Step Right Up: Get Your Free Market Research Here!

Each year, many companies venture out into the business world without the most important piece of ammunition for their success: market research. While clouded by the dual belief that market research is needed for companies intending to earn business through cold calls or market research is too expensive for the average company, the failure to properly understand your market segmentation can lead to costly errors and loss of potential sales. In many cases, companies proceed into deep level development of new products or services without knowing if the market will support their cost structure or pricing strategy. Rea more here
Step Right Up: Get Your Free Market Research Here!

Cybercrime: Tipping the Black Hat

By Rebecca Jacoby

Trying to get credible professionals such as technology executives at Symantec or authors of books like Hacking Wall Street to talk to me about cybercrime and information security is like, well, needing the skills of a Black Hat.
Find out more here Cybercrime: Tipping the Black Hat

Leveraging the Lemming Effect: How Social Media Makes Money

By Margaret K. Collins
Social media is too powerful not to make money.

“The power of social media is that there is so much micro-segmentation going on,” says Kevin Flaherty, co-founder and vice president of the social-networking provider Read more
Leveraging the Lemming Effect: How Social Media Makes Money

I have moved

The time has come to grow up with my blogging. I started getting quite a few readers and decided to move. Therefore, I won't be updating this blog but you can continue reading all the great information on SEO/SEM/Social networks here

SEO Careers – From Copywriting to Coding From Home: What You Really Have to Know

I was recently asked how one gets into an SEO career. My first reaction is, “don’t go there, it’s not as easy as many think”. The competition is fierce, and unfortunately, a lot of people out there shouldn’t be writing to begin with. It reminds me of the era. Everyone that had a computer became a web designer. Bottom line is, you’re dealing with maybe 35% of the SEO population that knows what the heck they’re talking about.

However, if you’re a copywriter or journalist and have been laid off, then thinking about writing from home for a living may be right for you. It seems many people out there calling themselves SEO service providers don’t know the first thing about SEO copywriting, but for the sake of this article and for my Sunday rant I wanted to share this information with you. There are many SEO careers on the rise; however, there are also many different ways those writers can find their own niche when dealing with any type of SEO.

This is becoming a very popular job prospect. SEO copywriters however, are copywriters first. They must have a basic knowledge of how SEO works in order to write copy properly. I’ll share a few simple tasks with you.

SEO by definition is search engine optimization. How this is done is by using keywords that will or are highly ranked in Goggle’s organic search. There are certain techniques that become natural once a writer gets into the “SEO state of mind”. They include writing the necessary tags, using your Bio box properly and, of course, writing the content.

Let me explain. Most SEO service providers will start with finding the keywords by using a specific tool, such as Adwords or other keyword analysis tools. You find the most popular terms currently in use and write your article with those terms in mind. Well that was a mouthful, but that's just the beginning.

Note I said “most” SEO service providers. If you want to get the most for your hard work, however, there has to be more to your SEO efforts than copy that’s keyword driven. It has to engage your readers in order to get your readership numbers up. It has to inform your readers regardless of whether you promote one technique or product.

You see, people want to learn and feel that what you’re writing is honest and well researched. Therefore, do yourself or your client a favor. Brand your words along with the services you offer. Stand out, be unique and cause a revolution if you must. There I go again; I’m digressing and getting off the topic.

The simplest method is to make sure your keyword is in the title, then in the first sentence, the middle of your copy and in the last paragraph of your copy (preferably the last sentence). That’s not to say that as long as you have your keywords your page will rise in ranks. That may work on one copy - if it’s an obscure word and not a competitive one.

The key here is to have the content read naturally, not forced. If you can’t use your keyword in the copy as I have described above, then choose another keyword or just leave it alone. Not every copy has to be drowned with keywords. Sometimes people just want to enjoy your story, your experience, your blog.

So, okay, now you know how to write SEO content. The next thing you have to do is article submission, directory submissions, blog postings, and socially networking your content in order to drive traffic to your site.

