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Initially, sponsored tweets on Twitter were open only to big corporations. Now, they’re open to everyone. You can take advantage of Twitter’s self-service advertising platform in two ways:

  • Promoted Accounts – Ever see those “Who To Follow” lists in your Twitter sidebar? If so, then that’s what I’m talking about. You can have your account show up in that list for people that you target based on demographics you choose. Get more targeted followers for your business and capitalize on them.
  • Promoted Tweets – The other way to use Twitter’s self-service advertising platform is to promote individual tweets. These are also based on demographic data you input based on your preferences. The difference is that your promoted tweet will appear in the Twitter streams of the people who match your targeting preferences.

This is a new opportunity for small businesses looking to capitalize on Twitter. You can keep tweeting for free and hope to get a response from your followers, or you can reach Twitter accounts based on your preferences. These may be followers or not, but they’ll be targeted based on criteria you define.

I think now is the time to jump on this bandwagon. It is likely that the cost of Twitter advertising will increase as demand increases. At least, initially. What you’ll pay for promoted tweets two years from now may not be what you’ll pay today.

Google Trends has introduced a new way to conduct keyword research. There are plenty of ways to use Google Trends to uncover the best keywords to target for your marketing campaigns. Today I’m going to highlight 6 basic ways to use Google Trends.

  1. Channel Search – With Google Trends you can research key phrases and how they have fared over time in the following channels: Web Search, Image Search, News Search, Product Search, and YouTube Search.
  2. Geographic Search – You can search the trends for your keywords worldwide or narrow your search to specific countries.
  3. Specific Period Of Time – Data on Google Trends goes all the way back to 2004. You can perform keyword-based research back to that time from the present or choose a time period any time in between. For instance, you could research your keyword from 2006-2010. Or from 2010-present. It’s very flexible.
  4. By Category – Google Trends allows you to research your keywords by category. For instance, if you are researching the keyword “timing chain,” then you could limit your search to the Autos & Vehicles category. There are 25 categories to choose from, and each of those have subcategories.
  5. Related Terms – If you are researching a particular keyword phrase, Google Trends will recommend related keywords. You can also track those searches by the same methods above.
  6. Rising Trends – One of the most powerful keyword research tools on Google Trends is the Rising Trends tool. Just click the Rising tab and you’ll see the keywords that are rising in the search results right now.

Each of these tools can be used for a single keyword research or you can use them in comparison searches where you compare the trends of two or more keywords you are targeting.

Google Trends is a powerful keyword research tool that I highly recommend.

For most of Internet marketing history, search engines were the place people found information online. Content was king, and by “content” it was meant text. Then came along social media. There was Friendster and MySpace. Then, YouTube and Facebook took over. Flickr allowed people to store and share photos – and still does. Then something else happened.

Mobile phones became popular. Then smartphones. People were taking photos with their phones. And sharing them online. Pinterest hit the scene followed by other image-rich social media platforms. Now, it seems, images are taking over.

A recent article at Wired highlights the move toward image-based marketing. And the truth is, this trend is growing.

It makes sense. People want to see items before they purchase them. That was the premise behind the old Sears and J.C. Penney catalogs. If you’re old enough to remember those, then you know what I’m talking about. Modern websites like Pinterest are the catalogs of our day. They allow people to see a product before they buy it.

That doesn’t mean that search engines will go away. Actually, it’s probable that search engines will find a way to adapt to this new trend and create new algorithms to help people find the images that lead to greater online commerce. Such a move would only benefit them while also benefiting searchers. One thing remains sure, however. Images are becoming a lot more important for online marketing. No one can ignore that.

Is your content shareable? How do you know?

Creating content that is shareable is no easy task. There’s no magic trick either. It’s a strategy more than anything. You should consider how your content can best be shared before you create it. Don’t create it then wonder how you will share it.

The most important consideration in any piece of content is this: Does it make an emotional connection?

You have to connect with your intended readership. Pull on their heart strings. That doesn’t mean you should resort to sentimentality. What it does mean is you should let them know you are human, and don’t be afraid to address your topic from a real human need.

This can best be done if you put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What do they want? Answer that question and half the battle is won.

One effective way to appeal to emotions is to use humor. Keep it clean, but don’t be afraid to make your audience laugh. Laughter is great medicine. It also has a strong emotional appeal. People will remember you and they’ll want to spend more time on your website.

Nostalgia is another way to appeal to emotions. “Remember when …” posts are powerful because it puts people in a time and place that they remember fondly. If you can do that, then you can make a connection.

Remember, people make buying decisions emotionally. They also make sharing decisions emotionally. If you appeal to their sense of humanity, then you can get your content spread more widely.

