A Business Owner’s Guide to SEO Basics

What is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the term used to describe the process of driving a website to be more popular on search engines such as Google, Yahoo, etc. When people search phrases or words in a search engine (also known as keywords), the results and the order that they appear in is the direct effect of SEO.

Do you need SEO?

Generally most businesses would answer this question with a resounding yes, however how much you choose to invest into SEO is dependent upon how you want to do business. A lot of business that you generate most likely derives from word of mouth referrals, however, studies from Forrester Research shows that 93% of consumers worldwide use search engines to find and access websites.

Consumers are significantly more likely to initiate contact and purchase a product or service from a business that they can find online. If your site can’t be easily located online, then your business is missing out on substantial prospective business.

How does SEO work?

There are a lot of factors concerning SEO. The keywords you choose and the popularity of the search for them and the competition that you have with those keywords are just the beginning. The titles, descriptions, url names, html framework/validity, tags and how they are used are also crucial factors. Backlinks to your site and popularity are also factors. There are hundreds factors and penalties that search engines use in order to deploy SEO. SEO could easily be likened to chemistry. Which brings me to my next point:

Should you hire someone for SEO?

Absolutely. It is possible for anyone to learn, but let’s be honest, you have a business to run. SEO takes a lot of time to learn, employ, and maintain. For most business owners to become expert SEO analysts is unreasonable, but you should be armed with the knowledge of what you need to be more successful from SEO, and what to expect from anyone you employ to do it.

In order to have an effective SEO campaign, I would strongly urge anyone to employ an SEO professional. Fortunately, a lot of web design firms specialize in SEO, has someone on staff that does, or can refer you to someone. If your designer does not – there are plenty on the market.

What should you watch for when shopping for an SEO specialist?

Be extremely cautious of anyone who promises you the top spot on Google or immediate results. As good as that sounds, it really is too good to be true.

Effective SEO is slow and steady which equates to months and months of work. It is important to note that the months and months of work are in bits and pieces and not 40-hour work weeks. There are no fast tracks to SEO success and make no mistake about it, search engines are not easily fooled. There are penalties for what has been coined as “Black Hat” SEO techniques. Here are just a few Black Hat SEO techniques:

  • Keyword stuffing (packing long lists of keywords on your site)
  • Invisible text (this is done by placing text in your html that does not show up on your website when viewed)
  • Doorway pages (pages that are added to your website, but never seen)
  • Tiny text or alt text (placing very small text on your page for spamming keywords)
  • Mirror sites (sites that is a duplicate of your site)
  • Submitting your site repeatedly to search engines (which is seen as spamming)

Using any of the above tactics will not only get your site penalized in search rankings, it will more than likely get your site banned from search engines altogether.

Back links (links on other websites that link to yours) are important to SEO, and getting bad ones or spam links, are not good for SEO. Beware of companies/individuals who use this technique as well. When consulting with an SEO professional, ask them to provide you with a “plan of action” or how they intend to help your SEO. If you see any of the above Black Hat techniques, keep shopping.

Those techniques will work, for about 5 minutes until the search engines figure it out, and they usually do, and then it’s ban city. You’ll have to undo the Black Hat techniques, reformat, resubmit your site, and hopefully they will accept your site again. You are back to square one and have to now employ a legitimate SEO specialist.

How long does SEO take?

A long time. I like instant gratification as much as the next person, but SEO is where patience really pays off. Once your site is submitted to a search engine it usually can take 1-3 weeks to get indexed, but that’s not a promise. After that, it’s time to start tweaking the SEO process. Search engines do not update as much as we would like them to, popular keywords today may not be popular next week, if you rank high today – that spot isn’t guaranteed forever, or even for tomorrow for that matter, ranks fluctuate, and trends change.

With that said, SEO is not a one time event, it is an ongoing process. There are likely thousands of websites who want your spot and if you give up on maintaining SEO efforts, you will lose it, usually pretty fast. A lot of SEO and/or web design companies have packages or hourly rates for SEO and you can choose how much you want to invest in any given month or timeframe.

Now that you have a better understanding of what SEO is, how it works, and it’s importance to your business, you are well on your way to making smart business decisions concerning your website and it’s marketing.

