Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Meet the Press

After reading an article at CareerBuilder.com about things you should avoid in a job interview, Nettie Hartsock was inspired to come up with her own list of dos and don'ts for media interviews. Here's a peek at her advice:

Do your homework. Says Hartsock, "Make sure you're familiar with the journalist's or interviewer's work so that you can understand how they interview and be responsive to their techniques."

Don't boast or exaggerate. Superlatives might have their place in marketing materials, but a journalist doing a news story can't use quotes that are riddled with self-reverential worship. Likewise, don't trash-talk other companies. Says Hartsock, "Highlight the differences from competitors without denigrating [them]."

Be conversational, but wary. Do what you can to make it an interesting interview, but remember that journalists love TMI. So keep the overly personal anecdotes to yourself, and don't get tricked into revealing too much about your company.

Avoid subtle humor. Sarcasm, irony and snark rarely come across in print as you intended. The reader can't hear the playful tone in your voice, or see your wry smile.

Never ask to preview an article before it's published. Not only is the request a waste of time—no reputable journalist will comply—but it sends one of two messages: Either you don't trust her to be fair, or you're a control freak when it comes to your public image.

The Po!nt: When you're eager to promote your product or service, it's easy to make the wrong impression—so keep Hartsock's tips in mind when you talk to the press.

Source: Nettie Hartsock's blog. Click here for the post.

The Slow Art of Customer Seduction

In a post at MarketingProfs' Daily Fix blog, Cam Beck says the days of the traditional publishing model—attracting an audience through compelling content and selling advertising to those who want to reach them—are effectively over.

The problem, he argues, is that readers were overwhelmed and stopped paying attention. To compensate, companies became increasingly intrusive with even more ads than before. The audience fled to innovative content providers—especially online—where they could ignore the advertising, and content seemed "free."

As a result, Beck says readers have developed five attributes:

-They dislike being interrupted by advertising.
-They don't want to pay for things that are usually free.
-They want advertising appropriately labeled as advertising.
-They sometimes appreciate finding out about unique products that will benefit them.
-They don't want to tell publishers more about themselves than is absolutely necessary.

"We can either stand and curse the situation or seek to do something about it," he says. And working within the paradoxical framework of this new reality means evolving the way you reach your audience.

Your Marketing Inspiration: "The marketplace can no longer be driven by simple, traditional advertising but will instead be driven by content and the slow art of the customer seduction," says Beck.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

How to Optimize for Google: Part 2 of 3‏

By Scott Van Achte, Senior SEO, StepForth

Optimizing for top Google rankings includes a number of factors. In Part 1 of 3 we discussed onsite optimization. In Part 2 we will touch on incoming links as well as using Google Webmaster Tools.

Links are very important in today's Google rankings, but just how many links you need will depend on both the competitiveness of your target phrases, and the quality of the incoming links themselves.

Essentially the number one rule of links is to keep it relevant! Topical relevance is very important in order for inbound links to give your site the most value. If the page that links to you is relevant that is good, if the entire site linking to you is relevant, that is better.

First to get an idea of how many links you may need, take a look at the top 10 ranking sites in Google and record how many links Yahoo is noting for each site. (This is because Google does not display anywhere near all the links they have noted). The average of this count is often a good indication of how many links your site may need.

There are many different ways to get links to your site including the age old reciprocal link trade, directory links, article based links, and links from press releases.

Reciprocal Links
Reciprocal linking has seen its value drop considerably over the past few years, however, if the site you are trading with is relevant you can still receive value from these links.

Paid Links
Google frowns on paid links, however that is not to say that they don't work. Often you can find highly reputable and relevant websites which are offering paid advertising spots. If these links are coded to link directly to your website without passing through any tracking redirects, you will in many cases see value in the form of both direct traffic and increased link densities and rankings.

Writing and distributing industry specific articles is a great way to help boost both your link counts and site traffic; for examples of such content see StepForth's SEO Blog News articles. Consider writing articles on a regular basis and submitting them to some of the more popular services such as EzineArticles. Be sure to include a link to your site from somewhere within the article, or at the very least within your bio. Try to use a target phrase as part of the anchor text for additional value.

Press Releases
If something of importance has happened to your company such as a new product launch, or other notable achievement - essentially anything news worthy, put out a press release. Submit this press release through services such as PRWeb or PRNewsWire. Again, be sure to include a target phrase as part of the anchor text.

There are also a number of places you can get links that have basically turned south, and are not generally recommended. These include signatures in form posts, guest books, and other typically free links.

Forum Posts
Forum posts can help to marginally raise your link counts; however, with this one you must be careful. Only add a link to your site in your signature if both the forum allows it, and you are a respected member of the forum. If you are a solid contributor and your posts have depth and meaning, and the forum is highly relevant to your site, then having a link in your signature may give your site some juice. Posting wildly to random forums will in most cases get yourself banned, and will be both a waste of time and potentially make you and your site look bad.

Guest Books
In nearly all cases, do not post your link to guest books. If you happen to stumble upon a guestbook that is highly relevant to your site, the other comments are relevant to your site, and you have something useful (and again relevant) to say, then perhaps consider it, but typically focusing on links from guest books is considered SPAM and is best avoided all together.

Blog Comments
Having a link from your blog comments is not necessarily a bad thing. If you find a relevant blog post of use, and have something relevant and constructive to say, don't be afraid to enter your link into the "URL" field of the form, but don't try stuffing links into the comment itself.

Link Farms & Bad Neighborhoods
These are sites that allow you to simply post your link no stríngs attached. They are mostly long scrolling pages with countless links. Stay away from them. If you see one, run in the other direction. These links are bad, will not help with your rankings, and in some cases can actually damage your rankings.

Stay away from sites that cross link with obvious spammers. These networks of SPAM sites are not ones you would want your site associated with, and if you achieve links from enough of these sites it can adversely impact your rankings. Even more important, NEVER link to any of these sites - as that will certainly tie in your connection to them and give Google reason to discount your rankings.

DMOZ, Yahoo and Other Directories
Directory based links can be of significant help, especially if they are from highly reputable directories, the two biggest being DMOZ.org and the Yahoo Directory.

Getting a site into DMOZ is like Gold. Google loves links from DMOZ and your site will reap the benefits. The big catch however is actually getting your site into the directory in the first place. Find the perfect category for your site and check to see if it has an editor. If you see a link "Volunteer to edit this category" try and find another relevant location. Pages without active editors take much longer to get listed into. Once you find the perfect directory submit your site every 4-6 months until listed. If you are lucky you will get in eventually.

Yahoo Directory is seen as an authority in the eyes of Google, and getting your site in will help your link reputation. This link does come at a price of $299 per year, but will play a role in helping your website achieve top rankings.

There are a number of other valuable directories out there that can help you with your search rankings. Before submittíng to any directory the key is a combination of relevance and authority. If the directory is relevant and active, it may be worth considering.

Google Webmaster Tools can be very useful for your optimization efforts. It may not directly help you obtain higher rankings, but can help you trouble shoot if you are experiencing problems. It will also allow you to remove URL's that you don't want indexed and set various preferences such as your domain, crawl rate, and geographic target.

XML Sitemaps
This is the most common reason people use Google Webmaster Tools - the submission of their XML sitemap. While you can use your robots.txt to have Google find your XML sitemap, by submitting it directly to Google you can check up on the spidering status.

Error checking
Webmaster Tools is also quite useful for checking on various error URL's that Google may know about. Under the Diagnostics > Web Crawl you can view any errors that Google has to report on your site. By cleaning up any errors you can help boost your chances of rankings.

From inside Google Webmaster Tools you can get a much clearer look at what sites Google is noting as having links to you, and give you a better indication of the need, if any, to raise your link counts.

WWW Preference
Be sure to select your domain preference under Tools > Set Preferred Domain. In nearly all cases you will want to select the version including the "www" .

Inbound links play a significant role in successful Google rankings. By focusing on relevant links, as well as by diversifying where you get those links from, you can build a solid foundation for your search rankings today and into the future.

Stay tuned for Part 3 (of 3) where I will discuss other considerations including redirects, HTTP headers, and a number of other factors which play a role in successfully conquering Google.

About The Author
Scott Van Achte is the Senior SEO at StepForth Web Marketing Inc., based in Victoria, BC, Canada and founded in 1997. You can read more of Scott's articles and those of the StepForth team at news.stepforth.com or contact us at StepForth.com, Tel - 250-385-1190, TollFree - 877-385-5526, Fax - 250-385-1198

Give to Receive

When you work with the media, your first priority is probably figuring out what they can do for you. But Christina Kerley—widely known as CK—says the greater long-term payoff lies in flipping the equation around. She argues that concentrating on what a journalist gets out of the interaction lays the groundwork for future rewards.