Here is where article and directory submission come into play. Article submissions help in your SEO efforts by seeding the Internet with your content and keywords. SEO articles to article databases and directories help your site and allow you to promote various services and products. It’s simple: the better the articles submission site the more traffic you will generate. Ultimately, this is the most organic way to drive business to your site; many SEO professionals know all the tools and can advise you wisely in your future projects and goals.

Now, if you’re looking at SEO careers in coding, most SEO service providers have a working knowledge of the current version of HTML. HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language. The current version available is Version # 5. Using hypertext is a way of creating links both to the page in question and links, such as track backs, for articles that someone else comments on or tracks.

A basic way of creating a hyperlink is by typing the address of another page directly into the document and content. If you’re using a word-processing program, then you can create the link by choosing “create hyperlink”. Most word-processing programs allow you to chose the text you want displayed for the hyperlink; the user sees the word in blue, clicks on it and is taken to the page in question. The other aspect of coding is to make sure you use your tags properly. Description tags, image tags, keyword tags and anchor texts are all examples of coding you’ll need to learn.

If you’re looking for a trade and are a creative writer able to think outside the box, consider diving into these SEO careers.

Small Businesses Need SEO

With all the listings on a search engine, the millions of websites and billions of pages, it’s not about strategy but about survival when I say that small businesses hoping to gain some notice online absolutely need SEO. It’s just a matter of fact. Small businesses with small visibility need all the help that they can get, and SEO is just the help they need.

Here’s an illustration from my own life. I was at a wedding recently, and it came time at the reception for the garter toss. Now the dance floor was full of eligible bachelors, each vying for the front row position so they could catch the good luck charm. One bachelor in particular was comparatively shorter than the others, and I knew from first sight that he had no shot.

It was true. There was no way he could jump higher, out-wrestle or out-will the other men to get that garter. The only chance he had was if the wind just happened to pick the garter up like the leaf in Forest Gump and gently land it in his waiting arms. Needless to say, neither he nor I were holding our breath.

Now, if you’re an eligible small business, waiting on the market dance floor to grab the searching user so you can have more success in the future, you don’t want to rely on happenstance. You need to have a strategy. You need help, and that help is SEO.

Why SEO?

SEO helps you compete with the “big boys” by boosting your page higher on the search engine lists than theirs. The size of a company doesn’t matter to search engines, and it doesn’t matter to users. Users care about two things: where you are on the results page (because most absolutely will not go past the second or third page, if those) and how trustworthy your site appears. Through SEO you can earn the coveted front row position.

SEO also costs much less than traditional advertising, which works well for a smaller budget. You can utilize many of the tools on your own without talking with a SEO specialist. As long as you have a little know-how and little more patience, you can begin optimizing your webpage with relevant content and media.

Yet, even when you use an SEO specialist to help run your optimization campaign (highly recommended), your budget can remain much less than trying to market on your own, and a little money goes a long way. By investing just a little into an SEO campaign, you can receive a lot of new and promising traffic.

Don’t be caught at the back of the line waiting for chance to choose you. Take hold of your own future and compete with all the businesses, whether large or small. SEO is what you need

SMO is Where SEO is Going

The future of SEO is SMO. That should be clear by now, if not clear relatively soon. The rise and dominance of such technologies and sites as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Digg, YouTube, Sphinn, (etc.) have ensured this future. Like telling our kids that the future is in their hands, so we are telling the users - not the companies - that the future of the Internet is in theirs.

What is SMO?

SMO, or Social Media Optimizing, is the newest and most sought after branch of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It’s taking what was once all about writing, codes and web design, and expanding to include social networks, the media and the camera. In fact, by definition it’s using these additional tactics for the purpose of boosting visibility and traffic through social media, online communities and community websites.

How does SMO work?

There are many methods of social media optimization, but they generally break down into two types: on-page and off-page. Both work together in cooperation to build your network and stimulate traffic to your site. They combine to increase visibility, adapt and refresh your site’s style and voice, and build a greater fan base.

