Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What Happens at PubCon Shouldn't Stay at PubCon

Over a year ago (August 2006 to be exact) I hired a young girl from a Craig's List ad to join my staff at Hostway as an Online Marketing Analyst. She was straight out of college and green with experience related to the search industry. Well recently I received a blog that she wrote for the South Florida Interactive Marketing Association titled, "What Happens at PubConshouldn’t stay at PubCon: The Top 10 Takeaways " She was invited to go to one of the most popular conferences of the year PubCon. I should have been there this year and actually speak on a Pubcon panel but I decided to move my family to a new state for a new and exciting opportunity.

Back to the subject, Stephanie Faskow is her name and she wrote a blog about what happened at PubCon, while I wanted more and hope to soon hear from her all about it in more detail, I thought I would share with you her Top 1o PubCon Takeaways:

10. Some SEOs still use black hat techniques– you shouldn’t.

9. Sub domains will soon be treated the same as sub directories in Google.

8. A directory that provides listings to all websites that submit to the directory is not a one that you want to be in. Human editors are the key to a good directory.

7. Everyone should have a blog. Corporate or personal, just remember that there is a fine line with transparency. How much do you really want people to know about your personal life?

6. According to WebuildpagesJim Boyken the best way to gain entry into DMOZ is prayer…and to closely follow all of the guidelines provided. Don’t spam and use the real title of your website.

5. Do NOT buy links – at least not openly.The ultimate goal of the search engines is to have the results be (or at least look) natural.

4. Find small and relevant directories: they may not bring the most traffic, but they are more likely to convert.

3. The ‘No follow’ tag is one of your best friends.Especially when you are using paid advertising, or feel that one of your links may be connected to a bad neighborhood.

2. Linkbait: Create it. This was one subject that was discussed over and over again throughout many of the sessions. Create articles and contests (or top 10 lists): any sort of content that will attract other users to link to you.

1. Do not expect to be successful on all link bait attempts. If you fail, try try again.
Hint: Diggers are techies; write for them and your target audience.

Well if she passes me more information about this event I will certainly return the favor! Thanks Stephanie you make me proud! :)

Webkinz Problems - Holiday Craze Gone Bust?

I read recently an article that indicated Webkinz was in the top ten of keywords being search on search engines in the last 30 to 60 days. Why you ask? Well Webkinz is the newest young craze these days and the people behind Webkinz is a company called Ganz. What is Webkinz you ask? Well it is a safe virtual world for young children from the ages of about 6 and up. Essentially this company has done a great job marketing to our younger generation, everyone who is anyone wants to purchase a Webkinz which comes with a unique “secret code” in which you can access their website in order for you to “take care of” your newly adopted pet.

Well it is Christmas Day and of course I bought my 9 year old daughter two of these so called Webkinz, the Webkinz Pinto Horse and a Webkinz limited edition Reindeer! Her face just lit up finding those under the Christmas Tree. With all the excitement in her little body she ran upstairs to log on to Webkinz world – mind you she had lost a previous “secret code” to another one of her pets and thought she would NEVER get in again – she gets the site up and proceeds to sign up her new pet and all she got was “I’m sorry all servers are busy right now,” fast forward and try to actually log in and she got “500 Internet Server Error”. WHAT??? Are you kidding me????

My kid is now devastated – Webkinz did an excellent job letting all these children know that they would have some “special” offerings on Christmas Day and now you cannot even get in to the site? Did they not plan for all this traffic? They sure marketed it well enough to boost their sales in the stores. So what do I now tell my 9 year who has tried ALL DAY to simply register her pet and get online with the most popular virtual world for kids under 12? Sorry honey their servers cannot support the overwhelming amount of traffic to their website and maybe their server administrators are all on holiday, try again tomorrow when ALL OF THEIR PROMOS are over and done with!

OMG did they not think about this? I guess not, we are very disappointed in how Ganz and the people at Webkinz world have handled the planning of this Christmas rush, they sure had no problem pushing their toys but they obviously could not support the website well enough so the children could enjoy their toys and that is just sad. The fun of having the pet is taking care of it online not that it sits on your dresser to collect dust! To make matters even worse there is no forum or blog of record to even be able to discuss the problems directly with their staff.