SEO is in a constant state of change. Very little we do today bears any resemblance to how SEO was performed 10 or 15 years ago. And it’s likely that SEO will be quite different 20 years from now. Here are three outdated SEO ideas that still get shared in social circles even though they are completely WRONG.

  1. META Tags Are Extremely Important – No they’re not. Neither Bing nor Google even look at your keywords meta tag. They completely ignore it. Your SEO Title tag is usually redundant. It is only slightly useful. The most important meta tag is the meta description tag and, technically, you can do without it. It’s useful to the degree that you write a good one and that Google or Bing uses it in the search snippet in user search results – which doesn’t happen every time.
  2. Search Engine Submissions Are Necessary – Absolutely not. I still see web companies offering search engine submission services. The truth is, the search engines have spiders that crawl the web. If you have one inbound link to your website, it will be found and indexed by the search engines. Submission is not necessary.
  3. Exact Match Domain Names Rank Better – Just a cursory look at the web will tell you otherwise. Many branded non-keyword-matching domain names rank No. 1 for specific keyword searches. None of the search engines have “search engine” in their domain name. Yahoo! is a branded name. Bing is a branded name. Google is a branded name. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are all branded names. Enough said.

Are you listening to outdated ideas? Stop listening to the people selling you bad SEO advice. Listen to the folks who are moving with the times.

There is a new art form, and a new marketing strategy, that involves using a variety of media to tell separate stories of the same characters or worlds. It’s called transmedia storytelling.

Transmedia storytelling is different than cross-media storytelling. With cross-media, you are telling the same story. With transmedia storytelling, you are telling separate stories of the same characters that run parallel. Many new entertainment brands are using transmedia storytelling by incorporating the following media to present worlds in different ways:

  • Blogs
  • Social media
  • Websites
  • Podcasts
  • E-books
  • Movies/film
  • Mobile apps
  • Theater
  • And more

The big question is how can businesses take the principles of transmedia storytelling and apply them to marketing and branding?

Like a lot of things, there’s not just one way to do it. But it takes some creativity and thinking outside of the box to pull it off.

For instance, why not create a character or mascot that represents your business? Then you can give that character a voice by choosing someone to play that character in a series of entertainment videos where your brand, product, market niche, or customer need is the central message.

Next, set up a Twitter account where you tweet in the voice of the character.

Make your mascot the central character in an e-book.

Blog in that character’s voice daily.

When you go about these ordinary marketing activities, be sure that you are adding value to your audience’s lives. Entertain them while you inform them. Make it fun.

It’s firmly established in the minds of most online marketers that analytics is a necessary component of their marketing program. You need analytics that tell you how many visitors and unique visitors you are getting, your bounce rate, keywords searchers are using to find your web site, social media analytics, and conversion rates too. But should you be tracking all of that in realtime?

Realtime analytics is important for a number of reasons.

First, if you start a new marketing campaign, then you can gauge its effectiveness right from the start. You can see if people are responding to your social media posts immediately. You can tell if your PPC campaign is getting the responses you’d hoped for right off the bat. That’s important actionable data that allows you to tweak your marketing initiatives if necessary.

Another reason realtime analytics is important is because you can see who is on your site right now. If you see people arriving at your site from Northern California, then you can rearrange the content on your home page to target that demographic. Right now!

Those are two very important reasons to track your website usage in realtime. You can probably think of other reasons on your own.

There are many things that can kill your reputation online, but one of the things that will kill it fastest is getting caught buying fake reviews. That’s true whether we are talking about Yelp reviews of your business, reviews of your product on Amazon, or reviews on Google Places. Fake reviews are a reputation killer.

Don’t believe it? See what happened to Samsung.

The sad part about this is Samsung has a strong reputation for making quality products. So why would anyone associated with the company feel the need to post fake reviews of its products? They should be able to get plenty of positive reviews for their products.

Whatever genius came up with this idea should be fired. They should be replaced by someone who can encourage their customers to post positive reviews instead. For instance, run an in-store promotion where you give away a product by random drawing that includes anyone who has posted a review of Samsung’s products. That way, you encourage people to post reviews and reward them for doing so.

It is important to protect your online reputation. The best way to do that is to build great products, provide excellent customer service, and don’t do anything stupid.

The reason clients outsource their search engine optimization is because they don’t have the time to commit to it or they don’t have the expertise necessary to create a successful SEO campaign. Both of those are understandable. However, you still need to be involved.

