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White Paper – why small business needs SEO

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Believe it or not there are still some businesses – no, make that many small businesses – that have not yet grasped the importance of SEO to their profitability online.

For that reason, we have put together a white paper on why small business needs SEO.  In fact, we have taken it one step further and explained how small business can benefit from “holistic SEO”.

But don’t worry, it’s an easy read, just 10 pages with lots of graphs and charts.

To download your own copy: Why SEO?  Holistic SEO: Indispensible for your website

 


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Ethical SEO across the search engines

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

 

You’ll never guess what I found when I recently searched for “ethical SEO” at one of the major search engines. 

The organic listings, of course, are open to tampering to match the algorithms, so even an unethical spammy SEO company could rank well for “ethical SEO” with enough effort.  What caught me by surprise was what I saw in the sponsored listings – the paid ads.

Just for the record, any unethical SEO could easily post an ad for ethical SEO; how would the search engines know, without investing a major effort in checking out the methodologies of each company – which they are not about to do.  But, you would think they would at least check the ad copy.  You would think that a paid ad on a search engine that announces “ethical SEO” would at least not have an unethical message, such as “guaranteed ranking”.  You would think there might be a filter to red flag such ads.

Nope.

(For those new to SEO, guaranteed ranking is one of the cheapest lies an SEO company can make…and far too common.  Rankings are relative.  You get to be top 10 only by ranking higher than all the other websites.  Nobody can guarantee a ranking without having control of all those other websites, as well as having control of the search engine’s algorithm.)

I present to you below the results of a search for “ethical SEO across the five major search engines: Google, Yahoo, Bing , AOL and Ask. 

“Ethical SEO” at Google

ethicalseoatgoogle1

ethicalseoatgoogle

“Ethical SEO” at Yahoo

ethicalseoatyahoo

“Ethical SEO” at Bing

ethicalseoatbing1

ethicalseoatbing2

“Ethical SEO” at AOL

ethicalseoataol

“Ethical SEO” at Ask

ethicalseoatask

So which search engine supports the most ethical SEO when showing ads to the public?  I’ll let you decide, and I welcome your comments on this.

 


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El Marcadorado updated

Friday, May 15th, 2009

  

We have just made a major update to El Marcadorado for those of you  who have Spanish-language blogs and websites you want publicized.  El Marcadorado is the Spanish-language version of TheBookmarketer …a simple script that you add to your pages to encourage your visitors to social bookmark them.  In fact, we are pretty sure this is the only service of its kind for the Hispanic world.

Acabamos de hacer una actualización mayor a El Marcadorado para los que tienen blogs y sitios web en español. El Marcadorado es una herramienta sencilla que usted añade a sus páginas para favorecer a sus visitantes a marcar sus páginas en sitios “marcadores sociales”. De verdad, estamos bastante seguros que esto es el único servicio de su clase para el mundo latino.

This time we have added / Acabamos de añadir :

We have also removed a number of old social bookmarking websites which have gone the way of Furl and Magnolia in English.

 


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The Bugs Bunny Guide to Linkbuilding

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Have you ever been hard at work, doing what you do, and suddenly got struck by the immortal question – “What would Bugs Bunny do?” Me too. All the time. Well, if you are doing link-building, you are in luck, because here is what Bugs Bunny would do:

“What’s up, Doc?”

Bugs Bunny always introduces himself in way that leaves an opening for the other party to offer something useful. Such as a reciprocal link. Be friendly. Be informal. Be in the situation. Nobody pays attention to cut-and-paste link-exchange emails any more. Find a way to make yours both unique and personal.

Carrots are maaaa-gic

“Carrots are divine… You get a dozen for a dime, It’s maaaa-gic!”
 

Link exchanges might be long, hard, boring work, but carrots are a totally different matter. For starters, they are orange. SEO carrots are often called “link bait” or “viral content”. If you have fun putting together useful, cool, different information, you have carrots – and carrots are maaaa-gic.

“I know this defies the law of gravity, but I never studied law!”

