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About once a year some SEO guru comes out of the woodworks and announces a new SEO strategy. Usually, it’s someone we’ve never heard of, and many times they proclaim that Google has confirmed their strategy is the best. Well, here’s another one.

To be fair, the author does say right up front that she’s been teaching her strategy for years, so it’s really nothing new. But I agree with it 100%.

Here’s what the article is really saying:

You don’t have to use your specific keyword phrases exactly as they are in every instance throughout your articles or blog posts. Instead, use them once or twice exactly as you want to be ranked for them and then write naturally. Pretty simple.

This has been the guiding philosophy at Reciprocal Consulting for years. Natural language writing is the best way to go for most types of content. SEO is nothing more than peppering your natural language writing with a couple of instances of your exact keyword phrase so that the search engines can have their morsel of clarity.

One thing is clear: You can over-SEO your website. You can do too much. And many website optimizers do that by trying to stuff their keywords into every element on the page. You don’t have to do that.

Going viral is not easy to do. And it’s getting harder all the time. As more people go online to build websites and participate in online marketing of some sort, there is more and more competition for eyes and ears. In one sense, your competition is everyone who is seeking a voice online.

The good news is, most of those people know nothing about Internet marketing. They are just chattering.

Still, you cut out those competitors and the online competition for virality is still stiff. So how do you move from obscurity to virality?

There is no sure-fire recipe for going viral. That’s something you have to understand right up front. A lot of it depends on serendipity. You’ve got to have the right content at the right time and put it in front of the right people at the right venue. There is a lot you don’t have control over, but there is a lot that you do, too. Let’s focus on what you do have control over.

  • The right content – Take some extra time to prepare great content that really shines. It can be a video, an infographic, or just an article. But it’s got to be the best thing out there on the topic you are publishing about.
  • The right time – I don’t mean you should publish your content at 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. There is no optimal time for your content. You live in a global village where the Internet light is turned on 24/7. But keep in mind that if you publish an article about last year’s biggest news story while people are chit-chatting about something else, then you’re too late. Be sure you hit that topic at the right time. For a lot of news, there is a short window of opportunity and that window could be short.
  • The right people – Who is your target audience? What type of person do you want to see your content and interact with it? Define your audience and tailor your content to meet the needs of the audience.
  • The right venue – If your content is a video, post it to YouTube. If it is an infographic, publish it on your website or blog. If an article, guest blog it (or find the place with the most traffic consisting of your perfect target audience). After you’ve defined your audience, find out where they hang out. Then go there and publish your message.

Going viral can’t always be planned, but if you don’t have a good plan for your content, then the chances that it will go viral are tremendously diminished.

Nick Stamoulis has a blog post at Search Marketing Standard (SMS) titled “3 Blogging Mistakes That Hurt Your Brand Image And Hinder Marketing Efforts.” It’s a short post and has some great insight, but it got me to pondering whether or not there are only 3 mistakes that might hurt your blogging. So I came up with 3 more.

To summarize the post at SMS, here are Nick’s 3 big blogging mistakes:

  1. Letting your blog sit idle – I agree. You don’t want your blog sitting there with no content. Post to it often and make your content shine.
  2. Posting low quality content – Again, this is true. Your content should be high quality in terms of grammar, spelling, and usefulness to your readers.
  3. Not thinking of SEO – Here’s another one I agree with. Your blog posts should be optimized for search engines, but don’t make the SEO your primary focus. Keep your focus on your reader, but do optimize your posts.

In addition to these three things, here are 3 other blogging mistakes to avoid. Otherwise, you could seriously damage your online reputation.

  • Don’t plagiarize – It’s OK to use other people’s ideas. Just be sure you give credit where credit it due. Don’t steal. People will find out and you’ll be in trouble.
  • Inadequate vetting of guest bloggers – You want high quality content on your blog, so you thought you’d take guest bloggers. Good idea. But don’t accept just anything that anyone sends to you. Vet your guest bloggers and only accept the best content provided to you. It’s better not to have guest bloggers at all than to have guest bloggers that send you bad or unworthy content.
  • Content isn’t sharedMake your content social. Share it on your social networks and encourage others to share it as well. Go social or go home!

Good blog content is no accident. Avoid these 6 mistakes or you could end up killing your online marketing.

Much has been said about blogging, even blogging as SEO. But are you aware that blogging also has a social component?

It’s true. In fact, blogging can be and should be your gateway to social media. Here’s how to make that happen.

First, remember that if you don’t produce content of some kind, then the only thing you’ll have to share is what someone else produces. Engaging with friends and fans online is good and sharing information that they will find valuable is good even if it is someone else’s content, but don’t neglect yourself. Share your own content too.

