Search Engine Marketing Blog: To Blog or Not To Blog

To blog or not to blog!

Well, here are two key reasons to get off the fence and begin blogging:

  • Building Traffic, Links, and Rankings: Search engines love content. The more content you publish, the better your website will fare in search engine results. Blogging also builds traffic to your website and link backs when others who read you blog link back to your website. Links and traffic continue to play a big role in building better rankings too.
     
  • Establishing Expertise: Using a blog, you can show your expertise and insight into a particular topic. When your prospective or existing customers read your insights, you benefit from their positive perception of you and your company as a solution provider in your field of expertise.
     

And when you blog, remember to use a blog utility that is within your website and not external. Remember, the idea is to build traffic internally not send that traffic to another site. Blogger and Word Press platforms offer the opportunity to blog for free on their platforms. But neither of them need the traffic! Your website does. So spend money on getting a blog utility installed within your website and start blogging today!

Search Engine Marketing Blog: Google Trouble Not Surprising

I'm not surprised. The more we share online, the more we open ourselves to privacy invasion, inadvertently. So upon reading that Google has admitted to privacy violations, I wasn't much surprised. Yes, I realize that the violations occurred when Google street cards "inadvertently collected" unencrypted personal data, the key phrase being "inadvertently collected".

No one really knows how deep the violations go and how far spread out they are geographically but apparently countries like Spain, Germany, and France along with attorney generals from 30 states in the US have gotten involved in delving into this fiasco at Google.  Google has admitted to capturing passwords, emails and even banking information in some cases. Google has offered to delete the data but needs permission to do so once the investigation is complete.

Google indicated that it planned to delete the captured data as soon as possible, but would wait until regulators gave permission for the deletions – most likely, after investigations are completed and closed.
 

Yes, of course the company was mortified and yes, of course Google will face international probes into their privacy practices. Google also stated its plan to implement better privacy and security procedures, blah, blah, blah.

Bottom-line, these privacy violations are going to become more and more frequent. No one will be protected as we get more and more deeper into this social media & technology quicksand. Protect yourself and your information with every tool you can get. Separate your online usage for professional reasons from your "private" usage to lessen the risk of privacy violation.

The
This is the digital age and with it comes privacy problems unlike what we've seen before.
 

Search Engine Marketing Blog: Facebook Ban in German Firms – Smart or Short-Sighted?

So conspiracy theory nuts may tell you that social network sites are created with the express purpose of the Government spying on us, individuals. And to sort of validate their fears, we hear about privacy violations and an increase in cyber crime, mostly by non-government entities but according to conspiracy theorists, who knows!
 
But a new report shows that top German companies are blocking access to Facebook & other social networking websites over security concerns and the fear of corporate espionage.

According to the report, German companies fear viruses through links from these social networks and the fear that their employees may inadvertently leak trade secrets online in various forums, chats, and social networks.

Companies like Porsche and a German back are just two examples of companies that have restricted the use of Facebook and Youtube over espionage fears. Productivity or lack there of is another reason for the ban but that's to be expected anytime employees are given the chance to go to the Internet.

As I mention in a previous blog, these are all very valid concerns but I believe that there is a way to protect the company against these fears through some very clear social networking policies, centralized social media implementation, implementing robust monitoring tools, and providing ongoing awareness & usage training to employees. And the same processes we use to protect against corporate espionage while using email need to be employed here.
 

Search Engine Marketing Blog: Top Five Security Concerns Online Social Networking Sites and More

Continuing with the theme of online privacy concerns and fears of corporate espionage from the past few days, here are the top five security concerns that each of us should be worried about:

Malware: Ugh this is one of the worst! Malware simply refers to software that is designed to secretly access your computer and steal your information. Browsers are the main way for malware to infect your computer. Malware can steal private information and cause serious privacy breaches for you. Some known data-stealing malware include Qhost, LegMir, and Gator.

Insider attacks: A fired employee, a disgruntled employee, or the heavy reliance on outside contractors who have access to your computers is a huge risk we all face. It is impossible to protect a company totally from insider attacks but there are ways to implement good security measures, implement frequent password changing policies, and ensure that only trusted employees get Carte Blanche to all your computers and their passwords.

Mobile devices: Mobile phones are susceptible to malware, worms, and privacy intrusions. Through the wifi networks they may access, the risk is even greater. Mobile devices may result in huge losses for you and your company if you are not aware and protected from these intrusions.

