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.
As the government shutdown continues, many businesses will have to ask themselves how much it will cost them to keep their doors open. Not all businesses will be affected by the shutdown, of course, but many will.
If you have government contracts in place, then a good part of your work may come to a halt. It doesn’t matter what industry you are in. If the office with which you have a contract is shut down, then you are too. Not only will you not be working, but you won’t be paid for any work you’ve already done until the government opens its doors again.
You might be tempted to halt your marketing. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Marketing is not just an expense. It’s an investment in your business. That means you can spend money today and get a return on your investment as new customers hire you for their projects. If you look at marketing in this light, even Internet marketing, then you should be ready and willing to spend more money on marketing during your down times than you are during normal operations.
So the government shut down? Do more marketing, not less.
The government might be temporarily halted, and along with it many government services, but your business doesn’t have to be.
If you haven’t established a marketing budget, you should. To execute a marketing plan without a budget is to essentially ensure that your plan fails. A marketing budget does three things. Here are the three reasons you should have one.
- A marketing budget tells you what marketing tactics you are capable of executing. If your budget is $300 per month, that means you are limited in just what you can do. You likely won’t be buying any TV ads. If you do, you won’t do much else. It forces you to think long and hard about the marketing tactics you put into place.
- A marketing budget also establishes your end goal. When you know how much money you are willing to spend per month to reach your marketing goals, then when you hit that limit you know it’s over. You can’t do anything else until next month. This prevents you from overspending.
- A marketing budget gives you something to measure. Without a budget you have no clue what you are measuring. There’s no end goal so you don’t know if you’ve reached it. When you have a means of measuring goals, then you can know if you’ve been successful or not.
It isn’t enough to simply establish a marketing budget. You should have a marketing budget for your Internet marketing too. And you should have a budget for each part of your marketing, whether it be video marketing, PPC, or social media.
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.
- 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?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Friday, we talked about Yahoo!’s new partnership with Twitter. Today, USA Today reported that Yahoo! is purchasing Tumblr for $1.1 billion.
Here’s the kicker: Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer said, “We promise not to screw it up.”
That’s good news. It makes you wonder why she’d say that. People who have been following Yahoo! for a number of years realize it for what it is. Yahoo! executives know they have a problematic history of buying up Web properties and then screwing them up. Mayer’s comment is supposed to be reassurance to Tumblr fans that Yahoo! will accept the blogging site the way it is.
But a lot of them aren’t buying it.
Here’s my question. Assuming that Yahoo! makes good on its promise not to screw up Tumblr, how can this acquisition benefit Internet marketers?
That could happen any number of ways. Already, the company is discussing potential advertising opportunities via Tumblr bloggers agreeing to run ads on their blogs. There’s no definitive answer yet, but if that happens, then Tumblr itself could increase in value in terms of how it can benefit Internet marketers.
It also makes me wonder if Yahoo! has in mind using Twitter in any way within this relationship. Would Tumblr blogs run Twitter ads, by any chance? Or Yahoo! PPC ads?
All of these are unanswered questions, and it may be too soon to speculate. For now, let’s just hope Yahoo! makes good on its promise not to screw up Tumblr.
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.
Surveys can provide great feedback for your business. They’re not hard to construct and don’t cost must to produce. All they really cost is your time, or the time of someone on your team, to think of questions to ask and promote the survey to your audience.
With online surveys, you can get results in real time. By taking results online, you can measure them as people fill out your survey. That’s a big plus. Especially if you want data fast.
A survey can also help you decide on a new direction or offering for your customers. If you have two or three or four different ways you can roll out a new product, just ask your customers what they prefer. You can learn a lot by asking the right questions and potentially save your company a lot of money by avoiding a costly mistake.
Surveys also get your customers talking. If you ask at least one open-ended question on your survey, you’ll be surprised at the feedback you can get.
When you do create a survey and ask your audience to help you out, offer some sort of incentive for taking the time to give you feedback. It can be a free white paper, a discount coupon, or anything of value. It lets your survey respondents know you value their input and helps you to maintain contact with them in the future. If your incentive requires an e-mail address for delivery, you get the contact information as well.
That’s real effective internet marketing.
What do you make of Internet marketers, or search engine optimizers (professional SEOs), recommending putting your content behind a paywall? Won’t that drive your traffic elsewhere?
There are content publishers making good money with paywalls. And there are others going belly up. So what’s the recipe for success?