On-Page SMO

Some of the greatest and easiest methods are done on your website. The goal of performing on-page SMO is first and foremost to create a greater “linkability” for your page, especially for the content. A great first step is blogging. When you connect your site with a personal or corporate blog, you immediately speak to a different circle. Blogging offers an informal space for you to inform, engage and discuss your company. The better the blog, the more traffic you’ll have.

Also important is adding content to your site that makes tagging and bookmarking easier, not only so a user can remember and return to your site, but also so that he or she can share your site with others. Social bookmarking websites like have made sharing sites easy and popular.

Off-Page SMO

Working off-page is important also for boosting traffic and visibility. By sharing content with other social media sites you can expand your network and target audience beyond the search engines. The first step is to create sharable media like .pdfs, video files and audio files. Then, you can submit them not only to your site, but also to the media sites. Again, the better the content, the more traffic you will receive.

Two examples of social media sites are Twitter and Facebook. While Twitter was originally just a way to keep in touch and update friends on what you’re doing, it’s now much more than that. Businesses have begun using Twitter for company updates and information, as well as getting immediate feedback from customers and clients. Twitter isn’t for posting ads; it’s for engaging and building your audience (i.e. potential customers).

Facebook and other sites such as LinkedIn, are excellent places to expand your network. Whether this means making friends, meeting others interested in your particular niche or creating strong B2B relationships, adding these sites to your SMO efforts can achieve several purposes; back links to your site, increasing awareness of your site or product, public exposure and creating interest in your brand are just a few examples of what using these sites can do for you.

As the Internet changes so does SEO. It’s no longer simply about writing and coding, but about blogging, videos, networks, conversations and, most importantly, engaging your target audience. Marketing and networking are now just as important and effective; SEO must transition into, and turn toward, SMO. As you continue building your site along the Internet highways and byways, ask yourself: What are you doing to get your SMO on?

Can I help it that I am smiling from ear to ear?

I have been floating on air for the last 24 hours. Let me explain. I have been telling our clients and writers alike to engage with our readers for quite sometime. Of course, their response is "yes" then they never do anything about it, or should I say their response is “I never get anything out of it”. Quite honestly, I wonder if people know what "Engage with your readers" really means.

I asked one of our clients to join every Social network they thought would have their target market and start engaging them in NON-sales copy. If you are into online marketing, you can see the blank looks on their face. You see, we are entering a second Internet phase; businesses are downsizing and trying to stretch every dollar looking for efficiency. They're shifting their budget from PPC, while using SEO for organic traffic.

What does that mean? In simple terms, great content with a mix of social media. The new era of marketing, which created the foundations of marketing on the web, made its way to a new buzz in the industry - Inbound Marketing.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound Marketing focuses on bringing the customer to the business, instead of the business searching for the customer

In outbound marketing, the "traditional" way, companies use poorly targeted techniques to bring in customers. They use radio and T.V. advertising, spam, cold-calling, print advertising, junk mail and more. In other words, they use every method that most people get irritated about.

These techniques are long out-dated, less effective and more expensive, thanks to technology. TiVo, spam filters, caller ID that blocks cold calls and tools like RSS render print and visual advertising almost useless. While these methods of advertising still work to some extent, it's much more expensive.

Inbound Marketing flips outbound marketing on its head.

The Internet opened up whole new avenues and marketing possibilities. Instead of television ads that scream at potential customers to "buy, buy, buy", or junk mail that gets thrown away, inbound marketing has a gentler, more persuasive technique. Entertaining, informative videos, interesting blogs, useful content and tools – inbound marketing is a soft, inviting whisper rather than a pounding sledgehammer. With these tools and techniques, highly qualified customers are attracted to the business through a combination of curiosity, confidence and trust.

The Three Components of a Successful Inbound Marketing Campaign

1. Content: Every Inbound Marketer knows that content is king. Information and persuasive writing, helpful tips and tools help attract potential customers to the company's website or business.