Social Networking websites: Yep, social networking websites such as Facebook & Twitter can create serious privacy violations for companies. Phishing is a way to steal ID's and is very, very common on social networking websites. "Baring all" in public is another threat resulting in increased cyber criminal activity and identity theft issues.

Corporate Espionage: Corporate espionage concerns are growing and leading to companies banning employees from using social networking websites. Corporate espionage is a real threat and is increasing, no doubt about that. It can result in companies becoming very vulnerable to hostile take-overs and losing market-share to the competition.

So although we propagate the usage of social networks, our intent is also to highlight the challenges faced from social networking websites. In fact, this may become the case for why social media marketing or social networking should be an outsourced activity. By using a third party, companies can actually protect private information because third parties like us would never be privy to private corporate information that could lead to corporate espionage. (Hmm….perhaps a good basis for a new white paper)

 

Search Engine Marketing Blog: The Case for Social Media Marketing & the Business Owner Dilemma!

If you haven’t heard of at least Facebook & Twitter, you are perhaps living in a cave or in the mountains where the “digital” world hasn’t intruded. The Internet has leveled the playing field for small business owners who can compete with bigger brands without spending an arm and a leg. Social media websites have leveled the playing field even further by providing national and international reach.

Impact of Social Media on our daily lives
 
Our daily lingo has changed to include cryptic phrases like "tweet me", "hit me up online", and "skype me". If you haven't succumbed to this cryptic phraseology, Congratulations! But then again, don't get too happy, you're going to start talking in the same weird lingo very, very soon!

As if the weird lingo (including short forms such as LOL, ROFL, BTW, L8TR, etc.) isn't enough of a shock to deal with, almost on a daily basis our emails are bombarded with invitations to join this social network or that. Yes, I know right! There's barely enough time in the day to do our work, never mind join yet another network!

And did you ever think a day would come when the Government would need to implement new rules to ensure public safety by not "tweeting while driving" or "texting while driving"?

The Business Owner Dilemma

To go online or not!  To engage on Social Media platforms or not? How to find the time? How to determine how much time to spend online? Who to assign to do the online marketing? Hire an outsider or give it to the admin to do it as part of her job? Do it themselves or hire an intern? How to calculate ROI (return on investment) of their online investment?

And so on and on and on. You get the point!

Social Media is just another channel!

As a business owner, you must look at Internet Marketing as “just another channel", not to mention the MOST cost-effective channel” to promote your business.

If we could all afford to place an ad on a billboard that is on the most popular highway in town, we’d all do it, right? Similarly if as business owners we could afford radio and television advertisement, we’d all be there in a jiffy. But those media are all expensive and not really cost-effective for most of us. Social media websites on the other hand are free to use. (More about free later in this write-up.)

Social Media for Lead Generation!

You go to networking events to meet people in person to help showcase your business. The more you meet them the more you learn about them and their business. Over a period of time, this becomes your trusted network for leads and new business opportunities.

Similarly, social media websites allow business owners to conduct networking except it is online so it provides ease of use and allows you to reach a wider reach. The purpose however remains the same as face to face networking: build relationships with others, create a trusted network, find new referral sources, and influence buying decisions. Social media websites are where people are flocking to search, recommend, discuss, and influence buying decisions. So you need to be there to influence their buying decision in your favor.

Traditional Marketing versus New Media
Internet Marketing doesn’t replace the need for traditional marketing activities that still do work. There are traditional marketing methods that do work such as email marketing (Yes, I call it traditional), radio, television, and yes even bill boards and direct mail.  These traditional marketing methods can complement your social media activity or vice versa.

Social Media Marketing is free but is it really?

Yes, social media websites are mostly free to use. But although the “medium” or “channel” is free, the actual activity of social media marketing is time consuming. And time spent is money spent!  It may appear free if you do it yourself but if you tweet and Facebook all day, what about the time you aren’t spending building your business?

The case for Internet Marketing for Business Owners

Internet Marketing is the new channel to gain branding, visibility, and leads. Internet Marketing is also cost-effective. Do it yourself is certainly an option even though we don't recommend it because you need to work "on" the business not "in" the business.