There’s no one recipe that will work for every website just like there’s no one way to bake a cake. There are certain things you don’t want to put in a cake, and even if you have all the right ingredients, you have to have them in the right measure. Plus, you have to mix those ingredients in just the right way, and keep it in the oven just the right amount of time, etc.
I’m no baker, but I know about SEO. I know about marketing online. Sometimes it makes sense to put your content behind a paywall. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Here are a few things to consider if you are looking at putting your content behind a paywall:
- How much does it cost you to produce a page of content?
- What is your expected return on each page of content?
- How much competition do you have in your niche?
- What is the availability of the content you are producing for free on the Internet? If you have a lot of competition producing the same content for free, then it might not make sense to add a paywall. You have to create value or people won’t pay for it.
Paywalls can be good if you produce enough high value content that can’t be acquired anywhere else. If there’s an audience for it, there could be a profit in your content behind a paywall. But don’t jump into it blindly.
Whether you are engaged in e-mail marketing, social media marketing, search engine marketing, or any other type of marketing, you can test the elements of your marketing campaigns to see what is most effective. If you can measure the results, then you can increase your profits.
Here are 5 different elements you can test no matter what kind of marketing you are engaged in:
- Your headline – Your headline is the attention-getter. Whether we are talking about e-mail campaigns, social media, or something in between, the right headline will get your prospects to read. Do extensive testing and see what works.
- Call to action – Whether you are trying to close the sale on your landing page, get people to open your e-mail, or click through to your website, a good call to action is the money line.
- Visual effects – Images, graphics, and even typographical fonts can all be effective. Test to see what works. Throw out what doesn’t and keep improving.
- Language – Different audiences respond to different messages. It doesn’t really matter what you are selling, language matters. Tweak the way you word your content, from the first line to the last. See what works and perform continuous testing.
- Media – I’ve seen landing pages with nothing but a video. I’ve also seen long form text content. They’ve both worked and they’ve both failed. Test your media, see what works for your prospects and your message. Test, test, test; measure, measure, measure.
Marketing is not an exact science. That includes Internet marketing. It’s a constant process of testing and measuring. Test and measure your way to success.
If you are a local business trying to convert local traffic, the necessary first step is to attract targeted local traffic. But how do you do that?
It’s not a question of medium. Whether you are using pay per click advertising, video marketing, or a blog, the concepts are the same. SEO and social media can be used to reach an audience that is targeted for your particular services. In other words, who needs or wants what you have?
This can often be a challenge for local businesses because you think that writing content about your local area will attract people who live in your area. Maybe. Maybe not.
Let’s say that you operate a restaurant in New Orleans. Not everyone in New Orleans is interested in eating out every day. Even if your restaurant is an Italian restaurant, not everyone in New Orleans likes Italian food. But, if someone is looking for an Italian restaurant in New Orleans, you definitely want them to find yours.
So what’s the point?
If you think that targeting “New Orleans” in every blog post is more important than discussing food-related information, you might be confused. People looking for an Italian restaurant are not likely interested in the Greek festival taking place in your neighborhood. They might be interested in a kids carnival if it is going to be in your parking lot. I hope you see the difference.
The key take away here is to be judicious and thoughtful in how you approach your local content. If it’s relevant to your business, post it. If it will attract people who might be in the market for your services, post it. If not, then don’t mess with it.
As the Internet grows older, more and more great opportunities present themselves. Online marketers no longer just have Google and a few directories to help them put their brands in front of people’s eyes. There are literally thousands of options, and you can’t pursue them all.
Here are just a few of the viable places where you can still put your brand and see positive results:
And there are plenty more.
People often migrate to the largest communities and websites to market and promote their businesses, but you can get lost in the jungle that way. Many times, seeking out relationships in the smaller communities where there is less competition can be a better way to launch a new startup, especially a small business.
But the real key to successful online promotion is often limiting the number of sites you target and the amount of time you spend on those websites. Your best bet is to choose sites that afford you the best opportunities to reach the demographics you are targeting. If that’s Facebook, then it’s Facebook. Often, however, many small businesses would do better to try a smaller site where a larger percentage of the users are the perfect demographic group for you.
Don’t underestimate the power of self-limitation.
Two of the most powerful Internet marketing tactics long term are social media and e-mail marketing. They are even more powerful when you combine them. Here are 6 ways to combine your e-mail and social media marketing to make them work better together more effectively:
- Create a special offers landing page for your newsletter subscribers, then promote that offer on your social media accounts. Link to your landing page from your newsletter, but link to your newsletter opt-in page from your social media accounts.
- Add social media icons to your newsletter articles and encourage your newsletter readers to share your content on their social networks.