2. Search Engine Optimization:
Potential customers find this informative content much easier through SEO. Building your site, and building up inbound links to your site, through optimization and website design "best practices" maximizes your search engine rankings. SEO brings your product, website or company into the public's eye, so they can begin the buying process.

3. Social Media: When the content is truly helpful, informative and interesting, people tend to discuss it with their friends, family, co-workers etc. Distributed across several networks, it gains credibility and authenticity, making it more likely to draw people to your website.

You're wondering what any of that has to do with the smile on my face? In one day I was able to prove that using inbound marketing can not only save you money by getting free targeted traffic, but you learn that investing in your company's future sometimes has it’s rewards without trying.

I was featured in Business for engaging in Social media. That alone has sent our website a nice boost of traffic. I know I may not get all that‘s out there the way I see it nobody does, but the new business I do get can result in a higher base of happy customers, more referrals, and ultimately more sales.

Do you like Twitter

Since I have been on Twitter I have seen the oddest widgets and gadgets popping up. Sure - give me more bookmarks and reasons to have a long list! Not.

Look - you have to be conscientious and proactive when dealing with a new Social networking outlet. I should know; I work on the Internet. We try, and sometimes are quite successful, at new software, gadgets and media. With that said, I have only been using Twitter for about one month and it wasn’t until a nice Canadian @orenoque asked me to look at some of the tools he uses. So I am thinking this is a hot tool if you can dice and trim all of the fat.

Let me explain.

Everyday I get anywhere from three to six new links that I find interesting. Most are focused on how to use your Twitter to maximum capacity. I can see how one might imagine strapping goggles and a flight hat on before sitting down to use this turbo tool. I am not going to bore you and give you another list of all these tools. Suffice it to say, you can Google Twitter tools and see hundreds of pages on the subject.

For example, some Twitter tools deal with how to mass DM (direct message) your followers. One is about managing the whole experience named Tweetdeck. While I am still trying to figure out what the whole experience is, I tighten my goggles, tuck my hair in and move forward. Yes, Twitter is hot, but I have to be honest: sometimes it’s boring, yet watching your followers grow is a feat and enjoyment in itself.

Maybe saying “boring” is a bit unfair, but I really do get bored when the people I am following are merely spewing links that really are of no interest to me. The ones that really bug me are the ones that constantly promote their own agenda. I am not saying don’t do it, but give us all a break (and you know who you are, @’s).

Granted, I am a newbie, but I have seen my followers grow to over 300 in less than a month. I truly believe it is due to paying attention to what works and how to maximize your Twitter-ability.

Then I happened on this tool, Tweet Effect. Well, let me tell you, if you took marketing 101 in college, you would have loved this gadget. Can you imagine how many papers you could have aced if you only had a tool that could quantify and qualify your results? The only problem is they do not save or generate reports on their results. Therefore, your best bet is to copy your numbers.

Another great tool that I recently find is Qwitter. It’s a great marketing tool, because it lets you know someone quit following you, and on what post. Between Tweet Effect and Qwitter, you have a strong chance of finding out what interests your target audience and what doesn’t.

Maybe I am putting too much emphasis on the quality of my followers and I should be happy I have any followers at all. The way I see it is even if you have hundred of followers, remember we want to hear about a variety of things - not just how wonderful you are and what a great tool you have created. Give me ideas of how to harness my creativity, give me snippets about people in your life, and yes, a “good morning, how are you” is always welcome.

In conclusion, I would love to hear what your favorite Twitter tool is and how it has helped you grow your business. If you can muddle through all the tools out there and find just a few to can harness the power of Twitter, then strap your goggles on and get ready to become a Twitter expert.

SEO Is Not As Simple As People Think It Should Be

Just ask around. From person to person, SEO giant to start-up writer, you won`t receive the same answers, and there will never be 100 percent agreement, when it comes to SEO techniques and strategy. This is specifically the case in regard to Search Engine Ranking, Meta Tags and, specifically for this little blurb, Reciprocal linking. The disagreements come as no surprise to you, I am sure. There will always be differing voices sounding off on what and why the best SEO practices and procedures are, especially when traffic is the measuring stick; but, the trick is to be able to distinguish who is right.

