sounds, especially if you use the tools that are made for that. Such as a blog.

A blog is an incredible SEO and social media tool. You can expand your reach through your blog by marketing your content through the search engines and the various social media outlets where your target audience hangs out. But why stop there?

Start an e-mail newsletter and entice people to opt in to your newsletter. Publish your best content in your newsletter. This makes you an authority on your topic and gets people hooked into your system.

After you get people to recognize you as an authority in your niche, sell them something that teaches them to do what you do. It can be a book, an e-course, a video series, or whatever.

The medium is unimportant. What is important is that you use the tools available to you to teach your business method. Through that teaching you can grow your business.

A post at Constant Contact shares 21 ways non-profits can use Facebook. You can use these same tactics to promote your business. Here are 21 outstanding ways to market your business through Facebook.

  1. Shoot videos of your employees working.
  2. Share your company history on your Facebook page.
  3. Make good use of all of Facebook’s tabs.
  4. Use as many of the tabs as you can for your business.
  5. Take a survey.
  6. Share your customer testimonials.
  7. Take candid photos of your staff doing what they do and share it on Facebook.
  8. Get customer approval first, but show them being happy with the results they got.
  9. Link to press releases and press coverage of your business and its events.
  10. Link to relevant legislation that affects your business.
  11. Ask for comments on your page.
  12. Take pictures of your events and post them on Facebook.
  13. Post event invitations.
  14. Educate consumers.
  15. Share private feedback from customers (but get their permission first).
  16. Tag your partners and suppliers in posts that are relevant to them.
  17. Share news of common interest with your fans. It doesn’t even have to be about you.
  18. Sum up your business’s mission with your cover photo.
  19. Share awards you win as a company.
  20. Welcome new customers. However, if customers expect confidentiality, then get their permission first.
  21. Have a contest or a promotion.

Facebook is an incredible marketing tool. Most businesses aren’t using it to its fullest potential. Are you?

One of the fastest growing trends online is the use of social media as an internal or cross-partnership communication tool. And that’s good news.

As a marketing agency, we’re always happy to help our clients improve their online marketing through social media. But we’re also realistic enough to know that there’s more to this business tool than merely flapping your own pride. In its essence, social media is a relationship-building tool.

That’s what marketing is, isn’t it? Relationship-building?

Yes of course. But relationship-building extends beyond that one domain. It also includes building relationships with your partners, suppliers, and the general public. And that’s what more and more companies are doing with social media today. They’re building solid relationships that improve their efficiency, business processes, and bottom line.

If it helps your business grow, it’s good. If it makes your business more profitable, it’s good. If you are more efficient as a result of adopting a new business tool, then it’s all good.

That’s why Reciprocal Consulting encourages you to think outside the box. Don’t just do social media because you heard it’s good marketing. Use it because it helps your business, helps your clients, helps your partners and suppliers, and because it just makes good sense to use a smart tool.

Every now and then a customer notices a fall in search engine rankings and wonders if maybe they’ve been hit with negative SEO. It happens, I won’t say it doesn’t. But the chances that it has happened to you are pretty slim.

Drops in search engine rankings happen for a number of reasons, most of them more common than negative SEO attacks. If you’ve seen your website’s search engine rankings fall recently, it could for any of these reasons before negative SEO.

  • Search engine algorithm change
  • Your own faulty SEO campaign
  • A link building firm you hired

The Search Ranking Dance

Search engine rankings rise and fall daily. That’s the first thing you should know about SEO. The search engines make over 200 ranking algorithm changes every day. Sometimes those changes are minor and other times they are sweeping. They often cause huge ranking shifts that cause websites to rise and fall sharply in the search engine rankings before settling in at a natural position within the rankings.

If you see your website fall in the search rankings and you can’t finger a reason why, it’s a good bet that the search engines have tweaked their algorithms. Wait a few days and see if you rise back to your normal ranking level. Do nothing. Yet.

Your Own Faulty SEO Campaign

Most likely, you wanted to try a new SEO tactic or implement something you read about in a book, heard about in a forum, etc. That may have caused your rankings to fall. Think back to what you did, why you did it, and how you did it. It’s possible that you can reverse the effects by undoing it. Or you might just have to live with the results and carry on with positive SEO going forward.

Who Did You Hire?

This happens more often than businesses would like to admit. Sometimes a business owner wants to beat the competition so badly that they hire an SEO firm to conduct a link building campaign. That SEO firm goes out and buys links or engages in a low quality link spam campaign that ends up hurting the business.

If you’ve recently hired an outside SEO firm, contact them and ask for a list of things they’ve done for you. Get a list of links they’ve built for you. If they refuse to give you the list, fire them. They’re no good.

Once you identify the cause of your fall in the rankings, then you can go about fixing it. It may or may not have anything to do with negative SEO.

88.3% of consumers in a recent survey said they’d be “somewhat less likely” or “far less likely” to buy from a company that ignores complaints on Facebook. The survey included answers from 500 respondents. Nevermind the margin of error. With numbers that huge, it’s a moot point.

The fact is, if you are ignoring social media, then you are killing your business.

I’m not necessarily talking about using social media for marketing purposes. If you have no interest in Twittering, engaging with customers on LinkedIn, or participating in the Facebook slamdance, then don’t. I think you could benefit from some social media marketing, but at the very least you should engage in social media monitoring.

Social media monitoring is when you watch the social networks for mentions of your brand to see what people may or may not be saying about you. Then, when someone complains, all you have to do is show up and respond. In many cases, the fact that you even bothered to respond can go a long way to building consumer trust.

Don’t ignore your customers on social media websites. If they complain and you don’t answer you will likely lose business. And from there it will be a slow slide into oblivion.