- Provide links to your social media profiles in your newsletter and invite your newsletter readers to connect with you on your social networks.
- Build a brand page on social networks like Google+ and Facebook. Be sure to include a newsletter opt-in on your brand page.
- Provide newsletter snippets on your Facebook sharing streams and link back to your newsletter in them.
- Pin your newsletters on Pinterest.
If you sync your social media and e-mail marketing efforts you will find that you’ll gain more followers on social media and get more newsletter subscribers. Your business will grow faster and your marketing will be more effective overall.
If you were an expert in search engine optimization, then you wouldn’t need to hire an SEO firm. You could do your own SEO. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any knowledge of SEO at all. You should at least brush up on the basics.
The reason should be real clear to anyone who has ever done business with an SEO firm or Internet marketing agency.
Customers who walk through the door and ask questions about how an SEO firm goes about its business usually end up being better customers and they better understand what their Internet marketing consulting firm will do for them. They are able to ask the best questions and get the best results for their efforts.
If you understand the fundamentals of SEO, you are less likely to be snookered by firms that are out to ruin your reputation while boosting their own. You can ask the right questions and weed out nefarious or unapproved SEO tactics.
Another thing you can do is to ensure that you are getting the service that you paid for. How do you know if you are getting good results from your SEO efforts? Are you taking your consulting firm’s word for it, or can you measure their efforts and understand when your consultant is feeding you a line? That’s important information because if you don’t know when you are being taken for a ride, there’s a good chance you’ll be taken for a ride.
Take some time to learn the basics of SEO before you hire a consulting firm.
One of the biggest mistakes that new Internet marketers make is starting a blog then to stop writing it. The mistake part is not the starting part. The big mistake is in the stopping.
I’ll be the first to tell you that blogging isn’t for everyone. But, if you decide that you want a blog, then keep in mind that it IS one of the most powerful marketing vehicles on the planet.
Blogging is constant SEO. Every blog post is a separate web page, so if you blog every day for a year, that’s 365 web pages on your site. And each one of them has a variety of chances to rank well for specific key phrases related to your niche. Let’s just say there is an average of 3 key phrases that each blog post could rank for. That’s 1,095 potential No. 1 rankings.
Now, multiply that by 10 years of blogging.
But that’s just one benefit. Blogging also has the power to brand you long term, deliver massive and constant traffic to your website, increase your website’s link portfolio, make you an instant expert … and the list goes on.
Nevertheless, it never surprises me to see small business owners start a blog and 30 days later to stop writing to it. You’re killing your business. Why would you do that?
Internet marketers, and SEOs in particular, are prone to making mistakes with their online marketing. Many times they make a bunch of little mistakes here and there, but they can often make big glaring blunders too. Today I’m going to talk about one of the most common mistakes new Internet marketers make with their websites and why you shouldn’t make this mistake.
So what is the biggest mistake Internet marketers make? It’s real simple. They freak out.
Specifically, new Internet marketers and SEO types are prone to freaking out when they see their search engine rankings go down. Don’t do this. It’s natural.
New websites usually get a big boost in search engine rankings when they first appear in the SERPs. Don’t ask me why, but it seems that once Google finds a website the search engine sends it straight to the top of the SERPs. Then, like a stock whose price was too high, a correction is in order. Rankings fall back to their natural levels.
This is nothing to get alarmed about. Keep focusing on the fundamentals of SEO – creating content, building links, analytics – and don’t do anything stupid like buy a bunch of low quality links.
From time to time you may see your rankings rise or fall sharply. This too is nothing to worry about. Google frequently updates its algorithms and sometimes these updates create a little dance in the search results. Sites rise, sites fall. After things settle down you’ll end up at your natural ranking level again. Just keep doing the fundamental things and you’ll be fine.
Internet marketing is for authors too. In fact, many successful authors use the Internet every day to promote their books and other merchandise. You can too.
One successful author recently increased his readership by several thousand fans just by following a very simple strategy for online promotion. Here it is in a nutshell:
- The first thing Kevin W. McCarthy did was turn an existing book into a Kindle e-book.
- Then he set the price of the e-book at free
- Next, he sent out e-mail blasts promoting the book.
- And he set up radio interviews and online webcasts to help promote the book
- Finally, he promoted the book through social media
As a result of his efforts, Kevin W. McCarthy’s Kindle book became the No. 1 non-fiction book at Amazon. And all he did was promote his book in ways that successful authors everywhere do.
You can do it. And you don’t even need a previously published book. You can write your book right now and publish it yourself through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program.