You will hear many people tell you how SEO is “supposed” to work and how link-building is supposed to work. But there is no diploma for SEO; like politics, SEO is “the art of the possible”. SEO doesn’t always make sense. But if defying the law of gravity works, run with it (or float with it).

“I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!”

On the other hand, if your tactics are not working, go back and do things another way. With link-building, a shortcut is not always a shortcut. And any automation – or anything that bears a pattern that could appear to be like automation – means that you definitely turned the wrong way at Albuquerque.

“The rabbit is considered a kind and intelligent creature in Cambodian culture.”

Know your audience. If you are seeking links from real estate agents, you might need different tactics than if you are seeking links from home renovators. If you are seeking links from local websites, foreign websites, national websites…each website owner has a different motivation for possibly giving you a link. Your success rate will be highest if you understand your audience.

This means war!

“Of course you realize, this means war!”

You may have noticed that Bugs doesn’t pussyfoot around. Link-building is an arms race of sorts. The good news is that you don’t have to be the one with the most weapons. You can win the war with the smartest weapons. Thank carrots (see carrots reference above).

“Oh well, maybe I can shine it up and use it for an ashtray.”

That’s right, everything has a use. So you got a low-quality link. Perhaps the page is PR0. Perhaps there are 150 links on the page. Perhaps your link is at the end, or has no anchor text, or goes to your “contact us” page. A low-quality link is better than none. Shine it up and use it for an ashtray.

“I don’t ask questions. I just have fun!”

If you are having fun, that alone is good. Job satisfaction is so important. Link-building can be frustrating and tiring and stressful. Find ways to make it fun and you’ll win part of the battle just there. Bugs advises that all emails asking for a link begin with “What’s up Doc?” Sounds good to me.

So get back into your rabbit hole and put to use all the fine advice that the world’s most famous rabbit can offer you to make link-building more fun and more successful.

 


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10 Ways to Make Your Avatar Sell

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

If you include social media marketing as part of your online marketing strategy, give a little thought to your avatar. Actually, give a lot of thought. Overlooked as they are, they can be crucial to your branding strategy.

Avatars are those little images that go beside each post you author at websites like Digg, Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace and even beside comments in this blog. In some places, they are called profile pictures or something like that. But look at all the variety of choices you have…

Twitter @SteveatLFPressTwitter @ForwardStepsTwitter @johnchowTwitter @foodtvdotcaTwitter @PublicityHoundTwitter @thegypsyTwitter @feydakin
Twitter @PRsarahevansTwitter @bwelfordTwitter @cnnTwitter @MrJavoTwitter @XurxoVidalTwitter @zoomitTwitter @MarketingProfs

Why avatars are so crucial is because they are like your online logo on every social media website you participate in. If you Tweet or connect for fun and recreation, who cares? But if marketing and business is important to you, below are 10 guidelines on how to optimize your avatars for maximum affect.

Note that these are “guidelines”, not rules. It might not make sense for you, in your particular situation, to follow all of them, but if you follow none of them, you are probably blowing it big time. Not all the avatars above follow all the guidelines, but they all follow most of them. As you read the list below, let your cursor slide over the images; I have added some notes in the alt and title attributes.

    Default avatar at MyBlogLog...boring

  1. Let’s start with the basics. Don’t leave your avatar blank or go with a default avatar. The image it will leave people with is that you don’t know what you are doing, that you might just be a spammer, that you have something to hide or, perhaps worst of all, no impression – you’ve wasted a chance to brand yourself.
  2. Daiv Rawks' face at Twitter2. Your face is the ideal logo. In social media, people don’t want to interact with a company; they want to interact with a real person. Remember that social media is like a fusion of all the occasions when you might be speaking informally with people – around the water cooler, at trade show receptions, at the pub down the street, at networking meetings. In the real world, nobody wants to speak with a faceless company; they want to speak with a human being. Online people are still people; they want to speak with real people. See what people think of face avatars here.
  3. The previous guideline is one that you might want to break in one very specific situation. If your social media strategy is strictly to broadcast information, you might want your avatar to be your company logo. Very few organizations can get away with this strategy, but some information-rich companies, such as newspapers or radio stations, do this very effectively. Here are avatars from two different media outlets, reflecting very different apporoaches to social media marketing:
  4. CNN broadcasts on Twitter The London Free Press participates at Twitter