In a post at her blog, she tells the story of a reporter with a tight deadline who needed a crash course in social media. It proved more complicated than he expected, and at the end of the conversation he scrambled to get CK's corporate information. She shocked him by saying, "I don't care if you promote me in the article, I care that you promote the right message. Otherwise I'm not doing right by my markets." Not something journalists hear every day.

But CK didn't stop there. She offered to connect him to other trusted colleagues in the social media scene who could elaborate on topics from advertising and research to PR and user experience.

CK undoubtedly became a valued and trustworthy resource. And it would be surprising if the reporter didn't go out of his way to mention her company in the article. It's the perfect template for a win-win situation.

The Po!nt: "[F]ocusing on his needs and those of his readers—not my need for promotion—is how I best provide value," says CK. "Consequently, it's also the best way to form a long-term relationship with him." And, she notes, a path to revenues.

Source: CK's Blog. Click here for the post.

The Truth Will Out

When you start to see how effective word-of-mouth marketing can be, you might feel the temptation to juice it up in little ways. Maybe you notice that no one in your online forum seems to be chatting about your fantastic customer service—what's the harm in an anonymous comment on the topic that praises a new policy? But Andy Sernovitz wants to remind you that actions like these are not only unethical, they teeter on the edge of a slippery slope that can lead to more devious—and sometimes illegal—actions like:

-Using your in-house staff or hiring an agency to post phony recommendations and comments on a systematic basis.
-Getting buzzers to hype your product or service even though they've never used it.
-Asking your fans to disguise their involvement in a campaign.

According to Sernovitz, determining how to handle any word-of-mouth marketing situation comes down to three basic principles spelled out by WOMMA's ethics code:

-Honesty of Relationship: You say who you're speaking for
-Honesty of Opinion: You say what you believe
-Honesty of Identity: You never obscure your identity

Says Sernovitz, "The truth is that word of mouth is based on truth, that liars will always be exposed, and honest companies will be richly rewarded by adoring fans." And that's a helpful bit of Marketing Inspiration.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Social Part of Blogging‏

Whether you have been blogging (for business purposes) for years or have recently started, it is important to not forget the social aspects of it. What are you doing to partcipate?

Think of your blog like your own little community, and like other communities such as forums or social networks, participation is of the utmost importance.

You may think to yourself, "I've already written the posts. I've obviously participated," but it should go well beyond that.

Keeping Up

Like any social media media page you maintain, your blog should be updated often if you want people to keep reading. If you wait for weeks between posts, there is a good chance readers will forget about you. With so much information available on the Internet, and new blogs being started constantly, there is only so much time for any one person to read posts. If you want to remain in their regular cycle, you better keep giving them a reason.


Sometimes you have to encourage readers to leave you comments to initiate conversation (in case you were wondering why I'm always asking questions in my articles). Respected blogger Neville Hobson has some great tips on the subject.

Once you get some comments, keep up with them and respond to them whether you encouraged them or not. For one, it will give the commenters a reason to come back, and conversations that come from comments can often inspire future posts. There also may be some things that fit right into your article that you hadn't thought of and they will be there as additional resources for your readers.

Do your best to keep spam out of the comments though, because nobody wants to scroll through a bunch of nonsense to try to find legitimate conversation.


Your blogroll will show others what you are reading, and could inspire those listed to include you in their own.

From the reader's perspective, they may see some familiar names in your blogroll and think, "this person is into some of the same blogs that I am", and may identify with that, giving them further reason to come back to your blog.

It is also a good idea to network with those in your blogroll, and leave thoughtful (not spammy) comments on their posts - a good way to get some additional traffic.

Search Engines

When you submit your blog to blog search engines, see if they have social features like Blog Catalog (thanks Missy!). Chances are that users are there to find new blogs, and having a presence there can inspire more readership of your own.

Blogging is more than just writing. It's interacting. If you're not encouraging conversation, it's just writing articles. Why not be involved with your readers? If anyone has anything to add, I encourage you to comment!

About the Author:
Chris is a content coordinator and staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz and the iEntry Network. Subscribe to SmallBusinessNewz RSS Feeds.

Microsoft and Yahoo!, Search Engine Partners?

By Scott Buresh

How Mergers and Acquisitions May Change the Search
Engine Playing Field - and Where Google Comes In

Until recently, there were five major players in the search engine world: Google, MSN, AOL, Ask.com, and the Yahoo! search engine. These top Internet search engines quickly could be narrowed down to four, however; AOL uses the Google algorithm and will yield nearly identical results. Further narrowing is rapidly occurring - Ask.com seems to be stepping out of the spotlight to focus on specific markets, and in early March 2008, Microsoft began attempting to purchase the Yahoo! search engine. If there are just two top search engines with which to be concerned, what does this mean for your business and for SEO as a whole?

What's Going On with the Yahoo! Search Engine?

As almost anybody with access to a news source knows by now, Microsoft put in an unsolicited offer to purchase the Yahoo! search engine in early March 2008. Yahoo! rejected this offer at first, saying that it undervalued its company as one of the top engines (and a provider of other services, including email and chat as well). Microsoft did not increase the offer at this point; it instead decided to enter a proxy battle.

A proxy battle would involve Microsoft putting up its own board of directors to let shareholders decide if its purchase of the Yahoo! search engine would be acceptable or not. In essence, Microsoft has decided that it will attempt to convince shareholders that their interests are better served by people who will approve this acquisition between two of the top Internet search engines. And Yahoo! shareholders have been beaten down for some time, so it is widely expected that the majority will in fact favor this acquisition.

Meanwhile, Yahoo!, on spurning this offer, began talking with other companies in order to build strategic partnerships and keep itself as one of the top engines, as it had been for so long. It was rumored that MySpace's parent company, News Corporation, was in talks to work with the Yahoo! search engine, as was Google. However, these talks seem to have fizzled, and Yahoo!'s board of directors has begun speaking directly with Microsoft's board. Yahoo! bought a bit of time by delaying the election of its board, but it is believed that this is all the shareholders will stand for at this point.

So I'm assuming that if the acquisition goes down, the Microsoft search engine and the Yahoo! search engine will likely be using the same algorithm, even if they remain separate sites. It just makes sense not to spend the money to have two separate research departments, especially when the Yahoo! search engine is widely regarded to be superior to Microsoft's.

Will Ask.com Continue to Be One of the Top Internet Search Engines?

For a time, Ask.com seemed to be trying to go head to head with Google and to position itself as one of the top Internet search engines - period. You may remember the "algorithm" ads that it ran for a time on television. However, recently Ask.com announced that it will instead be tailoring itself to the niche market share of which it already has control. In other words, they're no longer trying to be all things to all people in the way that other top search engines like, well, Yahoo! and Google are.

What we know about Ask.com's demographic is that it is largely female, although Ask.com refutes the notion that it is focusing on "older women." According to an article in Forbes, an Ask.com spokesperson said that:

...reports of the site becoming oriented towards older women are false and were fueled by an erroneous Associated Press article that has since been changed. Ask acknowledged that married women do compose a lot of its core users and these matronly queries are often dictionary, thesaurus, encyclopedia type queries - as well as categories like health and entertainment(1)...

Seeing as Ask.com also laid off 8% of its staff at the same time that it refocused, it seems clear that the company is no longer aiming to be considered one of the top Internet search engines.

And this means that we are down to two search engine technologies dominating the entire landscape: Google and a MSN/Yahoo! search engine hybrid (Micro-hoo? Yah-soft?).

How Will This Affect Consumers?

If there truly are only two major top Internet search engines, the industry will be like Coke vs. Pepsi. Sure there are other, smaller players like RC Cola that some people will be brand loyal about, but for the most part it's either Big Guy One or Big Guy Two.

And this means that businesses that had good rankings and that were getting good traffic from, say, Ask.com and MSN but not the Yahoo! search engine, will be in a bind. With only two top Internet search engines, there will be less real estate to compete for and the same number of businesses vying for this real estate.

How Will This Affect SEO Companies?

In one sense, having only two serious engines makes the job easier for search engine optimization companies - there's just less algorithms to absorb and master. However, it makes the opportunity for volatility much more likely. Before, if the Google or Yahoo! search engine changed its algorithm, you had three or four other engines to fall back on while you worked to update your practices. But with only two major players, a tweak to either the Google or MSN/Yahoo! search engine algorithm could have much further reaching implications to individual companies in the search space.

Who Will Compete Next?

Google has been coasting for many years as being seen as the underdog in the industry - the cool, hip engine to use that's not owned by the big guys. However, search engine optimization practitioners have started to see some cracks in that veneer. The truth of the matter is that Microsoft is seen as a huge corporate conglomerate, with Google starting to be seen similarly. And now Google has to answer to shareholders, rather than just going along trying "not to be evil." Google has its own set of privacy issues and conflicts of interest, such as its recent purchase of DoubleClick, which came along with a SEO company. [See my recent article A Slippery Slope: Google Owns a Search Engine Optimization Company on this topic for more information.]