Some clients have the attitude that the SEO professional will take care of all of the details. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But the reality is, it’s your business. No SEO in the world is going to be an expert in every niche every one of their clients is a part of. You still need to be involved in the SEO process.

Here are 4 ways that clients often sabotage their own SEO campaigns.

  1. The client isn’t committed to the campaign – This typically happens in large organizations where a marketing professional hires an outside SEO firm but upper management, who have no knowledge or experience with SEO and don’t want it, have not been sold on the idea. This usually leads to infighting. This can often be a distraction to your SEO firm. Make sure everyone on your team is sold out to your SEO campaign before you start it.
  2. The client is not involved in the process – Don’t just hand over your SEO to your consultant and forget about it. Your input is necessary for keyword selection and strategy implementation.
  3. The client doesn’t keep up their end of the bargain – Whether it comes to paying for services or conducting experiments, testing, or research, if you tell your SEO consulting firm that you will do something, then you should do it. After all, you’d expect the same from them.
  4. The client doesn’t implement changes fast enough – If you agree to perform some of the tasks related to your SEO, then be sure to do it. Your SEO firm may be relying on you to complete certain tasks before they can do their jobs. If you don’t implement the necessary changes when you say you will or install particular software on time, then you could be hurting your own marketing efforts.

SEO is getting more and more technical and difficult to implement, not to mention costly. Don’t sabotage your company’s SEO efforts with any of these mistakes.

Link diversity is an important SEO concept that is still misunderstood in a lot of ways. What it involves is how Google (and Bing) count your inbound links. It’s not enough to have those links. You must work hard to make your link graph look natural, and link diversity is the way to do that.

Here are 5 ways that link diversity is important:

  1. Link sources – Google looks at how many links you have, but that’s of secondary importance. The search engines are also concerned with how many domains you get your links from. Instead of going after 10,000 links from one domain, try to get links from as many domains as possible. Spread your inbound links out from around the Web.
  2. Anchor text – Don’t make your link anchor text all the same. Vary your anchor text and use many different keyword and non-keyword variations.
  3. Domain age – Links from older domains are more valuable than links from newer sites, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get links from newer sites. You should. Eventually, those sites will have age going in their favor too.
  4. Type of link – Text links are the best links, but image links provide value too. Get links from a variety of media, including videos, infographics, and whatever else is available.
  5. Niche variation – You’ve likely heard that links from websites in the same niche have higher value. That’s true. Still, you can get links from outside your niche if the content is appropriate. For instance, if you serve the automotive market and you leave a blog comment on a blog that is about music technology because a particular blog post was about car radios, that would be appropriate – and perfectly OK.

Link diversity is one of the most important concepts in link building. Pay careful attention to all of these factors.

No matter what kind of business you are running, you’ll have to create content, but there are different types of content and each type has a different purpose. Here are 5 different kinds of content you should concern yourself with when planning your content marketing strategy.

  1. Foundational content – This is content that is foundational to your website and business. It includes your home page, About page, and landing pages. Foundational content is necessary content that gives potential customers an idea about who you are and what you do.
  2. Community-building content – This content is social. It can be on your site or off site, but its purpose is to engage with your audience. It usually involves your blog, but it can be wholly contained on your social media outposts as well.
  3. Promotional content – Promotional content should be kept to a minimum. Its sole purpose is to promote, such as a notice of an upcoming event or a book you’ve published.
  4. Informational content – This content is strictly to inform your audience about a particular topic. It can be a newsletter article, a free download, a white paper, or even a web page or blog post, but it’s strictly for informational purposes.
  5. Fleeting content – I call this “fleeting” content because it typically is short lived. That is, it has no long-term appeal. Certain types of blog posts typically fall into this category, but guest articles can too. They address topics that are hot right now but may not be hot next year. Like promotional content, you want to keep this content to a minimum, but it can be good marketing to include it.

There are other types of content, but these are the types you’ll encounter most often. Design your content marketing strategy around them.

I’m going to assume for the purpose of this blog post that you already have a website, you’ve done the right keyword research for your online marketing plan, and you have already established a marketing plan and budget. You are ready to begin the implementation phase. How should you start your blog?

I’d recommend with starting an editorial calendar. Begin your calendar with the first day of next month. You want to give yourself a little lead time.

Plan to post two days a week the first month. Pick the days and put them on your calendar. For each blog post on the calendar, pick a keyword from your list and write a blog post for that day. Write the entire first month’s blog posts and then schedule them to post on the appropriate days. WordPress makes this easy.

During that first month, you want to monitor your analytics. How much traffic are you getting, where is it coming from, and how long are people staying on your site?

Also, each time one of your blog posts goes live, share it to social media.

