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Search Engine Optimization has been around for quite some time; long enough to go through an evolutionary process that has changed the way internet marketing is done. The goal of being on the first page of the search engine remains the same, but the method has changed as search engines used new algorithms to determine how to prioritize findings. It’s a constantly changing puzzle that keeps professionals challenged.

Social Media Optimization is the new kid on the SEO block, promising great things and looking easier to deal with than the arcane formulas of traditional search engine optimization. But is it an either/or situation? Of course not. Neither one is a magic bullet that will maximize your marketing goals. Both SEO and SMO are tools that need to be used skillfully in order to work well, and they should both be in your marketing toolbox.

SEO will be used to bring your business up in the ranks of a search engine. Since search engine algorithms are trending toward using social media input, SMO starts getting important in search engine optimization. But while there’s an overlap, social media optimization has a completely organic side based on human nature. The way you optimize your social media is by engaging people in an ongoing relationship. A first-time customer might find you from an internet search or from a “share” from a friend on a social media site. That is the beginning of the acquaintance and it grows through interchanges that increase familiarity and connection.

Optimizing your business means you use the technology at your disposal to develop the relationships with your customers that result in a loyal base you can rely on for future transactions. If you only have been thinking of SEO, you need to add SMO to your toolbox so you have the advantages of using both. If you need help with your social media marketing tools, you’ll find it at reciprocalconsulting.com/social-media-optimization-SMO.php.

 

Search engine marketing and social media marketing have long had an interesting relationship. It’s easy to compartmentalize and say that such and such belongs here while this and that belong over there. But it’s not necessarily helping your business to do that.

Search engine marketing and social media marketing are both forms of Internet marketing. As such, they have something in common. But they also have some overlap, which means that they likely have more in common than simply categorization.

For instance, you’ve likely seen social media profiles, or even posts, updates, and tweets, in search results. That means that social media can be a form of search engine marketing. And certain social media – like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – even have their own search features, some of which are quite popular. YouTube has even been called the second largest search engine in terms of volume.

I think someday Facebook may surpass YouTube in terms of volume of searches. But will they include off-site search in that deal?

Long story short, don’t expect to compartmentalize your Internet marketing strategies forever. You should really develop one Internet marketing strategy that pulls all of your online marketing together and crafts it such that the strategies work together – not against each other.

Social Media Optimization (SMO) is a phrase that was coined by search pioneer Rohit Bhargava in 2006. Since then the term has grown and expanded and millions of people are now practicing this science (art?) every day. Many practitioners, I presume, may not even know where the term came from.

Rohit originally introduced 5 rules of social media optimization. Then someone added a 6th and 7th. Someone else came along and added rules 8 through 11. Another pioneer amended the list to include rules 12 and 13. Then there were rules 14, 15 and 16. Rohit rounded it out to include the 17th rule. And, of course, there have been many translations into languages other than English.

The purpose of this blog post is two-fold:

  1. To recognize the SMO pioneers who introduced and expanded this ever-evolving area of Internet marketing;
  2. To list all 17 rules in one place for easy reference.

With that in mind, here is the list of 17 rules of social media optimization and recognition of the person who introduced each rule to the growing conversation.

17 Rules Of Social Media Optimization

  1. Increase Your Linkability – In a sense, SMO is SEO. If you do it right then your content will be more linkable. Any inbound links you gain will increase your SEO advantage. (Rohit Bhargava)
  2. Make Tagging And Bookmarking Easy – This rule is so commonplace that many people do it without knowing they’re practicing SMO. (Rohit Bhargava)
  3. Reward Inbound Links - People who link to you are helping you out. It’s only right that you should reward them for their kindness. (Rohit Bhargava)
  4. Help Your Content Travel – Put it out there and watch it fly. (Rohit Bhargava)
  5. Encourage The Mashup – This one has been a bit controversial as there are still companies online who are stuck in the traditional mode of thinking about content ownership and copyright infringement. While those are legitimate concerns, a reasonable letting go of your content to allow it to evolve into something more powerful and with SEO and SMO benefits attached is a good thing. Don’t fight it. (Rohit Bhargava)
  6. Be A User Resource Even If It Doesn’t Help You – Providing unselfish value has a way of coming back to reward you. It’s the old “what goes around, comes around rule”. Or call it karma, if you wish. Either way, become a resource for others without regard to how it benefits you and you’ll see the benefits come back manifold. (Jeremiah Owyang)
  7. Reward Helpful And Valuable Users – If your site visitors take the time to interact with you and leave valuable comments and boost the community then show your appreciation by giving rewards. A simple “thank you” is often enough. (Jeremiah Owyang)
  8. Participate – Social media is not just about producing your own content. Interact with other people’s content as well. Be a contributor across multiple websites. (Cameron Olthuis)
  9. Know How To Target Your Audience – Instead of just throwing paint on the wall and seeing what sticks, interact with your audience in their hangouts. Otherwise, you’re wasting your own time. (Cameron Olthuis)
  10. Create Content - It may seem like a no-brainer, but if you don’t create then you can’t optimize. Social media is as much about creating content as it is about distributing it and it is just as much about creating content as SEO is. (Cameron Olthuis)
  11. Be Real – You can put on an act for only so long and when you are discovered your reputation is shot. Be genuine, be real. (Cameron Olthuis)
  12. Be Humble – Be respectful of others and don’t get a bighead. No one likes a self-congratulatory know it all. (Loren Baker)
  13. Try New Things – Just because there are rules doesn’t mean they should always be followed with no innovation. The rules are always changing anyway so embrace the change and try something new. (Loren Baker)
  14. Develop A Strategy – Don’t just wing it. Have a plan and stick to it. (Lee Odden)
  15. Choose Your SMO Tactics Wisely – Just because someone else is doing it doesn’t mean you should too. Not every tactic will work for every business. Analyze your strategy and choose the tactics that show the most promise for reaching your target audience. (Lee Odden)
  16. Make SMO A Part Of Your Every Day Process – Add it to your list of things to do each day. Make it a part of your best practices. (Lee Odden)
  17. Don’t Be Afraid To Let Go Of The Message – Back to Rohit Bhargava. If you have a great idea, let others own it. Let it go and develop on its own, just like Rohit Bhargava did with Social Media Optimization.