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Basic Search Engine Optimization Principles for Entrepreneurs

How Keyword Rich Content is Directly Related to SEO for your Business

Ever wonder what SEO really is but were afraid to ask?

SEO is an acronym for “Search Engine Optimization”. It’s the umbrella term for all the methods you can use to ensure your website is found by various search engine result pages (SERPs).

Google is the most widely used search engine but it’s certainly not the only one. There’s Bing, Yahoo!, AOL and others.

If your website does not appear higher up in their search rankings, then you are missing out on a huge opportunity.

The goal of SEO is to get qualified leads and prospects to discover your business when they are searching for products or services that you offer in the search engines.

SEO isn’t Rocket Science but it can be Complicated

When it comes to SEO, a few important tactics can greatly improve your presence in the increasingly crowded online space.

If you’re attempting search optimization on your own or more wisely hiring an SEO expert, it’s important to be informed with certain SEO fundamentals before proceeding.

Search engines try to provide the most relevant results to a searcher’s query. Whether it’s an answer to a simple question like, “how many ounces are in a gallon?” to more complicated queries such as, “what is the best Chinese restaurant nearest to me?”

After reading this article, you will gain a better understanding of what you need to know before beginning an SEO campaign and what your role is if you decide to outsource this valuable marketing strategy.

Know Your Audience and What Content They’re Looking For

Why Content Marketing Plays a Big Role in SEO

First let’s look at what SEO feeds on. And that is content (text, images, videos etc) found on your website.

Since great SEO relies on how well your content is ranked, as well as factoring in your social media and local engagements, you want to keep fluff content to a minimum and focus on quality.

While it sounds time-consuming, quality content has benefits that reach beyond SEO.

Good content is useful across all marketing mediums and forces you to think through your message from a topic and keyword perspective.

The key is to ensure you are honing in on what actually matters to your audience.

It’s imperative you know who would want to buy your products or services and what they’re searching for in the search engines in order for them to find your website as the solution to their needs.

Your initial instincts may be correct, but you might be missing things that could gain additional website traffic, potential relationship opportunities, or new market segments to your business.

Therefore, proper due diligence is paramount in order to map your target audience to the keywords, topics, and phrases they’re using in and around your industry.

Create SEO-Driven Content

Writing only for search engines usually makes your content boring. Typically that strategy won’t help to convert your visitors into customers.

It’s far better to focus on people first. Make your content as value-driven as possible and then optimize it for search engine bots without sacrificing the quality of your content.

The underlying content is extremely important. Too many people skimp on content but it’s one of the major anchors that tether you to Google’s relevancy algorithms.

The problem we see a lot of entrepreneurs run into is them creating content “they” think is perfect and sounds great to them but SEO wise, can at times be utterly worthless.

Being authentic is important but do so while factoring in the reason why you’re creating the content in the first place with marketing, branding, lead generation and of course SEO in mind.

Thin content with errors, or duplicate content and spun or spam content can really hurt you.

Instead, the content not only has to be lengthy, but it has to be well-written, keyword rich and highly engaging where readers are spending a good amount of time digesting and consuming that content.

Content Creation for SEO Success

As you create content, you’ll want to make sure each page is optimized for:

• Page speed,

• bot crawling,

• responsive friendliness, and

• overall findability.

An Initial investment in a site audit or recommendations for establishing a few initial best practices will save you much time and money in the long run.

Ideas for new content can be gathered from questions your own clients often ask or visit online forums and social media to find questions around your industry, products, and marketplace for more inspiration.

Check the competition with content ideas to ensure you’re on par with your competitors when it comes to covering topics and questions in the industry concerning your company.

Manage Your Keywords Wisely

The key to pleasing both search engines and visitors is to have quality content on our website that includes keywords your target market would be using in the search engines when looking for a solution to a problem your business can solve.

To do this, you want to run your keywords and topics through a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner to make sure the topics and keywords you have chosen have enough search volume and potential traffic to make them worthwhile.

Be sure to take into account the relevance of the search to your audience.

The narrower the topic focus, the lower the traffic typically. This is often offset by the accuracy and interest of the audience.

Do not Spam the keywords!

This also means using different connotations of the same words over and over again within your content.

Google loves NEW content. Keep in mind that websites are liquid so this is where your blog plays a major role in effective SEO.

