Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

Bring a Breath Mint – You’re About to Get Up Close and Personal

I have been talking a lot about social networking sites recently, such as LinkedIn, Biznik, Facebook and Twitter.  I have also been telling you how these sites are a great way to promote your business.  I probably need to slow down and first mention that they are a great way to build relationships that in return helps to promote your business.

Make sure you are not just using these sites to bombard users with stiff, repackaged marketing messages.  Approach these sites in the same way you would meet someone at a Chamber mixer – sure there’s the official “I’m so-and-so and I work for so-and-so as a so-and-so…” but really, the best contacts you make are when you connect on a personal level and spend a generous amount of time talking about hobbies, historical events, childhood memories, sports, politics, religion, gummy bears or wherever the conversation leads.

Social networking sites are a great way to loosen up and make friends – don’t be afraid to get close to your audience and lose the formal marketing pitch.

LinkedIn.com – I Told You It Was Cool

Just when I thought I was going to leave LinkedIn.com alone as a blog topic for awhile since I have a few recent posts on it, LinkedIn has to go and introduce a cool new feature.  Now you can plug mini applications (widgets) into your LinkedIn profile.  These applications range from auto-embedding your most recent blog posts, displaying Power Point presentations, embedding Twitter activity or sharing documents among other apps.

The power in this is that you further engage visitors to your profile and give them a bigger picture of who you are and what you are all about.  Since LinkedIn is a networking website, the more you can impress visitors on the frontend, the less selling you have to do to get them to join your network.

It looks like there is still some bugs with the release of this new feature (at the time of this blog writing, my LinkedIn WordPress application is not displaying anything).  However, these bugs are bound to get ironed out soon, and I have no doubt many more applications will get introduced over time.  If you don’t have a LinkedIn account setup yet, you are soooo yesterday!  😉

Let’s Talk About Inbound Links

If you have spoken with me about search engine optimization in the past, after exclaiming the virtues of relevant content, at some point inbound links get mentioned – specifically, relevant inbound links!  The more inbound links you get from relevant and credible websites the more Google is going to like you.  Well, in theory, as I always say, but now I have more recent proof.

In going through my RSS Reader to get caught up on all my hundreds of updates I need to read, I came across an article from Google’s Webmaster Central Blog from earlier in the month that I thought was worth sharing.  It backs up what I have been saying and it’s straight from the horse’s mouth – well, the mouth of Google’s Official blog, anyway.  Here are the best excerpts:

“Inbound links are links from pages on external sites linking back to your site. Inbound links can bring new users to your site, and when the links are merit-based and freely-volunteered as an editorial choice, they’re also one of the positive signals to Google about your site’s importance. Other signals include things like our analysis of your site’s content, its relevance to a geographic location, etc. As many of you know, relevant, quality inbound links can affect your PageRank. And quality links often come naturally to sites with compelling content or offering a unique service.

How do these signals factor into ranking?

Let’s say I have a site, example.com, that offers users a variety of unique website templates and design tips. One of the strongest ranking factors is my site’s content. Additionally, perhaps my site is also linked from three sources — however, one inbound link is from a spammy site. As far as Google is concerned, we want only the two quality inbound links to contribute to the PageRank signal in our ranking.

Given the user’s query, over 200 signals (including the analysis of the site’s content and inbound links as mentioned above) are applied to return the most relevant results to the user.

So how can you engage more users and potentially increase merit-based inbound links?

Many webmasters have written about their success in growing their audience. We’ve compiled several ideas and resources that can improve the web for all users.

Create unique and compelling content on your site and the web in general

  • Start a blog: make videos, do original research, and post interesting stuff on a regular basis. If you’re passionate about your site’s topic, there are lots of great avenues to engage more users.
  • Teach readers new things, uncover new news, be entertaining or insightful, show your expertise, interview different personalities in your industry and highlight their interesting side. Make your site worthwhile.
  • Participate thoughtfully in blogs and user reviews related to your topic of interest. Offer your knowledgeable perspective to the community.
  • Provide a useful product or service. If visitors to your site get value from what you provide, they’re more likely to link to you.”