I hope these 17 rules of social media optimization are helpful to you. Social media is about three things really: 1) Creating Content, 2) Sharing Content, and 3) Distributing Content. It’s all about the content and what you can do with it.

Yahoo! is still full of surprises. On its Yodel Anecdotal Blog, the veteran Web portal has announced a deal with Twitter. But this deal is a bit different than the previous deals struck between Twitter and search engines Bing and Google. This deal actually offers Twitterers a way to update their Twitter status from Yahoo!

But will users actually use it that way? That remains to be seen, but I’m betting that some users will.

Still, that’s not even the best part of the deal. The real meat of the deal, and the part that offers the best social media optimization benefit, is this:

Whenever you produce social actions on any website (like comments on articles, ratings, buzzes on Yahoo! Buzz) that you’ve allowed to appear on Yahoo! Updates, those actions can also be shared automatically with your friends on Twitter.

What I think this means is that Yahoo! users will soon have more ways to expand their social networks. I see a day when marketers will spend most of their day and their marketing efforts updating their statuses on Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo! and their other important social networks. Or, they could just head right to Yahoo! and update all of their social networks at one time. In the near future, you’ll at least be able to update your Twitter status and take care of a few other social actions from Yahoo!

How’s that for a heightened sense of social media optimization?

Social media optimization (SMO) has come into its own. Not only do most webmasters today try to learn everything they can about search engine optimization and the methods the pros use to get ranked for their most important keywords, but they are also learning everything they can about social media optimization. Some webmasters actually spend more time on the latter than on the former.

The best SMO in the world is also the simplest. You don’t even have to leave your website. The goal is to get your site visitors to do the work for you.

If you’ve visited many websites at all then you’ve likely seen the share buttons. They come in various sizes, shapes and colors. Some say “share”, some say “bookmark this” and some use another phrase. But there is almost always an icon, a chicklet, and a link that allows your site visitors to easily share your content on their favorite social sites. And some even allow your visitors to e-mail your content to their friends.

The key is to learn your audience. Are they heavy Digg users or Stumblers? Are they Twitterers? Do you use e-mail more frequently?

If you learn the online social habits of your visitors and provide them an easy way to share content in their preferred content and at their preferred online haunts then you’ve got a big piece of the social media puzzle solved. The rest, as they say, gravy.

Social media optimization, or SMO, is about more than connecting with others on a social level. Sure, that’s important, but it isn’t the whole story. What SMO is really all about is getting the attention of people you would like to do business with. Strategy is very important.

At the heart of every effective social media campaign is an honest portrayal of who you are and what you have to offer potential prospects. Remember, you are engaged in “pull” marketing, not “push” marketing. That is, you are are drawing people toward you, not pushing your product on them. Television is push, social media is pull.

Pull marketing is much more subtle that push marketing. Therefore, social media optimization is about subtlety. The idea is to capture people’s attention. How do you do that? Here are a few tips that might help you:

  1. Speak their language – If you’re talking to teenagers, use colloquial lingo that they’ll understand. If speaking to professionals then try using their business talk. Be sure to speak the language of your prospects.
  2. Find out what they want – Don’t just jump out and start selling people stuff. Find out what your target audience is interested in. Offer them that.
  3. Show up at the right place – Nothing is as ineffective as marketing through the wrong channel. If your prospective client is more likely to be at LinkedIn then you should be there; if they are more likely to be at Facebook then you should be there.
  4. Yes, SEO still works – Just because it’s social media doesn’t mean that SEO won’t work. Social sites are websites. All the same SEO rules apply. They may require a little different implementation, but SMO and SEO do go together.
  5. Get your prospect’s attention – In social media you have to lay it on the table. You can’t just hint at something and expect every reader to get it. Make a big splash, but do it appropriately. You are vying against a lot of competition so make sure you attract the attention you deserve.

