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A long time ago – before Hummingbird, before Penguin, and even before Panda – bloggers would go out to other blogs and make comments hoping to gather a few back links that would drive their websites higher up the search engine rankings. It worked until Google caught onto the game and stopped counting blog comments for linking purposes. So does that mean blog comments no longer hold value?

Website owners and Internet marketers are learning that not everything has to have SEO value in order to have value for their businesses. It’s a good lesson to learn.

There are many things, in fact, that have business or marketing value that don’t necessarily have SEO value. Serious online marketers need to take note of these, which include:

  • E-mail marketing
  • Mobile marketing
  • Apps
  • Blog and forum commenting
  • PPC advertising
  • Offline networking

Just to name a few.

Going forward, the primary goal for online marketers needs to be marketing and branding. That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider SEO factors. You should. But the way SEO is going to be conducted in the future is quite a bit different than how it was done in the past.

Do you have a plan for your future online business? Does it include SEO? Does it include things other than SEO? It should.

Cynthia Boris starts off this article with a great question. It seems that 55% of the respondents to a survey said they would trade their laptop for a tablet. Among men, that number is 60%. Among women, it’s 50%. But I wonder what it will be 10 years from now, or 5?

Read down a little further and you’ll learn that 56% said they were more likely to respond to an ad on a tablet than on a PC. Are you ready to advertise now?

If you haven’t figured out yet that mobile advertising is going to be the big shift in the next 5-10 years, then perhaps this article will convince you. Tablet usage is on the rise, and I wouldn’t be surprised if tablets are the big seller this Christmas. I wonder how many people are going to get their first one?

For the final kicker, check out what Ms. Boris says at the end:

The important takeaway here is that a tablet isn’t just a mini-laptop. A flat banner ad isn’t going to cut it on a tablet. You need to think in terms of interactivity, of sound and movement. Whatever you can do (and afford) that gets a customer closer to experiencing your product, the better chance you’ll have of clinching the sale.

And to that I say, “Absolutely!”

If you’ll make your ads interactive, perhaps even including video, then you stand a much better chance of closing the sale. Now is the time to start thinking about marketing to tablet owners.

If you thought that Google would publish Authorship rich snippets forever, then you are probably disappointed by this bit of news. I hope you don’t think Google promised you a nice big Authorship hug for the rest of your life.

The truth is, Authorship rich snippets were as easily gamed as links and other SEO fauna. Maybe that’s why they’re reducing the use of them.

I think Hummingbird changed a lot for webmasters. Instead of focusing on improving your author profile or increasing your search engine rankings through link building, maybe it’s time for webmasters to focus on publishing quality content that actually helps end users. It’s time to get back to marketing basics.

Yesterday’s post on building domain authority is the key to survival in the current search landscape. But it’s not the only thing that is important.

Online marketing is becoming more complex. The companies that succeed will be the companies that think about the needs of their customers and target audience and then focus on meeting those needs. If you’re still focused on feeding the bots, then you’ll likely end up at the bottom of the search results at some point. Google is getting more sophisticated in ferreting out low quality content.

This should be good news for anyone interested in high quality content.

It’s becoming vogue for content marketers, or SEOs, to talk about Domain Authority in the same way they used to talk about article marketing and link building. But what is Domain Authority, and is it important?

Rohit Palit offers the best definition of Domain Authority that I’ve ever seen:

… it basically means how much your site is likely to rank higher in search engines compared to competitor sites.

In other words, your Domain Authority is relative to other sites in your niche.

Post-Hummingbird, the most important metric for ensuring you rank higher in the search engines has shifted. It isn’t more content or more links. It’s higher quality content and perhaps some of the five pillars of content marketing shared by Palit’s infographic on Domain Authority. These include:

  1. On-site SEO factors
  2. Content promotion efforts
  3. Social media
  4. Branding
  5. Relationships with influencers

This is a combination who-you-know and what-you-know approach. Pure SEO – on-site SEO – is still important, and links are too to some extent, but equally important are branding, social media, your overall content marketing strategy, and your ability to influence the influencers. Google wants to force webmasters to build relationships not links.

By “relationships” I mean three things: Relationships with influencers, relationships with your customers (or target audience), and relationships between entities.

SEO is in a constant state of change. If you want to increase your chances at ranking in the search engines for your key terms, don’t focus on keyword-based content. Focus on creating great content, promoting it through valuable channels, and building relationships with key people who will interact with your brand in a meaningful way. In other words, carry on with your marketing plan as usual.

One of the most important aspects of running a business – any business – is data. Actionable data. You need information on which to base sound decisions that lead to increased profit. That’s what Web analytics is about.

If you’re a local business, you have to realize that every piece of content you publish online is available to anyone on the Internet.

While you could block Internet traffic from other countries and regions, you don’t want to. What if someone who lives locally to you takes a vacation in Europe and tries to visit your website to plan their re-connection with you upon their return? A better plan is to use analytics to track your local traffic and measure your results where it counts.

