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What’s it mean that Amazon has acquired the social networking site for readers, Goodreads?

One thing it could mean for authors, especially indie authors, is that more opportunities for marketing themselves to Kindle owners could arise. Cynthia Boris does a good job of pointing out that both the Amazon press release and the Goodreads press release mention the Kindle. That might mean a Goodreads Kindle app is on the way.

If that is the case, then that will make social networking via Goodreads more accessible to Kindle owners. It might also mean more Goodreads users overall.

The reason that is good news for Kindle owners and authors is because a lot of indie authors publish e-books as opposed to print books. It’s easy to do, costs much less, and the potential for return on investment is much greater. If Amazon can create a way to bring indie authors and readers closer together in their reading devices, that could mean more e-book sales.

Of course, there are other ways this could impact e-book sales. There could be ways for Amazon to influence the use of Goodreads from inside of the books on Kindle devices. That would certainly benefit authors and readers. Social networking while reading a book, being able to ask questions and have conversations about specific passages within a book, and interact with authors and other readers within the book where those comments can only be read by people who have purchased the book? Those would be really powerful benefits.

If you are an author, this might be good for you. Anything that leads to better social media marketing is a good thing.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen “(not provided)” somewhere in your analytics. If you have, then you know it’s associated with your targeted keyword. Google, somewhere along the line, decided to fight keyword spam in its indexes by not providing the metrics that search marketers use to create it. That’s a win for Google.

But a win for Google doesn’t necessarily mean a loss for you. It just means you need to get a little more creative in your analysis.

While Google has closed off a lot of information that you can ascertain from your keyword metrics, one thing they did not close off was metrics associated with your landing pages. Most search marketers associated their landing pages with one or two keywords. If you can measure how much traffic you’ve gained for your landing pages, then you can unwittingly measure how much you’ve gained for the associated keywords.

Granted, it’s a little crafty, but it’s a necessary level of analytical craftiness in this post-Panda world.

Let’s break it down:

  • You have landing pages A, B, and C
  • Landing page A is optimized for keyword 1
  • Landing page B is optimized for keywords 2 and 3
  • Landing page C is optimized for keywords 1 and 4

If your analytics tells you that you got 10,000 unique visits for landing page A, 15,000 unique visitors for landing page B, and 25,000 unique visits for landing page C, then your math problem is: How do these numbers translate into metrics for the associated keywords?

Well, you know you got at least 10,000 UVs for keyword 1. But there’s an X factor. Landing page C also uses keyword 1 and got 25,000 UVs. You can figure this out in one of two ways:

  • You can split the UV down the middle for your keywords, giving 12,500 of them to keyword 1
  • Or you can look at your last known traffic numbers for the associated keywords and split the metric according to that percentage. For example, if your last known traffic measurement for keyword 1 was 15,000 and your last known traffic measurement for keyword 4 was 3,000, then the numbers represent a 5:1 ratio toward keyword 1. What that means is you’ll take your 25,000 UV and divide it by 5. Give 5,000 UV to keyword 4 and the rest to keyword 1.

Doing it this way will yield a 22,500 UV metric for keyword 1 under the first scenario and a 30,000 UV metric for keyword 1 under the second scenario. Is it perfect? No. But it can give you a sense of your relative traffic for each keyword, and it can give you a much better picture than simply blind guessing.

SEO services can be either useless or powerful. Some services that used to be very good services are now no longer worth spending a dime on. One of those is search engine submission services.

I still see companies offering this service on their website and, quite frankly, I’m perplexed. It makes me scratch my head to think there are people who buy these services, but I’m sure some people do or the SEO companies offering them wouldn’t have them in their inventory. So why am I against search engine submission services?

For one thing, there are really only two search engines left you should even bother worrying about. And both of them are capable of finding your website on their own.

All you have to do to ensure Google and Bing crawl your website and index it is to create a few inbound links and to submit a sitemap. You can build the necessary inbound links (it only takes one) by sharing a few pages on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+. Another thing you can do is write a few guest blog posts for websites in your niche.

As long as you build a few inbound links to your website, you don’t need submit to search engine services. But you should add a sitemap to your websites.

A sitemap will give the search engines a directory of pages on your site and make it easier to crawl. Don’t both with search engine submission services.

Surveys can provide great feedback for your business. They’re not hard to construct and don’t cost must to produce. All they really cost is your time, or the time of someone on your team, to think of questions to ask and promote the survey to your audience.

With online surveys, you can get results in real time. By taking results online, you can measure them as people fill out your survey. That’s a big plus. Especially if you want data fast.

