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Both Starbucks and Amazon have started a gift giving campaign using Twitter as the delivery vehicle. In Starbucks’ case, gift senders can send a $5 gift card to one of their Twitter followers. But one problem with this seems to be that the receiver may not know about the gift and, if they don’t redeem it, then it’s money down the drain for you.

One quick fix for that problem, however, is this: Hold a contest. That way, the receiver of the gift will be expecting it and should redeem the gift certificate when it comes through to them on Twitter.

Amazon’s gift giving program allows you to donate money to your favorite charity, which can actually make you feel better about your philanthropy. The program is called Amazon Smile Program, and how it works is like this: You designate .05% on eligible purchase items to go to a charity of your choice. This is done before selecting your shipping options.

With Amazon’s program, you can choose a recommended charity or pick one of your own.

Here’s the question: Is this the new thing in online marketing? Will this start a new trend? Will other companies, like Amazon, commit to giving to charitable causes out of their own pockets as a branding strategy? Will other retailers, like Starbucks, allow you to give Twitter gift certificates to your followers? If this catches on, expect Twitter to get a little bit more like the wild west – and that may not necessarily be a bad thing. Getting any ideas?

There’s an article on Tumblr about using the service effectively for SEO and social media.

And it’s not a bad idea, but Tumblr isn’t for everyone. It could be for you, but before you decide that it is, take careful note of the benefits Tumblr promises you. Are those benefits that you actually need or are they just fluff?

One of the nice things about Tumblr is that it is highly visual, which makes it a great platform for highly visual marketing campaigns.

You could argue that all marketing campaigns should be highly visual. Maybe. But not all need to be that visual. If yours does, then you might consider Tumblr. However, there’s one drawback to Tumblr that Tumblr fanboys aren’t going to share with you. If you put your content there and Tumblr goes belly up, you’ll lose your content. Period.

That’s not exactly a selling point. WordPress, on the other hand, is a software that you download and upload to your servers.

The key takeaway here is that you should think hard about where you put your content. Outposts like Tumblr, Facebook, and other social media sites aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but you should count the cost and be prepared for the day when they may get shut down. It’s happened before. Remember Geocities? Posterous? They are no more. At one time, they were thriving metropolises.

Build a marketing campaign that you can match with the platform. That way, if you lose the platform, it won’t matter to your overall marketing plans. You can still keep your A game.

There’s no doubt that link building is still important. After Panda and Penguin, there’s been a lot of debate about it. Many link builders have transitioned their business models to focus on content marketing instead, but is there really any difference?

Content marketing isn’t about building links. It never has been. It’s been about delivering a message. It’s easy to get the two confused.

I’m not saying that content marketing is bad for building links or that it won’t build inbound links to your website. What I’m saying is, if that’s your main reason for doing it, then you’re really just building links. Ask yourself if the content would be valuable without the inbound links to your website. Would your audience read it even if they didn’t know who wrote it or what website it was promoting?

That last question is very telling. If the answer is “no,” then you’re link building.

Good content marketing is about the content, not the links. What that means is, you take the time to develop a great idea, research it, publish it, then promote it. That’s what a content marketing strategy is. It’s a publishing model.

There’s nothing wrong with building links. Many SEOs, post-Penguin, would have you believe that link building is bad. That’s not the case. You still need a link portfolio, but it’s not more important to have 1,000 links than it is to have great content. You need a fine balance between the two.

In a way, online marketing has come full circle. In the early days, you wrote articles and published them. That was it. Yeah, you might have purchased a banner ad on a related niche website, but were those really effective?

No matter how effective those early banner ads were (not very), you could always count on well-written and well-placed articles.

Over time, the definition of content has changed. In those early days of the Internet, pretty much all content was articles. You might have had graphics on your website, but they couldn’t be search engine optimized. So articles were the real content.

What happened?

The Internet grew, photos and videos became popular as the technology to implement them online improved, and millions of websites sprung up in every niche imaginable. The leading online advertising model became PPC advertising. It was very effective if you did it right. It still is.

But, there are many Internet users who developed ad blindness. It’s a very real phenomenon that causes people to ignore ads – even if they’re effective in every way.

It’s hard to ignore native advertising.

Native advertising is content that doesn’t look like content. If it does look like content, then it’s so effective that users will still click to view it even knowing that it’s an ad. It’s content even if it’s advertising. The reason this works is because users really care about great content, even if it’s advertising.

