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July 31, 2006

Matt Cutts on Video

By Li Evans

Just browsing my Google desktop RSS feeds this morning and it looks like Matt Cutts was hard at work this weekend.

If you are new to SEO or even a "middling", check out Matt's latest blog post - straight to video, Matt Cutts answers SEO questions.

Next part in my posting series should be coming later tomorrow.

July 27, 2006

Blog Promotion: Social Tagging & Social Bookmarking (Part 1 of 3)

By Li Evans

In my recent searches on the internet on blog promotion tools, I’ve yet to find an up-to-date true listing of the different tools that can help bloggers in promoting their blogs. Whether it’s an individual or a corporate blog, just because you build it, you write in it and you keep it up to date, does not mean that the traffic will come.

There are actually a lot of different facets of promotion for blogs, and taking the time to understand and research which ones are right for promoting your blog is essential. From the social networking of de.licio.us and digg, to the traffic promotion of Blogazoo, knowing what will bring the readers to your blog is essential.

Knowing the goal of your blog is even more important. Do you want to make money, give advice, promote a product or brand, or are you just blogging for fun? Each one of those reasons can take you on a different path when marketing your blog in the search realm. For example, if you are blogging news stories, making sure that your postings are in digg, is a vital component to having your stories found on the internet, whereas if you are blogging just for fun, digg, might not be the best route to go.

 

So with that in mind, this will be a 3 part series discussing the different ways of search marketing promotion of blogs. I’ll take different types of blog promotion, discuss it on a high level and then provide some resources. First I’ll tackle blog promotion by social tagging and social bookmarking, then move on to blog promotion with traffic generator sites, and then finally wrap it up with blog promotion with rss feed providers and blog directories. 

So without further adieu, let’s get started. 

Blog Promotion by Social Tagging and Social Bookmarking
On a high level, social tagging and social book marking can help generate interest in your blog by assisting you to market it to other members of each specific community. Generally, there really isn’t a whole lot of SEO (search optimization) value in these sites, unless you have a lot of people bookmarking, “digging” or “dotting” – and by then, your blog is probably rather popular. 

If you are just starting out with your blog and you are looking to spread the word, beyond your immediate realm of family and friends, social tagging and social bookmarking are a nice place to start. In a small sort of way it’s almost viral marketing on a very small, very limited scale, in that one person finds your bookmarks, reads them, adds it to their own bookmarks/tag list and then their friend does the same. 

Although there are many different sites out there, they are all based on the same premise of “sharing” information with your friends and the active community in which you are bookmarking. Each site has its own special features and assets, so take some time and figure out if one or many will work for the purpose of your blog and what you are focusing your entries or articles on. 

De.licio.us - The world of social networking recently jumped into the limelight when Yahoo! bought the social tagging company de.licio.us. With de.licio.us, you can bookmark blog posts, and then share them with your family, friends and the general public. The catch with the bookmarks is that you add what you feel is the important “tag” (keyword) to the url. Once your bookmark is in the system and its being shared, it will then be placed with other bookmarks related to the keywords you’ve tagged it with, allowing others to find the links and save them as well. 

Tagworld – If your blog is about your music and you are trying to get your name out there, then Tagworld is a definite stop for you. This social networking site, caters to musicians, although it is not limited to them. The site in itself is very reminiscent of mySpace, but combines the blogging with tagging and social networking. For those of you keeping up on entertainment news Tagworld’s most notable recognition as of late is the promotion of the movie “Snakes on a Plane”. 

Wists – Another social tagging website, very similar to de.licio.us, however the focus on the site seems to lean heavily towards retail commerce. There are a couple of “added” touches to this website, one being the addition of images in relation to to the bookmark created, the other is a toolbar option that you can instantly created bookmarks with. Although not as popular or as well known as de.licio.us, Wists is a nice alternative with some added features that search marketers can put to good use. 

Bluedot – Social tagging that has a “Dig” familiarity to it. I doubt it was intentional, but upon first looking around, that was my initial thought. Then I “dug” a little deeper into the site, and was pleasantly surprised at the ease of use with this website, along with the level of personalization. This site actually goes a bit further in personalization and promoting “friends” and their uses of bluedot. A nice touch to this social tagging site, is the “tagging suggestions” where the system will automatically give you suggestions for tag on you “Dots”. 