A survey can also help you decide on a new direction or offering for your customers. If you have two or three or four different ways you can roll out a new product, just ask your customers what they prefer. You can learn a lot by asking the right questions and potentially save your company a lot of money by avoiding a costly mistake.

Surveys also get your customers talking. If you ask at least one open-ended question on your survey, you’ll be surprised at the feedback you can get.

When you do create a survey and ask your audience to help you out, offer some sort of incentive for taking the time to give you feedback. It can be a free white paper, a discount coupon, or anything of value. It lets your survey respondents know you value their input and helps you to maintain contact with them in the future. If your incentive requires an e-mail address for delivery, you get the contact information as well.

That’s real effective internet marketing.

If you submit press releases for online distribution, you want them to be effective. An effective press release contains at least six elements. These include:

  1. Headline – Just like a news story has a headline, your press release must have a headline. Your headline should grab your reader’s attention, state succinctly what the story is all about, and be well optimized for search.
  2. Lead paragraph – The lead paragraph should contain the bare essentials of your news story: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.
  3. Body content – If you want your press release to be effective, it should be structured the same way a journalist would structure a news story. That’s typically an inverted pyramid structure where the most important information is near the top and you work through to the least important information at the bottom.
  4. Quote – Don’t ever send out a press release without at least one quote. The quote should come from a credible source, be realistic-sounding, and offer something new or interesting the rest of the press release content doesn’t cover.
  5. Contact information – Your contact information and your public relations team’s contact information should be on your press release.
  6. Search engine optimization – The only difference between a traditional press release and an online press release is that your online press release must be optimized for search. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Google+ just keeps improving. You can now search photos exclusively using Google+’s search bar.

This actually makes sense and was no doubt done to encourage more photo uploads. But photographers have always been active on Google+, and there seems to be a very active and close-knit community of photographers on Google+, so I’m sure they’re taking a liking to this new feature. But it will serve to benefit the rest of us as well.

In fact, if you haven’t been adding photos to your Google+ posts, you should.

When you add photos to your Google+ account, and you can do it in a couple of ways, you should go to great pains to make sure they are associated with the proper keywords. Start by keyword optimizing your posts with a great title and well-optimized content. When you tag your photos, make sure your tags match your keywords. If there are specific keywords you’d like that photo to be found for, include those.

So how can you upload photos in Google+?

For starters, you can upload photos by clicking the camera icon in the post field. Use the “Share what’s new” box, click the camera icon, and add your content.

The other way to upload photos is to click the Photos icon on the sidebar in your Google+ account. Click the red +Add Photos button and add your photos. Or, click “Instant Upload” or “Albums.”

Albums are another way to optimize your photos. Name your albums using keywords you’d like your images associated with. It’s an excellent way to categorize your photos and increase your optimization efforts.

Today is Twitter’s seventh birthday. ABC News thinks you should celebrate.

In fact, the news website lists seven ways you can celebrate Twitter’s birthday today. I’m guessing they picked seven ways out of a hat to parallel the fact that it’s Twitter’s seventh birthday. As a summary, here are the ways they suggest you should celebrate:

  1. Relive your best and worst tweets
  2. Make sure your Twitter account looks good
  3. Clean up your follow list
  4. Play around with some fun Twitter sites
  5. Add a video with your tweet with Vine
  6. Teach someone how to use Twitter
  7. Tweet the article

Don’t you love that last one? A little self-congratulatory, aren’t we, ABC News? Maybe a little bit narcissistic?

To honor Twitter’s seventh birthday, I decided to come up with my own list of seven ways you can celebrate Twitter’s birthday today. Are you ready?

Here’s the Reciprocal Consulting list of seven ways to celebrate Twitter’s birthday:

  1. Create a video for your tweet with Vine (hey, a good idea is a good idea)
  2. Follow seven new people
  3. Find seven things to retweet
  4. Create seven new links to tweet related to your business niche (but make sure they are not self-promotional)
  5. Link to your own website once during the day
  6. Tweet your location from your smartphone
  7. Wish Twitter a happy birthday in a tweet

Twitter can either be fun or a total drag. Make it fun. And use it effectively for your business.

Here’s another reason to use Google+, particularly the Hangouts feature. Google has added a new app called Capture. And what does it do? It allows you to take a photo of your Hangout in progress.

You might wonder, well, why would I want to do that?

If you are using Google+ Hangouts for business and you can schedule frequent webinars or other business meetings, then you can take photos of participants, screenshares, and other events within the Hangout then post them to your blog, Google+ stream, and other social media to promote your brand and events.