LinkedIn has become the de facto B2B social network. If you do business with other businesses, or you want to, particularly if you offer a service for businesses, then you should be on LinkedIn. But simply being on LinkedIn won’t guarantee your success.

Rather, you’ve got to work LinkedIn just as you work any other social network. Here are my top three suggestions for working LinkedIn to increase your B2B leads.

  1. Optimize your profile – Your profile should be optimized for achieving high ranking search results for the keywords you want to target. Take a look at the industry you are in and the types of businesses you want to target. What keywords would people search for to find your profile if they wanted to do business with you. Optimize your profile for those keywords.
  2. Create a LinkedIn business page – If you don’t have a business page on LinkedIn, then you should build one – ASAP. If you are targeting other businesses, create a business page and target it specifically for the types of people, or businesses, you want to do business with.
  3. Update your status often – Don’t just sign up for LinkedIn and forget about it. Social media only works if you work it. Update your status once or twice a day with meaningful high value content.

LinkedIn is a great way to find new business leads, but only if you do all the right things. Optimize your profile, build a business page, and update your status often.

If your idea of keyword research is that it is a one-time activity, then you should probably take a primer on keyword research. It may not be something you need to spend time on every day, but you should definitely revisit the issues periodically. How often is your call, but don’t wait a whole year.

Brainstorming for keywords is not necessarily as simple as using Google’s Keyword Planner either. A lot of the free tools are dead, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative.

Here are 5 ways you can brainstorm for new keywords to use in your online marketing:

  1. Suggested Search – Both Google and Bing will suggest search terms as you enter a keyword into the search box. Take advantage of this. Use your keywords and look at what the search engines suggest. You might be surprised at the gems you’ll find.
  2. Make a list – The old brainstorming method of writing it down still works. Write down every variation of your keyword phrases that you can. Use it as a jumping off point, not a definitive list.
  3. PPC campaigns – You’ll have to break down and use Google AdWords or Bing Ads for this, but look at your keyword groups and suggested opportunities in your PPC admin panel.
  4. Social media – What are people saying on your social networks? Are they talking about you or your competition? What words are they using?
  5. Customer reviews – I hope you’re reading them. You can often find out precisely what people think about your brand by reading their reviews. What keywords are they using to talk about your company and its products?

Keyword research is an ongoing activity. You should spend at least a few minutes each month doing keyword research.

If you do any online marketing at all – whether you are an online retailer or a brick and mortar store owner – then you should reflect on these 10 holiday shopping stats, courtesy of Constant Contact.

  1. 28% of consumers are likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day
  2. 90% of retail sales are projected to occur in brick and mortar stores
  3. Holiday spending is expected to increase by 11% this year and online sales by 15.1%
  4. 66% of Black Friday purchases last year were the result of a social media interaction
  5. 64% of holiday shoppers have bought something because of a post they saw on Twitter versus 39.3% on Facebook
  6. Mobile is expected to have an impact on 87% of holiday purchases
  7. 25% of consumers last year purchased gifts from a retailer they had never shopped with before
  8. 67% of consumers have purchased a gift they saw on social media
  9. 64.8% of shoppers use social media to find the perfect gift
  10. 67.2% of consumers are most likely to share digital coupons on social media and 63.4% are most likely to share a holiday contest or giveaway

If there is anything to take away from this survey, it’s this: Social media is a necessary component to online promotions for holiday shopping, and no retail store will be unaffected by online shoppers this year. If you own a retail business, you should have an online marketing strategy that includes social media and mobile.

One of the most important SEO tasks to get right is matching your landing pages with the right keywords. If your landing pages are optimized for the wrong keywords – even if they are optimized perfectly – you’ll have a hard time attracting the right customers from the search engines.

That’s why it’s important to ensure that your landing pages are optimized for the right keywords.

It starts with keyword research. It will save you time and money to put the investment into good keyword research in the beginning. Before you start building pages and writing content, you should know what your most profitable potential keywords are. Base that judgment on these criteria:

  • What keywords searchers will use to find businesses like yours
  • Types of products and services you offer your clients
  • What your closest competitors are using

Not that you have to use the exact same keywords that your competitors use, but you should be familiar with what keywords they are targeting and determine if those keywords are right for your business.

Once you’ve narrowed down your keyword list and have a general idea what searchers are searching for, then you can marry the keywords with your landing pages.