Digg – Got a story on your blog that you want to promote? Well then get it “dugg” on dig. Much like de.licio.us, you submit your url, however, there is no tagging involved. I like to term this as “Social Bookmarking”, since it closely resembles the tagging environment and helps to promote blogs and news stories by still allowing users to bookmark(in a round about way)for others to read. Stories are submitted by users and then put into “upcoming” stories and are then voted on by community members. The more “diggs", the longer your story stays in circulation, and the higher up in the listings it climbs. Of course the added benefit is the traffic the story brings to your blog. 

Next blog post will be on blog promotion with traffic generating sites.

July 21, 2006

Blogging’s Affects on Word of Mouth Marketing

By Li Evans

In a matter of mere minutes a company can have a Public Relations nightmare on their hands with the advent of blogs and the relative ease news can travel across the planet, thanks to the internet. 20 years ago, companies did not have to worry about bloggers posting videos about their products being picked apart, blowing up or catching on fire.  Today marketers for major corporations have to be savvier about the online marketing presence they have and utilize it to their best advantage.

Within the last year or so there are several examples I can point to where companies handled their Word or Mouth issues with the blogosphere both extremely well, and extremely bad. However, it’s always the bad instances that stick out in people’s minds, and that’s what can within mere minutes tank a company’s well built reputation.

A primary example is last year’s Kryptonite’s PR disaster with their bike locks. The locks had an industry reputation of being unpickable. Thousand of bike messengers in New York City alone swore by these locks to keep their essential piece of their livelihood from falling into unwanted hands. Enter a small homemade video uploaded to the web, posted on a blog that showed exactly how to pick the Kryptonite lock with a mere ball point pen. Apparently the blogger had tried to contact the company about this issue, but his calls fell upon deaf ears. The video picked up steam and hit the forums and then, became a front page story on one of New York City’s leading newspapers.

Now lets turn to some examples of company’s starting to use their blogs for addressing issues, rumors and generally getting a hold on how their customers are feeling. The latest entry into the coporate blogging world is Dell. Feeling the heat from bloggers across the internet such as Jeff Jarvis for their lousy customer service and let’s not forget the recent PR nightmare of the Dell computer catching on fire,

Dell finally started reaching out to its customer base on July 5, 2006 when it started its one2one corporate blog. They even addressed the issue of the “Flaming Notebook” with a post explaining how they replaced the computer and are investigating the cause, pointing to a possible issue with the lithium ion battery and making sure to point out  that  “lithium ion batteries are used in billions of notebooks, mp3 players, PDAs and cell phones these days.”

The point here being is that if you are managing the online marketing for your major corporation, or even if its just a small company, you should be monitoring the “blog pulse” or “buzz” of your company online. Read industry forums, do searches, read industry blogs and get out there and keep a handle on the word of mouth happening with your company. And I can’t stress this enough, if you don’t have a corporate blog – START ONE. Not only can it help you squash silly rumors or address issues being raised by bloggers, it can help you actively promote products, services and most importantly reach out to a target audience that is already actively captivated!

July 20, 2006

Smart Search Marketing: There’s More Than Just Google Page Rank

By Li Evans

There’s a lot to be said about putting all your eggs in one basket. That’s a mistake I have seen over and over again by beginning professionals entering into the realm of Search Engine Marketing or Search Engine Optimization. 

Like any good professional – I scour the message boards from SEW to High Rankings and every where in between and the constant theme I see from the beginners is questions about “Google Page Rank”. I become amazed at how many are so focused on attaining the highest Google Page Rank (G.P.R.) possible. 

Perhaps its Google’s enormous impact on our society that has this affect, or perhaps it’s the staggering figures of Google’s market share, or just all the press that Google gets as to why there is this total fixation on G.P.R. when first starting out. It seems like there are just blinders on or tunnel vision and the end of the tunnel is the almighty attainment of the best G.P.R. you can get. 

So, if you are new to SEO, take off the Google blinders! 

Don’t get me wrong – ranking in Google is important, and to a degree G.P.R. is important, however, if you are trying to attain a well rounded Search Marketing Program for your clients’ websites, there’s a whole other world out there beyond G.P.R. Besides that, I give you some things to ponder on – “Does my Google Page Rank, really matter to what searchers are searching on?” and “Google Page Rank – for what exactly am I ranking for?” 