    John Chow is easy and pleasant to see on Twitter

  5. 4. Make your face pleasant and easy to view. Some people try to get attention with avatars where their face is half showing, on some kind of angle, or contorted. Others pick a cute photo where some object is partially obscuring their faces. Nice pictures for friendship; not ideal for networking.
  6. Even in tiny form at Digg, you can see mklopez's avatar

  7. Remember that your avatar will show very, very small. That means your face really needs to fill the avatar. If it looks like you are far away, people won’t be able to recognize you when the avatar appears in tiny format (like on a Digg submission or even on a tweet). I can think of one Twitter avatar that I always assumed included a baby’s head…until I saw the photo at larger size in another program and I realized it was just the way her hair falls. (Bet she doesn’t know she has a baby!)
  8. Oops. Seems like this face is hard to make out even in a large avatar format

  9. 6. Also, because avatars show up small, it is ill advised to have too much cluttering up your avatar. Is that a photo of your arms behind your head, or are you picking your nose. Is that a pet, or an oxygen mask or a mutant mushroom in front of your face? Is that a person way back there in the middle of that 20-pixel-wide landscape?
  10. All these guidelines makes for a possibly very dull photo. If everyone follows all these rules, then everyone will look the same and nobody gets branded, right? It does make it more challenging. You can create a distinct background, perhaps a bright color. You can change the color of your face…or post in black-and-white (rare on the Internet) as two of the examples above do. You can become a caricature of yourself or of your expertise (think Statue-of-Liberty for a freedom blogger, thinkBob-the-Builder for a home renovator) – I did say people like to deal with real people, not faceless corporations, but I also said these are guidelines, not rules. You can add a letter to the avatar to represent your username, but be careful that when shrunk it does not look like something strange. Here are examples of three strategies to make avatars stand out:
  11. Mr. Javo's cartoon self actually looks like him, but it stands out as a cartoon Search Engine Guy used cropping to make his image memorable Look how Steve 'Feydakin' Gerencser uses color to stand out from the crowd.

    Who can resist Jill Whelan's smiling avatar at MyBlogLog?

  12. Smile. Yes, a smile is inviting. People are more likely to add you as a fan or follow you or befriend you if you appear pleasant and inviting. Yes, I know you are above that; basic psychology applies to the other 99.99999% of humanity.
  13. You'll see Marko's StumbleUpon avatar at Sphinn, Digg, Twitter, etc.

  14. 9. Now that you have chosen an avatar, use the same one across all social media platforms where you hold an account. Many people flit from one social media platform to another, and you want to be instantly recognized. I have recognized Twitter friends on Digg, and Digg friends on Sphinn, and Sphinn friends on…exactly. And thanks to Gravatar, I have seen many of my online friends and acquaintances in numerous blog comments. Each time I see a familiar face, that face – and by extension, that person – becomes more familiar. You can see my same avatar on Digg, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Mixx, Sphinn, Zoomit, etc. Interestingly, Lee Oden did a quick Twitter survey just when I was first contemplating this post, so I thought I would share it with you.
  15. I'd know that face anywhere.  Barry Welford's avatar is a constant.

  16. Once you pick your avatar, stick with it. I know several folks I really respect who break this rule, so hopefully they won’t hate me (and if they hate me, hopefully they don’t have any voodoo dolls of me kicking around). But every time you change your avatar, you break your branding momentum. From a psychological perspective, your avatar is your logo, and people relate it to you. Imagine if Amazon.com or Toyota or Apple Computers or Target Stores changed their logos several times a year. Exactly. Many people who follow you in social media don’t necessarily remember your name (Yes, I know, your friends do, but many of the people you are trying to reach for marketing purposes don’t) or even your username, but they will know your image, because that is your most powerful representation. They will relate your image to your style/topic of posts; your target market pays attention when it sees your avatar because it’s on their radar. From a more practical perspective, as people flit quickly through recent posts, they will tend to gloss over an unfamiliar avatar. Each time you change your avatar, you lose also their attention.

