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Social networking site LinkedIn started out as a place for hungry job seekers to find employment. Then it blossomed into so much more. They added forums, communities, a question & answer board, and a load of features for business people. And they started growing by leaps and bounds.

Not long ago they added a new feature that has grown quite rapidly – business pages. Recently, they hit the 3 million mark with business pages created. 500,000 of those were within the last 12 months.

From the way the service is growing, it wouldn’t be surprising to see another million business pages added in the next 18 months. Yours should be one of them – if it isn’t already.

Because so many business professionals are using LinkedIn, if you run a business to business operation, then you should be there too. One of the reasons so many business owners and executives are using LinkedIn is because it doesn’t have all the circus-like distractions that Facebook has, which more a destination for business to consumer operations.

Social networking is here to stay. You have to go where your audience is. You can’t be on every network. You have time to manage. Pick your venues wisely. LinkedIn is for businesses.

Jill Whalen has a great article at SiteProNews about why Google may not trust your blog or website. While all the points she makes are good, I want to address the question of expertise with regard to your content.

Google is looking for authoritative content. What does “authoritative” mean? It means you are a subject matter expert. If that’s true, then how should you act? As the expert content provider for your blog, what should you do to prove yourself the able expert? I suggest you should do at least these five things:

  1. Research – Don’t just scratch the surface of your knowledge. Do in-depth research and write at least one or two long blog posts per week (or as often as you can). Experts go deep.
  2. Associate your name with the content – Don’t be anonymous. If you are an expert, then use your name. Add a bio to your website and link each blog post or in-depth article to your expert bio. List all the credentials that make you an expert.
  3. Use Google Authorship – Get a Google+ account. Link to your blog and website from your Google+ profile. Use the rel=author tag and Google Authorship markup.
  4. Proofread – Don’t write sloppy content. Read your own writing and clean it up. You’d be surprised at how much more attention Google will pay your blog posts if the grammar and spelling are good.
  5. Cite your sources – Experts cite their sources. Never plagiarize. If you borrow someone else’s ideas, give them credit. Attribute your sources with a link and be a good Net citizen.

Being an expert is a privilege. Act like an expert and demonstrate your knowledge like an expert. If you do that, then Google will treat you like an expert.

The acronym gTLD stands for generic top-level domain. You are likely familiar with Web URL extensions .com, .net, and .org. These are gTLDs. In 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) began taking applications for new gTLDs. As a result, there have been 1,903 applications filed for new gTLDs since June 13, 2012.

The addition of these new domain name extensions has some serious implications for search. For instance, each gTLD could have its own search engine to allow searchers the ability to find information on that specific gTLD. If you type search.jobs into your Internet browser, you’ll be redirected to jobs.jobs, which is a search engine for the .jobs gTLD. Search.travel allows you to search .travel gTLDs, and I’m sure you can guess what you’ll be looking for if you search search.xxx.

Currently, there are 23 gTLDs. There will soon be hundreds. As the number of domain extensions grows, the need for more sophisticated search tactics will grow.

Google also allows you to search for information by domain extension. You have to use the Advanced Search features, which few people know about but are available nonetheless. When there are several hundred domain extensions to search through and each one has thousands of domain names vying for attention, you can bet that demand for domain-specific search will be a lot higher than it is today. It would not surprise me to see Google set up domain search verticals at each of the gLTDs as they are rolled out. Bing and Yahoo! too.

While domain-specific SEO is not something you should worry about right now, know that in five or ten years it will be.

Reading two articles about semantic search and conversational search, I had to ask the question, “Will keywords be necessary in five years?”

I’ve heard it argued that they’re not necessary now, which is only partially true, I think. As semantic search becomes more the norm, then I expect keywords to become less important. They are certainly a lot less important in conversational search, as demonstrated by Danny Sullivan.

The big question is, When will Google take the semantic aspects of conversational search and apply them to organic text-based search? I figure it could happen within the next five years – probably sooner.

Of course, that won’t immediately kill the need for keywords. I suspect that keywords will always be a part of search but in a more diminished way as search becomes increasingly more sophisticated. Personalization was one step in that direction. Google+ is another step. Conversational search is a big leap.

Keywords are still necessary because they are a good way for search optimizers, searchers, and the search engines to communicate on common ground. What Google is increasingly trying to do is make search more like natural conversations.