What Search Engines Are NOT Looking For

Search engine spiders only have a certain amount of data storage. If you’re performing shady tactics or trying to trick them, chances are you’re going to hurt yourself and your business reputation in the long run.

At the end of the day, focusing on quality content that can be easily found by your target audience will benefit all of your marketing and sales efforts. Spend a lot of time on the things above and the rest will fall into place.

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Positive Impact on the World a Social Networking Site Can Have

Choosing a social networking site to join and contribute to

People generally go through lots of things during a day: some to remember and cherish, some to forget, some to get inspiration from, some to be happy about, some to learn lessons from and much more. Apart from the family, social networking sites are the best places to share these thoughts, feelings and moments we go through every day with our friends and the world. There are so many sites out there. So which one should one want to be part of? What are the criteria in choosing a site to join?

Is it different from other sites…

Current generation of social networking sites are more for entertainment, and people spend hours together filtering through the pool for posts thrown at you. But towards the end of the day, one gets nothing but some entertainment and avoids boredom. How about a site where there is mix of entertainment as in other sites and the same content leads to inspiration, motivation and lends a helping hand to self and others.

Connect with Positivity and Happiness…

Now-a-days it is very hard to find people with positive thoughts around us because of the level of overall negative influence today’s social networking sites have on people. One should contribute to a social networking site where you can connect to people with one or more of the following: positive thoughts, share happy moments, share motivational quotes, inspirational stories, charity oriented posts, encouraging to surpass someone’s donation, motivational content etc.

Social share and Social care…

Every site out there is helping in sharing information person to person, person to groups, groups to groups and to the whole world. When this social share is happening, why not social care at the same time. If the content the users contribute to the site can be utilized in a way to reciprocate to the same community with good deeds, donation, good social cause wouldn’t that be great?

Think before you choose a site…

The best advise is to think before joining a site as these are the places where information exchange happens in a rapid way. These are the places where you build virtual relationships as well. If we can limit the amount of negativity that spreads in these sites and contribute to positivity, the world can be a better place than today for us to live happily ever after.

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5 Benefits Of Joining Social Networking Sites

Are you planning on joining a social networking site? There are many benefits that come with joining one. These benefits include:

You Know More About People

Different people have different interests. For example, there are those who love sports, others love business and others love relationships. To know more about a person you only need to go through the posts.

You Distribute Content

Gone are the days when social networking sites were used to only socialize. People are now using the sites to grow their businesses.

If you are a blogger or website owner and you have just completed writing a great blog post, you only need to share the link on your social media account and all of your friends and followers will be able to see it. This not only increases the traffic to your site, it also aids in increasing your sales.

A Great Platform For Shy People

Shy and introverted people are known to have difficulties interacting with strangers. Social networking sites make it easy for these people to interact with each other as they don’t have to undertake the one-on-one conversation.

Handicapped people tend to feel better about themselves as they have people to talk to. This not only makes them have a positive outlook on life, it also makes them have a greater self-confidence.

Share Of Ideas

Many social networking sites have the group feature where people with similar interests create groups as platforms to discuss issues taking place in their professions. If you are an internet marketer, teacher or doctor you only need to find a group that is ideal for you and join.

You should note that you can join some of the groups by a simple click on a button. There are other groups that are highly monitored thus must certify that you are a genuine person and have similar interests.

You Receive News First

Unlike before when you had to wait for the prime time news in order to know the events that took place in your area, you only need to be connected to the right people and you will know every event before even the news reach the newsrooms.

Conclusion

These are just a few benefits that come with joining social networking sites. While the sites are great, you need to be cautious and ensure that you don’t share any information that puts your private life into a risk. You should also ensure that you don’t post controversial content on the site.

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Top 5 Social Networks To Consider for Your Business

Most industries get the gist when it comes to their social media marketing strategy and the incorporation of the head honchos Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. These aren’t the only social networks to think about though. There is an enormous amount of industry specific, niche social networks out there that could give you valuable insight into the way your target market are thinking and interacting online. Here we will look at the pros and con’s of what the web has to offer your business.

