Link Love

There is no ideal recipe for optimizing your site. The rules and algorithms for search engines are constantly changing which means you can’t just optimize your content and move on. You must continually evaluate your SEO strategy and make changes accordingly in order to be competitive.

A linking campaign is one key element in SEO (one, among many). It’s a low cost and effective way to both get your name out there and increase your search engine rankings. So why then do most businesses neglect this piece of the SEO pie? Well, plain and simple; it’s tedious and time consuming but well worth the energy.

I recently worked with a company that had a great linking campaign in place. Consequently, they also had great standings in the search engines. Now, I’m not claiming it was solely related to their linking campaign but it definitely contributed. As we all know, the more relevant links coming into your site the better. And there are many ways to gather relevant links.

Content

  • Make sure your content is fresh, relevant and offers something to your audience so it entices them to link back to your site.

Affiliate Sites

  • Find quality affiliate sites that correlate to your product and request a listing and/or link posting.
  • Be sure to link back to a relevant landing page on your site.

Blogs & Social Media:

  • Create you own blog with interesting and relevant content that links back to your site
  • Monitor other blogs, make comments and post your link
  • Create Pages, Groups and/or Profiles in various social networks with quality content and links back to your site.

There are many ways to create a linking strategy and yes, they all take time. Unfortunately, some of us just don’t have the time to do it all. So, I suggest that first and foremost, you should make sure the content on your site is interesting, appealing to your audience and has relevance to your product. Give them something to link back to. Then work from there.

For more information on creating linking strategies check out the following articles:

DVR ads still making an impression

I have to admit, there are some TV commercials that I absolutely love; the “I’m a mac and I’m a PC” ad, the Comcast commercials with the Slowsky’s, various Geico ads with that famous gecko and the cavemen commercials which come complete with their own website called The Caveman’s Crib. But will I pay attention to them when I’m watching a show I recorded on my DVR? Studies say yes. So for all you ad agencies and companies creating and paying for these brilliant (and not so brilliant) advertisements fear not.

There are three things that happen when viewers are watching their favorite show on DVR; they are either skipping the commercials, scanning them or actually viewing them. Though it may seem a waste of time and money for advertisers when viewers are scanning and skipping, a recent study shows that logos and brand images are still being viewed and later referenced by consumers.

A study from researchers at Boston College found that even when DVR viewers fast forward through the commercials, the information displayed still creates brand memory despite losing sound and dropped frames. According to eMarketer’s article entitled, DVR Ad Skippers Retain Brand Memory, researchers tracked eye movements while viewers scanned through ads and found that branding info placed in the center of the screen was still effective.

This is good news for consumers as networks and cable companies debate whether viewers should or should not be allowed to fast-forward through the ads on their DVR (ABC wants to kill ad-skipping). Consumers like to be in control of the information they receive. Besides, it might just put the pressure on ad agencies and companies to come up with more creative and entertaining ads.

[polldaddy poll=1084272]

Using Twitter to grow your business

This afternoon I attended a video conference on how to market a small business in today’s ever-changing web 2.0 world. Since the largest source of income for most businesses, both small and large, come from referrals (or word of mouth) it’s essential that business owners take advantage of the social media space to help build their brand. The benefit is that businesses can do this for little or no cost and with great reward.

Aside from blogging and the use of social media applications such as Facebook and LinkedIn, Twitter was a big topic of discussion. Twitter is a messaging service where users can type in a 140-character answer to the question “what are you doing?”, via the web or phone, that can be viewed and followed, literally, by thousands of people. This gives businesses the opportunity to connect with their consumers on a more personal level with very little effort, basically only the time it takes to type in 140 characters.

Twitter can help build your brand by creating a presence and allowing users to put a face to the name. Twitter can also be used to create and/or utilize a network of subject matter experts where you can share interests and information about your industry. Basically, it’s a way to spread information and build relationships with your consumers online.