By authoring your own book and promoting it through your e-mail list, website properties, and all over the web using the tools at your disposal – most of them free – you can maneuver yourself onto the best selling list at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Apple iBook store, and other online book merchants.
The key to success as an author is to have an idea, follow through with that idea, and then promote your book once it is published. It’s never been easier to be a successful author.
Wordstream has a colorful, and very helpful, infographic that shows the best of the best Internet marketing tools in 10 different categories. Specifically, the categories addressed are:
- Web analytics
- Social media management
- Content marketing and blogging
- Search engine optimization
- Pay-per-click marketing
- Marketing automation
- Video hosting management
- Conversion rate optimization
- E-mail marketing
You’d think a company putting together that kind of list would include only paid services in hopes they might earn some affiliate money, but that’s not the case. Some of the marketing tools are actually free. Many of them, in fact.
Among the free Internet marketing tools that made the list are Google Analytics, HootSuite, WordPress, Joomla, Google Webmaster Tools, Vimeo, WordWatch, Google Website Optimizer, evly, NetProspex, and several others. There is at least one free service under each of the above 10 product categories.
So, what’s it mean?
If you’re savvy with your investment dollars you can run your online business using all free tools.
While I wouldn’t necessarily agree with every service on the list as I’d probably add some tools that aren’t on the list, but I will say that the infographic gives a good visual representation of some tools that are available for startups. But if you really want to shine and get your service the recognition it deserves, you’ll still have to spend some money on content creation.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to run your business online. You can find awesome Internet marketing tools for free, and most of these have value added services that you can pay for as your business grows.
What will Internet marketing look like in 2032, twenty years from now? Care to take a guess?
If you look at the history of Internet marketing from the beginning of the World Wide Web until now, it’s very interesting how we have progressed to the point that we have.
- 1990 – Birth of the World Wide Web including browsers and hypertext, online bulletin boards are very popular communication channels
- 1993 – Excite, the world’s first search engine, was created
- 1994 – AltaVista was created and later would become the world’s first major search engine; Yahoo! became the first powerhouse Web directory
- 1995 – GeoCities launched, becomes the first successful online community; webrings begin to rise in popularity
- 1997 – SixDegrees is the first official social network
- 1998 – Google was born, the first search engine to analyze back links
- 1999 – Overture became the first company to offer pay per click advertising; Blogger.com launches
- 2000 – Google enters PPC market with Google AdWords
- 2003 – Google AdSense program starts, increasing Google’s hold on the PPC market; LinkedIn and MySpace both launch
- 2004 – Facebook is created
- 2005 – YouTube launches; Google introduces personalized search
- 2006 – MicroSoft LiveSearc started; Twitter launches
- 2007 – Mobile marketing starts to pick up
- 2008 – Facebook becomes most popular social network
- 2009 – LiveSearch rebrands, becomes Bing; Google rolls out personalized search for logged out users
- 2010 – Local search becomes more important
- 2011 – Google+ launches, Google proclaims it is the future of the search engine’s search and social product
This is a very sketchy history of Internet marketing, but it can shed some light on the direction that online marketing is going. More personal, more local, more social, more mobile, and incorporating more video and visual results. So what will all of that look like in 2032?
Truthfully, it’s anybody’s guess, but if I had to hazard a guess I would say that all of these components of search will be more integrated and more sophisticated. Are you preparing your company to make the most of your opportunities in each of these online marketing channels?
One question that any small business owner must ask him or herself when embarking upon an Internet marketing strategy is this, Should I stick only with Internet marketing or use it as an adjunct to my other marketing efforts?
I think the answer depends on your own circumstances and goals.
If your business is an Internet-only business, then Internet marketing as a standalone strategy might be the way to go. However, if your business is a local retail shop, then you definitely want to do some off line marketing within your community.
Marketing is not a zero-sum game. It’s also not an exact science. You have to do some experimenting and see what works for you.
But when you start experimenting with online marketing techniques, it helps if you spend some time studying what others have done before you. Not that you have to copy everything that’s been done before, but if you are going to try something different, then you need to know why you are veering from the acceptable norms. That’s true in any profession.
For most businesses, Internet marketing strategies make for good adjuncts to whatever else you are already doing. I’d say it’s a rare situation where you would completely replace your traditional marketing with Internet marketing.
The challenge for most businesses to decide is what mix of Internet marketing you want to accomplish and what mix of the traditional you will incorporate.
Once you decide on your total marketing plan, then you implement it. Get aggressive with whatever strategies you decide to employ.