So when there are just two top Internet search engines, the door is opened for competition. If another company can come along technologically that is on par with the Google and Yahoo! search engine algorithms and that does not have huge corporate considerations, it could very well start gaining some market share in this space. I'll let you know if I see any contenders.


1. Forbes.com

(c) Medium Blue 2008

About The Author
Scott Buresh is the founder of Medium Blue, a search engine optimization company. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including MarketingProfs, ZDNet, SiteProNews, WebProNews, DarwinMag, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine Guide.

Baby Steps to Blogging Superstardom

In a recent post at his blog, Seth Godin explains how you can use a blogger's sensibility to improve your other writing—from ad copy to thank-you notes. But the post also serves up some solid ideas for improving your blog itself. Here are a few of his key points:

A blog post is not a PhD dissertation. "Bloggers don't have to say everything at once," says Godin. "We can add a new idea every day, piling on a thesis over time." Take a look at his blog's archive and you'll see what he means. Entries range from brief notations to lengthy discussions, but—taken as a whole—each continues to develop his central themes.

People like lists. How often do you see magazine cover lines and online headlines trumpeting, say, The Top 25 Reasons You Need to [Fill In the Blank]? They're fun, and almost certain to drive traffic to your blog.

No one likes an online dead-end. Go ahead and link to other sites, even if it's a hyperlink in the middle of a paragraph. If you have interesting content, you haven't lost your readers forever—they'll come back for more.

Social media is about conversation. Writes Godin, "Your readers care about someone's opinion even more than yours…their own. So reading your email or your comments or your trackbacks (your choice) makes it easy to stay relevant."

The Po!nt: Since the blog format enables you to make continual improvements, it's never too late to integrate solid new ideas.

Source: Seth Godin's Blog. Click here for the post.

Note to Banks: Think Small

Logically, if a product costs $10 and consumers like it, they should be willing to pay for it, right? Maybe not. According to researchers at the University of Iowa, it might depend on the denomination of the bills they have in their wallets.

Apparently consumers are less likely to spend money on something when they have one large bill (say $50) than if they have a few small ones (five $10 bills). One big bill just looks like it's worth holding onto longer.

"The denominations of the bills plays significantly into a customer's willingness to spend," claim the authors.

Researchers think that this "bias for the whole" occurs because having a whole amount is pleasing. Consumers readily understand that a $100.00 bill is worth—hey!—100 bucks! It's more difficult to visualize smaller bills making up the same amount. To shoppers, the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

Since ATMs are the primary source of cash for many consumers, these authors conclude that banks can actually influence consumer spending by the denominations of money they distribute through their ATMs. Time to encourage your local bankers to think small.

The Po!nt: What customers see in their wallets can hurt you. Their feelings about spending money may well be tied into what denominations of bills they carry.

Source: "Money: A Bias for the Whole", by Himanshu Mishra, Arul Mishra, and Dhananjay Nayakankuppam. Journal of Consumer Research, 2006.

Google, Social Media & The SEO Pyramid‏

About a month ago, I mentioned that Small Business Marketing Unleashed, a 2-day hands-on event with marketing workshops would be coming up starting April 21st.

Well, the month has flown by and Small Business Marketing Unleashed has already come and gone, but not before our reporter Abby Prince (reporting for our sister site WebProNews) was able to attend and share some highlights with the rest of us. Share your thoughts on Small Business Marketing Unleashed

Abby caught up with Marchex SEO Manager and SBM Unleashed speaker Matt McGee for an interview, in which he shares with us the details of his "SEO Pyramid" which is an interesting concept and discusses some key things that people are missing when it comes to optimizing their sites for local search. As he points out, most people don't go to Google Maps to find local businesses. Check out what Matt had to say on the subject.

Abby also had an opportunity to speak with Pole Position Marketing CEO Stoney deGeyter, one of the brains behind Small Business Marketing Unleashed.

In this video, Stoney discusses the reasons that website architecture is important, including how it helps search engines better find your site. He also talks a little about his "destination search marketing" concept.

Website Architecture

Stoney also spoke on website architecture as part of the actual conference, calling it "a powerful tool in the website marketing arsenal" and an "absolute priority".

Poor site architecture hinders site performance by creating roadblocks for search spiders, decreasing rankings, not to mention confusing visitors and reducing sales.

"With site architecture, you're trying to get them to think less," says deGeyter.

Stoney touched upon domain names advocating short memorable ones containing keywords if possible, as well as having alternate domain names including misspellings, abbreviations, etc, to "avoid giving your traffic to someone else".

Check out the WebProNews write-up on this session for a few more tidbits on what Stoney had to say on site architecture

Local Search Workshop

Matt McGee of course took on the Local Search Workshop highlighting some things in more detail that he discussed briefly in the video interview.

"The main search engines dominate local search," he says, and Google is winning. No surprise there, but what is a little more surprising to me is that according to Matt, "Google Maps gets 1 visit for every 45 visits to Google.com".

One thing Matt said that I particularly like is that both SEO and PPC require hope, but "Hope isn't a marketing strategy". You have to "get involved and meet people".

This is where social media marketing comes in, and Matt points out some good places to meet people on a local level including: Flickr, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Yahoo! Answers, local blogs, Outside.in, Placeblogger, newspaper web sites, Yahoo! Groups, Google Groups, Freecycle.org, etc.

I think what Matt is getting at, is that there is a lot more to cover with local online marketing than just ranking in search engines, and while participating in these other venues, you might end up getting ranked regardless.

I called this article "the tip of the iceberg, because there are a lot more takeaways from this conference, and I will have to follow up in separate articles to avoid making this one a book. So stay tuned to SmallBusinessNewz for more on Small Business Marketing Unleashed!

About the Author:
Chris is a content coordinator and staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz and the iEntry Network. Subscribe to SmallBusinessNewz RSS Feeds.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Six Quick and Simple Ways to Dominate Google Rankings!

By Mike Small

The reason Google is the most successful search engine in the world is because they provide the best search results; pages ranked by tangible value. That tangible value is a combination of content and links, with links being the more important factor (they assume any pages linking in will only link to good content or risk their own ranking.)

Here are a few tips that will help you take full advantage of Google's love of linking...

1.) Link Deep and with Relevance

So why is deeper better and what's this about relevance? Google figured out that a link to a homepage is only good if that homepage has the information the visitor needs. If a person clicks a link for "amazíng chocolate chip cookie recipe" and ends up on the home page, which has nothing of the sort, Google discounts it as a wasted link. On the other hand, if the link leads to the page containing info on the "Amazíng Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe," even five levels deep, the link has huge value to the visitor and to Google.

Want some proof? You already have it if you've ever used Google's AdWords pay per clíck service. They will not even accept PAID links to pages that are not the most relevant for their visitors, regardless of what you are willing to pay per clíck. Now that's saying something!

2.) Use Absolute Links Internally

It sounds complicated but it's not. Absolute links are those with a fixed full URL. There's another kind, called "relative" links that skip the first part of the domain and remain "relative" to the file structure. Let's take a look at the difference...

Here's the absolute link to the Google Ads page from Google's homepage: "http://www.google.com/intl/en/ads/"

Here's what it might look like as a relative link: "./intl/en/ads/"

Long story short; absolute links help your SEO efforts and relative links don't.

3.) Use Keywords in Anchor Text

Use relevant keywords in your link anchor text (that is the text within the hyperlink.) Forget about "Clíck Here" like you see on so many sites. Not only does that not help your ranking, it actually lowers the relevancy of your real keywords because Google believes that if a word is important enough it will likely be used as part of a link to get the visitor where they want to go.

4.) Follow the 1% Solution

Make no more than 1% of your page text into links (both outbound and internal.) That is, if you have 500 words on the page there should be no more than 5 text links total. And don't overuse the same keyword text for the links. So if you have three mentions each of three different keywords, try to use each just once in a link. Then use similar text for any remaining links.

Example: If "chocolate chip cookies" is your main keyword phrase you might use "chocolate chip cookies" as the anchor text for one link and then "my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe" for another link.

It's also a good idea to use 10 Links Max per page whether you have 1,000 words or 10,000 words on that page.

5.) Add a Link Failsafe

This is really simple and almost nobody does it. Links get broken more often than we like. Sometimes it's because we moved a page and sometimes it has nothing to do with anything we consciously did (especially with blogs.) The solution is to create a custom 404 page (Page Not Found) that looks just like any other page on your site and has a simple note like "We're sorry we cannot find the page you are looking for. However, if you love cookies of all kinds we think you'll find exactly what you want by clicking on one of the following links..." Then of course you have a navigation system for them to follow.