Google Analytics allows you to create custom reports just for that purpose. Why not create a custom report in your analytics package that gives you the important metrics that are important to your business.

Another aspect of local business is mobile marketing. This is especially true for certain sectors, like restaurants and tourist destinations. Are you measuring your mobile traffic and other mobile metrics? Do you know how many conversions you get from mobile devices versus desktop and laptop machines? If not, you should.

Finally, you should be tracking offline conversions. In the pre-Internet days, that was easy. Today, when many businesses are focused on tracking website conversions, it’s easy to lose offline conversions in the shuffle. But chances are, your business is still converting walk-in traffic and other offline traffic. You should be keeping with it.

Analytics is about more than counting traffic and bounce rates. Learn how you can keep tabs of the important information relevant to your business.

Google has a way of forcing webmasters to act a certain way or to move in a certain direction. If they don’t like a certain practice, they just tweak their famous algorithm to discourage the practice. It usually works.

The search engine has been really active in the last couple of years. There was Panda, then Penguin, and finally, Hummingbird.

What happened was webmasters figured out that the old link building practices were killing them. So they decided to try something different. Now, guest blogging is the link building practice of the day. There are some good reasons why guest blogging has caught on besides Google’s algorithms. One of those is because it just makes good business sense.

If you write a lot in a particular niche, why wouldn’t you go to a blog owner in the same niche and request to write a blog post for them? You’ll have direct access to their traffic, which you could then funnel to your own blog.

This is the real value of guest blogging – not the links. Inbound links are just pudding to top it off. Any time you do something for the link building value, you should ask yourself if there is another reason to do it. If not, then it’s probably a waste of time and money. Guest blogging has other reasons, which means it’s something you should be doing.

Google Trends is a fun way to find new opportunities for keywords and subjects to blog or write about. If you’re not using it in your research, you might want to give it a go. According to Google, they’re beginning to improve the tool with a beta.

In other words, they’re incorporating some changes to deal with ambiguity in searches and search comparisons.

For instance, to use their own example, if you want to compare search trends for Rice University and Harvard University, then you need to narrow your search to beyond “rice.” Otherwise, you might get skewed results as Google will include trends for the tiny white food that some people say isn’t real food. That’s not what you want.

There are countless other examples where this kind of ambiguity can play out. Searching for celebrities or place names could pose a problem as previously Google Trends wouldn’t include misspellings. Now, it does.

Also, alternative search terms may be included in your findings when you use the search tool. That would be a useful feature too – if you could exclude the alternate search terms at will.

I think we should all spend about half an hour playing around with Google Trends this afternoon. Then, you can get back to work and produce more of your fantastic content based on your findings.

An interesting study that pits tablets against smartphones concludes that tablets are being consumed more for books and reference material as well as travel and local-related content than smartphones. Smartphones rule everything else.

I find this to be quite interesting. Books and reference I understand. But local and travel? Tablets, not smartphones?

The study counts click-throughs from mobile ads. Interestingly, smartphones and tablets run neck and neck with smartphones having a slight lead in the music and entertainment category. I’m guessing, like Cynthia Boris, that tablets dominate video and smartphones capture most of the music downloads.

The one category I’d like to see split in two is the travel and local category. Is it possible that travelers search for information on their tablets BEFORE they leave for their destinations while smartphone users are more likely to search for local information on their smartphones? That’s just a hypothesis, but unless there is a study specific to that questions we can’t know.

What we can know is that smartphones show marketing potential for a lot of categories, including productivity apps, games, shopping, news, weather, and dating.

I don’t know what you’ll do with this information, but I’d suggest studying your smartphone and tablet markets to see if you can ascertain any nuances of usage among your audience. If so, then adjust your mobile marketing appropriately. That includes mobile advertising, social media, and mobile search.

Content marketing is the new SEO. It’s always been the essence of SEO, but in the last couple of years more and more search marketers are referring to themselves as content marketers rather than search engine optimizers. There is nothing wrong with that.

But if you want your content marketing strategy to stand out, then you can’t be reactive. You’ve got to be proactive. So here are three tips to help you develop a more proactive content marketing strategy.

  1. Be More Semantic – You almost have to. Google is now only rarely providing keyword data in its analytics. Most of what you’ll read is “Keyword Not Provided.” Your best clues for what keywords and phrases people found your site by are your entry pages and the search ranking for the keyword they did use. That means you have to do a lot of guess work. At some point, you have to trust your gut. If you understand how people search for information, then you’ll better understand how to present information in the search engines. That requires a semantic approach.
  2. Build a content calendar – Since you’re being more semantic, plan further out. Use a content calendar to plan your posts ahead of time and write the best posts you can.
  3. Do more research – To write the best posts possible, you need to really understand your subject matter. It isn’t enough to know what people are searching for and how. You also have to know how to deliver that information so that they can find it. That requires research.

Your content marketing strategy deserves a more proactive approach, so give it what it wants.

Google is getting more sophisticated in the way that they allow webmasters to track and measure website traffic. The new analytics is referred to as Universal Analytics.