Create content as often as possible. Your blog gains search engine traction with every blog post. Searchers who find your blog via a search engines are on social media too.

Social media reinforces your content and your SEO.

By adding social media icons to your blog, you tell your readers that you are using the up-to-date marketing tactics online and that you are not self-enclosed. You are an outwardly-focused blogger. They’ll respect that a lot more.

The way to blog today is to create great content that people want to read, then push it out to social media. Go and find your readers, then bring them into your sphere of influence.

One of the most important tasks to get right in modern web design is site structure. If you do it wrong, it can kill your business. Get it right and it will make your business.

So how do you structure your website so that you drive traffic where you want it and help each page rank optimally in the search engines?

First, you should start with keyword research. What search terms are people searching for within your niche? Make a list of the most searched for search terms. Then pair those up with the right search terms for your business.

Now, group your keywords into categories. If your website is focused on commercial real estate in Key West, for instance, you might have a category for new construction, another category for retail business, one for industrial, and so on. Keep all like keyword terms together in one group.

In each group, take the broadest keyword search term and make it the group leader. That keyword term will be the top level navigational element and will be at the top on your navigation menu.

It will help if you draw a diagram of your website before you start building it. Get your presentation skills ready and draw out your website so you can see it visually. Don’t do any web design work until you have your site structure defined.

Keyword research is a fact of life. Every website owner does it, or should. But what do you need to know about keywords?

The most important thing to know about keywords is that they are not static. Keyword research is not a one time event. It’s an ongoing event, and you should plan to revisit your keyword list at least a couple of times a year.

Search trends change. People don’t search for the same information today that they searched for ten years ago. And even if they search on the same subject, their search queries will change over time. For instance, at one time, people searched for “blogging,” “blog,” or “blogger.” There was no such thing as “blog ghostwriting” or “blog management.” But as more and more businesses sought to go online and market their businesses, a niche developed for blog writing as a service. Now, it’s not uncommon to see people search for blog ghostwriting or blog management services.

You can do this analysis in any industry. There are niche search queries that didn’t exist ten years ago in your industry. There will be search queries ten years from now that aren’t being made today. There might even be new search queries next year.

So when you create your keyword list, remember that you’ll have to come back to that list at some point and revamp it. It’s a part of the SEO process.

Quora is on a big leap forward. Three huge announcements this year could put the Q&A website on the fast track to greatness. Those three announcements are:

Each of these announcements alone would be a nice feather in the cap. Together, they could spell a huge leap forward for the social Q&A site.

Quora is a place where experts go to answer questions posed by members of the community. Answers tend to be long and detailed. The best answers get voted to the top. Quite often, answers elicit a robust conversation in the comments below the answer.

More money will allow Quora to put some marketing muscle behind it. While it is one of the best and most popular Q&A sites online, it still hasn’t reached mainstream status the way Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest have. $50 million could help that along.

The ability for bloggers to embed quotes from Quora will also go a long way to give Quora more time in the spotlight. Not only can bloggers more easily share content on Quora, but Quora will gain the benefit of inbound links from bloggers who are doing that. That spells more exposure for Quora.

Finally, whilst Bing is still not top dog in search, the search engine does have a respectable share of the search market. Users that are logged into Bing can see what their Facebook friends are posting on Quora. Again, that’s more exposure for the site.

Will Quora jump to No. 1 status among social media sites? Not likely. But I can see Quora entering mainstream consciousness some time next year if these kinds of developments keep happening.

I’ve always been a big proponent of on-site SEO. Even when link building was at its zenith in popularity, I believed that on-site SEO was very important. I still do.

SEO principles have gone in waves. In some years, on-site SEO factors outweighed off-site factors. In other years, the reverse has been true. But I think that on-site factors have outweighed off-site factors for most of the history of search engine optimization, dating back to 1995.

Why do I say that?

There’s a little phrase that has become a bit of a cliche for online marketers: “Content is king.” Its origins go way back to the very beginning of the Web. On-site content has always been very important for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is for ranking in the search engines, or achieving respectable search engine ranking results. Without on-site content, nothing else really matters.

In a word, content is SEO. On-site content equates to SEO to some degree. Likewise with off-site content. It equals SEO.

To what extent your content is optimized for search engine rankings, to that extent you are building your brand and marketing your business.

Both off-site and on-site content/SEO are important. But if can only do one and not the other, you are better off building your on-site content and improving your on-site SEO. Otherwise, you could find yourself promoting website content that doesn’t exist or that shouldn’t be found.