This really is good marketing gone BAD!!! Thumbs down for Webkinz and Ganz! I told my daughter to go back to Club Penguin at least they can support the traffic!!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

SEO Do's and Don't's

I often get caught up in the every day grind that I sometimes forget most small businesses are still doing things they should not be doing to get their site noticed online. It seems that more and more people every day continue to build websites and hope for their site to begin appearing in the search results. Getting traffic to your website once it is built takes time and patience. Many search engines use tiny programs, called spiders, which crawl the Internet in search of new web pages; as such your site appearing does not happen by chance. There is actually a method related to how you get your site noticed by search engines spiders.

I came across a list the other day of “Thou Shalt Not’s” related to optimizing your website. Let’s review them, understand them and follow them for it could be your future rankings at stake:

  • Thou Shalt not repeat keywords over and over in the meta tags
  • Thou Shalt not use the same title and meta description for each page of your site
  • Thou Shalt not link out to a bad neighbor or neighborhood
  • Thou Shalt not copy they neighbor’s content
  • Thou Shalt not hide your content
  • Thou Shalt not make doorway pages
  • Thou Shalt not submit the same pages with different URLs
  • Thou Shalt not use submission services/tools for repetitive submissions
  • Thou Shalt not use frames
  • Thou Shalt not believe people when they say, “we guarantee top ten listings”
  • Thou Shalt not expect to find your brand new site in search engines after launching it just 2 days ago
What things can you do?

  • Do the necessary research to find the best keyword phrases that relate to your business avoid general terms
  • Use unique titles and meta descriptions for each page within your site
  • Create unique content that will entice your visitors to continue visiting your site
  • Ensure there is logical navigation, good site structure and descriptive link text throughout your site
  • Make sure your site is crawlable, stay away from all flash or all graphic sites that search engines can’t or won’t crawl
  • Keep in mind there should only be one address to get to your site, two separate addresses can be www.yourdomain.com or yourdomain.com, to a search engine, that means you have the same content at two addresses in other words – duplicate content.

There are definitely more than what you see here, but you get the hint. The bottom line is do what is right there really are no quick fixes that give you long lasting results when it comes to optimizing your site. Google has quality guidelines take the time to read through them and you will reap the benefits of streamlined free traffic to your site.

The above list was taken from a variety of sources such as Webmaster World’s forum, Search Engine Land, WebPro News, and SEO Chat.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Do Search Engines Have Your Best Interest at Heart?

A question was recently presented to me about how marketers may have had search engines pitch to run online marketing campaigns directly instead of working with an Online Marketing Agency. I haven't had this problem prevalently, but I have learned by other search marketers that this does go on. Turn over your campaign to the engine directly? Are you kidding?

Well I have to say that there may be instances where this happens especially since I know it has been brought to my attention recently. Search Engines, in my opinion, are probably not the best to manage a client's campaign as they are all about the almighty dollar - if they can help a client spend more money with their engine the better off they are and we as marketers we cannot deny that this is taking place.

I would say that a search engine has much more to gain by your advertising with them as they stand to gain increased revenue. But can they ever really "assist" you with your campaign? They can leave you no trust for those who really know how to manage an online campaign. While they can attempt to "educate" clients as to best practices with regard to their campaigns it seems at times that they are educating clients to spend more money with them so the engine can come out ahead. I could be wrong but it seems that way at times.

I encountered an event directly with a prospect of mine who wanted to stick it out with Google because they felt that Google reps were giving them enough information to assist in the management of a campaign. To be honest, based on the way this campaign was developed I can honestly say it was not in their best interest. I have also been on the forefront of reaching out to Google teams for help and have received very vague answers.

In my opinion, it makes sense to work with those who do understand the ins and outs of Search Engine Marketing because more times than not they will have your best interest at heart since they stand to make more if they show you results in the end.

Invest in an Online Marketing Agency or Not

You have JUST started an online business and you are now learning the ropes, what do you do? You are looking for someone to help you increase your visibility online and several people have approached you advising they can help. What do you do?

Research – Due diligence. Make sure you as a business owner have done the necessary research and due diligence related to the person/company you plan to do business with.

Most small business owners will start off doing their own online marketing with little to no experience, and they quite often get sucked into programs that insinuate they can assist with “more” traffic. Be wary, any company that asks you to “order now” or “sign up today” “Get top listings in 24 hours”, is more than likely just trying to take your hard earned dollars without benefit to you.

Take the time to review the website of the online marketing consultant, learn about what they have to offer, and speak to them about the benefit of consulting with them. Will they educate you in Online Marketing? Will they keep you in the dark regarding your Online Strategy? What will they really offer with regard to Online effort?