Social media optimization is about connecting. Do it appropriately, but connect with the right audience at the right place at the right time. That’s true SMO.

Can social media optimization (SMO) be a fitting substitute for search engine optimization (SEO)? To answer this question it helps to have a working understanding of both SEO and SMO. Let’s examine:

  • SEO – The purpose for SEO is to attract visitors to your website based on search engine queries such that you answer their questions simply by delivering quality content that meets their needs.
  • SMO – Social media optimization is the social counterpart to SEO. It doesn’t replace it, but compliments it. SMO allows you to attract new visitors by appealing to your audience’s social needs while grabbing their attention with valid SEO techniques.

It’s important to note that the best SMO relies on sound SEO. Your social media efforts will be enhanced if you start with SEO as the basis of your website building block and use it as your foundation. Let SMO rest on the foundation, not vice versa.

Awhile back, I posted my thoughts on the hot topic in the Internet marketing world for that week, namely Twitter. Although I jumped the gun with assumptions about the course this fad would take, I maintain my general position on the matter. I came across a post containing a bunch of reasons to use Twitter, and this sparked my motivation to post yet again about the topic. I must state that the following is only my opinion, based on my experience in the Social Media Optimization world.

While I don’t intend to mention all of the reasons along with my opinion of each, there are a few I’ve chosen which, I believe, the writer is directing toward businesses, rather than individuals. As I failed to make clear in my previous post about Twitter, my opinion was concerning the use of Twitter for business Internet marketing efforts, not those of one person or a small group of people.

Competitive – to track what competitors are doing and thinking (watch their tweets, who they’re conversing with, and so forth). Gain insights!

This is a good idea, but why use Twitter? While the idea behind competitive intelligence is to learn secrets, many companies may overlook that which is out in the open. A lot of companies utilize Twitter to market special deals, new products, and more. This is valuable information that may not be available through more conventional CI practices – information that may help other companies figure out how to market their products.

Employee Tracking – See where your employees are, and even what they’re doing. eg. If you’re a service company with contractors on the road, some have used Twitter to reveal where all their contractors are around a city, which indicates how close they are to their next service call.

Most companies that require this kind of information to operate will likely have a method of tracking already. Whether it’s a “push-to-talk” cellular service or a computer system networked into handheld devices which employees carry on them at all times, there are plenty of ways that businesses track their employees, and other things, which can carry far more responsibility than Twitter can. However, some businesses may find it beneficial to utilize Twitter for simple tasks, such as those mentioned above. It all depends on the company and how they run their business.

Branding – To build awareness, trust, and possibly loyalty. If a company Twitters good information routinely, and isn’t overly self-promotional, the profile will gather followers. The profile is then associated with quality industry news and integrity. Frequency and quality of posts then breed familiarity, and eventually trust.

While the effort put into regular Twitter posts would may be more effectively spent on blogging, there is an advantage to the micro-blogging that Twitter offers. In many cases, posting to Twitter to a loyal following makes it easier, not just for the business to get the information out there, but for all of those potential customers to find it. Utilizing Twitter broadcasts and feeds on company websites, blogs, and other SM profiles make it easy to put that information in sight of thousands, instantly. However, any company planning to use the Twitter service to reach users should be careful of how often they post, and what they post about. The key here is regular, consistant information. Like anything in the social media realm, offers go a long way, and good information is priceless when compared to the mundane onslaught of Twitterers posting about what they ate for breakfast.

Reputation Management – to learn about issues and problems people are having with your company, so that they can be corrected. I’m a firm advocate that every problem is an opportunity, when viewed from the right perspective.

Again, the effort put into reputation management would likely be better spent on other means, but a company large enough to have a lot of Twitter users bashing it’s good name might do well to solve the problem before it leaves Twitter. However, the last thing a company needs for its reputation is one who supposedly represents the company arguing with a group of Twitterers about whether or not they were correct in their opinion about said company. Opinions are out there, and always will be – while a company cannot correct every false one, they can make efforts to put the right one in as many places on the Internet as possible - and Twitter is one large group of people to which it makes sense to get the word out.

Twitter is a valuable tool for friends, families and aquaintences to utilize in order to keep in touch and up to date, as well as it can be for businesses. We should never forget that there are plenty of opportunities elsewhere that have been proven to be effective, but where appropriate, Twitter can be used effectively. Just don’t push those boundries too far, or Twitter may eventually suffer the same fate as SM sites before it’s time. The target audience for your business marketing efforts on Twitter is made up of users, not other companies, so if companies abuse the Twitter service like many have been abused before, users are likely to switch to the next big micro-blogging site, and leave the companies to re-tweet themselves.

As the writer of the aforementioned article states: “…the key is in showing restraint in the initial months so that one does not ‘burn out’ on the experience.”

There’s no doubt, the Social Media is alive and well. Everyone from the independent musician to the corporate giants utilize the Social Media to accomplish otherwise difficult or impossible marketing strategies, and it looks like this aspect of the Internet marketing world is here to stay, at least for awhile.