The see the article in it’s entirety, go to Good times with inbound links

HelpMegan.org

I have never met her but learned of her through a client of ours that her mother worked for.  She is a young girl who is terminal with cancer.  Her name is Megan and her story is heart breaking.  Please take a moment to visit her website and consider a donation to help her mother pay for her medical bills.

http://www.helpmegan.org

Social Networking’s Influence on You Site’s Traffic

Ok, time to step back and do some full disclosure to see if my input on this blog of the virtures of social networking is truely valid.  So, behold the graph below:

Weekly traffic for this blog

Weekly traffic for this blog

I started this blog earlier this year around March, did a few posts and then got side tracked, leaving it abandoned until about 2 months ago when I started forcing myself to make daily posts.  This graph shows the weekly traffic to the blog, starting on the 14th week of this year.  As you can see, from week 14 to week 35 traffic is basically non-existant, reflecting my lack of attention to the blog.  However, traffic starts to pick back up right around the same time I started posting to the blog again.

One week after making regular postings I syndicated the blog through Feedburner.com and Technorati.com.  Consistant postings plus this additional distribution of the blog helped the traffic improve quickly through week 38.  I created an account with LinkedIn.com to promote myself, I started adding my blog URL to my signature file in all my outgoing emails and also sent out an eNewsletter to all my customers with links back to my blog.  This really saw my traffic spike on week 40 – everything was working good.

Then the economy happened, stocks tumbled, and the government talked about using $700 billion of our dollars to bailout Wall Street and traffic to my blog dropped.  Who has time to read how to better rank your site in search engines when the world is ending.  So, in the words of that famous chef that starts with an “E” – I think it’s Ernie, or Elmer or maybe Ebert? – it’s time to “Take it up a notch”.

So, in week 41, I stepped up my Twitter efforts by increasing postings there and I also joined a new site called Biznik.com.  Biznik allowed me another avenue to promote myself and I had an article published there that got a lot of attention.  All this led to my blog traffic seeing solid improvements once again.

Using all the freely available online social networking tools is a great way to grow your business.  Tracking your website stats is a great way to find out what is working and when to adjust your marketing when traffic patterns change.

E-Commerce Blog Widget – Sell Directly From Your Blog

Most of our customers use Early Impact’s Product Cart for their e-commerce.  Product Cart, while a really boring (but obvious) name, is an incredibly powerful e-commerce shopping cart that we are proud to be certified developers for here at NetSource Technologies.

Earlier this year with the release of Product Cart v3.051, the shopping cart now includes an e-commerce blog widget.  This widget can be generated from the shopping cart’s adminstrative control panel.  If you’re not familiar with blog widgets, they are simply extra bits of functionality that you can add to a blog.

To quote Early Impacts Wiki site:

The ProductCart E-Commerce Widget allows you to take selected products you have for sale on your ProductCart-powered store and have them show up on your blog, other Web sites, or even social networking pages. The process only takes minutes, and it can be an effective way to easily market your products.

Take note of the “selected products” text from the quote above.  This widget is not intended to be a full fledged version of your shopping cart on your blog, as it won’t be.  However, if you have a blog to promote your e-commerce store, now you can blog about a particular item and generate an e-commerce widget to sell the product directly from your blog.  Instant impulse buy!

Now that’s pretty cool!