Integrated marketing isn’t really a new idea. But it is. When I say “integrated” I mean the merging of the importance of SEO and social media in online marketing.

In the beginning was basic HTML. You were pretty limited in how you could market a business online. You basically built a website and hoped people found it. Then directories made it easier for people to find your website. And search engines. But search back then was very primitive compared to what it is now.

Google changed the nature of search when it started measuring back links. Then, along came social media.

But Social Media Has Always Been With Us

In truth, some form of social media has been around as long as the web. Those old bulletin board systems, they were social. Forums? Yes, they were social media tools. But real social media didn’t really get its head into the game until hit the Web in 1997, a full year before Google arrived. Since then, SEO and social media evolved along different tracks. But in recent years their importance has merged.

Really, that merging has taken place in the last couple of years. A few developments have caused that to happen, or maybe are the evidence of it happening. Google+ is one of them. And the fact that Google now uses social signals for ranking purposes is another. But I see more of this coming, and not just from Google.

Here’s the bottom line: Online marketers can no longer just be concerned with SEO. Nor can they be too wrapped up in social media metrics. It takes an eye on both channels to succeed. That’s what I call integrated marketing.

Small businesses that are looking for a way to make the most of Internet marketing should pay attention to the business experts who know. A blog is the most important online marketing tool for any business, but especially for small businesses.

Here’s why:

  1. Blog content make you an expert – By writing to a blog periodically (either every day or at least 3-4 times a week) you can establish yourself as an expert in your niche. But you have to truly share expert knowledge. Don’t hold yourself back. People want to know that you know what you are talking about.
  2. Blogging is great SEO – If you understand search engine optimization, then you can turn your blog into a very effective SEO tool. Not only can you share your expert knowledge, but your website will rank in the search engines for important keyword phrases related to that knowledge. That’s how customers find you on the web.
  3. You can make a blog personable – People want to do business with real people. They want to do business with you. If you write a blog, then you can share your expert knowledge in a friendly, personable way. Your personality is a greater asset to you than anything else.

Blogging is a very effective online marketing tool. For a small business, there’s nothing that is more effective.

I like this post at Constant Contact that shares ways you can make a video without it costing you money. One common misconception about video marketing is that it must cost a fortune. It doesn’t have to.

What typically costs the most in video marketinga is the production. It’s especially expensive if you use paid actors in your videos. But you don’t have to do that. You can often make great videos using your staff.

Constant Contact shared 6 ways to make no-cost or low-cost videos. I’m going to talk about 3 ways that are no-cost and super-powerful:

  1. Showcase your work – If you run a business where the product is some sort of creativity, or even if there is a final visible outcome such as fixing a car, then you can videotape that process. All you need is someone to control the video while you do your work.
  2. Interview an expert – One way to get the word out about yourself is to conduct an interview on video. Either have someone ask you questions as if you are the expert (because you are), or you can interview an expert on camera. Since you are the producer of the video, you get the credit and it’s powerful marketing.
  3. Make an announcement – Another way to make a great low-cost video is to announce a fundraiser or an event. If you pick a great charity to support and you hold a fundraiser for that event, you can announce it through video and drive traffic to your event. Plus, it’s great marketing.

In each of these cases, your staff can be the on-camera talent. That will save you a bundle in video production.

Online marketing is really all about content. There’s onsite content, that content which makes up your website. Then there’s offsite content, which is content you may or may not own and does not appear on your website but benefits you in some way; it generally appears elsewhere on the Web and points back to your website.

Today we’ll focus on 4 ways to make good use of offsite content. It’s not necessarily about link building, though if you do it right you can build solid, high value inbound links to your website. Good offsite content can also drive massive traffic to your website, which is even more valuable than inbound links, particularly if it’s targeted traffic.

Here are 4 sources of offsite content, places where you can publish your content for inbound links and traffic:

  1. Review websites – I’m talking about places like Yelp and Amazon. You do not necessarily own review content. If it’s written by someone else, you won’t own it. But that content can benefit you nonetheless. If people write good reviews of your products, you’ll make sales. Those sales might be on your site or might not be, but they’ll be sales.
  2. Niche blogs – Go out and find niche blogs that target the same demographic you are targeting. Write a guest blog post for that blog with content that is targeted toward that audience.
  3. Social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest. They all have one thing in common. Your content can attract new followers and fans, people who will eventually end up on your website.
  4. Directories – Directories have been dismissed by a huge portion of the SEO and Internet marketing niche, but there are still a few good directories out there. Not all of them have been banned by the search engines. Search for high value, high authority directories like DMOZ and add a listing for your business.