When deciding which keywords match your landing pages, think only of the intent for that landing page. What are you trying to sell on that landing page? If not selling anything, what is the main goal of the page? If it’s an opt-in to your newsletter, then pick a keyword that will attract more opt-in subscribers.

That’s it in a nutshell. Put your research in up front and come up with the best keywords for your landing pages.

No doubt, you’ve heard of Google Authorship. You may have even implemented it. But have you heard of Bing Snapshots?

This is Bing’s answer to Google Authorship.

If you have a Klout account and a LinkedIn account, then you can implement Bing Snapshots. All you have to do is verify your Klout profile and tie it to your LinkedIn account so that when you share information on LinkedIn Klout can measure your influence. Then you can claim your Bing Snapshot at Klout.

Bing has implemented social signals and other “me too” type products after Google before. They haven’t really gained any ground on the search leader after doing so.

Of course, I don’t think many people ever thought they would.

I think it may be a good idea to claim a Bing Snapshot. After all, people do still use the search engine. And it never hurts to make yourself easier to find on any online media page where people are likely to search for you. After all, LinkedIn isn’t the most popular social network, but you likely have a profile there anyway.

It’s relatively easy to claim a Snapshot. And it doesn’t look like it’s a huge commitment to keep it maintained. So it should be painless, if you want one.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is how to identify where the next spam race is going to take place. When Internet marketers started recommending article marketing, an onslaught of poor and inexpensive articles started trickling in to the article directories. The number of article directories proliferated enormously to the extent that on many of them the only thing you could ever find was crappy articles. Then Google killed the article marketing business.

You could say the same thing about other forms of marketing. The current trend is guest blogging. This new trend is just starting to ramp up to such an extent that we will soon see an algorithm change to specifically address its excesses.

Any time online marketers start to recommend a practice, that’s when your head should go up and take notice. You are about to see a spam trend take root.

The latest Google algorithm change to attract major attention was Hummingbird. This update got a lot of sudden airplay when Google announced that it rolled out the update a month earlier and no one noticed. The search engine seems to be getting better at that. Now, marketers are beginning to predict what Hummingbird means for the rest of us. Along with that comes the various suggestions for the types of content you should implement going forward. One guy is recommending question-answer patterns.

So here’s the question: Does that mean that every SEO is now going to start writing “How to …” articles? If so, then get ready for the How-To Update.

Good online marketers don’t follow trends. They rarely think about starting them either. They focus on doing what is right for their business. That’s what you should do.

E-mail marketing has long been one of the best ways to market your business. Businesses who use e-mail marketing often report higher conversion rates, however, Marketing Pilgrim has an article exposing 7 myths around e-mail marketing. We’d like to address three of those today.

  1. The best time to send e-mail is on Thursday afternoon at 3 p.m. This just sounds inaccurate. How can anyone determine the best time to send an e-mail for everyone else? Some e-mail marketer decided that was the best time to send e-mails because for a period of time he noticed that was when the majority of his own e-mails were being opened. The fact is, e-mail allows people to manage their own time better. Many people open e-mails days after they are sent and received. Many people revisit those e-mails at a later date and make purchases then. Conclusion: There is no best time to send an e-mail.
  2. Fewer e-mails increases conversion rates. Actually, the opposite is true. Four e-mails per month increases results in twice as many conversions as only one per month. If you send just one e-mail per month, people are less likely to remember who you are and less likely to open your e-mail.
  3. Short subject lines results in more opens. There is such a thing as too short. Fact: Subject lines with 70+ characters increases click-throughs.

Before you act on a myth, learn the truth about e-mail marketing. It’s an effective way to increase conversions, if you do it right.

Google has a global market research tool that hardly anyone knows about. I’m afraid they’ll kill it if more people don’t start using it. It’s called Global Market Finder.

As its name implies, it’s useful for finding global markets for any niche based on keywords. In fact, you can use the tool as an alternative free keyword research tool even though that’s not its real purpose.

You start by choosing the location of your business by country, then you choose your language. Next, you add a few keywords into your keyword box – one per line. Click “Find Opportunity.”

This is where it gets interesting. Your results will appear broken down by country. Go through the list of countries and find the one you are interested in, beginning your marketing initiative. It doesn’t have to be the same country you reside in or that your business exists in. This is a great tool if you are thinking about opening up in a new market.