YouGoSocial

The concept behind this ‘supersocialgroup’ is ideal for businesses who want to expose the maximum amount of media to the most united audience online in one foul swoop. YouGoSocial has integrated the sharing possibilities of all the most successful social networks to date and amalgamated them into one extremely diverse social network. All the users favourite attributes of Flicka, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, LastFM and Craigslist can be shared on YouGoSocial. It pulls audiences together and promises a very public outreach with extreme exposure possibilities for businesses to access through this social network.

Google+

This is the new social network that is hot on every social media blog and tech lover’s mind right now. Created by Google with the mind to cull the ‘random’ public engagement and superfluous social sharing, it seems to be a social experiment that could do very well for those looking to keep their privacy in check. They encourage social sharing between people who actually know each other in real life situations and want to have a more natural identity online in their social capacity without the stage fright of millions of unknowns seeing into their profiles and engagements. It’s a new endeavour for Google to gauge how their audience reacts to this concept of a more private social media and is by invitation only. Attributes include Circles, Huddles (groups where you can control who you interact with) as well as usability for the individual such at the +Upload option where you can upload visuals directly from your phone. However, this doesn’t seem to be the place for businesses who want to command an audience or find a following due to the exclusive group divisions. It is too early to say for this one though so explore the possibilities none the less

A Small World.com

This site is incredibly exclusive and can be very positive in terms of networking with the most elite of your industry. It captures an international network of people who are connected by three degrees of separation and is invitation only. Members are only allowed to invite a certain number of people and are encouraged to keep the invites to a minimum and only invite those who can be of substantial benefit to the network as a whole. The exclusivity of this social network means your connections will be authentic and your response rate should be high in terms of networking and learning from your peers. This is one for those who want to engage on the most sincere level of authenticity for their business strategy.

ZiiTrend

This social network is an amazing resource if you need some ideas from the market themselves and a way to predict the future of trends. Inspired by the concept of Prediction Market and The Wisdom of Crowds, this social network is all about asking questions and getting answers back; great for market research and crowdsourcing at its best. Said by users to be incredibly accurate considering the diversity of the audience, ZiiTrend is where you should go for your own businesses inspiration or if you need a little direction and some reassurance and advice from those who count.

Stardoll.com

It could be a lot of fun incorporating this social network into your social media plan. It isn’t for everyone though. It does however tap into the massive demographic of fashion loving teenage girls which is something to really start taking seriously if you are in the fashion industry. An example is Tavi Gevinson’s fashion blog, Considered one of the most influential fashion blogs ever and all coordinated by a girl who began it in her pre-teens; these girls are the leaders amongst your target market. This social network encourages the user to shop and dress her online doll, much like paper cut out dolls. However, this site has a shop, a blog and features actual brands like Versus and Miss Sixty and many other major designers.

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How to Build Your Social Network

Building social networks is an ultra cheap way to plug into people and organizations. Social networks can be extremely profitable for entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to explode their contact base. If you’re not on Facebook or Myspace, then you’re behind the times, remember Google is afraid of Facebook for that very same reason, they do not desire to be left behind. The social networks you can build acts as a customer relationship management tool that’s down right essential for today’s companies selling products and services. Several companies use social networks for various advertising in form of banners and text ads. Most businesses operate internationally which gives people with adequate social networks contacts around the world that they can easily reach with a touch of a mouse click. There are many people who just use social networks for fun and friend making or hanging out with the “cool people”. People who build and maintain a strong social network are usually the ones that make a boat load of cash money compared to the average Joe. An average of two out of there people residing in the United States visit social networking sites to build up their social networks. Social network building can be vital for personal and financial reasons. Whether you are looking forward to building a new lasting friendship or expanding your customer base social network sites get the ball rolling.

The fastest and most popular way to build your social network is by joining social networking services, websites, and communities. These networking platforms will help you build your social network easily. Social networking sites and services allow you for free to interact with other people with the same interests as you. There are even some social networking sites with the main goal of connecting business minded people. You can find old classmates, co-workers, or old lost friends on social networking sites adding them to your social network as you go. The best way to build up your social network is to not be shy. This can be hard for some people because they are usually the “wall flowers at the prom dance” when it comes to meeting new people. Interaction is the key to networking. You have to really put yourself out there and make the first move, introduction, email, post, or message. Don’t be afraid to talk, debate, and connect with people that are why you are on the social networking site. It is also key to be persistent. Always stay active on those types of sites and services. You never know when you might find or miss an opportunity.