When engaging in a campaign that targets and utilizes the Social Media, it is important not to jump the gun. As quickly as a brand or name can be rocketed to the top, it can be crushed before it ever gets a foot out the door. For this reason, preparation can be the difference between success and defeat. In the same regard, it’s not just about what you do or how you do it, but what order you decide to accomplish each leg of the journey to Social Media Marketing success. Here are some tips:

  • Cover Your Bases- A lot of people have the tendency to jump into every Social Media site they can find and try to make friends, send messages, join groups, etc. The problem with this approach is that the best impression should be your first impression. If you plan to have any lasting standing with the people you encounter on these sites, you need to have something to offer. Depending on your niche, it may be handy advice, a free download, or maybe even a how-to guide. It really comes down to the people who would be interested in you or your business, and what they can get from the connection. Take the time to set up your own site, populate it with rich, valueable content, and make sure your best foot is forward. You wouldn’t show to a wedding wearing half of your tux or dress – don’t show up to the Social Media party unprepared!
  • Choose your Friends Wisely – There are a lot of tools available online that one can utilize to track what people are saying about them. Sites like Twitter are a lot easier to track, when they’re all about the talk, but you will never know what is being said before it is said, posted and set in “stone”. Blogs are a large part of the Social media, and everyone has one these days. If you upset the wrong person, they can ruin you, easily. After that, you may have a world of Reputation Management in front of you, but it’s better not to let it get to that point. Be courteous on the sites you join, and be responsive to those who are interested in what you do or have to offer. It’s important to filter out users that it wont benefit you to interact with, and it’s equally important to keep up the communication with those that will.
  • You Have To Earn Trust- Every business starts somewhere, and generally, an up-and-coming business, large or small, earns their reputation and much of their clientele from word of mouth, but more specifically, from providing good service and/or products. Likewise, your “image” on the web will have a lot to do with you. If you want your name to be recognized and associated with good opinions, interact in kind. In time, users will stumble on your name and know it because their friend told them about you, or because they saw it on another site. Whatever the case, the best way to brand is by doing what you do, not necessarily better than anyone else, just better than most people would expect. This leaves quite the impression and can make a Social Media effort much easier. SMO is not meant to replace all other forms of advertising, branding and customer relations – it is simply a catalyst for more leads, exposure and ultimately, sales.
  • Put In The Time- It may be a no brain-er, but what you get out of your Social Media campaign is what goes in, and time is no exception. For many, time is a luxury, one which that many cannot afford to dedicate enough of to a self-propelled SMO campaign. For a lot of businesses, hiring an Internet Marketing Firm is the way to go, since not only will this save the business the time that goes into it, but these are trained professionals that have experience and knowledge to get the job done right.

Search Engine Marketing may not be a science, but it can be viewed as the sum of it’s contributors, and their effect on your online marketing success. Too often, people view all of the separate Internet Marketing efforts in their own light, and fail to bring all factors into one whole focus. When it comes to maximizing your ROI, it may be tricky to determine whether a paid search campaign would benefit over a one geared towards natural search, or whether it would be better to analyze the competition than it would be to focus on expanding your own network. Whatever the case may be, the answer will likely be to test all the water.

It’s no secret that a Pay Per Click campaign can have an effect on of of natural search, and such an effect might benefit or hurt the other, but more than likely, your business will see better oportunities when its Internet Marketing efforts branch out.

The Social Media offers a network of users, and therefore potential customers or clients, that have already presented information about themselves and their interests that traditional advertisors would pay big money for. Targeting users on the Internet is easier than ever – which only means that more people are doing it – and it is therefore that much more important to expand efforts into all online marketing areas.

However, this does necessarily mean it will do you much good to pick 3 of these areas and run with them. Marketing your business online is as much about prior knowledge as it is about gathered information, which means that slow and steady will often win the race.

Let’s compare two businesses like the tortoise and the hare.

The first business wraps its efforts around a search and content driven PPC campaign, a natural search effort, the Social Media spectrum, and safeguards itself with reputation management, all the while gathering information about it’s top competitors. After a few months, they will see which effort is paying off the most, and focus primarily on that. However, they can utilize the others to support their main campaign, and during this time, they can see how various strategies affect eachother, and optimize accordingly. Additionally, their presence in the Social Media has established a brand for them, so when users see their ads, or their name in natural search results, they are more likely to visit their site.

The second business decides to pour its budget into a PPC campaign, and gathers information about their competitors. Seeing how their competition bids has given them the advantage to take that number one spot on sponsored search results, but they lack the online presence. Their click-through rate on ads is decent, but once on the site, users will generally decide to check out the other results before making a decision. Their bounce rate is high and visitor loyalty is rather low, since more than often, users will find the first business and recognize their name.

This model is just one scenario, but it illustrates the need to exapand efforts. The tortoise and the hare is a well-known story for a good reason – there is truth to the concept of taking one’s time, thinking things through, and making informed decisions.