So the big question on the table is, How long will it be before Google succeeds at making search entirely conversational, completely semantic? You want to take a stab at that? Will it be within the next five years?

On June 18, 2013, Google announced a new way to view restaurant results in Google. It’s called Google Local Carousel.

It’s an interesting way to see search results. Instead of blue links, you get a scroll bar across the top of your search results page with a visual element and some other information. The thing is, not everyone is even noticing it. Of the handful of searchers who do notice it, only a few seem to like it.

One of the big questions in the minds of searchers appears to be a lack of understanding in how the carousel is populated.

If users don’t understand how the carousel is populated – that is, what criteria Google uses to choose the restaurants included in the carousel – then it may not be useful. Another valid concern users raised was this: There appears to be no way to narrow the results in the carousel by restaurant type and cuisine preferences. Maybe such a change is forthcoming.

For local businesses, the big question is whether or not the carousel is useful for delivering more traffic to websites. I don’t see any evidence yet that this is taking place.

It’s likely that Google doesn’t want restaurants targeting inclusion into the carousel. Secrecy is their way of keeping the carousel – unlike organic search results – pure.

As more and more blogs and websites enter the Internet and the search engines make room for them in their indexes, images become all the more important. Recent search engine indexing changes make images much more important for search engine optimization purposes.

Either you can join a premium stock photo website and pay for your images or you can try to find public domain images, or free use images, to enhance your blog or website.

Free sounds better, doesn’t it?

While “free” usually means low quality, with images, it doesn’t have to. You CAN get free high quality images for your blog and website. You just have to look around a little bit.

Here are 4 sources you can use to find free images for your Internet marketing use:

  1. Flickr – Flickr is a photo sharing website owned by Yahoo! Users upload their own photos and images and set their own policies for usage. The best way to search Flickr is to go into The Commons area and search for images with a Creative Commons license.
  2. unprofoundunprofound is a non-profit website where registration isn’t necessary. They have few limitations.
  3. ZemantaZemanta is a WordPress plugin that suggests images based on the content of your blog post as you enter it. There are some downsides to the service, but it is free and you have to be careful that you do choose photos that are free for public use.
  4. Creative Commons – Just like Flickr’s The Commons, Creative Commons is a website that offers images on a variety of terms. Read the terms carefully for each image and choose only those that are offered for free. One pitfall is selecting images that are not available for commercial use and using them for commercial use. Read the terms.

You are encouraged to use images on your website and blog. If you can get your images for free, that’s a great option.

E-mail marketing services provider Constant Contact conducted a survey of small businesses and asked them how running their businesses today is different than it was five years ago. There have been some interesting findings as a result of the survey.

For instance,

  • 59% say it’s harder running a business now
  • 84% use more online marketing tools
  • 51% say it’s important to be a locally-owned business vs. 42% five years ago
  • 98% use e-mail marketing today vs. 64% five years ago
  • 87% use social media marketing vs. 10% five years ago
  • 72% expect revenue increases in 2013, however, 56% do not expect to hire new employees in the next six months
  • 55% say the biggest impact on their business in five years will be the economy; 18% say mobile and search marketing technologies

These certainly are interesting findings. The fact that small business owners are turning to online marketing tools to grow their businesses today means a lot. In five years, I expect that 84% to grow to over 95%, possibly nearer to 99% or 100%. If you look at the e-mail marketing number (98% of small businesses today), that’s where I’d expect all Internet marketing numbers to be in five years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see video marketing and mobile marketing to be a bigger part of the survey by that time.

What are your thoughts?

If you publish your videos to YouTube, you should tie those videos to your Google Analytics account. Doing so will allow you to track important metrics for your videos and see what’s working and what’s not with regard to your video marketing efforts.

To add YouTube to your Google Analytics account, all you have to do is go to YouTube and click on My Channel in your profile settings area (HINT: Click the down arrow in the upper right corner near your avatar). Next, click on one of your videos. Under the video title you’ll see a small box labeled “Channel settings.” Click on that button. Scroll down to where you see “Google Analytics account ID.” There should be a text box next to that label. Copy and paste your Google Analytics account ID into that box and click the blue Save button.

Adding your YouTube videos to your Google Analytics account allows you to see how many visitors, unique visitors, and page views each of your videos gets on a regular basis. If you perform any marketing campaigns to drive traffic to your YouTube videos, that will be a very important metric for you.