So, check the sites or services that you have joined over time. Stay on top of things. Another great way to build up your social network is find out what’s the best type of social networking sites suits your needs. If you really want to build up your social network join more than one social networking community. Join as many of them that fit your desired need. Participation is another way to build your social network. Participate in local groups, discussions, chats, message boards, blogs, and comments. The more you participate the more likely you are to connect with other individuals and start sharing useful information with each other. If you stay persevering with your social networking sites you will build your social network into a strong group of contacts, and make a king’s ransom in the process.

See you at the top,
Jerome J Curry

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How To Use Solo Ads To Generate More Traffic To Your Website

Online marketing is important considering that most people are spending more time online. If you run an online business, then you know the importance of making the most from all possible strategies that will drive traffic to your website. The higher the traffic the more chances of conversions and sales you will have and this is what every business is looking for. One of the effective and simple strategies you can use to generate traffic to your business website is the use of solo ads.

Solo ad is all about paying a good source for their email list with your short ad and link to your site. This makes it possible for you to enjoy the high traffic from your selected source leading it towards your site. This marketing mechanism is more like renting subscriber lists of sites that have large numbers of subscribers to make your brand known and to promote what you have. When used well it can be one of the most effective traffic generating strategies that you can use. So how can you use solo ads to generate more traffic to your business website?

Start by finding the right vendor for you. This is the most important when using solo ads for traffic purposes. The vendor that you choose to buy the lists from should have a huge number of subscribers that is congruent to your specific product niche. This means that you must look for a vendor who has some relation to the kind of business that you do. This will make sure that you also get subscribers who are likely to be interested in the kind of business that you do for better returns.

Create a compelling subject headline. The online audience is delicate and needs to be handled in the best way possible for them to be more rewarding to your business. To use solo ads effectively, ensure that you choose subject headline that is interesting enough to make the subscribers willing to open your email. Frame the body in a short and simple read to maintain their interest and attention.

Offer a good link. The worst you can do with an otherwise potential solo ad is to add a link that is not easily clickable. You must ensure that you use a link that is fast and easily clickable. When it takes too long for a link to redirect the visitors, it increases the chances of your potential customers losing interest on what you have for them. It should also take them directly to what is most relevant to them to keep the experience pleasant for your customers. You can do this by using short URLs that open fast enough.

Compare between vendors. By conducting a research on your potential solo ads vendors, you will be in a position to choose the one who have the most potential for you. You can talk to at least three potential vendors to ask all questions and have your doubts cleared before doing business with them. It might also be a good way of getting reasonable rates for the powerful list renting.

Solo ads come with plenty of benefits for any business with the most outstanding being effortless generation of traffic.

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Internet Marketing 101: Online Marketing for Small Business

IntroductionYou own a small business. Do you need a website? An Internet presence can be a necessity or a resource-draining boondoggle, depending on your business and your target audience. You shouldn’t build or maintain a website simply because “everyone else has one.” However, even if you own a one-person services company and get all the business you can handle through word of mouth, you can still create an online presence with a minimum of time and expense.If and when you do develop a business website, you’ll need to make some kind of investment in Internet-based marketing. Consumers increasingly and overwhelmingly use the Internet to research and buy goods and services. This means the competition is robust, and if your site doesn’t announce its presence it will simply sit and gather (virtual) dust in some computer’s memory.If you’ve convinced yourself that you need to enter the web marketing arena, the following report provides a fundamental primer on the most widely used tactics for both paid and free Internet advertising. Just remember that each of the topics introduced here is complex enough that there are entire books written about them, so if something appeals to you do some additional research before jumping in.Before You StartThere are two main questions you must ask yourself before starting any marketing efforts, whether on- or offline: “Who is my audience?” and “What are my objectives?”AudienceThe audience for most business marketing activities is obviously past, present, and future customers. However, as in traditional advertising and marketing, it helps to narrow down who you are trying to reach, segmenting your market by age, geography, gender, interests, occupation. Certain methods of Internet marketing, such as pay-per-click ads, allow you to target your customers based on this type of segmentation.ObjectivesWe can assume that the overall objective of most marketing is to sell products and/or services, but you may have additional objectives for online marketing. These related objectives will hopefully end up driving increased sales, but they can be more subtle than simply asking customers to buy right now. For example, your online marketing plan might include goals such as these:

Support and increase visibility of your company’s brand.