Biznik.com – Upcoming Social Media Site With Potential

Biznik.com

Biznik.com

I recently discovered a new website and begun using it last week.  It is called Biznik.com.  It is sorta like LinkedIn.com but with more social interaction and more ways to promote yourself.  The basic membership is free, but some of the more interesting features do require a paid upgrade.

http://biznik.com/articles/dont-get-lost-in-the-hype-turn-to-thrifty-marketing

The above link is an example of how I am starting to use the site – Biznik gives members the ability to submit articles to the website that you have written – if it passes their editorial guidelines, it gets posted for all to see.  Just like a newspaper article can get more people to learn who you are, get your article published on Biznik can get you publicity.   Additionally, viewers can vote on the article so others will know if it is a worthwhile article.  If you post enough articles that rank high, Biznik will list you as a Biznik Expert.  All this helps increase your credibility with those that are considering doing business with you – if you were going to buy a fancy widget and you had two companies to pick from, would you buy from the company you never heard of and can’t find any information for online, or from the company that has multiple online community networks, a wealth of provided information and published articles?

Now if you read my article in the link above and you have been reading my blog for a few weeks, you may recognize the article as a juiced up version of one of my blog postings.  That is the beauty of doing a blog in that it gives you a resource pool to dip into when cross-promoting yourself in different online social networking sites.  If you are strong in at least one social networking site or blog, you will be able to cross promote yourself on other sites with less effort.

Trends – Your Google Adwords Campaign and RSS

Last month I touched on RSS feeds – what they are and how to use them (See RSS Feeds – How To Guide).  I wanted to expand upon RSS a bit more and how RSS will continue to play a bigger role in your online world. In this instance, I want to talk about how RSS gives you another avenue to promote your business.

If you are currently involved with Google Adwords (PPC, or Pay-Per-Click), you may be familiar with the Google Content Network.  This is where in addition to displaying on Google search result pages, you can have your Adwords display on other websites that are included in the Google network (AdSense).  Now Google Adwords can display within a RSS reader.  Get a feed about a particular RSS piece of information and you may see a related ad displayed near the posting – your results may vary, depending on what RSS feed reader you are using and where you’re getting the feed from.  Love it or hate it for a user’s point of view as it clutters your reader with ads, it is yet another tool to market your business.

It is a fairly new rollout from Google (earlier this year) and they just released some new functionality within the last week, but it is worth keeping in mind for your Adwords campaign.  As RSS feeds become more mainstream, its worth will likely continue to grow.

My prediction is that it will be viable for some but not everyone.  Just like the high impression/low click through rate of the Google Content Network, it will still take testing to determine if this option for Adwords nets you a good return.  But it’s good to have options.

If Content is King, Why Won’t He Change His Clothes

If content is king, why won’t he change his clothes every now and again?  That robe is starting to stink…

No matter how fancy we make your site, your clients and customers are coming to it for the content that you are sharing.  Your content is compelling them to contact you, to spend their money with you, to become your loyal subjects.  Or is it just the same content that has been on the site for the last 4 years?  And is that content something you had pushed off to someone else who already had enough on their plate that day, so they tied some bits of information together to get that web designer off their back?

Your site is your online kingdom.  To keep your customers in your kingdom, you need to keep them excited and interested.

Just how interesting is your website content?  Can you read through it without yawning?  Is it stiff and uninteresting?  If so, why are you letting that content represent you?

Linking Up Online – Not What You Think

Ok, you have a web site that has links on it to other pages on your site.  Nothing out of the ordinary there.  Pretend your business is a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky and we’re looking at your About Us page and you have a sentence that reads “We serve the tastiest pizza in Lexington, Kentucky – click here for more info.”  The words “click here” are a hyperlink to your Menu page.

Big mistake – little effort to correct.

Instead, the sentence should read like this “We serve the tastiest pizza in Lexington, Kentucky.”  The words “pizza in Lexington, Kentucky” would be the hyperlink to your Menu page.

Why?

Because the phrase “pizza in Lexington, Kentucky” describes what the link is about and if your Menu page lists all the different pizzas you offer and you have your address on every page, then Google and the other search engines will see that as relevant content.  As mentioned before, relevant content is the key to getting good rankings in the search engines.

Think about how many “Click here” links you have seen before online – these are all missed opportunities to get some extra SEO out of a site.  If your site has “Click here” links, look at how you can change the text or move the hyperlink to more relevant words that describe the content of the linked page.