So you click the + button to open up your language options. Choose your language and scroll down the list of keywords. Google also gives you the option to choose additional keyword suggestions, which is great for finding alternative keywords for the markets you want to target.

If you are a large company that operates in several markets around the globe, this is a great search tool.

Is your video marketing plan written out or does it consist mainly of you throwing paint against the wall?

This is not a question in a vacuum. It’s a question that deserves an answer. With all the video marketing options available to online marketers today, there’s no reason not to write out your plan and follow your plan as you implement it.

That doesn’t mean your plan won’t ever change. Businesses go through evolutions. That’s expected.

Think of it as like a business plan for your video production team. Your goal is to drive traffic and increase conversions through video distribution. Your plan should address, at a minimum, the following methods and strategies.

  • How often you will produce videos and what quality they will be (include your budget for production)
  • Where you will distribute your video
  • Will your videos be used on your own website?
  • How will you promote your videos?
  • What purpose will your videos serve for each marketing demographic you target?
  • How do your videos fit into your sales funnel cycle?

Video marketing is not a marketing strategy so much as it is a piece of your overall marketing portfolio. It should work together with other marketing efforts to drive traffic and engagement. If it isn’t doing that, it is likely ineffective.

When it comes to marketing – online or off line – there are two huge mistakes that you never want to make. Whether you are selling through e-mail, writing a blog, or designing a landing page, you don’t want to make either of these mistakes. Even if you are creating a brochure or a print product for distribution, these two mistakes can kill your business before your prospects buy anything.

  1. Subject lines or headlines – Your first big mistake is not writing a compelling headline or subject line. This is perhaps the most important element of your writing. Learn to write good headlines. People will not read anything you write if your headlines and subject lines are boring or misleading.
  2. Calls to action – The second most important element to good copywriting is being able to write a strong call to action. Your call to action closes the sale. You can write a great sales letter, e-mail, blog post, or whatever, and never see a conversion because you didn’t include a call to action, or your call to action wasn’t strong enough.

If you write compelling headlines and subject lines and calls to action that motivate readers to buy from you, you’ll always be in business. These are the tools of successful copywriters – online and off line.

According to a recent eMarketer report, 15% to 17% of TV viewers engage with social networks in real time. This is a golden opportunity for brands who sponsor television programs and are looking for ways to engage with audiences on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The key is in the use of hashtags.

This Sunday, Season 4 of The Walking Dead will premiere on AMC. As one of the most popular TV shows, you can bet there will be a good number of watchers who will be tweeting and posting on Facebook during the show. What will they be posting about? Most likely, the characters and the story line. Whether they like it or not, your brand can get in on the conversation. You don’t even have to be a sponsor of the show.

The official Walking Dead hashtag is #WalkingDead. You can see the 24-hour trend for the hashtag at Hashtags.org.

If your brand’s audience coincides with the audience for this TV show, you could be watching the show and tweeting and posting on Facebook during the show. Be sure you don’t annoy your audience with self-promotional posts that hijack the hashtag. Instead, use your branded Twitter account or Facebook page to join the conversation going on about the show and its characters while it is happening. This alone will become a way for you to expand your brand’s influence as you discuss a common interest with your audience. You can engage in this form of social media marketing with any TV show in real time.

Yesterday we wrote about Facebook Insights. I should have played around with the new Facebook Insights first because the biggest social media site on the Web has updated its metric tool and changed some of its terminology.

For instance, People Talking About This has been divided into several more useful metrics. Those metrics include:

  • Page Likes
  • People Engaged
  • Page Tags and Mentions
  • Page Check-ins
  • Other Interactions

Facebook also said goodbye to “Virality.” That metric is now called Engagement Rate. As a part of the engagement rate, Facebook is now including clicks.

Additionally, positive and negative interactions have been integrated into one page-specific score card. Metrics being graded include likes, comments, shares, clicks, hide post, hide all posts, report as spam, and unlike posts). If you run a Facebook page, now you can see all of these metrics side by side for each post.

While there are many changes taking place to Facebook pages, there are things staying the same. APIs are one of them.

If you have a Facebook page, click the button that appears to see your Facebook Insights in its new format. If you like it, leave a post here and let us know. If you don’t, let us know that too. Improvement is a good thing – even, or perhaps especially, on social media.

If you have trouble coming up with a steady stream of blog post ideas, why not consult with your Facebook Insights?