Let me stress once more that these are just guidelines. If you have good reason to do otherwise, be my guest. When it comes to social media, or any other social situation, there are no hard and fast rules…and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Should Social Media Be Part of Your SEO Plan?

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

The buzz so far in 2009 is that SEO is not enough; social media is a must.  While this is an exaggerated claim that is nevertheless gaining credence, the truth is that you would be foolish not to review the social media tools available to see if any of them are worth your while.

A recent thread at WebProWorld gives some good insight into the issue, and what follows is an expansion of my contribution to the thread.

From a marketing perspective, best to identify the social media where people interested in your topic hang out, then start connecting.  If that’s Twitter or Digg or Zoomit or FaceBook or StumbleUpon or MyBlogLog, whichever.  This is just like in the offline world finding out which meetings and associations you need to be at for various functions (meeting potential clients, meeting potential suppliers, professional development, etc.). For instance, you might decide that all you need social media is as a way of keeping your ear to the ground.

However, if you hope to maintain high search engine rankings in a competitive field, a more proactive social media strategy can be an invaluable tool. For SEO purposes, your goal is to get people talking about your content.  When people talk on the Internet, they create links that feed the search engines’ algorithms.  The basic recipe for social media SEO is…

  1. Create and keep creating lots of great content on your website.
  2. Find out where people interested in your content hang out.
  3. Network (that means mostly chatting, sharing, asking questions – just as you would at a trade show reception)
  4. As you get known, start sharing your own content.
  5. As you get more known, people in the social media will start talking about your content (both on the social media site and in their blogs “back home”)
  6. Don’t stop.

The Web is a reflection of real life.  If you understand real life, the Web is not that hard to understand, either. If you understand networking in real life, networking on the Web is quite similar.
 
My top social network of preference is Twitter (I am at http://www.twitter.com/amabaie) .  But I am also active in a number of other places for various specific reasons.
 
If you represent multiple clients (if you are an SEO consultant or a public relations agent, for example) there are pros and cons to establishing multiple profiles, one for each client.  Obviously, each one assumes its own identity and each one builds its own circle of friends, but then each one also has to do the work to network; some will, many won’t. 
 
If you try to do it all for them, you’ll end up very confused.  I know of a couple people who have gotten their two accounts confused with each other.  I have many websites, and I have created two accounts at Twitter.  The one that is “me” serves for my main professional website and my personal growth website, and for almost any other purpose I might want (including helping my clients); it is me.  But I did create one other profile specifically because a) the followership it needs to cultivate is a very specific demographic and b) the account is almost completely a broadcast account (very little networking) and needs to have a much more organizational face than I want for my main account.
 
Whether on your own or through your SEO or PR agent, you should consider social media as part of your SEO strategy.  It is not a necessity for every business, but it is not something to be ignored either.

By the way, here is the original thread at WebProWorld.

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Correcting Offline URL Errors

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Three months ago, I wrote about how offline links count, too.  I recounted the story about how hard it was for me to enter a contest, because of the typo in the URL on a printed flyer.  Well, it seems the contest is on again.  Yesterday, I received a new flyer in the mail from the Lake Placid folks with a new entry code and…the correct URL.

How will this new flyer by viewed by people?  We can only speculate, but here are some possibilities.

  • People who did not try to enter before will most likely see this as brand new, so the gaffe would not affect them.
  • Some people who did not try to enter last time might remember the previous flyer, in which case it served as branding and might increase the person’s likelihood of entering this time.
  • People who tried to enter last time might try again.
  • People who entered last time might figure it’s a waste of time to try this time.
  • Many people might not try to enter the contest, but they will get the message to visit upstate New York, which is the whole point of the contest.

There will probably be plenty of people who fall into each of these categories, and perhaps some others, too.  Hopefully for the resorts involved in the mailing, most of it will be positive.

And I’ll bet they spend more money on proofreading in the future!

 


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Marketing By Age

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Do you know the age of your audience?  Of course, if your website sells iPhone accessories, you have a pretty good idea.  Or if you sell lawn bowling supplies, you also have a pretty good idea.