Offsite content is not always about search engine rankings, but if you get them it’s icing on the cake. Rather, you are trying to drive people back to your website where they will get your real high value content.

Two of the most powerful Internet marketing tactics long term are social media and e-mail marketing. They are even more powerful when you combine them. Here are 6 ways to combine your e-mail and social media marketing to make them work better together more effectively:

  1. Create a special offers landing page for your newsletter subscribers, then promote that offer on your social media accounts. Link to your landing page from your newsletter, but link to your newsletter opt-in page from your social media accounts.
  2. Add social media icons to your newsletter articles and encourage your newsletter readers to share your content on their social networks.
  3. Provide links to your social media profiles in your newsletter and invite your newsletter readers to connect with you on your social networks.
  4. Build a brand page on social networks like Google+ and Facebook. Be sure to include a newsletter opt-in on your brand page.
  5. Provide newsletter snippets on your Facebook sharing streams and link back to your newsletter in them.
  6. Pin your newsletters on Pinterest.

If you sync your social media and e-mail marketing efforts you will find that you’ll gain more followers on social media and get more newsletter subscribers. Your business will grow faster and your marketing will be more effective overall.

Custom URLs are the way to go. If at all possible, if a social network or web property offers you a custom URL, take it. And I mean, if you can get it before someone else does, hop on it FAST.

Google+ is the latest social network to offer custom URLs. Unfortunately, they’re not available for everyone just yet. But when Google finally announces that anyone can have the custom URL of their dreams, you should get there as fast as you can to get yours. Especially if you have a common name like John Smith.

The great thing about custom URLs is that they are custom. There is only one. No one else can have the URL that you have and you can brand it so that it enhances the benefit you get from participating in a social network.

Facebook has had custom URLs for three years now. If you search for someone by name on Facebook and they have a custom URL, you are more likely to find the person you are looking for. The person who owns the username URL on Facebook has a bigger benefit from everyone else using Facebook with the same name. Google+ is soon to share that benefit.

So, the Google+ benefit is about to get better. And what are those benefits?

  1. Better SEO
  2. Reputation management
  3. Social networking tied to search engine marketing
  4. Branding
  5. Unlimited personal power

Google+ is about to get better. Don’t stay away from it for too much longer.

If you were an expert in search engine optimization, then you wouldn’t need to hire an SEO firm. You could do your own SEO. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any knowledge of SEO at all. You should at least brush up on the basics.

The reason should be real clear to anyone who has ever done business with an SEO firm or Internet marketing agency.

Customers who walk through the door and ask questions about how an SEO firm goes about its business usually end up being better customers and they better understand what their Internet marketing consulting firm will do for them. They are able to ask the best questions and get the best results for their efforts.

If you understand the fundamentals of SEO, you are less likely to be snookered by firms that are out to ruin your reputation while boosting their own. You can ask the right questions and weed out nefarious or unapproved SEO tactics.

Another thing you can do is to ensure that you are getting the service that you paid for. How do you know if you are getting good results from your SEO efforts? Are you taking your consulting firm’s word for it, or can you measure their efforts and understand when your consultant is feeding you a line? That’s important information because if you don’t know when you are being taken for a ride, there’s a good chance you’ll be taken for a ride.

Take some time to learn the basics of SEO before you hire a consulting firm.

Something I see more and more content publishers and online marketers discussing is social publishing optimization. That’s a fancy phrase for knowing the best time to publish your content.

To be honest, I’m a bit skeptical of these approaches.

First, the best that one can hope for is to obtain a statistical analysis of readers’ online reading habits. If, for instance, you ascertain that 65% of your readers read your blog on Thursday afternoon between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. EST, does that mean that is when you should publish? Or, maybe you should publish one hour before that time window begins?

Here’s the problem: By scheduling your social media posts for that “optimal” time you are forgetting the other 35% of your readers. I don’t think that’s wise.

Keep in mind that the nature of digital notifications, whether through RSS or social media, is that they allow readers to experience the content they want to experience when they want to experience it.

In other words, your Facebook fans can star you and/or Subscribe to your content and therefore read your posts when they want to read them. The same goes for your Twitter followers. Your RSS subscribers can read your blog at their convenience.

Granted, some users may not be able to effectively use the tools to determine your priority in their streams and on their walls, but do you think that will change when you post at the optimal time?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t measure your responses. Nor am I saying that attempting to measure when your content is being read is a waste of time. I am saying it’s not voodoo. Be wary of anyone who tells you that the optimal time to post your content is on a specific day at a specific time. You could be cutting off your nose to spite your face.