Improve search engine rankings.

Offer reference information related to your business sector.

Increase number of registered users or newsletter subscribers.

Drive traffic to your company website.
After defining your audience and marketing goals, you can begin to formulate an Internet marketing strategy and tactics. When getting into online marketing, it is important that you maintain brand consistency. Build on the reputation that you have already established. Your on-line presence should mirror that of your “brick and mortar” presence. Use the same logo and tagline so that people will understand that you are the same company. Having an online presence is a way to build on what you have already accomplished.In the remainder of this report we’ll look at the most common ways you can use the Internet to deliver your message and start increasing your sales.Table of ContentswebsitesE-MailNewslettersOther AnnouncementsSearch Engine Marketing and Display AdvertisingSearch Engine Optimization (SEO)Pay-per-Click (PPC)Display AdvertisingSocial Media and NetworkingDecide: Who, What, Where, When, and Why?YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Etc.TwitterBlogsForums & Discussion GroupsArticle Placement / E-ZinesOther Internet Marketing OutletsWikipediaDirectorieswebsitesWe won’t get into the vast topic of how to build and manage a website, but if you aim to use the techniques described below, it is nearly essential to have one. Most of your marketing efforts will have a “call to action” that involves your audience visiting your website to research products or services, find contact information, sign up for a newsletter, or place an online order. Whatever you are asking people to do in your online promotions, make sure the website allows them to easily complete that task. One other vital component of any business website is an analytics program (Google offers a fairly robust application free of charge), so you can track how well your marketing efforts are working and calculate the return on your advertising investment (ROI).How can you develop an online presence at little or no cost? There are several companies that offer free site building tools and hosting services. If you go this route, select a company that has a proven track record, so your hard work isn’t wasted when the company goes out of business or suspends the service. A couple of reliable options are Google Sites and Yola. If you have any money in your budget at all, you should probably just spend the less than $100 per year it takes to buy a personalized domain name (for example, “mybusiness.com”) and a Web hosting service. Another potential option, depending on your business and marketing goals, is to create a free blog (see below for more details). The most popular free blogging services as of this writing are WordPress and Blogger.E-Mail NewslettersE-mail newsletters provide one of the most highly performing avenues for marketing. You can collect customer e-mail addresses by asking visitors that come to your website to subscribe, by requesting e-mail addresses from anyone who visits your physical location, or by purchasing an e-mail list. To generate a higher rate of readership, make sure the audience is narrowly targeted and has some vested interest in your product. By sending out your newsletter on a regular schedule (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) you can counteract the transient and temporary nature of Internet users by continually reminding them of your company’s existence. Affordable services like Constant Contact can be used to manage mailing lists, statistics, and opt-in/out functions.Caveat: Sending commercial e-mail messages to people who have not agreed to receive your mailings can result in severe fines and penalties from the federal government per terms of the CAN-SPAM Act.Newsletter content should appeal to your defined audiences, with industry- or product-related news and events, company-specific news and events, practical reference information, and interesting statistical and demographic information. The newsletter copy should publicize links to appropriate pages within your website.You will need to maintain one or more separate lists for the purpose of sending targeted messages to particular audiences (see Other Announcements below). You might combine all your lists to send a monthly newsletter, and send other bulletins to past or potential customers as appropriate.Other AnnouncementsOther announcements are e-mailings that can consist of press releases, coupons, special notices, or anything you want to communicate specifically to members of one or more e-mail lists.Search Engine Marketing, Pay-per-Click and Display AdvertisingSearch Engine Optimization (SEO)Search engine optimization means constructing a website that is easily crawled by search engine spiders, and it encompasses a variety of techniques designed to improve your site’s (or page’s) ranking in the search engine results page. The goal is for your site to be found by searchers who are looking for sites related to a certain keyword or phrase, for example “little red wagon” if you are in the business of selling toy wagons. SEO can be divided into on-page activities (e.g., amount of content, metadata, links, programming methods and structural issues) and off-page activities (most importantly, obtaining links from other websites to your site).Pay-per-Click (PPC)Pay-per-click advertising refers to text ads displayed on search engine results pages (versus “organic” results achieved by SEO) and other sites, usually in the margins. In the case of Google AdWords and Microsoft’s adCenter, you can open an account and specify the keyword(s) that, when searched for, will generate an ad that links to your website. You pay only when a searcher clicks an ad and is directed to your site. In the example below, the key phrase is “little