That’s just one use I can think of for the Google+ Hangouts Capture app. You can also use it to capture shots of documents you share, or that others share with you, for future reference.

I’ve said all along that Google+ Hangouts will get better. This is one example of Google’s attempt to improve its brand and social media community. Google+ Hangouts is one of the unique and innovative tools of the web. It’s great for business or personal use and there are no limits to what you can do with it. The Capture app takes a good thing and makes it better.

What unique ways can you think of for using Google+ Hangouts and the Capture app?

Google recently announced the publication of a new webmaster cheat sheet. So if you just built your first website and want to know how you can get it to rank in Google’s search engine, you should download this PDF right away.

Keep in mind, however, that it’s just a basic overview, not a full tell-all. In other words, it isn’t comprehensive.

The PDF essentially offers the following advice:

  • Write a concise, informative page title
  • Chose a domain name that is descriptive and easy to remember
  • Write unique meta descriptions for each page of 160 characters or less
  • Give images short and descriptive file names
  • Write a keyword-based alt tag for each image
  • Include an informative and descriptive caption for each image
  • Keep your website’s content up to date and unique with fresh regular blog posts

This advice really isn’t earth-shatteringly new. Reciprocal Consulting has been giving this same advice for years. And remember, it’s still basic information. There is a lot more you can do to help your website rank in the search engines. For instance, you should build some inbound links to your site by sharing it on social media, encouraging your site visitors to share it with their friends, and writing guest articles and blog posts on niche-related websites.

It’s nice to know Google affirms what we’ve been saying for years now.

Five days ago Google announced that July 1 would be the last live day for Google Reader. So what does that mean for your business?

Honestly, not much. You’re losing one avenue of readership. One channel. That’s all.

Most people don’t use RSS anyway (and never did). The good news is everyone uses e-mail. If you don’t already have an e-mail subscription option for your blog, then you should offer one. You should set it up before July 1, 2013. In fact, you should set it up right now.

Another way you should be promoting your blog subscription feed is through social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc.

If you do these two things, you will not lament the loss of Google Reader for long. You’ll likely miss it more as a blog subscriber yourself than you will as a business owner. You may see your subscription rate fall in July, but if you offer an e-mail option, then I’d be willing to bet that you’ll see your subscriptions go up on a continuous basis after July.

If you publish a newsletter, you should also include one or two sample blog posts in your weekly newsletter. This will introduce your newsletter subscribers to your blog and encourage more readership.

Google Reader may be dying, but it’s not the end of the world. Just find other ways to keep your human readers coming back.

If you are a big believer in analytics and customer tracking, as I am, then you’ll be excited to know that a company out of California is making offline tracking possible through smartphones. The company is called Euclid.

But hold on because there’s a battle brewing in Washington. Sen. Al Franken wants Euclid to get customer approval before tracking them.

This will likely turn into a big battle for privacy in the near future, but the outcome will still likely end up allowing companies to track consumers. The issue is whether consumers should know about it first. Either way, you can get real data about your customers, and your brick-and-more retail store, using the Internet and smartphone technology. This is information you would have had to pay a lot of money for in the past and still not get accurate data.

Here’s how it works:

Euclid installs sensors in retailers’ locations that can measure how many people walked by a store, how many walked in and for how long they stayed based on when their smartphones emit a kind of radar searching for wireless Internet signals.

That’s pretty clever. All a person has to do is walk past your store and they get tracked.

So here’s the question: How is that actionable data?

If you know that 10,000 people walk by your store in an 8-hour period of time and only 500 of those enter, then you can work on ways to get more people to walk into your store. If those who do enter only browse 10 minutes before leaving, then you can figure out ways to get people to stay longer. You can know whether your efforts are successful or not based on future tracking. That’s pretty powerful.

It’s just a matter of time before someone figures out how to use this technology in conjunction with online marketing. Then retailers will have an upper hand indeed.

When it comes to social media, everyone has their ideas on how to do it properly. Most social media experts I know agree on a few things, but on the nitty-gritty details of running a social media campaign there is a lot of variation. Here’s one of the things that I see often suggested and just as often ignored.

Listen first.

So many small business owners take to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn and jump in with a shout. They start promoting this and that about their business without really checking to see who is listening. A better way to get some mileage out of your social media marketing is to listen first, shout later.

Actually, instead of shouting, just whisper.

Let me clarify.

When I say listen first, what I mean is sign up for the service and make a few friends. You can interact with them, but don’t start any special promotions. Just spend your first few weeks listening. What are people talking about? What’s the tone? How often, and in what ways, do people interact on that particular service? What makes the various social media platforms different? Take note of that.