While Google holds the market share for the most used search engine, a wise search marketer looks at just what kind of traffic does Google bring, and does that traffic convert. At the end of the day, the conversion is what counts. The conversion can be a subscription to an email newsletter, purchase of a product or even signing up for a newsfeed, all of that is based upon your client’s definition of conversion. 

Different search engines produce different types of traffic and also appeal to different segments of the population. Let’s take the example of selling women’s jewelry online, basing your entire search marketing efforts on your G.P.R. would have you missing out on the segment of the market that is most important to your client’s success. According to a May 2004 Hitwise study “55% of women prefer MSN Search while a majority of men favor Google Search”, so by focusing on Google alone, your search marketing program is already forgetting about the most important segment that would actually buy the products the website sells. 

Granted, that study is already over 2 years old, however, those statistics generally are still accepted in the industry. There are other studies out there from Hitwise and iProspect that shine some light into how the segments get broken up into more usage in Yahoo!  and MSN in certain age groups as well as men compared to women. Local search, as well, should be figured into your Search Marketing program, and the big player in that arena is Yahoo!

All of these facts, figures, spastics and studies should really help to guide you in assessing for each customer where to target your Search Marketing programs. It truly isn’t all about Google, Google may be the big behemoth on the block, and can bring you the traffic – but, stop and ask yourself - is it the quality traffic that you want, or should your efforts be focused in Yahoo, MSN, Ask or beyond first?

July 18, 2006

Review: Page Strength Tool by SEOMoz.org

By Li Evans

Last week SEOMoz.org released a new tool to the Search Marketing world called “Page Strength”. The tool takes an in-depth review of several different factors of a website’s “strength” within the search engine world. The nicest thing I found about this tool is that it does not rely on just one source to pull all of its information from.

The tool pulls information from Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Alexa, de.licio.us, as well as the Wayback Machine and more. This  tool can really help to broaden the total understanding a website's scope, reach and visibility in the search marketing arena as a whole (natural, social marketing, linking strategies, etc.).

Not being a fan of Google’s pagerank tool, I happily surfed over to Rand Fishkin’s site after reading a Page Strength Tool Review on SearchEngine Roundtable by Barry Schwartz. Barry actually took the time to create a nice visual summary of the tool’s use, so it’s worth checking out. Beyond Barry’s review, the tool also got the attention of Search Engine Watch and Threadwatch last week – which ended up driving a boat load of traffic to SEOMoz.org, so much so that they had to pull down the tool for a while.

First, let me say that I like this tool – it’s a great “quick glance” at where a website can stand in different elements of the search optimization. However, I don’t believe SEO marketers should rely on this soley. There are certain aspects I have questions with, which I did ask Rand about, and to his and Matt’s credit (smart thinking guys!) that information is being kept close to their vests as it differentiates them from anyone else.

This tool is nice because its gives a more well rounded view of the website’s existence in the search landscape. And this is Organic Search or Natural Search I’m speaking to here, the tool doesn’t focus on the paid search realm.

I’ve always have had questions about Google’s “Page Rank”, mostly my questions focus around “Page Rank for What?” and “What does Page Rank Really Mean?”. This tool takes the Page Rank from Google and uses it as a piece of the total picture, putting it along side of counts of links in Wikipedia, DMOZ, and de.licio.us. Taking these pieces along with counts of how many links are coming into a domain (also segmenting .edu and .gov links coming in and weighting their values), allows the webmaster/SEO marketer to have a better handle on where the website stands on a whole, not just in one search engine.

As I stated, I don’t believe this is a tool to solely base where a website stands on, there are other factors here that should be looked at, and until there’s a tool built, SEO professionals will still have to go about manually securing that information. The tool does look at the first 4 keywords in a title tag and how the site ranks for those in Google, however, when you are just taking over a site to do SEO for it, its not likely those first four words mean a thing to what the company’s bottom line is.

Where I’ve found the best use for this tool is in comparative analysis. Being able to put competitor websites on the same playing field and comparing the same data. The ability to say “look your competitor’s website is stronger than your website because they have all their bases covered, where your current site only is strong in one area” is a powerful visual tool when you are trying to prove a point or close the sale on your SEO services.

Rand & Matt have put together a really nice tool with Page Strength, one that I recommend adding to your “tool chest”, especially since they are offering it for free. Here’s hoping they might beef it up a bit and possibly offer a more complete version for a price – my bet is that they’re already working on it! A lot of us would pay money for such a tool.

 

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