Video marketing is getting better all the time. YouTube and Google Analytics are two reasons why.

301 redirects are probably used much too often. They’re not bad in and of themselves, but if you employ them incorrectly, then it can hurt your SEO efforts. Do it right, however, and you won’t see any fall out.

Here are 3 popular redirect practices that I recommend you give up on right now:

  1. Redirecting To The Home Page – Webmasters often think that if they delete a page from their website, then they can just implement a 301 redirect of that page to the home page and all will be fine. It is likely, however, that the search engines will simply delete that page from their indexes and not pass any link juice as a result of that redirect. You are much better off redirecting to a related page or a category page.
  2. Redirecting To Non-relevant Pages – If you have a web page about changing spark plugs and you redirect to a page about oil changes, that’s less desirable than redirecting to a page about tune ups. As much as you can, you should redirect pages to similar pages or pages that can match content relevance as closely as possible.
  3. Redirecting To Another Domain – Cross-domain redirects are not as good as same-domain redirects. If you move your website to a new domain, try your best to redirect each page to the corresponding page on the new domain. Don’t redirect the entire site to the new domain’s home page.

Implementing 301 redirects is not rocket science, but you should do it with some preplanning and make sure you are redirecting pages to relevant pages on the right domain.

This is perhaps the greatest social media blunder in history.

MySpace decided to change directions – again – and when they did they closed off some features to users and deleted all of their old information. And what did they apologize for? A MySpace with limited features.

I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t seem right.

Imagine going to Facebook and being told that all the posts, comments, photos, videos, and everything you’ve ever done on Facebook is gone. Kaput. Finis. You can’t get access to it, and you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to get it back. But Facebook apologizes for redesigning the site so you can’t create groups any more. Would that tick you off?

This little social experiment by MySpace should tell you one thing: You need to start saving all of your Facebook data.

In fact, you should backup all of your social media data every so often just in case your favorite social media website decides to follow MySpace’s lead. I think Cynthia Boris makes a valid point when she says

we don’t own our space in social media, we’re only renting.

If you thought otherwise, sorry to disappoint you. The social media services may claim that you own your own data, but if they can delete it at any time and not give you access to it, then does it do you any good to own it? Take some good advice. Do your own backups.

Last year Twitter introduced its advertising program, rolling it out to businesses first then to everyone. We learned that recently they also rolled out their analytics tool publicly.

Obviously, this is a way that Twitter hopes to encourage more users to buy sponsored tweets. I hope it works.

The analytics tool is a part of Twitter’s advertising platform. But you don’t have to be an advertiser to view your stats. You just login and get the data. But be forewarned, it doesn’t tell you much – yet.

What it will tell you, however, is helpful. For instance, you can see how many mentions you’ve had on any given day. And you can also see how many followers you picked up and how many followers you lost. In addition, Twitter will tell you how many faves and retweets each of your tweets have received to date. If your links have been clicked, it will tell you how many times. And particularly helpful is a notification when a particular tweet has been getting more attention than your normal tweets. You’ll get a message akin to this:

15x NORMAL REACH

Twitter analytics is still in its infancy. I expect it to get better. Meanwhile, to start using it, go to Twitter’s advertising platform and log in.

How many times have you said, “Facebook doesn’t support hashtags?” Probably a lot because a lot of people have been using hashtags on Facebook for at least a year now, and Facebook hasn’t supported them. Now, however, if you say Facebook doesn’t support hashtags, you’ll be wrong.

They started supporting hashtags yesterday.

From the announcement:

Starting today, hashtags will be clickable on Facebook. Similar to other services like Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest, hashtags on Facebook allow you to add context to a post or indicate that it is part of a larger discussion. When you click on a hashtag in Facebook, you’ll see a feed of what other people and Pages are saying about that event or topic.

Whether you’ve wanted Facebook to support hashtags or not, you can now do some of the things that you’ve been able to do on Twitter, Google+, and other social media sites, such as:

  • Search for a specific hashtag from your search bar.
  • Click on hashtags that originate on other services.
  • Compose posts directly from the hashtag feed and search results.