Universal Analytics is centered around four specific and key areas of measurement:

  • Organic search traffic – Universal Analytics allows you to designate which search engines are more significant to your measurement goals. You can remove search engines from your list and prioritize those that are on your list.
  • Session and campaign timeout – The default is 30 minutes for sessions and 6 months for campaigns, but Universal Analytics allows you to change those parameters based on your cookies and website policies.
  • Referral exclusions – Referral traffic is an important metric for any website. By being allowed to exclude certain referral sources you can get a truer picture of your session timeout data. Learn more about how this works here.
  • Search term exclusions – You can exclude search terms that people use to find your website and when you do Universal Analytics will count that traffic as Direct Traffic.

Universal Analytics gives you more control over how you measure traffic information related to your website, but it also means spending more time playing with the controls that measure these statistics.

If you need help figuring out Universal Analytics, talk to a search engine marketing specialist about how to incorporate it into your business.

Professional affiliate marketers know all the best ways to find products that they love and are sellable, but what if your primary business is to provide your own products and services and you want to enhance what you have to offer your audience with complimentary affiliate products? Sugarrae has some good ideas on finding affiliate products at her blog.

I like her approach a lot. But I have to say that you want to be careful if marketing affiliate products is not your first line of business. You don’t want to market competing products.

For instance, let’s say you are in the gardening niche and you’ve developed a new gardening tool. If you want to sell more of that gardening tool, you probably don’t want to start selling a similar tool that does the same thing, especially if that competing tool is already a top performer in that niche.

It’s not that you don’t find value in the product. It’s a fine product and you’d use it yourself – if you hadn’t developed your own tool. The issue is, you want to sell more of your tool. You’ll do that if you don’t offer competing products.

What you want to do instead is find complementary products to sell that will enhance the use of your tool. If you’ve got a new spade design and it will go well with a certain hoe that is already on the market, then you can sell the hoe that complements your spade. Think “complementary” when it comes to affiliate products, not competing. Otherwise, you could sell yourself short.

Search Engine Journal comments on a video by Matt Cutts wherein he recommends three things specifically about metatag descriptions:

  • Write unique metatag descriptions for “pages that really matter”
  • Let Google auto-generate metatag descriptions for other pages
  • Absolutely DO NOT allow duplicate metatag descriptions for any of the pages on your website

This advice coincides perfectly with our own experience. We prefer metatag descriptions for most pages, but there are definitely times when you should let Google generate metatag descriptions.

For instance, when you have several web pages that are close to the same but not quite – an example would be an online dictionary of niche terms organized by alphabet where each letter of the alphabet has a separate page – then you might not want to write a metatag description. The last thing you want is 26 metatag descriptions that read something like

Glossary of terms for _____________, letter A.

where the only difference is the actual letter. In this case, you’d essentially have 26 duplicate metatag descriptions with one small variation. Even if you rewrite this description, there are only so many ways to say the same thing. Your best bet is to let Google generate the search snippet based on the user’s query.

When it comes to long web pages with a lot of information on them, especially web pages where you might have several subheadings, you want to write your own metatag description.

Still, even if you write your own metatag description, there is a good chance that Google will replace it with a search snippet customized to a searcher’s query. There’s nothing wrong with that so don’t be alarmed if you see it. But if you are targeting your long-copy web page toward one or two keywords or phrases, then you can write a metatag description that targets those words or phrases. That can benefit you.

If you’ve always wanted to own a premium domain name, now may be your big opportunity. Yahoo! announced on its Tumblr blog that it is auctioning more 100 domain names. But if you go to the Sedo page for the Yahoo! account, there are actually more than 500 domain names on the list. Some of them look pretty good.

The reserve price for these domain names range from $100 to $1.5 million. Some of the auctions have been identified as Top Domain Listings. These include:

  • av.com
  • webserver.com
  • westerns.com
  • transmissions.com
  • sled.com
  • sandwich.com
  • blogsport.com
  • crackers.com
  • truestory.com
  • airtrafficcontrol.com
  • raging.com
  • jockeys.com
  • religious.net
  • irecruiter.com
  • vivas.com
  • finalcountdown.com
  • fonzo.com
  • laun.com
  • webcal.com
  • cyberjokes.com

The auctions are scheduled to begin today at 12:00 noon EST. That’s in just a few minutes, in case you’re wondering.

I never knew Yahoo! was in the domain name speculation business, but I guess it’s not surprising when you consider they’ve been around for a long time. They no doubt saw the potential in some of these domain names way back when. The big questions is this: Why are they getting rid of them?

Is Yahoo! just dumping domain names they have no need for or did they not figure out a good business plan for them? Or maybe they just bought them to sell them off for a profit later, and now is “later.”

If you’re in the market for a premium domain name and you’re sure you’ve got a good business idea to use it for, then now is your chance to enter into an auction. You could walk away with a million dollar winner. When you do, look us up. You’ll need a good search engine marketing firm.

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.

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.

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.