Most small business owners do not have the capital to work with the top Search Firms in the industry but that does not mean that they cannot do what is right, and research to find out which companies that are willing to educate them so they can not only understand the business but possibly start their own online marketing campaigns with the help of an agency.

Think about it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Are Virtual Worlds crossing the Marketing Line?

It’s funny, about one year ago I heard about Second Life. I thought to myself what the heck is Second Life? I don’t understand. Well basically Second Life is a virtual world where you can create a different life or alter ego with an avatar. Second life is SIMS gone wild; it is a 3-D world where you can create your own alter ego and invent your own experiences. Currently the site entertains over 9,114,494 residents. As a resident you can buy and sell items, meet new people and essentially create a life all your own to be shared with many people you do not event know.

Since the development of Second Life many advertisers have made appearances in this virtual world, such as Coca-Cola
, Sony BMG Music Entertainment , Sun Microsystems, Nissan, Toyota, Starwood Hotels and Intercontinental Hotels.

New to the lineup on the Second Life kick is CBS. Yes I said CBS. The show CSI is making a debut on Second Life. Here is the snippet:

The episode of CSI is scheduled for Oct. 24, Taylor, played by Gary Sinise , finds himself entering the computer-based virtual world known as Second Life, walking (and sometimes flying) around three-dimensional, animated Manhattan landmarks, recreated by a technique called machinima, and pursuing not a suspect but an avatar.

CSI and Second Life?
All I can say is -- WHAT?? You cannot be serious!! TV is switching over to interactive marketing in a scary way. I know I am going to be watching that episode if anything just to see how they cross television with the idea of social media. Can it get any crazier?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Holiday Online Advertisting – Are You Ready or Is It Too Late?

It is the end of September and there are only approximately 88 days left to shop for Christmas – depending on when you read this of course – but for the sake of my blog I am sticking to 88 days based on the day I have written this.

Halloween is around the corner and following that will be Thanksgiving, then Black Friday followed by Cyber Monday is your site ready for the season? If not you are losing out on prime time! Get yourself in gear and get your advertising campaigns fully functional. Kick start your marketing efforts with a Pay per click advertising campaign. There is no better time than the present to focus on a strategy that targets holiday shoppers then right now. If you wait any longer you are seriously going to miss the season completely.

Google AdWords has made advertising fairly easy for first time online marketers. They give you two options for an account, a Starter Edition or a Standard Edition. If you really want to make the most of your online efforts you really should just go for the standard edition this way you can create it and optimize it effectively. All you really need to do is go to Google AdWords register for an account, create your ads that are relevant to your business and choose your keywords with the Google Keyword Tool and you are off and running.

Here are some stats for you if you are not a believer, according to comScore, online consumer spending grew 26 percent in 2006 to $24.4 billion. More than 80 percent of consumers did at least some shopping online (BizRate and Shop.org Holiday Mood Study 2006), and 50 percent of shoppers bought more stuff online in 2006 than 2005 (NielsenNetRatings research). I would say those are some telling numbers.

Here are some tips for you:

1. Focus on the Holidays and create campaigns that geared toward those shoppers by creating titles that are specific to holiday shoppers. Choose keywords such as “Christmas Gift Ideas” or “Creative Christmas Gifts”.

2. Create an offer that will be enticing for this time of year with discounts on shipping if possible. I do all of my Christmas shopping online for my daughter, who is 9, so I don’t have to deal with the nightmare at Toys R Us, which is by the way instant headaches for me – and if I can order the same thing online that I can get in the store without paying shipping then I am in!

3. Make sure that your landing pages are also relevant to your keywords. Nothing is worse than offering a promotion for an item and when you click to the website you cannot validate that the offer is real. Please do not make me search around your site to find the offer that was presented in the ad, because if I don’t see it on the first page you bring me to then I will be gone. You can lose a visitor that quickly! Make sure your promotions are visible within the first click.

There is still time to jump on board but don’t wait too long because before you know it Thanksgiving will come and go, and the next thing you know you will have a champagne glass in your hand wishing people you don’t know a Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Looking to Get More Traffic Naturally? There is More to SEO...

There is big hype on how to gain more exposure on the search engines. Many small businesses think they just need to “optimize” their website. What exactly does it mean to optimize your website anyway? There are many company’s who will tell you that there are specific things that need to be done to your site to make sure the site is able to be crawled by search engines, and if you are lucky maybe they will talk to you about linking, accessing links to your site from other sites that are relevant, and then it stops there. There is more to optimizing your site than titles, descriptions, and directory links.