In the Internet marketing world, we manage a lot of clients, but every client is different and each account requires specific techniques in order to maximize their ROI. In many cases, this means running a number of campaigns using methods in Pay Per Click, Search Engine and Social Media Optimization, Competitive Intelligence, and so on. Still, for some clients (and their budget),  just an SEO campaign can greatly increase their presence on the Internet, and is perhaps one of the strongest ways to market a website.

It is reported that Google changed their algorithm once a day on average during the past year. There are a lot of reasons for each of those changes, but all of those changes were made (and will continue to be made) for one reason – to match search queries with the most relevant content. While the history of SEO has had its dark moments, and its share of misconceptions and rumors, the current state of SEO is always changing and therefore, the methods we use to improve a websites visibility in search results must adapt. Search Engine Optimization is both a science and an art, and although it has become a bigger challenge over the years, the goal for everyone is to provide users with the best content for their searches.

The general idea behind SEO is not to “trick” search engines into believing your site is better than others, and it’s not necessary about getting that number one spot at the top of search results. And SEO’s aim should never be general rank, but appropriate on-site optimization and a network of  relevant links. There is a difference between link building and SEO, and I must clarify that although proper link building can be an invaluable part of SEO, simply linking to a website from wherever can not only be useless, but get your site penalized. SEO has not only evolved, it has developed a sense of right and wrong, and you do not want to get on its bad side.

It is always better to play it safe with your on-site structure, which is what search engines will look at when they follow those links to your site. Keyword stuffing, metatags, and link farms are a thing of the past, and can only do your website harm. SEO is not about presenting your site as something it is not, it’s about giving the search engines what they want, to which your site will be rewarded with targeted traffic.

Remember, focusing on pagerank is a pitfall for many. A lot of people assume that a page with a rank of 7 will be given priority over a page with a rank of 5, but this is not always the case. The algorithms that search engines use to determine ranking are based on a nearly infinite number of factors, including onsite content, external linking, keyword ranking, etc. Each factor has its own factors, and those factors have factors as well. At the end of the day, no one Internet Marketing firm can guarantee specific results because no one knows exactly how search engines will read them each day.

One thing we all know for sure is that these search engines are all aiming for the same goal – to provide relevant returns for the keywords that users are searching on, so the one method that we know will always be consistant is to keep things clean, manage a good site, and to never stop improving.

I was showing a friend of mine some SEO basics the other day when Social Media Optimization became the topic of conversation. He was asking me how SMO really can help with natural search results in ways that Search Engine Optimization cannot, and in explaining this concept to him, I found myself repeating the same word over and over: Networking.

When it comes to optimization, a lot of us get carried away with the technical aspects of the trade. The truth is, many of us could debate the effectiveness of particular natural search marketing strategies all day long, but what it comes down to is your website’s worth on the Net, how the search engines view that worth, and respectively, when and where your site will be displayed in results. No matter what strategy you or your firm implements, and no matter what keywords best describe your business or service, I think one focus should always remain center stage, and that is the networking aspect of SMO.

Consider your businesses presence on the web. Is your name, brand or logo seen around the Internet, perhaps on various respectable sites, or are potential customers / clients seeing these things for the first time when they land on the the first page of your site (or whichever site their search brought them to)? The same applies to your particular services or products, and so on. The point here being, what are you doing to reach people, and not just making it easier for them to reach you?

When it comes to the world of Social Media Optimization, I believe networking is not only the right thing to do (since that is what these sites are for), but also a large part of the puzzle, and here’s why:

  • Consider results from sites like Myspace, Digg, Flickr!, etc. These are just a few of the Social Media sites available to the public, and for free. Within these results, I often see links that lead to personal profiles and pages. Have these people performed any sort of optimization for their profiles or pages? Probably not – and yet, they are showing up for searches, often times near the top of the first page. Why? Because they actively participate in the community – they network.
  • Going back to the idea of reaching your target market, and not just making it easier for them to reach you – what will a dormant profile on any Social Media site accomplish? Nothing. Interacting with the community regularly (not spamming!) shows interest in the community, and usually, this means that the community will take an interest in you. There’s a word for this sort of interaction…ah yes, networking.
  • Are image searches going to help bring targeted traffic to your site? Probably not – so how else are you going to get your brand and logo out there? Traditional marketing statistics show that branding has effectively brought many companies [additional] success over the years, and there is no reason why this concept should be ignored when it comes to Internet marketing, and it should be incorporated with an SMO campaign. Using your logo as a profile picture can get that image out there to a lot of people. Of course, the logo itself should be well designed and pleasant to look at – perhaps even entice a user to click on it for a closer view (and therefore view your profile). Bottom line – unless you have an active PPC campaign displaying image ads, or a lot of popular friends in your niche that will display your logo (and a link to you) on their site, there are very few other ways to have any control over who sees your brand or logo. Once again – networking is key to get this image out there and seen by the masses.