The fact of the matter is that you may find that some SEO techniques work exceedingly well, bringing you and the client the best possible results, more so than you could have even anticipated. Then again, some techniques are failures before they even leave your mind. No matter how many times you try a certain strategy (and this can differ by situations and change easily with trends), it just won`t work. The advice for the latter is pretty simple: do something different. Throw that technique away, or shelve it as an SEO memorial of days gone by, and move on to something else. This is often a problem that you will run into and one that you must learn to deal with, for the health and wealth of your client.

Unfortunately for some, the strategy known as Reciprocal linking fits into this latter category. The practice of `swapping off` links to other`s pages in an effort to boost traffic and bring in more bang for the buck simply is an archaic method and needs to be let go. Put the High School track trophy into another room, and place this strategy on the top shelf of your study`s bookcase. It is old news. And it will back fire on you more times than it helps you. This is due to the fact that searchers who you use your links are really using you to cross-connect – to get somewhere else other than your page. They don`t and won`t stay long enough to look around and possibly buy. So don`t waste your or their time.

Now, a warning must be given: don`t turn a deaf ear to this; please listen. The temptation for those who are used to this strategy is to stop up their ears, turn the music up louder and pretend that you don`t hear me. If you do that, you won`t be listening or receiving the information that can (and will) give you the edge that you are looking for. Look, if I have said once, I have said it a 1000 times. The world of SEO is not a solid rock on which we all stand and bask in the sunlight. More times than not it feels more like sinking sand. To avoid losing your footing and to stay upright, you will have to be flexible. Don`t make things worse off or more complicated for yourself by sticking to what you think worked in the past. It`s just not that simple anymore.

Staying Competitive and Current

There are too many people out there who think that they can (read should) continue to keep doing the same things, and use the same tactics, that they have been from the beginning no matter what happens in the marketplace and no matter what changes come about in the SEO community. The path that lead to good results in the past will lead to the same, if not better, results in the future. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” “There is no need to re-invent the wheel.” The only changes that they might make would be subtle at best, and this would only be because of some outside pressure.

The problem is that this is not going to work for very much longer, folks. The SEO structure is completely changing as Google and the other main search engines are switching their focus from keyword-dense content to what is called “organic” content. A roadblock has been built on your “established” way, and it is time to find a detour.

What is meant by “organic” web content? Simply put, organic content is articles, blogs and other mediums that are not loaded with keywords and/or are highlighted in any way; instead, they are naturally written material that stand out because they have relevant, relatable information for whatever is put into the search engine. Another way of defining “organic” would be to say that they are not paid results in any way, but are grouped according to what the crawlers consider to be the answer to the search inquiry. This is a drastic departure from the older SEO approach.

For those new to all of this, this is how the older approach worked. The SEO-based content is the stuff that has all of those keywords that are either bolded or highlighted in color, mostly red, so that the search engine crawlers can find the keywords and be able to “rank” the webpage or article in order of how many times it is clicked on, read and used more often than the other material that contains the same or similar information. Then, those web pages and articles are “ranked” according to the keyword content.

By going “organic” Google and the other major search engines are about to turn the search engine world on its ears by totally changing the way content is ranked. Pretty soon, there will no longer be much need for SEO-based content, and that has many of the people who gain their living and reputations by mastering the SEO-based content running around like chickens with their heads cut off. But now is not the time to lose your head. Nor is now the time to press forward on your proverbial path, even if there is a roadblock staring you in the face. The key here is to start switching the focus of your writing style from SEO-based to organic-based content that will actually do better in the long run.

Gain control. Take a detour. Be willing to adapt and go “organic.” This is where the market is heading, and this is your best way to stay competitive and current.

Submit Your Articles and Websites to the Directories or not?