But most website owners, when asked the age of their audience, respond with “all ages”.  This might be true, and it might not be all that true.  Either way, it is worthwhile fining out, because how you market to people at various stages of their lives differs greatly.  I was reminded of this by an article in Scientific American on how we change our attitudes as we age.

“Openness typically increases during a person’s 20s and goes into a gradual decline after that.  This pattern of personality development seems to hold true across cultures. Although some see that as evidence that genes determine our personality, many researchers theorize that personality traits change during young adulthood because this is a time of life when people assume new roles: finding a partner, starting a family and beginning a career. Personality can continue to change somewhat in middle and old age, but openness to new experiences tends to decline gradually until about age 60.”

So knowing the stage of life your audience is in can make a big difference to whether you want to pitch your product as a “new experience” or an improvement on a familiar experience for example.

You might also find that attitudes impact what search terms to target.  For instance, if you are pitching travel packages to a younger audience, the word “adventure” might be a key component of the search terms you focus on.  If you are pitching to an older audience, you might prefer to use words like “nature” in your keyword development.  Chances are your page will include both words, but where you place the emphasis is important.

It might be that the main difference in keyword focus is in your inbound links.  Some links might use “Nature vacations in Peru”, whereas others might read “Adventure vacations in Peru”.  If your link is on some lost “links” page buried deep in somebody’s website, it might not matter which anchor text you use.  But if the link is prominent on somebody’s website, with the potential to bring real visitors with real money in their pockets, it pays to ask the linking website owner what his demographics are.

All marketing starts with knowing your audience.  There is no marketing that is tougher than pitching to “everyone”.

 


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Social Media Interview with Danny Brown

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Imagine what “social media” might be like in five or ten years…

Hmmm…I wonder what Mom has in her fridge…let’s check. I see. Ooh, she has some good stuff. Let’s just send her a message here… “Hi mom. Thinking of doing anything with that lasagna? I’m free to come over for dinner.” I suppose I should copy my brother on that one.

That’s just one of my wild fantasies I discuss with social media guru Danny Brown when he interviewed me on what I thought about social media.  He asked me how I define social media, how I use social media and where I thought it was headed. 

This is an important issue for anyone interested in SEO because increasingly the lines between various aspects of online marketing, including SEO, will be blurred.  In fact, that is one of the foundations on which my free eBook Sticky SEO was written.

I encourage you to read the full interview, and at the bottom of the page Danny has added links to previous interviews in the series, all of which will shed further light on how you can use social media to help promote your website.

 


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Offline Links Count, too!

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

This will be a short post (I hope!).  Just a few days ago I returned from some fun in New England, and I was thinking about returning into the mountains of New Hampshire or upstate New York.

So it was with more interest than usual (I didn’t rip it up) that I opened a flyer that read”VOUS venez peut-être de GAGNER un des six forfaits escapade à Lake Placid”.  This delightful and hopeful notice was followed by a website address where I could enter a code to verify that I had indeed won a package to lake Placid: www.LakePlacid/WIN .

So I did.

Or, at least, I tried.

I tried again. 

And again. 

I tried adding .php and .html and .asp … all to no avail.  many people would have given up at this point, or much earlier, but I have a stubborn streak that you really don’t want to catch from me, and finally I figured out what was wrong; they had forgotten to print the .com in the URL.  I knew what to look for, and still it took me a while.  How many people would not have known that a URL is invalid without a TLD?  How many people would have given up without even trying to fix the URL? And most importantly, how much money did the Lake Placid Essex County Visitors Bureau invest in designing and mailing these brochures that were missing four crucial characters?  It is a mistake I am sure they will not let happen again.

When building links, one of the points that even the legions of outsourcing link-builders in India will focus on is that they will make sure to post the correct URL without typos.  Your offline link-building is just as crucial.  In fact, a typo in one online link doesn’t matter too much.  A typo in a pamphlet that hundreds or thousands of people will read matters much more.

By the way, I did not win that package…but I should get an A for effort.  And if nobody else figured out the correct URL, maybe the Lake Placid Essex County Visitors Bureau will award me the prize by default and I’ll get to do some 46er trekking.

 


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