During that first publishing month you’ll want to plan the next month’s posts. It’s a good idea to have your publishing schedule completed before the 15th of the previous month. This time, plan to post three days a week. Write your posts and pre-schedule them. Monitor analytics.

Before the halfway mark of the second publishing month, have your posts for the third month planned. This time, plan to post five days a week. If you are a service business open Monday through Friday, post on those days. If you are open on weekends, post on your five busiest days, or the days that make the most sense for your business.

This is your first three months of posting. Continue sharing your blog posts on social media and monitor your analytics.

Mike Blumenthal recently experienced a face brownout with Google. Ouch! How painful.

Don’t worry. Even though it could happen to you, it’s only virtually painful. No physical pain.

What happened is, Google didn’t like his author photo. So he changed it.

The thing that strikes me about this is, Google is able to identify an author by their photo, which is pretty amazing. And another thing, Google arbitrarily decides it doesn’t like certain photos and that becomes your problem. Welcome to the world of Google.

If you find your photo not showing up in Google search results alongside your articles, especially when it did before, then do as Mike Blumenthal did and change your photo. If that new photo starts showing up in search results, then you know the problem was the photo. If it doesn’t, then it’s a problem you can’t fix, evidently.

Here’s a little advice about author photos. When possible, use full face photos. I think Google likes those better.

At any rate, don’t use photos where your image is obscured or where only half of your face shows (I know, Seth Godin does it – but, he’s been doing it for forever and a day).

You want to make it easy for Google to associate your name with your image. That’s the main thing. And there’s even a fancy name it – FaceRank.

Guest blogging has been quite popular for a couple of years now, but it isn’t for everyone. Whether or not you should accept guest bloggers for your blog depends on a number of factors.

First, what are the benefits of having guest bloggers?

Well, one benefit is you get to take a break from blogging while still providing your readers with quality content. Another benefit is, if you get a good guest blogger, then you’ll attract that person’s audience to your blog, picking up traffic you might not otherwise gain access to. Those are pretty good benefits.

However, there are some drawbacks. You’ll have to sift through quite a bit of low quality content to get to the good stuff. You’ll have to deal with e-mail spam from people pitching a blog idea who have no idea what your blog is about and probably don’t even know your name. Don’t waste your time responding to those e-mails. Instead, should you decide to accept guest bloggers, create a set of guidelines for them to follow and enforce them religiously.

You may want to keep the content on your blog entirely your own. That’s OK. It’s your blog. You are perfectly within your rights to do that.

It’s a matter of choice. There are pros and cons to accepting guest bloggers. Do what’s right for your business.

Testing is one of the most important aspects of creating new web design. If you have a current website and think you can improve upon it, how shall you go about it? You should test new designs against your old design and see which one performs better.

There are two types of website testing that are popular and recognized by most industry experts: A/B testing and multivariate testing. Which one is right for you?

In general, it depends. However, I think A/B testing is appropriate for most circumstances.

A/B testing is where you take one component of your web page and you test it against a new version of it. For instance, you take your page headline and tweak it slightly then present an A/B test to see which one users like the most. The A version is usually the current web page published. The B version is the one with the new headline. You don’t test any other components on the page.

Multivariate testing allows you to test multiple components at the same time. You can add a new headline, move your lead photo from the right to the left side of the page, and make your sidebar wide and narrow.

Testing multiple variables at the same time can give you an idea about different versions of your page, but it won’t necessarily tell you which variables users are attracted to. In the above scenario, for instance, users might like version B of your web page more than version A, but do they like it because of the headline, the image or the sidebar? All you can is they like the combination of elements better.

This is why I recommend A/B testing over the multivariate testing most of the time. Still, it’s OK to use multivariate testing because the end result is a better website that visitors love.

One of the most successful – if not the most successful – online business models is called a hub-and-spoke model. Think of it as like a bicycle wheel. There’s a hub and there are spokes that connect the hub to the actual wheel. Without both of these two components, the wheel will not do its job – even though neither component is the actual wheel.

So now that you have the visual, what is the hub and what is the spoke?

Your hub is the center of all of your marketing efforts online. It’s the place where you plan, strategize and implement your online marketing plan.

In essence, it’s your website. Your website should include your blog.

The reason you don’t want just a website without a blog is because your website is static. You want to update it on a regular basis to keep the search engine spiders coming back and crawling it on a regular basis. Fresh regular content is one of the most important things you need on your website.