6.) Get the Best Links Possible

This is extremely important yet often overlooked because it can be such a difficult and time consuming job. If you take nothing else away from this article, please take this... Finding the best possible inbound links is the single most important thing you can do to make the number one spot on Google.

Here are three tips to help minimize your time and effort while giving you results SEO experts charge an arm and a leg for.

A.) Get listed in directories.

Submít your site to the top directories like Jayde.com and DMOZ.org. Once they link to your site you will have great relevant inbound links and some instant credibility with Google.

Here are some great free directories in order of value, starting with the best... dmoz.org, jayde.com, webworldindex.com, turnpike.net, and directoryvault.com. Yahoo is important but charges $299 for commercial site inclusion.

B.) Use "Special Commands" to do the legwork for you.

The best linked sites can easily be found with a simple search command called "allinanchor:" Here's how to use it. Go to Google and type in "allinanchor:keyword goes here" (no quotes and no space after the colon.) Now hit Enter and you'll see the sites that have the highest relevancy for keywords used in anchor text. Look for any that you know are competitors and outrank your site.

Now take the URL for any of these and use this command "link:www.theirdomain.extension" (again with no quotes and no space after the colon.) This will show you all the sites linking in as well as internal pages linking back in.

In short, these two special commands give you an inside look at exactly how the competition does what it does with the results they get. This is huge!

C.) Use good SEO software whenever possible.

If you can afford to spend one or two hundred dollars to save huge amounts of time and get professional results, it's well worth it. Like many SEO professionals whose livelihood depends on results, I've been using SEO software to get top search engine placement for years. The best ones not only help you identify great link partners but will even help you contact them and make sure they don't cheat you in any way. I use SEO Elite and am still amazed by all it can do.

If possible, get a tool that also does rank checking and reporting. Once you begin you'll want to check rankings every so often and an automated tool will save you a ton of time. Oddly enough I bought SEO Elite primarily for rank checking then discovered it was worth its weight in gold as linking tool as well. So whatever tool you use, get as much out of it as you can. You might be pleasantly surprised.

About The Author
Mike Small is the founder of the free SEO (search engine optimization) site SEOpartner.com and author of numerous search engine optimization books and whitepapers including the SEO Notebook.

Stronger Words, Louder Mouths

At his blog Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That!, Andy Sernovitz discusses something unusual he noticed on the refrigerator at his office. A colleague had gone to the trouble of posting a commercial-services flyer from Lowe's with a coupon promising "$10 off your next $25 purchase." Says Sernovitz, "I immediately started asking myself about the motivation and process of that recommendation."

Sernovitz then brainstormed three ways to improve the word-of-mouth opportunity. All are worth considering in your own campaigns.

Make it easier. A clip with a magnet held the Lowe's flyer aloft, and Sernovitz wonders if distributing flyers that were actually magnets or Post-its might encourage others to do the same thing at their offices.

Encourage people to spread the word. Even including "Share with your office!" in the copy would invite recipients to do something they might not consider without the suggestion.

Increase the quantity of sharing. The Lowe's flyer had only a single coupon; if there were more discount cards or tear-off sections, multiple people could follow up.

The Po!nt: "Pay attention to those moments when someone is making a recommendation," says Sernovitz, and "[l]ook for ways it could have been more effective."

Source: Damn! I Wish I'd Thought of That! Click here for the post.

The SEO Rapper

When we heard a YouTube channel about online marketing was getting tens of thousands of hits, we had to take a look. And so should you. Its host Charles Lewis is an online marketer for Pop Labs whose alter ego—the Poetic Prophet—likes to rap about his subject of expertise. It sounds weird, but the videos are not only entertaining, they're remarkably informative.

His Design Coding video, for instance, succinctly explains how to design a Web site for prime SEO. Here's an example of his content-packed wordplay:

You have animation
Please use in moderation
'Cause search engines can't
Index the information

Also check out Paid Search 101, which offers a thorough primer in only two minutes. Sample lyrics include:

Research all your key words
And your phrases
They all sound good
But they may not be effective
There's several ways to check
I prefer WordTracker

No, the Poetic Prophet's videos aren't a comprehensive course in online marketing. But they give non-experts just enough information to be dangerous—and they're fun. Marketing Inspiration doesn't get any better.

Don't Just Write Articles. Write Them Right!‏

by Chris Crum

You may have a writer inside you even if you didn't know it. If you own your own business, you have to be savvy in some areas, so why not share things you have learned along the way with others?

The best reason to do this is to help you brand yourself as an expert in your field. Share your thoughts on article writing.

Syndication and Your Agenda

When you write articles to have syndicated at other web sites, what you don't want to do is write ones that are too self-serving, promoting your products heavily.

This may be fine for your own business blog, but that's what press releases are for. If you want people to take you seriously, it's better to produce good quality articles that could actually help people rather than just some filler sales pitch content disguised as an article.

Promotion from a Bio

The beauty of the author bio is that it allows you to promote your business and/or product without being so tacky about it. You have it there on every article you write, yet you don't come off as just another pitch. Basically, you're giving them the content they want and providing them with an opportunity to look into your business if you offer something that they are interested in, which if you are writing relevant content to what you do, there is a good chance that they will be.

Pictures and Humanization

Whenever possible, try to include a photo of yourself with your articles. You may be self-conscious about posting images of yourself, but it is a lot easier for someone to trust what they are reading if they can put a face to it.

There's just something humanizing about being able to see whose words you are reading, and it makes the content seem more credible, even if only on a subconscious level.

Unique Content

I know. Creating unique content is easier said than done (believe me, I struggle with it everyday). There are so many good and bad articles posted on the Internet that most likely whatever you have to say has been said before.

Still, that doesn't mean that you can't put a fresh perspective to any given subject. Even if it's been said before, it hasn't been said by your voice. And maybe it hasn't even been said to your audience.


When you've dealt with as many articles as I have, it becomes apparent that not everyone should be writing. I'm not saying that I'm Mark Twain, but I've seen so many articles that are just borderline unintelligible that it makes me question what inspired the authors to ever put their fingers on the keyboard. The point I'm trying to make here is that if you're going to take the plunge into the writing pool, make sure your articles are readable. Let someone else read over them before you post them online if you are not sure about them.

Posting a bunch of articles full of unreadable malarkey is a good way to get your online reputation to sink. Typos happen, but there is a difference between typos and nonsense.

If you can pull off all of the above, you should be on the right track to promoting your business through articles the right way. How has promotion through articles worked for you? Share your story in the comments.

About the Author:
Chris is a content coordinator and staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz and the iEntry Network. Subscribe to SmallBusinessNewz RSS Feeds.

Make Them Happy They Chose You‏

Customers who opt in to your email campaigns can just as easily opt out or ignore your messages. It's up to you to keep them interested—and committed. Century21's Evan Blittner says this takes a few key steps:

Let your customers choose content. An option-heavy preference center means they'll only receive content they want to see. He says companies like Adidas, Discover Card, Nike and Tide lead the way in this tailored approach.

Get your creative right. According to Blittner, the optimal text-to-image ratio is 40-60, and it's imperative to include text in the preview pane. That way, "consumers will easily recognize the emails you send."

Don't explain the obvious. If you use a message to educate, be wary of the Duh! factor: skip the introductory course and go straight to an intermediate level.

Actively ensure your message reaches the inbox. Avoid deliverability problems by using domain name keys; learning which "spammy" words raise red flags; and building a good reputation with clean lists.

Monitor those analytics. Blittner recommends using Forrester's benchmark reports to compare your results with those of the competition.

The Po!nt: A little vigilance will keep them loyal. Says Blittner, "If you follow these practices … you will maximize your ROI while providing an engaging experience for consumers that truly distinguishes your brand from its competitors."

Source: MarketingProfs. Click to read the article.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Trust You Because Your Floor Looks Clean and Shiny

How do customers evaluate quality? It can be simple when judging a product, where it's easy to see the workmanship. But what about the more intangible things—like the customer experience? Recent research says: Get out your mop and pail.

A study by the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that when consumers are uncertain how to evaluate the efficacy of a service provided, they use external cues to make inferences about the trustworthiness of the service provider. For instance, to evaluate a doctor, they might consider how welcoming the waiting room is, the friendliness of the receptionist, or even if the room is clean and tidy.

The fact that these cues may have nothing to do with the quality of the service provided does not appear to be important. A customer service desk may have caring reps in spite of its messy countertop. But first impressions count big with customers. And yes, that goes all the way down to the shiny clean floor.

External cues can impact just about any aspect of the retail process. For instance, if a product delivery is delayed, customers may be less irritated if they are advised of the delay, and the person doing so is friendly and courteous.

The Po!nt: Little things mean a lot. Keep up appearances, and stay courteous, since these seemingly little things actually have a big impact on customers' judgments of quality.