What would it take to complete your online presence? Do you know?

First, let’s define “online presence.” What is it? Do you need a website to be online? If you don’t have a website and you engage in social media marketing, do you have an online presence?

Regarding the website question, you don’t need a website to be online. It’s preferable, of course, if you are doing any marketing for your company, but any presence you have online constitutes an online presence. That means if the only thing you do is listen, then you have an online presence.

But that’s not a complete presence.

So what does a complete online presence look like? Ostensibly, I’d say a complete online presence has several characteristics that include:

  1. >A website as a basic hub of your online activity
  2. Regular, valuable content
  3. Targeted search engine optimization
  4. An e-mail marketing strategy
  5. A social media marketing strategy
  6. Video and/or mobile content
  7. Online advertising strategy
  8. Analytics
  9. Competitive intelligence and research

These do not have to be in any particular order, but a complete online presence would include each of these elements. Your tactical marketing might consist of one or two of these pieces working in tandem toward a miniature goal. Your overall strategy, however, should include a plan for each one of these elements as you work toward a broader, more significant goal for your business.

Do you have a total marketing plan for your business? Are you working toward a complete online presence? If not, why not?

It seems like more and more I am reading SEO doomsday reports. Some SEO or Internet marketer I’ve never heard of starts squeaking about how Google is killing SEO with its recent algorithm changes or merging of services. Here’s the problem: Google has been making algorithm changes for over a decade. This is nothing new.

And Google has added and taken away services almost as rapidly. This is nothing new.

I think SEO has a long life ahead of it. Yes, there will be changes. There will be adjustments. These are a part of life. If you want to survive online, then you’ll have to learn to adjust to the adjustments. But don’t blame Google or the search engine optimization community. Things change.

That said, I do think search engine optimization is getting harder. One of the reasons for all the changes is to kill SEO spam. As spammers get smarter about their tactics, the search engines have to get smarter about theirs. And when they do they make it harder for all the rest of us. Even legitimate SEO professionals.

I’ve learned to see this as a natural and necessary part of the SEO business. Every profession has its hazards and one of the hazards of the SEO profession is constant change. We just have to keep plugging away and getting better at what we do.

If you are doing any amount of video marketing, then you’ve got to pay attention to YouTube. It is THE place to upload and share your videos online. But you have to optimize your videos for search and that takes a little thinking ahead.

Here are 5 elements of YouTube video optimization that every video marketer should implement:

  • Title – YouTube videos, like web pages, have titles. And they are just as important. It’s not clear just how much titles affect the rank of videos, but the title is sure to affect video rankings. Make sure your video titles tell viewers what your video is about and use your primary keyword (the one you want the video to rank for).
  • Description – Just like meta descriptions, video descriptions are important on YouTube. Take the time to write a description using one or two keywords. Tell viewers what your video is about. How is it different than other videos on YouTube?
  • Tags – YouTube allows you to write tags for each of your videos. This is where you will use keywords that are relevant to your video. List as many as you can think of, but make sure they are relevant. Don’t engage in keyword spam.
  • Transcription – This is one that many YouTube video marketers don’t think about. YouTube actually uses your transcription to rank videos. What you want to do is type out a word-for-word video transcription of your video and upload it to YouTube.
  • Authority – You should create a channel, and post videos often. As you post videos and they are liked by other YouTube users you will develop a channel authority. That’s very important. Manage your channel authority and you’ll do well.

The web was built by links. In fact, you could say the Internet itself is a system of, for, and by links. You can’t get traffic to your website without links. And for the longest time, you couldn’t get search engine rankings without links. But link-based SEO is changing.

Google made link building necessary by telling people that their reputation and authority were based on the number and quality of inbound links pointing at their website. As soon as Google said that, they guaranteed that search engine optimizers would chase links for a long time into the future. But post-Panda and Penguin, that’s changing.

Links are still important, but they aren’t as important as they once were. Today, SEO is about more than building links.

The Web goes through a cycle of evolution. Before Google, people found information online by going to Yahoo! or searching one of the few search engines that were popular then (Excite, Alta Vista, et. al.). But those search engines were very primitive compared to Google and Bing.

Google came along and link building was born. The SEO industry was born. Link spam was born.

When link spam began to outweigh legitimate SEO rankings that were beneficial to the searcher, it became necessary for Google to change the rules of the game. That’s why they focused on destroying content farms and re-ordering the ecosystem of search. That’s why link building via link spam strategies had to die. Going forward, if you want to rank in the search engines, then you need to build a solid content marketing strategy that isn’t wholly link-based.