So, will this make your Facebook experience any richer? I’m guessing, if you like hashtags, then it very well could. One feature I like is being able to click a hashtag that originated elsewhere and seeing the stream. I did this just to test it and was able to click the results and go to all sorts of places – Amazon, personal blogs, Q&A sites, and more. I guess it works.

One of the latest developments for website design is responsive design. This is a term that is used to describe a website that is accessible from any device and allows the user to experience the website whether viewing it from a desktop machine, a laptop, a mobile phone, a tablet, or some other device. The website responds to the device it is being viewed from.

>Responsive web design is about more than simple accessibility. It also has some SEO benefits.

For instance, responsive websites eliminate the duplicate content issue. If you have a website in HTML that was designed for computers and a separate website that was designed for mobile devices, you’ll either have to rewrite the content for the second site or potentially deal with duplicate content issues in the search engines. There’s no way around it. Even if your mobile site is a subdomain of your main site, you’ll have to face the duplicate content monster.

You also only have to do SEO on one site. If you have two sites, that’s twice the SEO work.

Thirdly, if you have a traditional website and a mobile website, then you’ll have to build links to both sites. Link building is a time consuming activity. You will most certainly duplicate your efforts in social media promotion and other link building activities if you have a dedicated mobile website.

Going forward, responsive website design is going to be one of the most important trends for website development.

If you’re not on Google+ yet, you are likely well behind the eight ball. If you’re not on Google+ by the end of next year, then you may not exist. Products like Google+ Dashboard are the reason why.

The Dashboard was just introduced yesterday, but the features are incredible. I would say they fall into the “must-have” category.

  • The ability to update all of your business’s contact information (website URLs, store hours, phone numbers, etc.) across Maps, Search and Google+ – all from one central location called Overview Tab.
  • One place to monitor Google+ notifications, assign page managers, share photos and videos, and start Hangouts with followers.
  • At-a-glance access to AdWords Express and Offers campaigns for local businesses.
  • Awesome analytics data such as top searches for your business, top locations requesting driving directions, and performance data for your Google+ posts.

It looks like Google is trying to push businesses to use Google+ more, which is a good thing. If you aren’t using it already, you should. I can see a day where your business will be invisible if it doesn’t have a Google+ presence, and that day may not be far off.

Do your business a favor and join Google+ today. Improve your visibility online.

If you use Pinterest, you probably want to know what kind of images get repinned the most. This article discusses that.

In summary, images that get repinned the most at Pinterest include:

  • Reddish-orange images. In fact, they are repinned twice as often as blue images.
  • Multiple dominant colors. Images with multiple dominant colors get repinned 3.25 times more often than single dominant color images.
  • Medium light images. These images are repinned 20 times more than very dark images. I have no doubt. A quick look at the two images on display should tell you why.
  • Vertical images. Here’s an interesting one not related to color. Vertical images between a 2.3 and 4.5 ratio get repinned 60% more than very tall images.
  • Images without background. Images with less than 10% background get repinned 2-4 times more than images with more than 40% background.
  • Brand images without faces. This one is the most surprising statistic of all: Brand images without faces are repinned 23% more often than images with faces. How often have you heard that faces in photos is a good thing? Evidently, not on Pinterest.

If you’re going to use a social media site – any social media site – then it helps to understand what works and what doesn’t work there. This article should give you some insight into what Pinterest users like.

You’ve spent hours upon hours of time pushing your content through social media channels and analyzing the results. You get lots of traffic to your website only to see it bounce and go somewhere else. Is this how social media is suppose to work, or are you doing something wrong?

Traffic generation is good. I’m glad you are able to attract visitors to your website, but is your traffic targeted?

It’s better to get 100 highly targeted users to your website than to attract 1,000 non-targeted users. The targeted users are more likely to stick around and check out your content, maybe even buy something. Non-targeted users are more likely to go somewhere else.

It’s important to realize that just because you have a social media presence doesn’t obligate anyone to show up at your business website. People aren’t going to do that. But they will visit your website, and even buy something, if you have what they need.

Social media marketing is not about attracting the highest number of website visitors. It’s about attracting the right website visitors. If you aren’t doing that, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your social content and see if it’s doing the job you want it to do. You’ll get a higher click-through rate and more conversions if you focus on the traffic you want rather than the traffic you can scrounge.

So many SEOs and Internet marketers spend a lot of time chasing links and then end up with their web pages losing Web rankings. You might get more mileage if you focused on driving traffic to your website instead.