Source: "When Does the Service Process Matter? A Test of Two Competing Theories," by Michael K. Hui, Xiande Zhao, Xiucheng Fan, and Kevin Au. Journal of Consumer Research, 2004.

Do You Really Need To Come In First Place?

By Erin Ferree

When I was in 6th grade, track and field was all the rage. I've never been particularly athletic. But it was 1984 and everyone in my class was pretty fascinated with the Olympics that year. As you can imagine the school's annual track meet turned into a mini-Olympics.

So I surveyed the events and the sign-ups for each one. I decided that the long-distance running events held the most promise for glory. The 2 mile, in particular, only had 2 other girls signed up - so I was pretty much assured a "medal". That sounded pretty exciting. Maybe I could go for the gold!

However, watching the other events leading up to the 2-mile, I soon learned that one of the other girls was a seasoned runner. She knew all about pacing, how many minutes she should be able to run a mile in, and all that fancy stuff. At that point, I knew that first place was pretty much done for. I barely knew how many laps around the track I had to run. I ran the race anyway and wound up coming in second - which was just fine by me.

It's not all about winníng - a place or a show can be just fine.

Whenever I talk to a client about search engine placement, this track meet comes into mind. The client comes to me wanting to be Number 1 for their chosen search term. But for many small businesses, being ranked first is not truly that important - and depending on the search term, being Number 1 may hurt their business.

How can being Number 1 possibly hurt?

I know, saying that being on top can hurt your business sounds pretty unbelievable. But, being in first place has several disadvantages:

1. Getting to first place for desirable keywords takes a lot of work. The world of search engine placement is highly competitive. Most people with a website are trying to get placed in the Search Engines.

With all of this competition, you'll have to do a lot of work on your site to get the search engines' attention. This could include keyword research, changing your headlines, editing your text, submitting your site, getting links coming into your site, and making sure that your site is content-rich. It takes a fair bit of work just to get listed, and then even more work to get to the top. Aiming for third or fourth place can be easier to achieve, and cuts down the amount of work required to get there.

2. The climb to the top is often slow. Raising your ranking on the search engines isn't an instantaneous process. After you've made your changes, you have to wait for the search engines to stop by and re-rank you.

You probably won't get to the top spot on the first try - so you'll have to go through this process a few times to make headway. The quest to get to the top can take quite a while, and having to work repeatedly on optimizing your site for search engines can take your focus and attention away from your business.

3. Being Number 1 can bring you more "browsers" instead of qualified prospects. Holding the top spot means that you're most likely to be a visitor's first stop on their search. Instead of having a focused idea of what they're looking for, the people who are coming to your site may only have a vague idea - which means more hand-holding and question-answering for you.

This can become a real problem if you work to be ranked first for a more general search term like "marketing consultant". You'll have lots of visitors, sure, but are they really the best visitors for you?

The sheer number of visitors is much less important than the quality of visitors that arrive at your site. Are they looking for what you're selling? Do they have the right sort of budget to work with you? Are they in an industry that you like working with? Are they going to connect with your personality?

If you get them to your site, but they then answer "no" to any of the above questions, they won't buy from you - which can be more frustrating than having them not come by at all.

4. Sometimes the top spot gets skipped! Some searchers automatically clíck lower in the líst instead of clicking on Number 1. This may be because they assume that the person in the Number 1 spot would be too busy to help them, or would have higher rates. Or they may just skip over the top slot visually because it's close to paid ads at the top of the page.

Being a few listings down actually reduces this skip-over factor, and makes it more likely that a rushed visitor will notice your listing.

5. People often aren't ready to buy the first thing they see. Your customers will want to do their due diligence research before making a purchase. If you're number one on the search results líst and they start researching from the top, you may find that by listing 4 or 5 they feel informed enough to purchase. And you will have been long forgotten just because they clicked on it first.

If a visitor comes to your site after having seen other options, they may be more prepared to make a purchase immediately. This could help you close more sales.

6. Staying on top is challenging. Imagine a pyramid of cheerleaders competing for the "longest time in a human pyramid" World Record. They're up there, trying to keep the girl on top stable for hours at a time. Sounds exhausting, right?

It's equally tiring to try to stay in the top spot on the search engine rankings. Because, while you're sitting smugly on top, other companies are working on their sites, trying to climb over you. Unless you keep checking and keep working at it, that Number 1 slot may not be yours for long. This vicious circle takes your attention away from your business as you have to work on your website endlessly.

Does that mean that if you do reach Number 1 you should take steps to lower your ranking?

If you're already in the top spot for a search term, don't panic - you've already conquered Number 1 and 2 on this líst by being patient and working through the process.

But if you find that you're suffering from any of the other problems on the líst - too many browsers, not enough visitors because you're being skipped, or lots of visitors and not enough purchasers, you may consider experimenting with letting other companies take over the top spot for a while to see if your site will benefit.

Being in first place isn't everything in the search engine race. But if you can get into the top 10 results, you'll improve your traffic, get more interested prospects to your site, and probably close more sales. And there should be a medal for that!

About The Author
Erin Ferree is a brand identity designer who creates big visibility for small businesses. As the owner of Elf Design, Erin is passionate about helping her clients stand out in front of their competition and attract more clients. One of the best ways to do that is with Search Engine Optimization, which you can learn about in her eLearning product, Raise Your Ranking, which is available at HowToRaiseYourRanking.com .

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What, You're Not Paying Attention to Your Site's Stats?‏

by Chris Crum

Let's assume you are running one of the businesses that actually has a website (a less common phenomenon than one might think). It's great that you've gone that far, but are you keeping track of your stats? If not you may be missing out on more sales.

Evaluating Your Best Traffic Sources

When you keep track of your web statistics, you can analyze where most of your traffic is coming from, whether it be from search engines, forums, social networks, other sites linking to you, or people coming directly to your site.

As far as traffic from search engines, you can find out what keywords people are searching for to find your site. From there you can evaluate if these are the keywords you want to be found for. Analyzing this is an important step when optimizing your site. You may be getting traffic for keywords that hadn't even occurred to you.

Figuring Out Potential Sources to Improve Upon

Looking at where your traffic is coming from can be a much needed wake up call that you are not putting enough effort into other potential traffic sources. Does the majority of your traffic come from search engines? It's great that you're getting found there, but maybe you're not getting enough local traffic. Maybe you're getting a lot of traffic from forum posts, but no one is searching for what you're selling and finding you. Perhaps it's time to step up your search engine optimization efforts.

Analyzing where your traffic is coming from can help bring some clarity to what you need to do to get more business from the web. Once that clarity is realized, you can spend time trying to achieve some kind of balance among your online marketing efforts.

Web Analytics Resources

If your knowledge is limited in the area of analytics, this article from SEO expert Dave Davies is a great crash course on the subject.

I'm not going to get into all of the available web analytics tools out there. I'm sure you're perfectly capable of finding them on your own (Dave discusses a few in his article anyhow).

I couldn't even begin to scratch the surface of all of the available web analytics discussion out there, but I know one good blog to keep up with industry news is the Web Analytics World blog by Manoj Jasra. You could no doubt find other good blogs on the subject via Technorati.

I do not consider myself an expert on web analytics by any means, but I recognize the importance of them, and it is apparent that many business owners don't (including many that have websites), and it is my intention to spread awareness to "in the dark" business owners who may be missing out on business that they didn't know was there. So if you're not paying attention to your site's stats, START!

A Case of Genius

"Case Studies are the marketing version of Aesop's Fables," says Drew McLellan. "Stories told to make a point or teach a lesson that demonstrates the value of your product or service." Here are his tips for writing winning case studies:

Structure your case study like a story. Create an engaging narrative by identifying the villain (a challenge or problem), the hero (your product or service) and a blow-by-blow analysis of the hero's battle to conquer the villain.

Build credibility with specific details. Focus on clients who agree to be identified by name. And don't be coy about citing numbers. For instance, vague language about losing customers won't have the same impact as the blunt revelation that sales plunged by 42 percent.

Use direct quotes. In the same way that journalists use quotations to support their conclusions, you can establish your bona fides with actual statements from a project's participants. But, advises McLellan, "Be careful not to dumb them down so they sound generic."

Get everyone's blessing. Make sure your clients are comfortable with your case before going public.

The Po!nt: "Case studies are incredibly compelling when done right," says McLellan. "If you're lucky, you'll tell a story that people will tell over and over."

Source: Drew's Marketing Minute. Click here for the post.

The Brave New World of Blog Ads

"With the right creative, no medium comes close to blog advertising in efficiency, effectiveness, focus or influence," says B.L. Ochman in a post at her What's Next Blog.