There is a debate being thrown around in the SEO ring that is ruffling a few feathers out there. The argument goes like this: “With the changes happening in the marketplace, isn’t submitting websites and articles to directories a big ol’ waste of time?” (Hear the ruffling.) Though trends might be leading toward saying Yes, there are those who adamantly put there foot down with a resounding No. They not only see website and article submission as the only accepted practice, but they are pretty sure that it is written in the Bible somewhere – permanently engraved on the very stones of the Ten Commandments.

For them, the rules are simple and straightforward: “Thou shall always submit any newly designed website to the website submission directories and/or place any new articles on the article directory lists so that they can be searched out and ranked. This will always aid the consumer when searching and the website in being found.” No ifs, ands, or buts about it. This is the best, and only, way to do things, and all should follow this greatest path to maximum success and efficiency.

Well, that might have worked then…and “then” is the operative word here. But it doesn’t work anymore. Not now. Not in the rapidly changing marketplace which demands anything but rigidity. What worked last year, 6 months ago, or even yesterday might not work tomorrow. There is so much that is changing in and around the SEO community that even the “experts” cannot agree on anything. Unfortunately, these disagreements and arguments have the potential to tear apart the very fabric holding the community together. But, this does not have to be the case.

What have we all learned from yoga? Flexibility and balance are the keys to success. These are the ways to stay in the game. You have to be able to move along with the ebb and flow of the market, and able to keep pace with the trends and patterns. When guidelines and standards change, don’t freeze up, panic and respond like a cornered wild animal. Be willing to lessen your grip on the old way, and open your hands to the new. Translation: be flexible.

But you also don’t have to throw everything from the past in the trashcan in order to start fresh. Use what has worked then and be open to what will work now. That is what it means to be balanced.

Here is the gist: nothing about SEO will stay the same, because everything is constantly changing to keep up with the marketplace and the consumer. The only thing that will stay the same is the fact that everything changes. So what is the answer after all? Should you submit articles and websites to the directories? Let yoga be your guide.

SEO Debates – Fact of Fiction

In the world of SEO writing, there are not a few important debates taking place. These “controversies” range from topics as fundamental as the use of SEO to as specific as the changes that W3C is implementing to search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Excite. There are a lot of myths and misinformation surrounding these controversies, so let’s take a look at all the rumors and set you straight.

• First debate: There is a right way to do SEO. Answer: Fiction. The acronym SEO stands for search engine optimized which is used in any search engine like Google. There is no right way to do SEO as different strategies work differently depending upon company policy.

• Second debate: SEO doesn’t really work with Google. Answer: Fact and Fiction. Yes, SEO works well with Google, bring vast results for clients and consumers. Yet, Google will also be changing how it ranks web pages later next year. Working with W3C, Google will change their requirements from keyword searches to organic results. “Organic” simply means a natural search that will be more suited to the searcher, instead of the popular keyword searching results. This should (and will) bring more people to the right site.

• Third: SEO companies are becoming obsolete. Answer: Fiction. This controversy surrounds the results that a company may get from an SEO company, as well as whether or not to do business with them due to their lack of results. While some will argue that if a client doesn’t get results with a company, then they should not hire them again, the truth is that after the change in Google takes place, this particular argument will indeed be moot. If you are an SEO company, it is advisable to run what you have as far as pages, but start the transition now, in order to be compliant with the impending change. And as far as doing business with an SEO company is concerned, your best bet is to go with a company that has proven results. Bear in mind, however, that once the W3C changes take place, SEO will be less important and the natural search will become more important. If you are working with a company currently that does SEO, then you will need to ask them how they will become compliant with the recent W3C move.

To sum up:
The Google/W3C changes may be frightening at first, but they will ultimately have the interests of the consumers in mind. SEO, too, is changing and the best thing that can be done is to roll with the punches and conform to the new changes. Ultimately your company will see better results with more qualified people that will be interested in buying from your company. This will, in the long run, bring you more qualified customers that will increase your sales and bring the ever-so valuable money back into the coffers. And we all like/desire/need that.

You know you can help

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