So now, onto the spokes. Your spokes are the outlying bases that you use to drive traffic back to the hub. These could be popular forums in your niche, directories, or social media websites. It could also include other blogs. The key is to find locations around the Web where your target audience is hanging out. Then you go there and hang out too. Create content they will like, engage their imaginations, and then slowly siphon the traffic and direct it to your hub.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s much harder than it sounds, but it’s necessary. This is one of the most successful content marketing plans on the Net. Try it.

It seems the whole world is going ga-ga over social media. It’s practically all you hear about nowadays. People are flocking to the social media sites to establish a presence and build their brands. Often, when they get there they realize it is more work than they thought it was going to be. Then they get the “what next?” glaze in their eyes.

Social media is important. But far more important than social media is the voice behind it. In a word, it’s authority.

Think about the sources where you receive your daily news. Why do you like them? Are you more interested in CNN or Fox News? Why? Chances are, you get your news from the sources you select because you like their reputation as news sources. You consider them authorities.

Readers in every niche look at online content the same way. They want to get their information from a credible authority.

But how do you build authority? How do you establish yourself as a voice of authority in your niche? The surest way to become a respected and recognized authority on any topic is to produce regular material on your subject that is respected. You can get your content recognized by a large number of people interested in the topic, by a few respected leaders in your niche, or a combination of the two.

How you build authority is up to you. The fact that you need to become an authority is getting more and more evident every day. When it happens, social media will be there to help reap the rewards.

We’ve talked about Google+ Hangouts before, and we’ve talked about YouTube marketing too. But did you know you can integrate these two features to make them both more powerful?

Google+ Hangouts is like Skype. You can host a web conference with up to 10 people (with Skype, it’s 25). However, Google+ Hangouts has some additional features that Skype can’t touch.

For instance, you can share documents with the other webinar participants in real time for free. You can share your computer screen and use Google Drive to share your documents. You can also click the “ON-AIR” button once your Google+ Hangout is underway and record your Hangout live. Let’s see you do that with Skype!

But it doesn’t stop there. You can easily share your Google+ Hangout with all your friends on YouTube. That makes your webinar available to your YouTube channel’s followers and the billions of YouTube users who search for videos on a daily basis.

Once your web conference on Google+ Hangouts is shared on YouTube, you can then share it on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other social media site you are a member of.

Google+ Hangouts is a free feature that is a part of Google+. It’s a powerful business tool for video marketing.

Chances are, if you’ve been online for any period of time and have been reading SEO blogs, then you’ve probably heard that press releases are a great way to build links back to your website and garner a little SEO from them. Exercise caution. This could be bad advice.

Think about it. Google slapped article directories hard with its Panda update. They essentially killed some of the top article directories on the web. Some of them managed to bounce back.

Press release distribution websites are just like article directories. They are directories for press releases.

While I believe press releases are important tools for getting publicity for your business, I think you’re better off developing a list of media that you send your press releases to directly. You can upload your press releases to press release distribution websites in addition to your own media and PR list. However, don’t expect much.

Those press release distribution websites have become saturated with overly optimized press releases that do little to inform journalists about anything.

You may find a few journalists in any industry that scour these sites for news stories, but my bet is that most of them rely on press releases sent directly to them. Inbound links from press releases might help a little, but I wouldn’t use them as a primary SEO tactic.

Marketing your brand through YouTube is one of the most powerful media for marketing on the Internet, but what is the true value? Is it traffic? Rankings? Brand reputation?

The truth is, most of the benefit you get from marketing your videos through YouTube is with brand management, not traffic or rankings.

The Truth About YouTube Traffic

In the FAQ section of this lengthy blog post, the author gives an example of a YouTube video marketer who showed over 400,000 views on their YouTube videos in December 2012 but received only 19 referrals to their website as a result of those videos.

If that doesn’t shock you, it should.

The amount of traffic you can expect from your YouTube videos is relatively low. Why? Because people don’t go to YouTube to find videos that promote websites. They go there to find a video to watch for entertainment or informational purposes.

YouTube And Search Rankings

If you upload videos to YouTube hoping to increase your website’s search engine rankings, you’ll be disappointed. You could see a rise in your brand’s search rankings, but it will likely be your YouTube channel – especially if you upload a lot of videos and if you share them on your social media accounts or embed them on your website.

Video embeds from YouTube help YouTube’s rankings, not the site on which videos are embedded.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you want more rankings for your brand name, YouTube could be a place for you to make that happen. Just know that you’ll be ranking your YouTube channel, not your website.

YouTube And Branding

Your best bet for using YouTube for marketing purposes is to upload videos that have a strong branding message to them. Try to make your videos informative and entertaining. If you can do both and still get your brand in front of your audience, then you’ll be golden. That’s what YouTube is all about.