Zappos, a very successful online shoe business known for their customer service, uses twitter to show that their executives and employees are real people. The fact that over 400 of their employees are on Twitter gives consumers a sense of the company’s culture, and brings them down to a more personal level.

To find out more about how you can use Twitter to help grow your business check out the following article on How Twitter Can Help at Work.

In the meantime, I got to go update my status in my Twitter account!

Consumer-generated content

I recently did work for a company who resisted consumer-generated content for fear they would lose control over their message. Consumer-generated content is a just buzz term for something that has been happening since the beginning of time; it’s called word of mouth. The only difference today is that word of mouth is happening online.

Today people can talk about your product virtually via social networks, blogs, forums, Wikis and bulletin boards, to name a few. And instead of fearing it, businesses should embrace it.

With the rise of the virtual world, a lot of businesses have lost touch with their consumers. So engaging your customers in a conversation online can only benefit your company, spread the word of your brand and help you to grow your business.

Take TripAdvisor for example. TripAdvisor recently announced that the growth of traveler reviews and opinions grew from 15 million earlier in the year to 20 million. (For more details on TripAdvisor’s growth read Trip Advisor displaying rapid growth over 2008). People are already talking about your business. Why not take part in the discussion?

 

The .com versus .biz debate

While trying to come up with a business name, last week I posed the question whether a URL with .biz was as professional as one with .com, from a SEO standpoint as well as a consumer perspective. I asked the question in various Internet marketing forums on LinkedIn and also asked my readers to take a poll on my blog. The majority of responses I got were directing me towards a URL ending in .com.

Though .biz implies that you are a business and is considered a top-level domain (according to the List of Top-Level domains on Wikipedia), it has been suggested that .biz is usually recognized as a new venture whereas, a .com name suggests an established presence.

When considering a business name and URL, you should always take into consideration who your audience is. The name should be short, easy to remember and describes what you do. Chances are most people are going to assume that a company’s URL ends in .com and that’s what they will search on. And because our browsers have become pretty intuitive, in some browsers you only need to enter the name of the business and the browser auto-completes it with .com.

In conclusion, though it is possible to have a successful business with a URL ending in .biz, I decided to change the name of my business slightly so that it ends in .com in hopes that it will be easier for my customers to remember.

Dot biz versus dot com

Recently, I have been trying to come up with a name for my business. I wanted one that is clever, easy to remember, describes what I do and has an available URL. After months of picking the brains of friends and family, I came up with what I think is a great name. It’s clever, concise, speaks to what I do and is easy to remember. But the URL .com is not available. Only .biz is.

I’ve posed the question as to whether this makes a difference to search engines and/or site visitors and customers on various forums in LinkedIn. I’m curious to know what you think.

[polldaddy poll=1034472]

I would love to hear what your opinion is. I will post the results of both this poll and of some of the comments I receive in other forums in my next blog post.

Using Facebook Groups and Pages

Yesterday, after practice, I told my band members to check out the photos I posted in our Facebook Group. One of my band members (and I won’t mention who) said “I never use Facebook, I can’t figure out what I would use it for.” I know what you’re thinking…a life without Facebook is just unimaginable.

Could I live without my daily fix of finding out what my friends are up to, what kind of events are happening or without viewing the latest SNL video making fun of Sarah Palin? I’m just not sure. I’ve joined groups, posted photos and videos and kept in contact with people I haven’t seen in 20 years. The question isn’t what would I use Facebook for; it is what wouldn’t I use it for?

Aside from using Facebook as a social networking tool to keep up with friends, events and other stuff, Facebook can be used to help promote businesses, bands, events, political beliefs and more.

Take, for example, my band. I set up a Facebook Group for my band Muddy Boots (feel free to join if you feel so inclined). Facebook Groups are designed to interact with your audience and create word of mouth among your friends and fans. This is a place where the band and our fans can go to post videos, pictures, comments or discussions related to the band and our music. So far this has been an effective tool in getting the word our about our music and upcoming gigs. And miraculously, people show up to our shows.