Internet marketing has always consisted of a balance between writing great content and performing solid SEO analysis. God links and great SEO techniques are useless unless they generate a long-term benefit. The best benefit, of course, is an increase in traffic that leads to conversions.

I’m going to share three ways you can increase your website traffic relatively easily.

  1. Becoming a columnist – Everyone wants to be a guest blogger, but you’ll get a lot further if you become a columnist instead. A columnist is a person who writes regularly for a Web property they don’t own. Find a website related to your niche where you can develop a relationship with an editor who will give you a chance to write daily, weekly, or monthly columns on a specific topic.
  2. Paid tweets – Find a Twitter user who posts items related to your niche and who has a lot of followers. Find out their optimal price for paid tweets and ask them to tweet something for you. Twitter is one of the best traffic generation tools online.
  3. Sponsored posts – The thing you have to remember about sponsored posts is you want to disclose the sponsorship openly. If people know you are sponsoring content on another website, they’ll be more responsive to what you have to say. It’s not a guarantee, but people respect openness and honesty.

Not everyone is going to be warm to these ideas, but if you employ them properly and respectfully, they can lead to good website traffic.

Businesses invariably go through many changes over their shelf life. That includes search engines. Yahoo! recently changed how its search engine results pages look. But the question is, does that equate to improvement in the product, and if so, will it improve SEO and your chances of ranking better in Yahoo!’s search results?

I say, not so fast. Slow down. Let’s get a handle on this here emotional ride.

All they did was change the look. If you look at the actual search results, they appear to be in the same positions in both the before and the after image. That tells me that the algorithm hasn’t changed. The page might have a redesign, but the SEO results are the same.

That’s a big distinction. I’m not saying Yahoo!’s search results need improvement, but I am saying that just because the company changed the design of its search results pages, it doesn’t mean that you are going to start ranking higher or lower.

Of course, I think it’s reasonable to expect that Yahoo! will continue to improve its product. And I mean beyond design.

The big question for Yahoo! at this point is, How can the company ensure that it becomes more competitive in search while increasing its revenues? Anyone care to tackle that question?

Not long ago, Pinterest introduced what it’s calling Rich Pins. There are three types of such pins currently: Product Pins, Recipe Pins, and Movie Pins. Each type of pin adds specific types of information to the pin that could benefit your customers and ultimately lead to more sales for you.

Product Pins include information such as product name, price, and availability. That way, customers know before they ever visit your site what they are looking at and the potential investment on their part. As a result, you’ll likely see an increase in your conversions-to-referrals ratio.

Recipe Pins include the title of your recipe, ingredients, serving size, and preparation time.

Movie Pins show title, rating, director, cast, release date, and run time.

I have to say, if you run an e-commerce store, then you should add Rich Pins to your website. If you run a restaurant or share recipes, then Rich Pins would benefit you and your customers. In the movie business? They’ll help you too.

There are three ways to add Product Pins to your website: Embed, Schema.org, and RSS feed. You can add Recipe Pins in two ways: Schema.org or hRecipe tag. Movie Pins can be added using Schema tags, then you show them how your Movie Pins look through Pinterest for Developers and wait for e-mail verification.

Learn more about Rich Pins from Pinterest’s help pages.

It seems that some business owners see the value in e-mail marketing. Are you one of them?

This sentence really jumped out at me:

Small businesses realize that any customer interaction has the potential to develop into a more consistent, ongoing relationship.

Just like any marketing endeavor, you want to engage in e-mail marketing because it is effective relationship building. If you conduct an e-mail marketing campaign because you think it will lead to more business or you want to keep your customers on a string, then you are doing it wrong. You won’t produce e-mails worth reading. Instead, send out e-mails that help you build solid relationships with your customers.

If you do it that way, you’ll keep your customers and prospects in the loop. They’ll want to visit your website again and take advantage of your offers.

On the other hand, if all you do is send out offer after offer after offer and you never take the time to build relationships with your readers, then you’ll likely start seeing a lot of unsubscribe notices. Or you may experience a low open rate on your e-mails. Neither of those is going to move you closer to your goals.

E-mail marketing is effective if you do it right. It’s not effective if you don’t. For the record, it is one of the most effective marketing channels online. Just be sure to do it with a purpose.