As has become commonplace for me, I must state that spamming, automated interaction (that is a program designed to visit and add friends, post comments, etc on other users’ profiles/pages), or anything of the like are extremely frowned upon, and furthermore, are not effective strategies. It boggles my mind that between all my blogs I receive about 20-40 spam comments a day.

The aforementioned is not supposed to be a step-by-step, nor a DIY on Social Media Optimization, but rather a polite suggestion to those that practice SMO. It may seem pointless to put the extra effort into a SMO campaign, but from experience, I have found simple interaction and contribution to these communities to be very satisfying, and often do help to achieve SMO goals.

Like it or not, sites like Digg, Facebook, Flickr! and the such will be around for awhile. As the wise man at the hot dog stand would say: “Get ‘em while they’re hot!” Statistics show increasing numbers in social media, which means larger audiences, better resources, and no signs of these highly active sites dwindling. Of course, all this information is useless if you lack the networking skills.

One might argue that social media sites have a characteristic to not last over a period of time. This is true, however, as the short history of SM has shown us, when one site falls another will rise, and with greater numbers. One of the greatest examples of this is Friendster > Myspace > Facebook. I should probably clarify that all three of these sites are still around and functional for members to use, however, looking at the history, one can see a wave which once peaked at Friendster, then Myspace, and is now peaking with Facebook.

One might also argue that social media sites are only beneficial for personal use, not for businesses. Most SM sites do generally target personal users, but there is really only one quality needed for social media optimization - networking. Businesses are made up of people, and people network all the time. Someone from your business can take it upon themself to share their knowledge with a given community, and as a result, spread the word. Forget what anyone has to say directory listings – quality link building is the foundation for SEO, and networking on an SM site can accomplish this naturally. I should point out, however, that many sites frown upon the use of their sites as link-building tools, so ethically speaking, you should only utilize these sites if you plan on interacting with the community as any other user would, and linking only to pages on your site that are relavant to topics of discussion.

Some would say that it would be a hassle to maintain multiple social media profiles just to build a few links. Why spend all those hours making and optimizing profiles when you can buy links? The key is targeted traffic. Buying links is not only unethical, but there is no guarantee as to the quality of these links. It may seem like a good deal to get a bunch of links at a low price, but it’s just a waste of money. A few links from a few good blogs will do far more for your natural search than an infinite number of random links from irrelavant sites containing nothing but links. And part of having blogs post about your site is networking with them.

One aspect of social media that one would never argue is the fact that it’s free. Sure, certain sites will offer a “premium membership” for a small monthly or yearly fee, but this will rarely, if ever, be any more useful for SMO than the basic free membership. This makes SMO a powerful tool not only because millions upon millions of people will be using it based soley on the fact that it is free, but because it costs you nothing more than the time you put into it, or if you don’t have the time to put into it, the fees you would pay your Internet marketing firm to utilize it.

When people ask me what I do for a living, the inevitable followup questions will generally  lead to long explainations that leave the inquery unsatisfied. Basically, my first response is “Internet Marking”, which leads they that inquire to further do so with a question along the lines of:

“What does that entail?”, to which I respond, “Pay Per Click, Social Media Optimization and SEO.” To this they ask, “What is SEO?” and I tell them “Search Engine Optimization.”

Even to someone who is computer and Internet savvy, when I try to explain the specifics, they will usually just nod and smile, but everything goes right over their head. This isn’t because they aren’t intelligent or able to grasp the concept of quality link building, but more due to the fact that SEO can’t really be taught to someone in a college course or a weekend seminar, let alone within the twenty minutes on average that these conversations will tend to last.

Like many Search Engine Optimizers, I was given direction during the course of my training, and the rest was self-learned. Sure, the advice of learned others will always benifit those that learn, and instruction can provide foundation, but SEO is always changing, because the “rules by which we must play” are always changing. SEO is not so much a science, but more a type of branding.

Just as a brand is an idea communicated to the target market which associates a name, slogan or idea with your company (and hopefully results in leads, conversions and sales), SEO is the branding of search engines. We use creatively implemented tools to leave an impression on bots that crawl the web, and encourage them to tell the rest of the world about our client’s product or service when they search for related terms.

So yes, while the results of Search Engine Optimization are the sum of links pointing to a site, as well as the quality, quantity and variance of those links, the idea is not so simple in practice. To do this job right, an SEO must be an architect of the Web, constructing a functional, yet appealing structure that serves a purpose and leaves an impression on our target audience, via search engines.

To learn more about branding your company name using highly effective SEO practices, please consult an Internet Marketing Firm like Reciprocal Consulting.

I’ve been using Flickr! personally for the past few years in order to share my artwork through groups, individuals, and the handy RSS feed included in the basic Flickr! account membership. Although I am a member on many other Social Media sites aimed towards artists of different sorts, including deviantART, Myspace (music), and ETSY (although more of an eBay for crafts), Flickr! has thus far been the best catalyst for self-promotion of my work.