Aside from paid advertising, there are other ways to market a business on Facebook such as setting up a Facebook Page. Pages and Groups on Facebook are similar in that their purpose remains the same, to interact with your fan base, but one difference I have experienced is that a Page allows you to offer a little more information about your business and is a little more professional. It offers stats of who is visiting your page so you can measure how effective it is. It also allows you to feed a blog directly into your page, which I haven’t been able to do in a Facebook Group. This means if you’re updating your blog frequently, you’re automatically updating your Facebook Page as well without even logging in. It’s amazing.

I guess the easiest way to think of Facebook Pages and Groups is to think of it as online PR, as it is essential to promote your brand (or band) and encourage word of mouth. And though it shouldn’t be your only tool in your marketing toolbox, it should definitely be a part of your overall branding strategy. If you keep up with providing compelling content and a reason for visitors to come back, the potential for your brand to grow is immeasurable.

Viral marketing; let’s hope it works

Viral marketing simply refers to marketing techniques that encourage people to pass along a message via word-of-mouth or, in this day and age, electronically. Today’s word-of-mouth message is about the importance of voting. We can only hope this is one viral marketing campaign that will be passed along to five friends, and they’ll tell five friends and so on and so on.

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=-UaRXvRwhOk]

Today, as we begin to approach the deadline for voter registration, I can’t reiterate how important this presidential election will be. Regardless of your views on the economy, the war in Iraq, women’s rights, healthcare and the environment, it is imperative that we the people have a voice and pass it along. Together we can make this the most successful viral campaign in history.

Add your biz to Google Maps

In my last blog entry, I talked about using Goog-411 to find information on businesses. This prompted me to do a little research on how to get a business listed in Goog-411. Aside from geo-targeting in your PPC campaigns, I found there are other ways to include your business in Google’s 411 directory.

First and foremost, optimize, optimize, optimize. If you do nothing else, you must make sure your site is optimized. This is becoming more and more important as business and competition continues to grow on the web. Optimizing your site will help get you found in the search engines and now in Goog-411.

Google gathers information for Goog-411 from websites, directories and other sources. So, just as you would submit your site to Google to let the web crawlers know you’re out there, submit your business to Google’s Local Business Center to let people know where you are. It’s easy and, of course, free.

There are a few steps to this. You must first sign up for a Google account if you don’t already have one. Submit your business information. Google will then send a PIN to your business address and you are to verify your address with that PIN. Once verified your business and address will be listed in Google Maps search results. And Voila! there you are in business directory when someone dials Goog-411.

Ah, the marketing opportunites never end. I love Google!

Google continues to raise the bar

Google continues to rock my world. Aside from having one of the largest search engines, they offer business applications for small business’, email, blogs, Google Analytics and more, all for the low, low price of NOTHING.

But they don’t stop there. With their 411 information system (1-800-GOOG-411) you can find the phone number to anything you need whether you know the business name or not. The system works just like calling 411 and like a search engine in that if you’re looking to go out for Chinese food you can call Goog-411 and ask for ‘Chinese food in Burlington, VT’ and they will give you all the options in that area. They will also send you a text message with information about that business if you’d like. And if that isn’t enough you can ask them to “map it” (of course your cell phone must have an internet connection) and they will send a map of the neighborhood for the business you selected. And to top it all off, once again folks, it’s FREE.

From a consumer standpoint, this is great. I no longer have to pay the 65 cents or so, to call 411. From a marketing standpoint it’s brilliant. Google is finding every way possible to collect data from consumers so that they can better accommodate users and advertisers. As an advertiser, the more information Google has the better targeted your marketing campaigns can be. And as a user, Google can offer more targeted options to your query. This company never ceases to amaze me.

Goog-411 is now programmed into my phone and I use it quite frequently so I figured I’d spread the love, in case you’re not in the know.

Happy Googling!