Facebook Insights is your page metrics tool, which you can see only when you have obtained at least 30 likes. One aggressive social media marketing campaign can get you those 30 likes pretty quickly. After that, it’s just a matter of monitoring your metrics.

Every Facebook post you make can be measured. That’s true whether you post a simple message or you post a link. If you post links to your blog posts on your Facebook page, then Facebook Insights will tell you how popular those posts are.

Among the metrics you can follow on Facebook Insights are:

  • Total Reach
  • Paid Reach
  • Likes
  • Talking About This
  • User Engagement
  • Virality

Total reach and paid reach should be self-explanatory. Under the Reach tab you can get eyes on your reach by demographics, including gender and age. You can also measure your reach by country and the number of page views versus unique visitors.

You can also see the same information about people talking about your page.

The Overview tab is probably the most valuable. Below the graph you can see how many total people have viewed each Facebook post – those with links and those without. This is total reach. If you click on Reach, then you can reorder your posts by highest reach. Engagement shows the number of people who have clicked on a post and read it. The Talking About This column shows the number of unique people who posted about that particular subject. And Virality shows the percentage of people who have created a post from your Facebook post and the number of people who have seen it.

Play with these columns a little, reordering them by each column and studying which posts are the most popular. Take your most popular posts by Reach, Engagement, and Virality and write about those topics on your blog. Be sure to SEO those posts by relevant keyword.

Search engine optimization is all about positioning your content so that you maximize the traffic you receive from it. In other words, your job as content marketer is to keyword-optimize your content so that you achieve high rankings, right?

Wrong.

It never was about that really – even before Google started reporting keyword data (not provided).

The essence of search engine optimization has always been about producing great content. Period. Sure, your content might contain keywords based your ability to research what is hot right now, but simply adding keywords to your content was no guarantee that you’d rank well for that content or, if you did, receive any traffic from your rankings.

Historically, Google has been littered with top ranking content that didn’t receive much traffic because it was easy to tell that content was low quality content despite its high rankings.

Google started reporting (not provided) to keep webmasters from relying on keyword-specific search queries to target search engine rankings with more keyword-based drivel. We simply don’t need more low quality content. What we need is more high quality content that answers searchers’ queries.

SEO has always been about answering searcher queries. Find a question that a lot of people want an answer to and provide them with the answer. If you do that, Google will like you.

Every now and then you’ll hear an Internet marketing guru, or some blogger will write about, the most essential Internet marketing strategies. The idea is to tell people what strategies for marketing online they should be using right now. There is one major flaw in most of these lists or proclamations. That thing is the variability factor.

I wouldn’t say there is any ONE thing that is more important than everything else. Most marketing strategies have their place. The question is, how can YOU employ them effectively in your overall marketing strategy?

Not all businesses are the same. Some will benefit from a hefty social media campaign and others would do well with a strong pay-per-click strategy. Rarely is a case of either/or. That is, to be successful at marketing your business online, you either have to do XXXX or you have to do XXXX. That’s not the case.

That said, most recognized online marketing strategies have at least some value for most marketers. Your ability to put together an overall strategy using the proven tactics that others have used before you means that you have a unique opportunity to position your brand in a powerful way. There are likely as many paths to success as business plans. Your job is to find a path that works for you, fits into your budget, and can take you from Point A to Point B in your marketing strategy.

When you hit upon a successful marketing strategy, you’ll know it. You won’t have to blame it on someone else’s predetermined path.

Constant Contact published a recent blog post telling online marketers how to convert their Facebook profiles into a Facebook page, but there’s the overriding question of … why would you do that?

Actually, there are several good reasons why you might want to do that.

The first reason is this: Facebook has a rule that businesses can’t use personal profiles. If you are publishing commercial content as a business through a personal profile page, then Facebook could delete your profile without warning and you’d lose all your friends and all your content.

Beyond that, there are other benefits to having a Facebook page.

First, pages are public, and you can easily share them with your friends. Your freinds can easily share and like them too. Basically, Facebook pages are so public that anyone can share them.

You can also run promotions on your Facebook page and organize your content in a way that makes your business look more professional.

Finally, Facebook has a metrics section for pages that allows you to see what your most engaging content is. You can see the reach of your content, how many people are talking about it, and see how many people have liked and shared it. You gain access to data on Facebook Insights after 30 likes. This alone makes a Facebook page a necessary component to your online marketing.

If you are operating a business as a personal profile on Facebook, switch it over to a Facebook page today.