The beauty of a Flickr! account is that each photograph is basically treated by search engines as a separate web page, the main difference being the extension used. In the spirit of the structure of an search-engine-readable page, each image submitted to Flickr! contains a name and a description (which may contain links), much like a web page contains a header, title and body, which may include links. The reason for this special treatment is to make Flickr! submissions search-able in both image and web searches, as a means to encourage online sharing of photos.

Thus far, I personally have gotten a lot of attention and a bit of publicity by using Flickr! as a sort of gallery for my artwork. Likewise, many businesses have found Flickr! to be an invaluable means for Social media Optimization, or SMO. Unfortunately, as of recently, Flickr! has been cracking down and doing some searching of their own – for strictly business accounts using Flickr! for SEO.

Although only time will tell where the hard-working staff at Flickr! will draw the line between personal and business accounts, here are a few things to consider if you don’t want to find your Flickr! account deleted:

  • Interact with the Community. Normally, I would say that it is better not to draw attention to an optimization based account or profile on any of these sites, since it may draw attention to the fact that you are not a personal user – however, in this particular case, it seems to me that a complete lack of interaction (via messages, comments, etc) would be a red flag to the ‘cleaning crew’ and may more likely result in account deletion than sticking out like a sore thumb (as long as that sore thumb appears to look like a natural human kindly interacting with other members).
  • Use Links Sparingly. This may seem obvious, but when you split up 80 links between 80 photos, you may not immediately realize how many there are in total. While I personally do not get a lot of traffic to my personal blog through Flickr!, many businesses use it for that purpose. Be conscious of how many links you are throwing to the same URL – you should only place a few links here and there, and make sure the surrounding text is relevant but not ‘selling’ anything.
  • Post More Pictures. This does not mean you should post a ton of pointless pictures, but if you were only uploading pictures of products and linking each one to a product page on an eCommerce site, this would draw attention to the ‘misuse’ of the account, and blatant violation of Flickr! user policy. The key is to post pictures of many different things, all somehow relevant, but not all blatant image adverts. The more you mix it up, the more natural and ‘random’ it will appear to both human and bot browsers of your photostream.

These are a few things that I personally will be trying out to avoid getting my account deleted, but I would think that businesses would have to exercise more caution than personal users.

For more information on effective Social Media and Search Engine Optimization services, please consult an Internet Marketing Firm like Reciprocal Consulting.

Linking is the key to any natural search-oriented campaign. While Pay Per Click increases the visibility of your website through strategic keyword building, natural search is a combination of on page and off page optimization. The main difference between the two, as to how you achieve a desired visibility status, is the importance of your site. A site of lesser importance, as determined by Google’s complex algorithm, can obtain the first position in searches utilizing a PPC campaign. While it is possible for the same site to appear within the top 3 for natural searches, it is less likely, and therefore natural search depends more on page rank for a site’s position. The similarity between the two is the keyword relevance to the search.

While it would be nice for your website to appear number one for every search, this is not practical. Via a PPC campaign, this mis-targeted traffic would cost you thousands, maybe more, as the majority of clicks would not take the user to a site relevant to that for which they searched. It would make no sense for a law firm website to show up in the top spot for a “heavy equipment training” search query. The purpose of search engines is to return relevant results, not just high ranking sites. The rank is factored in only to represent the importance and usability of the site itself, generally determined by relevant links. Here are four steps for building relevant links to your site, for free:

Social Media Optimization - this may not be the most efficient approach, as far as time is concerned, but the use of Social Media can prove very effective for the initial campaign. Simply, it puts your website on the map. The main quality to look for in a Social Media Site is the ability to add direct links with custom anchor text. This is possible through your profile, various groups, or occasionally, through message systems which allow users to contact each other, via their profile pages. It should be note, however, that many SM profile sites utilize no follow links, which will not benefit keyword relevance of links. Much like relevant pages on a website linking to each other, if only for ease-of-use, consider the network of pages linked to each other on a site such as MyBlogLog or BlogCatalog. It is important to exercise self control with such links, as irrelevant links may be read as spam or abuse of the site. Be sure to read the terms of use for such sites, as violation of such terms can result in the deletion of your account.

Forums – actively participating in forum discussions can increase the online visibility of your company greatly. Choosing a username on said forum that represents your company’s name or primary keyword will increase the relevance of posts, and posting within categories related to your business, its name or its purpose, will increase its importance. Much like social media sites, many forums will have no follow links, so use caution. The best way to utilize a forum is to set up your own. This gives you full control over comments, link properties, posts, and categories. Additionally, relevant traffic generally increases on forums as it allows others to participate in discussions and talk about their own interests in relation to your site.

Free Article and PR Sites – articles and press releases are a great way to build relevant links to your site, and its sub domains, as well as increasing your online availability through referred traffic. Additionally, you have full control over the surrounding text, and many free article sites allow you to include multiple links within the content. An article site might also feature a well-written, highly viewed article on the front page, and if nothing else, feature the submission in a category section related to your article or press release, which will have a URL containing very relevant text.