As a small business owner what else can you do that won’t break the bank?

1 – User Generated Content – let me explain what this is. Simply stated, it is available content that users are generating on social media sites across the web such as MySpace.com, Facebook, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, and even Yahoo! Answers just to name a few. These sites allow you to create profiles and add valuable content to them which could be highly relevant to your business. It also allows for huge opportunities to increase traffic to your website which at the end of the day that is what you want to see.

2 – Blogs by far are the easiest ways to generate traffic to your site. How you ask? By simply writing and linking which is exactly what the search engines are looking for. The content within blogs gets crawled by search engines and eventually can make its way into the search results chock full of keyword phrases. It is so easy and it can be done for FREE! The only costs that are related to this effort is maybe ten minutes of your time about 2 times a week. If you are not a believer check out Blogger.com and get your blog started today!

3 – Articles and Press Releases – are also an easy way to generate traffic to your site. With this method you can actually increase your backlinks (links leading back to your website) naturally as well as give the search engines lots of content to crawl. Your article or press release is highly relevant to your business because it is typically about your business once again chock full of keyword phrases. For this effort check out companies such as PRWeb, Market Wire, and Ezine Articles.

4 – Last but certainly not least, there are Viral efforts. Have you checked out YouTube lately? If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on viral efforts my suggestion would be make a video and post it. It is easy and effective. You can also submit it to Google Video and don’t forget to optimize your title and description for this video with links leading back to your website. Imagine that! You can do it for such a low cost and actually get a stream of traffic absolutely free.

Remember having your own business is great but don’t forget that in order for your business to succeed you need to be visible and market your site the right way as well as the smart way.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Girl Power Gone Wild

Today I received an interesting email from a friend who wanted me to read an article about a 17 year old entrepreneur. The article referenced at length about how this teenager is truly an Internet Marketing Professional. All I could do was be in awe over what she has created. ValueClick's Director of Media Development has said, "She knows so much about what her site does, more than people three times her age."

This actually struck a chord with me because there are so many website owners who do not know enough about their own sites to make educated decisions about their businesses and here is this 17 year old running the show and became the breadwinner in her household and all because she is targeting young teenage age girls to get free --- YES FREE --- myspace layouts for their myspace pages.

How did she do it? Well through advertising of course, most of her revenue comes from…… can you guess? Google Adsense! Imagine that. While she is starting to work on other ventures to generate more revenue at the end of the day her whole premise has been to service female teenage web users who want “cute graphics” or “hot layouts” for their myspace pages from her website whateverlife.com.

Ashley is by far the youngest Internet Marketing Professional I have read about and hats off to her for gaining exposure in the search engines that land her first page placement on Google for terms such as “cute layout myspace” or “cute web site backgrounds” certainly keywords that I would not think to search on as an adult. She is by far more in touch with her target market than most people I speak with on a regular basis and this includes those who I work directly with and that my friends, is really sad.

For more about Ashley and her site Whateverlife.com read the article listed in Fast Company.

I wish Ashley continued success!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pay Per Click or Search Engine Optimization? That Is The Question!

Since I work so closely with businesses that are just getting started online I come across this question quite often. Do I start a pay per click campaign or is search engine optimization the way to go? Often I respond with a very quick, “You need to do both!” I feel very strongly about ensuring a website is getting as much exposure as possible. Many years ago it was fairly easy to get strong positioning in the search engines – mainly Google. This has changed significantly and as a result new businesses find themselves struggling to get traffic if they do not plan effectively. Understanding the differences for both efforts is crucial so let’s go over some very specific details first:

What is Search Engine Optimization?

By definition search engine optimization is a process of overseeing a website to ensure its ability to attract traffic naturally by achieving strong positioning in the major search engines for specific keyword phrases that are related to your business.

Read more about what search engine optimization is by visiting sites like Search Engine Watch.

What is Pay Per Click Advertising?

By definition pay per click advertising is a marketing effort that enables a website to bid on keyword phrases related to one’s business which can appear in the search results pages of major search engines. Visitors can find your ads online with ease, once they click on your ad you pay for that click. The cost is based on the competitiveness of the keyword associated with others who are also bidding on the same terms.

Want to start your own pay per click campaign, it is easy to do with Google Adwords.