As you are listening, engage with people on the services. Interact with them. That’s how you make friends and build relationships. But hold off on the self-promotion until you’ve made some solid connections.

When the time is right, slowly add a few self-promotional tweets or messages. Don’t overdo it. Spend more time sharing useful information with your audience. Only promote the really good stuff you have. Spend the rest of your time listening.

Headers have a difficult job. They’ve got to attract attention, but they can’t detract from the rest of the website. Their job is to make an impact, to draw people in, and that’s pretty much it. Well, that and branding. They have to give your website or blog visitor an idea about who you are and what you have to offer.

In other words, your header’s job is to spark an interest. It’s like the carnival barker. Without the carnival.

Unless of course your website is a carnival website (wink, wink).

All kidding aside, what does your header say about your business? Does it confuse your prospect? Do your website visitors show up and ask, “What does this business do?” If so, then it’s time to revise your header. You need a new one.

It’s not a graphics problem. Sure, your graphics department will likely be creating the header, but it’s your marketing department’s job to make sure that all of your communications are in sync – with each other and with your company’s overall vision and mission statements. Your marketing department is responsible for your image and for making sure that your brand is likable.

So ask yourself, “Is my header confusing people? Is it doing its job or did we just throw it together?”

How often have you said to yourself, “I wish I could track how many people are pinning the images on my website and how many people are seeing those pins?”

If you’re like most business owners, you’ve wondered when Pinterest would allow you to track that information and use that data as actionable intelligence. Well, wonder no more. Pinterest has announced that it does indeed now have an analytics dashboard for businesses.

To take advantage of Pinterest Analytics, you have to do four things:

  1. Set up a business account at Pinterest. You don’t have access to Pinterest Analytics as a personal user. You have to use it as a business.
  2. Switch over to the new look.
  3. Verify your website.
  4. Start tracking.

The three actionable data sets that you’ll be able to track through Pinterest Analytics include the number of people pinning your website, how many people are seeing those pins, and how many visitors you get to your website from Pinterest.

That’s all great information, but it’s not perfect. I expect Pinterest Analytics to improve as more businesses begin to use it and Pinterest gets helpful feedback from those businesses. I’d like to see the ability to get this actionable information for more than one website.

So there you have it. Pinterest Analytics, and now your social media marketing is getting better.

What do you make of Internet marketers, or search engine optimizers (professional SEOs), recommending putting your content behind a paywall? Won’t that drive your traffic elsewhere?

It depends.

There are content publishers making good money with paywalls. And there are others going belly up. So what’s the recipe for success?

There’s no one recipe that will work for every website just like there’s no one way to bake a cake. There are certain things you don’t want to put in a cake, and even if you have all the right ingredients, you have to have them in the right measure. Plus, you have to mix those ingredients in just the right way, and keep it in the oven just the right amount of time, etc.

I’m no baker, but I know about SEO. I know about marketing online. Sometimes it makes sense to put your content behind a paywall. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Here are a few things to consider if you are looking at putting your content behind a paywall:

  • How much does it cost you to produce a page of content?
  • What is your expected return on each page of content?
  • How much competition do you have in your niche?
  • What is the availability of the content you are producing for free on the Internet? If you have a lot of competition producing the same content for free, then it might not make sense to add a paywall. You have to create value or people won’t pay for it.

Paywalls can be good if you produce enough high value content that can’t be acquired anywhere else. If there’s an audience for it, there could be a profit in your content behind a paywall. But don’t jump into it blindly.

YouTube has opened up One Channel to the entire world. So what is it?

In a word, One Channel is YouTube’s new design platform that allows you to make your YouTube channel more accessible to more people. The prime feature of One Channel is that it makes your YouTube channel easier to experience on any digital device. No matter what kind of screen your video viewers are using, they can experience your videos.

That includes desktop machines, laptops, tablets, smartphones, TVs, or any type of device with a digital display.

Check out this example of a YouTube One Channel design.

YouTube Is More Accessible Than Ever Before

YouTube One Channel isn’t just for independent movie makers. It’s for anyone who has a YouTube channel and makes videos for an audience. That includes online marketers.

No matter what niche you serve, if you have your own YouTube channel, then you should switch to the new YouTube One Channel design. If you aren’t producing your own videos on YouTube but you’ve considered it, then you should definitely put your eye on this new product because this is the future of video marketing.

I’m proud to see video marketing improving, especially on YouTube. This is one area where technology just keeps improving. It’s good to see it.