But she warns that you'll probably see lousy clickthru rates if you approach social media campaigns with traditional metrics, content and methods. Here's a sampling of her in-the-trenches advice:

Don't assume big blogs are your best investment. Says Ochman, "Having run many high-yield blog advertising campaigns for clients, I can prove that some blogs with just a few thousand readers can provide higher clickthru than better-known blogs." The reason, she explains, is twofold:

-Advertising at a niche blog gives you access to a niche audience.
-Blogs with a smaller readership tend to have fewer ads, so yours has a better chance of standing out.

Never advertise at every blog in an ad network. It wouldn't make sense to place print ads in every magazine owned by Condé Nast; if you advertise in The New Yorker or Golf Digest, for instance, it isn't likely you're also in, say, Modern Bride. Blog networks can be just as diverse. "A savvy blog media buyer will buy within and across networks," notes Ochman, "and will pick blogs based on their content, reach, and branding within the social media community."

The Po!nt: Blog ads can play an outstanding role in your marketing mix—but remember it's an entirely new playing field where the old rules don't apply.

Source: What's Next Blog. Click here for the post.

How Are You Promoting Your RSS Feeds?

By Chris Crum

Get your subscriber count up...

I have written in the past about different ways that RSS feeds can benefit your business.

The Benefits of RSS

One way was from the perspective of the subscriber. You can boost your productivity by having all of your favorite blogs and news sources coming right to you in one place. This can be a tremendous time saver, particularly for those who do a lot of reading and research.

Another business benefit I talked about was from the perspective of the publisher. I wrote:

By not offering feeds, you are missing out on an opportunity to keep customers informed of what your business is up to. You're missing out on a fantastic promotional tool. When you get subscribers, you don't have to worry so much about them coming to you, because you'll be going to them.

It Helps If People Subscribe

This only works, however if people subscribe to your feeds, and chances are you won't gain a very large subscriber base without promoting them.

SmallBusinessNewz has a fair number of feed subscribers, but it's nothing compared to the number of our newsletter subscribers. Of course our newsletter has been around much longer, but we would like to see the number of feed subscribers climb as well.

You may have noticed a little more emphasis on feeds from us lately, and that is precisely why. I'll admit that this article itself was inspired by the need to promote our feeds. Self serving? Perhaps, but I think it's an issue that applies to any business web site or blog that has feeds as well. So I don't feel too guilty about it.

Feed Promotion Methods

There are a number of RSS Directories that will list your feed for free such as 2RSS.com, RSSMad.com, and RSSbuffet.com.

You could offer a contest that requires a reader to subscribe to your feed to enter, and then promote that contest.

Market your feeds like they are a product, because in a way they are. Your marketing options will increase of course if you are willing to put money into them.

A few other things I have done is add a link to our feeds page in my author bio, wrote this article, and included a call to action in some of our more popular articles and in our newsletter in the form of this:

Keeping Track

Setting your feeds up through FeedBurner is a good way to keep up with the number of subscribers you have. This is especially true if you have more than one feed like us. There is an interesting article at Search Engine Land by Barry Schwartz that looks at how subscribers are counted by different readers that may also be of interest.

What methods have you utilized to gain more RSS subscribers? Were those methods successful?

By the way, subscribe to one of our feeds!

Often Overlooked Places To Leave Your Stamp Online

by Chris Crum

There are places online beyond your site/blog where you should be representing your brand and featuring links. Share some with us.

This is another one of those common sense articles, but sometimes these things just get overlooked or put off when they could in fact be bringing business your way had you just took a few minutes to add some text, a graphic, and/or a link or two.

Bios in Articles

I've been dealing with content coordination across a large range of web sites and email newsletters for years, and I am still surprised when I see articles submitted by authors who don't link to their site in their bios.

Typically, the main reason an author wants to submit an article to a site run by other people is to gain some exposure for their own site, yet often times a link isn't included in their bio. This is a huge mistake in my opinion, because if a particular article becomes popular, the author may be missing out on a large amount of traffic from curious readers who were impressed by said article and want to learn more about the person who wrote it.

Forum Signatures

If you participate in a lot of online forum discussions, you would be a fool not to brand your site in your signature.

The same principle as the article bios applies here. Perhaps even more so, because if you are on the helping end of a conversation in a forum, you are proving to a audience that you are knowledgeable in your niche.

Email Signatures

The email signature is a good place for a branding graphic like a logo. A link to your site is also encouraged. While you will probably not see large spikes of traffic from email signature links, you never know when someone you're corresponding with will be interested in visiting your site. You might as well give them the opportunity to do so, because sometimes it can lead to a new business opportunity.

Social Media Pages

If you have taken the initiative to start a social media marketing campaign for your business, you've most likely already thought to link to your web site and brand your company. Just remember not to make these pages seem too self-serving.

If your pages are clearly there just to make a sale and get people to your web site, I don't think you'll have a very successful campaign. I've talked about this before, but you really need to be engaging in social conversations and branding yourself as a real person, not just a business out to make a buck. When handled properly though, you can get some good traffic from these pages.

Blog Comments

You don't want to go overboard in the linking and branding in blog comments, because the line between promotion and spam is very fine in a venue like this. People reading blog comments want to see insightful conversation and points regarding the article expanded upon and discussed. They don't want to see you advertising your business.

The best way to get traffic from blog comments is to link your name to your site. This will give them the opportunity to see what your business is all about if they like what you have to say. They are not going to click on your link if you just comment to say that you sell jewelry for example.

Some branding and linking techniques require more subtlety than others, and you don't want to create a negative reputation for yourself by not displaying the correct amount. That said, there are plenty of opportunities to brand your business and acquire more traffic across the web. I have listed a few, but they are not limited to the above. What other everyday places do you use to place links or other forms of your brand?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Get Your Blog Google-Ranked In 30 Days or Less, Part 2

By Frederick Townes

If you haven't read Get Your Blog Google-Ranked in 30 Days Or Less, Part 1, you aren't going to want to miss it. But, here are even more useful suggestions to put your blog on steroids without any blog-roid rage. Please read on.

25. Focus on ranking for three key words or phrases to start. The keywords you select should appear in your HTML title tags and within the site's content when appropriate. However, watch keyword density levels. Anything above 5% starts to sound like gibberish. 2% to 3% keyword density provides more creative latitude for the content developer, and still lets bots know what the site is about.

24. Only purchase ad links on relevant niche sites. This, by default, limits competitive links and delivers more qualified (knowledgeable and ready-to-purchase) visitors to your site.

23. Participate in your link community. Forum and blog links are ephemeral, lasting a day or two as web fodder, so there's always the need for more green. Interact by posting to not only drive traffic with the link, but to also pick up another link from a credible site. All good.

22. Publish new content on weekdays. Even search engines need a break. Actually, more people are online Monday through Friday so your latest blog post is still the latest when posted on Monday rather than Sunday. A little thing, for sure, but little things mean a lot online.

21. Write content for various experience levels. For many spaces DIYs are the largest sector. Some readers are just starting out. Others have been at it for years and probably know more than you do, so post blogs to appeal to a broad range of skill sets – from green rookie to wizened old vet.

20. Cite the sources of your content. This adds credibility to your posts. It also provides a trail for a reader interested in learning more about the topic at hand.

19. Focus on contextual relevancy before quantity of links. Connectivity within a market or topic segment has more value than SEO anchor text, at least in the short term.

18. Poll your readers. Everybody's got an opinion. Provide a platform to let posters and readers vote on a topic related to your site. It doesn't do any good if you run a retail outlet and poll visitors on who they'd like to see in the White House. Stay on topic.

17. Create surveys. Surveys are more in depth than a poll. One survey you might want to try is one in which buyers rate the services and products you sell. Great marketing information. Consider placing a satisfaction survey somewhere on your site.

16. Write about popular brands or celebrities where possible. It doesn't matter if you're blogging short sales in the market or clothing for the over-sized human, celebrity and name brands get picked up by spiders.

15. Find free stuff to give away. Free still works on the web. There's lots of open source software (OSS), mortgäge calculators, real-time stock feeds and other digital goodies that visitors can download free. Free is nice.

14. Answer questions on Google groups and Yahoo Answers. People write in with all sorts of questions, some sure to fall within your area of expertise. By signing on as an authority in a field (your arena) you build credibility. Plus, it's fun helping others from the comfort of your own work station.

13. Add imagery and video content to your posts. A picture is worth a thousand web words. Charts and graphs simplify complex information and don't take up a lot of room. If you aren't an artist, create a relationship with a freelancer. Don't use clip art.

12. Use QA sessions in your blog. You're the expert. Also, invite guest bloggers to handle questions beyond your skill set. Helpful, simple advice keeps visitors coming back and makes you a guru.