Now back to the question of whether or not to do one vs. the other. Natural traffic is free, while pay per click is paid traffic. All in all traffic is traffic and the more exposure you can achieve especially during the early phases of getting noticed in the search engines the better. It is important to have a strong online marketing strategy in place that will help to grow your business. Search engine optimization takes time as you earn your place in the search engines and gain respect and trust from engines such as Google.

While you are waiting to get noticed it makes sense to essentially push your site in front of visitors initially with a pay per click campaign. As your site gains more credibility and positioning improves over time your traffic will increase. If you are also managing a pay per click campaign the traffic increase can be quite extensive in addition to your site’s natural traffic from optimization efforts. It is in your best interest as a business owner to ensure your site is being found and a combined effort of pay per click advertising as well as search engine optimization can assist you with this goal.

As always research before you start an effort such as this, understand your market and what it takes to market your business. Should you decide to consult with experts make sure it is a company that understands the essentials in marketing your business online.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Top Ranking - How Important is it?

Today I had an experience with a client who was all about wanting top positioning in the search engines. Everyone wants to be number one but it is not always possible and with search engines such as Google making many updates to their search results it is very unlikely that any position will ever remain the same for extended periods of time. That said, one must think of other areas of concentration aside from just position or being above your competitor. More concentration must be paid to increased exposure, traffic and conversion – meaning sales or leads.

Now while I tried to explain this to the client he really did not want to hear it. He wanted guarantees and in this industry everyone knows that companies who give guarantees are typically just trying to take your money. Google has a section on their website which talks specifically of SEO firms to be wary of, visit Google Webmaster Tools for more information on this subject. Back to the client, the funny thing about it is that this particular client was no where to be found online and now he has over 25 top 10 placements and multiple pages indexed. In addition to the fact that his traffic tripled in just 9 months, and that I can say is improvement in one’s search results, numbers just simply do not lie.

The lesson to be learned here is as a new business try not to focus so much on where your competitors are appearing on the search engines and try to focus more on increasing your exposure online by increasing your traffic naturally over time, there are many ways to do this of which I will talk about at a later date. If you are as good as your competitors and your site is offering enough content to support this then eventually your site will climb the ranks as your competitors have (as long as you do not do anything sneaky) it just takes time.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Starting Your Online Business

I talk to so many people on a regular basis about their websites and what they can do to help themselves gain more exposure online. I tell them its simple, offer more content within your site and eventually it will happen for you, but it certainly will not happen overnight. There are other things that can be done as well but the most important thing to do is pay attention to the content within your site. One of my biggest challenges day in and day out is talking to business owners about expectations. Many people build a website thinking that once the site is launched traffic will come and people will begin to buy their products or services. Remember the saying, “Rome was not built in a day”?

When first getting started, just like with any business, it is important to earn credibility. You can’t just open your doors to the public and expect them to come into your store and buy any more than you can expect a search engine to place you on page one of their results so that traffic will stream to your site right away, that would be silly.

So as a small business owner what do you do? Make a plan and really think about the best way you can present your products and services within your website. Inform your prospects and guide them by creating a content rich website that will not only help them to understand what you offer but will also help the search engines understand who you are.

Take a peek at this article The Keys to Creating a Small Business Website, and get going! There is exposure to be had and revenue to be earned!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Marketing is Essential

My name is Melissa Cartagena, I am an Internet Marketer who is focused on educating small to mid-sized businesses on how to become successful online. Many people build a website thinking that once the site is launched traffic will come. Remember the saying, “Rome was not built in a day”? This statement could not be truer as new business owners enter the world of e-Business for the first time where expectations and realizations on the internet are very different than that of their own.

Currently I am focused on building and managing an Online Marketing Team with a very large privately owned web services company who consults and manages Pay per click and Search Engine Optimization campaigns for small to mid-sized businesses that are experiencing the challenges of advertising their website online.

My role is interesting because I have the opportunity to speak with many types of entrepreneurial spirits in many different vertical markets. It is rare that I work with just one market for an extended period of time which captivates my attention since it is constantly changing and evolving. Even though there are many types of markets typically the essential principles of marketing remain the same. Any company who takes their business online will find that marketing is essential as it relates to online exposure, and generating leads or sales to any one website.

With this blog I plan to discuss the options, as well as the challenges, associated with starting your own business and how to increase exposure in addition to continuing to drive the right kind of traffic which will ultimately drive the right kind of business a website needs to be successful online.

I hope you enjoy what you read and I hope you learn something new that will help you grow your business online.

Melissa Cartagena
President, Marketing is Essential