If you’ve dreamed of becoming an Internet publisher, allow me to proclaim how simple it is to become one. I’m not going to fill your head with “get rich quick” formulas, but the opportunity to become an Internet publisher with current technology is right at your fingertips. You don’t even need a lot of money to get started.

So what do you need?

All you really need is an idea, the motivation to succeed, a passion, and the right technology. Here are 5 distinct ways to run an online publishing company and make money with your efforts:

  1. Publish an ezine – An ezine is a digital magazine that you can publish by e-mail or promote through e-mail.
  2. Write a blog – You can write your blog yourself, curate what others write, or take submissions and publish the writings of others. Blogs are very popular, and if you can successfully publish a blog that attracts great traffic, you can charge advertisers for sponsoring your blog.
  3. E-books – Through Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple iPad, and other e-book reading devices, you can be a successful digital publisher selling e-books on a variety of topics, fiction and nonfiction.
  4. Squidoo Lenses – Some writers and publishers are making a decent living or supplementing their income with Squidoo Lenses.
  5. Articles – Articles are the shortest form of online publishing and can be formatted in many ways. You can publish them on your blog, in your ezine, as e-books, in your Squidoo Lenses, or as guest posts on other people’s blogs.

Online publishing is a growing field. More and more writers and entrepreneurs are building their Web presence by starting their own publishing companies. You can too.

The key to marketing, online or off line, is to pick a target market and go after it. Don’t try to be all things to all people. That’s the surest way to fail in any endeavor, but especially in marketing.

Online marketing isn’t so much a push transaction as it is a pull transaction. Now, what do I mean by that?

Instead of aiming your crossbow at a target and pulling the string, what you do online is draw your target to you by putting carrots out and watching the prospects follow the trail back to you. So, if you think about your social media profiles as outposts for your content messaging and your blog the sidewalk in front of your store, then you can imagine your website as the inner sanctum of your online presence. That’s where you build the deep relationships.

But you still have to get the prospect there. But how?

You have to push your content out to draw your prospect in. Put some nuggets out there in social media land. Watch and see who bites, and how they bite. What are they biting on? It’s kind of like fishing. You have to use the right bait and fish in the right spot to catch the type of fish you want to catch.

After you see what people are biting on, you can then put more of that out there. Draw people in. Pull them to your blog with a little more in-depth content, then pull them deeper into your web from there.

If you make your content enticing, you can get the business. It’s a pull endeavor, not a push.

More and more, the search engines are using a process called Latent Semantic Indexing for categorizing search results. So what does that mean?

In a nutshell, Latent Semantic Indexing (or LSI) involves analyzing a web page to look for related words and phrases that can be substitutes for each other or help the search engine identify what that page is about. For instance, “car” and “automobile” are two words often used for the same object. If you write a web page about your blue 4-wheel drive automobile, based on the principles of LSI, that page could also rank for search terms that include the word “car” even if “car” doesn’t appear anywhere on the page.

This is an important concept to understand for content writers because it means you can play up these related keywords in your content without harping on them.

In the old days, you counted your keywords and tried to write your web pages with a certain keyword density in mind. In other words, the number of keywords per words on the page. You wanted “automobile” to appear 1% to 5% relative to the actual number of words on the page (i.e. 1-5 times for every 100 words on the page). That’s no longer the case.

Instead of counting keyword densities, with LSI you can spread your keyword usage around to all related keywords. You might use “automobile,” “car,” and “vehicle” interchangeably throughout your content, which is more like natural writing anyway.

Latent Semantic Indexing is the future of SEO. It means that writers can get back to being writers again instead of keyword managers.

What’s the best social network for generating business-to-business leads? If you guessed LinkedIn, sorry. You’re wrong. It’s actually Twitter.

In fact, it’s been Twitter for a long time. And this story confirms it.

While Facebook is better for generating traffic, Twitter is the best platform for channeling leads. It’s easy to understand why when you think you about it. Twitter is a massive opt-in list.

People follow you if they think you have something to say that will benefit them. If you follow through and deliver on that expectation, then you can lure them deeper into your marketing funnel. The key is to make your Twitter stream a valuable resource, not a place where you throw out marketing messages no one wants to read.

Essentially, if all you do on Twitter is self-promotion, then you’ll kill your lead generation, but if you provide valuable information in a tight niche, then you build value. People will then be more receptive to your come-ons and appeals for business. That’s where you can cash in on your lead generation efforts.

Here’s the lesson: Learn where your audience hangs out. Then, spend your time there providing valuable information for them.

If you follow that one maxim, your lead generation efforts will pay off – whether you do it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or somewhere else.