11. Syndicate content outside of your blog. Every site owner needs content. Fortunately, there's plenty of it free for the taking. Sites like www.helium.com, www.ezine.com and www.goarticles.com are content supermarkets. Post your piece and pick up non-reciprocal, in-bound links for your effort. Content syndication increases link popularity.

10. Direct (future) page rank efforts to well-optimized content on your home site. Don't direct visitors and bots to the garbage bin of out-dated content stored in the site's archives. Point them to the new news.

9. Update or create a Wikipedia page and link to your site. Another means of establishing yourself as an authority. Just make sure the Wiki piece is accurate, well written and typo-free.

8. Submit industry or topical news to general news sites. Not just industry related sites. If a small oil and gas company brings in a gusher, it's of broader interest than to just industry insiders. Also adds credibility and another link.

7. Deep links or links to sub-pages are vital. There's a tendency to link from a remote site to your home page. Not necessarily the best strategy. Consider linking to pages deeper in the site – pages related directly to your blog post. This way, visitors are in your site and less likely to bounce.

6. Respond to comments in your blog. This accomplishes three important objectives: (1) it shows that there's a human behind the blog; (2) it gives you a chance to show your expertise; and (3) you can lead the thread in a new direction or keep the discussion going. Oh, it's also the polite thing to do, as well.

5. Cross link your posts. Link amongst your related blog posts using the keywords you're optimizing your blog for as the anchor text.

4. Get linked alongside related blogs on other sites. You can contact the blog administrator to swap links, you can become a regular guest blogger if your writing is good enough or your knowledge extensive. Niche sites are great for building blog links networks.

3. Bait your blog. Post unconventional and controversial articles to create lengthy threads that, in turn, create site stickiness.

2. Be consistent into month two. Keep the tone, style and topicality of your blog consistent for the first two months until spiders get it. Then, you can branch out to peripheral topics to expand reader interest.

1. Network offline. Helpful networking tools include www.linkedin.com, www.meetup.com and www.mybloglog.com. These sites provide real world contacts to simplify and streamline the process of networking. They're also useful in building beneficial online relationships - not to be overlooked. Also reach out using conferences that are available in your area and abroad.

The keys to building a successful, well-tended blog run the gamut from good content to good contacts, and from credibility to controversy. There are lots of ways to expand your blog community and develop quality rankings at the same time.

Once you've got all of this down your next steps are to begin monetizing your site.

So, blog.

About The Author
Frederick Townes in the owner of W3 EDGE Web Design. W3 EDGE is a Boston web design company that specializes in search engine friendly design, Internet marketing and conversion optimization. Contact them today for a free quotatíon and more information on how to make the most of your online presence.

Get Your Blog Google-Ranked In 30 Days or Less, Part 1

By Frederick Townes

Blogs have been around long enough to become standard elements of the web landscape. They're easy to construct and manage, they create fresh, user-generated content and, if well-executed, blogs draw crowds and the attention of search engines.

Whether starting out with a new domain name, or a domain that's been around for a decade, you can rank your blog on Google if you just do what Google wants you to do. So here are 25/50 tips to get your blog ranked by the world's biggest SE.

50. Build your own or move to Wordpress. Wordpress is a blog platform that's open source (free), robust, extensible and easy to use. Add Feedburner, which equips site owners to broadcast RSS feeds and develop user metrics. Next, synch up Google Analytics and a sitemap plug-in to simplify populating the blog and developing useful, actionable metrics. Also, make sure your blog is pinging www.technoratti.com and other social-ranking sites like www.digg.com.

49. Don't worry about page rank. PR is highly over-rated as a yardstick of online success. Connectivity within a web community and expansion through content syndication and guest blogging are more critical to building site credibility than page rank. PR will take care of itself over time if you do it right.

48. Make a difference, or at least have a clear purpose. Differentiate your content on every post. Cover lots of editorial ground.

47. Use a conversational tone. Dry, starchy academic writing is strictly for the textbooks. Write words that people "hear" instead of read.

46. Provide a "Tell Your Friends" link on your blog. Birds of a feather do, indeed, flock together. So, if one of your regulars shares an interest in philately, chances are s/he has other friends with an interest in stamp collecting.

45. Study the competition. They're studying you. Check out spyfu.com to do a little undercover work on search analytics employed by competitor sites and their visitors. You can't touch the content but you can't copyright an idea, either, so pick up some new paths of thought from others in your site's arena.

44. Remember SEO basics. Use provocative, keyword-rich title tags, meta keywords and descriptions, and only link to high-quality sites. Never over do it. Keep your posts relevant, natural, accurate and, above all, current.

43. Don't stuff blog post titles with keywords. It's a form of keyword stuffing and spiders hate keyword stuffing. The ratio in headlines should be 40% keywords, 60% non-keywords.

42. Submit your URL to blog directories. There are "best of the web," and paid directories, like Yahoo, and free directories like the Open Directory project at www.dmoz.org. Every directory listing is another link to your site and another way visitors can find you. Just google them to find more.

41. Create blog categories that contain keywords, i.e., Ecommerce, SEO, Affiliates, etc. for use with a "site hosting" or "site design" blog.

40. Content quality counts. Research topics about which target readers want to learn. Write something new, useful and relevant. And don't forget to regularly update older posts. Things change fast on the web so last year's "next big thing" is this year's hackneyed clich�.

39. Vary topics, content length, relevancy and posting times. However, be consistent, as well. Keep blogging. It can take time for a blog to catch the notice of a search engine spider.

38. Get guest bloggers. Add links from their blogs and establish your site's link community. There are people within your web neighborhood with opinions and good information. Contact them to invite submissions to your blog and your site in general.

37. Don't use duplicate content. The only duplicate content that appears in your blog posts are quotes, and they should be identified with quotation marks.

36. Call posters by name. If Bob M. from Athens, Georgia, posts to your blog, recognize his contribution with a "Thanks, Bob" at the end of your response.

35. Make friends with other bloggers in your commercial, business or NFP space. Ask to become a guest blogger, or seek endorsements from the "names" within your site sphere.

34. Send a personal note to posters. Not all bloggers have the time to do this but if you can send a personal email thank-you note to a poster, you've increased the chances of that poster becoming a member of your site community.

33. Encourage viral link building. Take a stand. Introduce the coming paradigm shift in web commerce, provoke controversy. It sells. Just ask Ann Coulter.

32. Ensure the blog is optimized for Technoratti. Claim your blog, set an avatar and pings, use tags where appropriate and be sure to ping various blog tracking sites.

31. Don't place ads on your blog, yet. If you feel you must (you're seeing nice PPC revenues), determine that your site's HTML is optimized to position those ads at the bottom of each blog page.

30. If your blog isn't pulling, have the code reproduced so it's as semantic, accessible and code-to-content optimized as possible. Also, hire a code expert to position content above ads or any other content in the site markup.

29. Ignore Alexa. A lot of new site owners rely on Alexa for site metrics but remember, Alexa is a popularity metric since only Alexa toolbar users contribute data � and that's a less-than-universal test population.

28. Build credibility. Publishing authorities on your site's topicality usually does the trick. Once blog credibility is established, identify trends, solve new problems and gradually expand the topic range of your blog.

27. Buy or build a screamin' hot blog design and submit it to design galleries. Hire a site/blog designer, or bring your vision to fruition. This enables your blog to appear five or six demographic iterations from your home site, expanding the site's reach outside the immediate site community. This creates new marketing channels fast.

26. Develop some friendly contacts on social media sites and participate in the community. Ask contacts to promote your blog content. Also ask for contributors. People love to express their opinions.

To learn even more about making the most of your site blog, check out Get Your Blog Google-Ranked In 30 Days Or Less, Part 2. You're going to love it.

About The Author
Frederick Townes in the owner of W3 EDGE Web Design. W3 EDGE is a Boston web design company that specializes in search engine friendly design, Internet marketing and conversion optimization. Contact them today for a free quote and more information on how to make the most of your online presence.

On Sale Now, But Time's a' Wastin'!

"Regular Price: $599; Now: $399." We've all seen ad lines like this one that quote the original price of an item and then show a discounted price right next to it. They're designed to influence consumers to take advantage of the reduced price—or to at least head into a sale.

But, hold on just a minute! Some research is showing that putting your product on sale for cheap can actually make consumers perceive your product as, well, cheap. What to do?

Research from Southern Methodist University suggests that whether or not you lessen a consumer's perception of your product's image may depend on one key factor: whether you include a time-limiting component to the promotion: "Sale! Three Days Only."

Consumers in the market for a product had more favorable perceptions about brands that were on sale and had a time-limited offer ($75 regular price; $50 sale price for 5 days only!) than they did to the same brand at the regular price or the sale price. Sales announcements coupled with time-limited offers also created more favorable perceptions for people who were not in the market for the product.

In short, a regular price might make your product look expensive; a sales price might make it look cheap. But including both with a time-limited offer makes it look downright precious.