red wagon,” and pay-per-click ads are located at top (in yellow) and in the right-hand column (subtitled “Sponsored Links”). The first organic listing is “Little Red Wagon Foundation.”A few of the benefits of PPC advertising are that you know exactly how many people view your ads, how many of those viewers click through to your website, and (if you are using a site analytics tool) what they do once they reach your site. You can also start and stop running ads at a moment’s notice, experiment with any number of ads you like, and fund your campaign with as little as $10 to start.Display AdvertisingDisplay advertising, also called banner advertising, means purchasing ad space on another website and placing a text and/or graphic ad with a link to your site. This technique is generally more complex and expensive than pay-per-click, but can be very powerful if the right message is shown to a tightly focused audience. To achieve optimal click-through rate (CTR), advertise on websites where you assume your target audience is visiting, rather than a general interest website. Most marketers don’t purchase ad space directly from another website, but use a banner ad network to automatically place ads on appropriate websites. A couple of the biggest names in display ad serving are DoubleClick and BurstMedia.Social Media and NetworkingSocial networking is the latest buzz in the modern marketing arsenal. If you have any doubt about its impact, especially on the under-40 population, read this list. Small businesses with limited resources should weigh their time spent and the potential benefits carefully, however. It can also be difficult to measure the return on your investment for some of these tactics.The general principle of “marketing” on social networking outlets is that people who have similar interests will virtually congregate around Web content that discusses that interest. They may be interested in product information in the form of reviews or personal opinion, but hard sale approaches are mostly discouraged and unproductive. Your goal is to become a trusted advisor-which usually means revealing your identity and at least some part of your personality. If that premise makes you uncomfortable, you might still find social networking sites valuable for market research purposes. Find out what people are buying and why, then use that information to help shape your other marketing activities.The following section describes the more popular social media outlets and sites, but keep your eyes open for new virtual spaces where you might get more attention by getting in on the ground floor.YouTube, Facebook, Etc.YouTube allows you to post videos on your own “channel,” a distinct Web page that can be customized and allows for posting links back to your own website. A major positive aspect of this venue is that the number of views is posted and viewers can submit comments, so you know whether your videos are popular and why.Facebook is considered the model for modern social networking sites. Facebook allows you (individual, corporate, non-profit, etc.) to create a page, attract “likes” and reviews, communicate with followers by posting status updates, photos and videos, and so on.Although the previously named sites are the most popular in terms of visitors, there are a couple of business-oriented networking sites that may be more useful for making business connections. LinkedIn helps you develop a network of clients, service providers, and subject experts; find business opportunities and partners; post job openings; and more. More detailed advice on best practices for using LinkedIn can be found in many online articles and blogs.TwitterThink of Twitter as a mini-blog (see below) that allows you to broadcast messages of 140 characters or less. The messages appear to your “followers” on their phones or computers, as well as on Twitter.com. The biggest challenges are to gain a useful number of followers and to think of something engaging to write to them. If you are a speaker, writer, or performer Twitter can be used to let your fans know what you’re doing and when. If you have a retail store you might let your followers know that you’re offering a discounted item or running a special sale. You should post a Twitter sign-up link on your website, and within your signature line in outgoing e-mail messages. You can also gain followers by following people who work in or comment on your industry, as some Twitter users will follow those who follow them.BlogsThe word blog originally came from the term “Web log.” There’s no real standard for what a blog is, but most commonly authors use them to comment on (and link to) other online news items, websites, or other Internet content. For the most part, direct selling on a blog is frowned upon and is probably a recipe for driving away potential readers. What do you write about, then? Well, if you run an Internet marketing firm you write about trends in Web marketing, what the search engines are up to, tips for do-it-yourselfers, or what you thought of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Seriously, read some blogs and you will find all sorts of personal opinion mixed in with professional advice and commentary. The goal of your blog, however, should most likely be to establish yourself as an expert and trusted advisor in your chosen field.You might also pursue getting your products, services, or website mentioned in related blogs by other industry experts. When a high-visibility blogger mentions a website on his or her blog, the site is exposed to a potential audience of new viewers. Often, blog postings are simply press releases that are picked up by sites that discuss topics related to a particular product or industry. More opportunities (and traffic) in this arena can be realized by developing relationships with individual bloggers.Additional Tips:

Post an article that was written by someone else, just be sure to provide a link to the original article and give credit to the person wrote it. You can then give your commentary on the topic of the article or find a way to relate the information to local trends or challenges.

Ask colleagues to be “guest bloggers” by writing articles for you to post, again giving them credit and adding their byline and a link to their website. Using links is a good way to drive additional traffic to their sites so it’s a good trade-off for both parties.

Nick Francesco of AskNick.com said, “A blog gets people’s attention and Twitter keeps it.” Consider using these two outlets together.
Forums & Discussion GroupsA forum (also known as discussion group, message board or bulletin board) is a component of a website where users can ask questions, offer advice, or share experiences with others about a certain topic or topics. Nearly every hobby on earth has a number of popular forums wherein members offer their thoughts and feelings on all aspects of their favorite pastime. Contributing a comment (with a link to your website) in discussion groups related to your products or services can create a small surge or spike in traffic, but usually has little long-lasting effect. To maximize effectiveness, target forums on high-traffic sites that have 1,000+ users, and reply to topics with larger numbers of views (relative to other posted topics).You can easily build your own bulletin board/forum component on your site with free or low-cost software. User forums have the potential to greatly increase the “stickiness” of a site, given a critical mass of traffic required to generate new discussions and keep participants interested in returning. You can start by “seeding” topics on your own, but there won’t be any results until traffic is directed to the forums. The conundrum for small businesses may be the time required to moderate a forum once it becomes successful. One solution is to seek out a volunteer moderator who exhibits a keen interest in your field. A sample of a baseball trading card forum is shown in the screen shot below.Article Placement / E-ZinesAnother avenue for generating incoming links and traffic to your site is the free article market. Article submission (or e-zine) websites allow you to publish articles on a variety of topics. Examples include EzineArticles and ArticleCity.com.Depending on terms of use, these articles may be used as content on other websites, or collected on the site where submitted. The main objective of most article contributors is to increase their search engine rankings with the placement of backlinks on other reputable sites. Providing reliable and accurate reference information is secondary, and the traffic potential from article readers is questionable.Obtaining links from article submission sites isn’t likely to improve your site’s search engine rankings much. However, existing content from a print newsletter or other written material can be re-purposed with a relatively small time investment. Be aware that creating articles from your website’s content verbatim may cause search engines to penalize your site, as the search engines take a dim view of text that is republished multiple times (“duplicate content” in search engine optimization terms). Submitting articles to sites with the most traffic will give your site the best chance to be discovered by new readers.Caveat: Once an article is submitted, you have little or no control over who uses your content and for what purpose, depending on the copyright policies of the site on which the article is posted.Other Internet Marketing OutletsWikipediaWikipedia is, essentially, an online encyclopedia. The unique aspect of Wikipedia is that users generate the content, though content must be approved by volunteer editors. Traffic will grow if and when others link to the entry. If you add content, your time commitment will be relatively minor, and the benefits might include improved search engine ranking and a slight increase in traffic to your site. As with other forms of Internet communication, a Wikipedia entry that is essentially a commercial for a product, service, or company will not be viewed positively and is unlikely to be approved by editors.DirectoriesOnline directories allow Internet users to browse through categories of topics to find websites related to a certain subject. There are directories for businesses, blogs, websites in general, and more. Many directories are free, and some only list you if you pay. The mother of free directories is the Open Directory Project, and by all accounts the best paid directory for business is the Yahoo! Directory ($299 annually). Be aware that you might wait a long time for some of the free directories to list your site, as they may rely on volunteer screeners. Directories not only allow consumers to find you in their listings, they also help get your site indexed in the major search engines. If you submit your site to a directory, make sure to read the submission guidelines and follow them exactly.

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