Blogging – much like article sites, setting up a blog is another good way to build links with more relevance and rank behind them. The only difference is, you can also optimize the blog itself, utilizing your social media profiles, and the articles/pr you’ve written. You may also include links to your blog from your site and forum posts. Cross linking relevant content on your blog and your site, as well as all other areas of the web you maintain, can be quite the task, but well worth the effort and time. Additionally, blogging allows for minimal effort in organizing, coding and optimizing content. Since posts are automatically sorted by date, category and tags, this is an easy way to quickly add content with little hassle; plus, adding images makes your blog more vivid, wont clutter the screen as much, and when ALT tags are properly used, will return links to your blog via image searches. Also, if said images are hosted on your site’s domain, this will add to the relevance of the blog to your site and the use of such images within your blog. You may be hosted on a Blog Site if you wish, but it is generally preferable to be self-hosted, as it implies that your site is more important.

These are only the basics of free link building, and as effective as these may be, there is only so much you can achieve with this method – it really depends on your niche. If you are fighting over less common, less desired, or more unique keywords, these tactics may be enough to put your site on the charts, even at the top spot in searches for those keywords. However, more competitive keywords require more variation, dedication, time, and resources.

When it comes down, most businesses don’t have the time or man-power within the company to embark on a campaign of such magnitude. Consider an experienced, well established, Internet Marketing Firm like Reciprocal Consulting to aid you in this endeavor.

Internet marketing takes years of experience to master and is constantly changing, therefore requiring dedication to continually grasp in full. However, there are a few basics that anyone interested in internet marketing should know. When it comes to understanding the fundamentals, it’s all in the terms. ROI, SEO, SMO, RM, CI, PPC, etc. These acronyms may mean nothing to most people but to us as an internet marketing firm they are our bread and butter.

Here is a basic rundown of our services and how they can help our clients:

These are just the basics. For more information about these services and others, please visit ReciprocalConsulting.com.

There was a time when Search Engine Optimization was all about three main practices: meta tag stuffing, title tag stuffing and keyword stuffing. Sensing a theme, are we? During the early development of SEO, these tactics coupled with a bit of hard coding were pretty much all that was necessary to pull decent rank and all fell into the general category of “Search Engine Optimization” as they composed the majority of the knowledge needed to do such. Build a search-friendly site and show up on searches; it was as easy as that.

However, more and more over the past few years, these once primary strategies for optimization have been thrown into the “onsite SEO” category for a new era of SEO. There has been much discussion of a new brand of SEO Specialists, cooler, slicker and more capable — having better “Networking” and “Social Media” skillz.

Yes, “Skillz” with a “Z” for the newer, cooler SEO specialists.

Unarguably, things are very different now. Sure, the number of tools and variety of skills required to launch and maintain a successful SEO Campaign have grown at an alarming rate in just the past year, let alone the previous decade, but too many are quick to dismiss the old practices for flashy theatrics — as if having years of experience was a bad thing?

Consider the following bit of “geek-related” history:
In the early 90′s there began a war. This was not a normal war however, and many were unaware of its existence. This was a video game console war between Nintendo and Sega. Essentially, these companies were in competition to be the leading Home Video Game Console System and each company had a distinctive advertising campaign. Nintendo took the straight forward approach, simply marketing their products for what they were, while Sega marketed their systems as being the cooler, optimal alternative to Nintendo — perhaps their strategy can be best summed up with a quote from one of their commercials: “Sega does what NintenDONT”.

So what’s my point? It’s simple. Sega, with all it’s glamor, flash and big words, died in 2006 with it’s final system, the Dreamcast, and prior to that, the company released some of the worst systems of all time. Meanwhile, Nintendo is still alive and strong, and its products are among the top searched items on Ebay today. Even in competition with such beasts as Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo maintains comparable results and an even higher demand.

Okay, so what’s my real point? Think of it like this: In this parable I’ve presented to you, Nintendo represents the traditional SEO Specialist — simple, solid, effective and of high quality, yet able to adapt and leave a lasting impression on the internet. Sega, on the other hand, represents this new brand of SEO Specialists — presented as more socially capable and better equipped to utilize the new era of Social Media oriented SEO Campaign Management.

I predict a very similar outcome for this bout.

The fact is, SEO has evolved over the years and, while many aspects have changed, it is important to remember to utilize traditional means as well as newer tools. A successful SEO campaign is all about managing a balance of incoming links and sources, networking with other sites sharing similar interests and building a search-friendly page tailored to the campaign’s keywords and targeting goals. One can perform Social Media Oriented SEO for a website all day long but without an appropriate architecture on-site, all this will be in vain.

Be careful when entrusting your online advertising efforts to a firm and before you sign on, ask yourself these questions: Are they a reputable firm? Do they have solid experience as the foundation for their strategy or are they built on outrageous claims and ineffective, over the top practices in less than the complete range of strategies? Can they work with me one on one to ensure than we build a custom tailored campaign? Will they charge outrageous fees or will I be paying them based on the Campaign Performance?

Believe it or not, many Internet Marketing Firms want to answer these question and concerns.