The Po!nt: If you want to offer your product on sale, include the base price, the sales price and a time-limited offer to entice the broadest spectrum of customers.

Source: "Broadening the Scope of Reference Price Advertising Research: A Field Study of Consumer Shopping Involvement" by Daniel J. Howard and Roger A. Kerin. Journal of Marketing, 2006. Read the article here.

Be a Super Delegator

There are plenty of reasons not to delegate. Maybe you can complete a project more quickly than those working beneath you, or you're convinced you'll achieve better results than your subordinates.

But do you take work home on a regular basis? Or are deadlines an issue? Jane Schulte, author of Work Smart, Not Hard!, says these are sure signs it's time to delegate, whether you like it or not.

Here are some of her pointers for successful delegation:

-Start small, then increase delegation as skills develop.
-Define clear goals, deadlines and criteria for success.
-Provide all the needed resources and information.
-Give your subordinate full authority over the project.
-Offer guidance and advice without interfering.
-Focus on results, not the process.

If the project is successful, credit the person who got the job done; if there are problems, Schulte advises shielding the responsible subordinate from blame. "Learn from the experience so you can delegate more effectively, provide more training or delegate the next project to a different person," she says.

The Po!nt: "Work should always be done by the lowest competent level," says Schulte. Go down the chain of command, find the right person for the job, give them the tools they need to succeed and refocus on the high-level issues that demand your expertise.

Source: An unpublished article by Jane Schulte.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Utilizing The Original Social Networks‏

Web forums can offer many of the same benefits to your business as social networks. In fact, I kind of tend to think about forums as the original social networks.

They've been around and have been helping people much longer than MySpace and Facebook. How have forums helped your business?

You've got profile pages, private messages, and public conversation. Perhaps they don't typically have all the frills of a MySpace or a Facebook, but the general concept is there.

Like social networks, there are a variety of ways your business can benefit from forum participation.

Help with Specific Problems

Perhaps the most obvious benefit is the ability to get a specific question answered. If you need help or advice with a certain aspect of your business, chances are that it is a problem others have encountered in the past, and will be able to help you out. This can be tremendously helpful in many cases, especially if it is something that is really holding your business back.


Like social networks, if you regularly participate in forums, you will be networking with other people and sometimes experts. This comes back to the "it's who you know" philosophy, and you never know how knowing the right people will benefit you further down the road.


A natural product of networking is branding. When you participate regularly, people will begin to remember and recognize you, and this together with an appropriate signature will brand your business and potentially even drive traffic to your site.

Being in the Loop

Forum participation (or even just reading them) is also a good way to stay up on current events in your industry. You get a sense of conversation that you don't always get with news articles (unless the article gets a big comment spike). For online businesses, forums like WebProWorld, WebmasterWorld, and Digital Point are good places to monitor.

For the Inexperienced

This is especially true if you are one of the many businesses that has not yet created an online presence. You can learn a lot from forums. You should always check multiple sources before following any advice on an important topic, because not all of it you will find is going to be the best. Forums are a good way to get a feeling for how others view any particular opinions anyway. If someone posts some controversial advice, someone will almost certainly be there to contradict it. Either way, it can open up options for you to think about and open your mind to different ideas.

Forums help people in business every day. Can you pinpoint a time where forum participation has had a large impact on your business?

About the Author:
Chris is a content coordinator and staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz and the iEntry Network.

How to Stand Out When Your Product Doesn't

When your product or service is loaded with proprietary extras, it isn't difficult to differentiate yourself from the company down the street. But how do you stand out if your product shares many features and benefits with competing products? Jonathan Krantz has a three-step solution:

Personalize: Says Krantz, "Direct quotes, testimonials, day-in-the-life narratives, and even brief biographies can introduce the sympathetic element that allows prospects to project themselves into the experience you provide." Blending various elements can also be highly effective. Consider customer profiles, for instance, that mix laudatory third-person biographies with direct quotes.

Illustrate: Bullet points won't do the job if they're the same bullet points your competitor uses. Instead, use evocative terms. As an example, Krantz cites Harry & David pears that are "so big and juicy, you need to eat them with a spoon."

Demonstrate: Rather than focusing on the specifics of your product or service, show how your company delivers on its promises. This is where your Web site becomes a critical tool: Offer anything from white papers and streaming videos to employee profiles and helpful tips. In other words, sell clients on the solidity of your company.

The Po!nt: "When ordinary features-and-benefits-based communications fail to distinguish your business from the pack," says Krantz, "it may be time to take your messages somewhere else—into the heart of the customer experience."

Source: MarketingProfs. Premium members can access the article here. Not a Premium member? Maybe this is a good day to become one.

Managing Your Time Wisely

By Abby Prince

How to properly manage your time…

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of time? If your answer is that you never have enough time, then you need to continue reading and tune in to the SmallBusinessNewz video. Even if that wasn’t the first thing that popped into your head, there’s still a lot of time management knowledge that may be useful to you.

One reason small business owners start their own business is for the benefit of creating their own hours. Unfortunately, that plan doesn’t usually play out to its original intention since sometimes the employer also becomes the employee. How do you learn everything you want to learn when all your time is spent working?

First of all, you need to achieve a balance between your work and your personal time. It’s difficult especially in the beginning, but it should be a priority.

As for the learning, Leisa Watkins, a Small Business Developer and Coach, suggests setting allotted time slots. The Internet with its vast storage of information is especially hard to limit, but it’s needed. Watkins recommends either restricting the number of articles or blogs you read, or setting a specific time limit for your learning experience online.

Be selective with your time and realize there are only 24 hours in each day. Don’t try to do more than what is rationally possible. Time is essentially money if it is spent wisely.

Since all small business owners want to be successful, they try different tactics that fall short and then think they must learn more to “fix” the problem. Watkins says success comes from within.

“It’s our actions that determine our success, not the information itself that determines our success. Success doesn’t come from a vast amount of information. Success comes from gaining some knowledge, comparing it to our experiences, and taking action.”

To find out more on time management, watch the SmallBusinessNewz video.

5 Great Ways To Improve Your Adsense Earnings

By Bill Luszey

If webmasters want to monetize their websites, the way to do it is through Adsense. There are lots of webmasters struggling hard to earn some good money a day through their sites. But then some of the “geniuses” of them are enjoying hundreds of dollars a day from Adsense ads on their websites. What makes these webmasters different from the other kind is that they are different and they think out of the box.The ones who have been there and done it have quite some useful tips to help those who would want to venture into this field. Some of these tips have boosted quite a lot of earnings in the past and is continuously doing so.

Here are some 5 proven ways on how best to improve your Adsense earnings.

1. Concentrating on one format of Adsense ad. The one format that worked well for the majority is the Large Rectangle (336X280). This same format have the tendency to result in higher CTR, or the click-through rates. Why choose this format out of the many you can use? Basically because the ads will look like normal web links, and people, being used to clicking on them, click these types of links. They may or may not know they are clicking on your Adsense but as long as there are clicks, then it will all be for your advantage.

2. Create a custom palette for your ads. Choose a color that will go well with the background of your site. If your site has a white background, try to use white as the color of your ad border and background. The idea to patterning the colors is to make the Adsense look like it is part of the web pages. Again, This will result to more clicks from people visiting your site.

3. Move the Adsense from the bottom pages of your site and put them at the top. Do not hide your Adsense. Put them in the place where people can see them quickly. You will be amazed how the difference between Adsense locations can make when you see your earnings.

4. Maintain links to relevant websites. If you think some sites are better off than the others, put your ads there and try to maintaining and managing them. If there is already lots of Adsense put into that certain site, put yours on top of all of them. That way visitor will see your ads first upon browsing into that site.

5. Try to automate the insertion of your Adsense code into the webpages using SSI (or server side included). Ask your web administrator if your server supports SSI or not. How do you do it? Just save your Adsense code in a text file, save it as “adsense text”, and upload it to the root directory of the web server. Then using SSI, call the code on other pages. This tip is a time saver especially for those who are using automatic page generators to generate pages on their website.

These are some of the best tips that have worked well for some who want to generate hundreds and even thousands on their websites. It is important to know though that ads are displayed because it fits the interest of the people viewing them. So focusing on a specific topic should be your primary purpose because the displays will be especially targeted on a topic that persons will be viewing already.

Note also that there are many other Adsense sharing the same topic as you. It is best to think of making a good ad that will be somewhat different and unique than the ones already done. Every clickthrough that visitors make is a point for you so make every click count by making your Adsense something that people will definitely click on.

Tips given by those who have boosted their earnings are just guidelines they want to share with others. If they have somehow worked wonders to some, maybe it can work wonders for you too. Try them out into your ads and see the result it will bring.

Others have done it, there is nothing wrong trying it out for yourself.

Bill Luszey