But also remember that Internet marketing is not the only way to market a business. It is also not a pill that will work overnight and begin generating leads for you. It requires watering in the form of content and fertilization in the form of daily interactions and engagement with others. And it will take a considerable amount of time and creativity to build the follower and fan base that will drive sales.

Internet Marketing will not replace face-to-face networking, phone conversations and other business development strategies used by most of us. However Internet Marketing provides tremendous reach and is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels available to businesses small and large. By using social networks to research prospects and identify the correct individual to contact, you may find that your business development cycle is cut down in half or more.

So whether you are selling a special widget or whether your only client is General Motors or even if you are a mortician (morbid eh?) or an accountant, social media marketing is still highly recommended for you. That’s because unless you are no longer looking for new clients, your business needs to be out there attracting attention.

Social media websites provide visibility, branding, and lead generation. Leverage them because they are the way consumers seek to engage with you, the product or service provider.

So yes, Social Media is even for you, and you, and you, no matter how specialized, localized, or vertical market focused you may be!

Search Engine Marketing Blog: Social Networking for Business Works, if Done Right!

More than half a billion users, a huge reduction in advertising expenses, a stable platform for your business promotions and a completely free channel to do your business promotion. Why wouldn't a business see the opportunity in marketing on social networking sites? Not only can you interact with your prospective clients and gain their feedback in an easy manner, you get a chance to build a better relationship AND influence new buying decisions through those relationships.

Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin have leveled the playing field for small businesses who have fewer resources to gain international or even national or state-wide exposure to prospects. The major advantage they provide is that your products and services get noticed by a whole bunch of people who could not have in the past known about you, at a fraction of the cost of television and radio and for that matter even other traditional means of marketing.

The most impressive aspect of business networking is the ability to directly access decision makers and buyers. And remember the good old days when you had to spend money doing a survey or a product launch pilot to get feedback on a new product or service? Well, no longer do you have to spend money there, just ask your trusted network on the social sites you play on and you'll get that feedback clear, detailed, and free and all in a matter of minutes.

Yes, there are disadvantages like spam, inquiries from unqualified prospects, reading stuff that has no bearing or relevancy to what you do or sell BUT remember, some bad with the good is inevitable.

So what are you waiting for? Yes, social media marketing is important to your industry and his and hers and every type of business you may be in. No, social media marketing is not just limited to service oriented or product oriented or customer facing or customer support organizations. No, it's not just for corporates or for business to consumer or business to business type of companies. Social media marketing is relevant, important, and applicable to all business types.

Remember, it's JUST ANOTHER CHANNEL much like TV, Radio, Billboards, and Direct Mail. But it is one of the MOST cost effective channels out there, at least for now!

 

Search Engine Marketing Blog: Google Voice Anyone?

Google Voice, a new choice in telephony.

You can choose the full version of Google Voice with a brand new phone number or add some Google Voice features to your existing mobile phone number.

Why choose Google Voice with a Google number?

  • You can manage all your phones using one number because your Google Voice number is tied to you, not to a location or to a physical device.
  • A Google number allows you to store voicemail like you'd store email, for as long as you want. You can also search through your voicemail like you would emails.
  • Your voicemails can be transcribed into text and emailed or SMS'd to you through built-in voicemail transcription.
  • You can custome your ring tones based on who's calling and even choose to send those certain annoying but unavoidable customers directly to voicemail instead of accidentally picking up the phone to talk to them.
  • Google using smart technology to route your calls and will use call waiting to reach you on the phone you're on.
  • Google voice works with all other phones including mobile, work and desk phones.
  • You don't need to install, download, or upload anything.
  • You don't need to make calls using a computer.
  • You can make international calls using the web at a very competitive per minute rate card

Using Google Voice with your non-Google phone number:

You will lose some features with this option such as call forwarding, screening, and call recording but there are many other features that are still included. They are as follows:

  • You can still store and sort through your voicemails like you do emails as above.
  • Your voicemail can still be transcribed and sent to you via email or SMS
  • You can create customized voicemail greetings based on who's calling
  • You can still make international calls using the web at a very competitive rate card.

Click here to get Google Voice with a Google Number and Click here to get Google Voice with your own non-Google Number.

NOTE: Google doesn't pay me squat for promoting their Google Voice, I just think it is a cool offering!

Search Engine Marketing Blog: Social Networking Not for You?

Companies are still not leveraging the power of social networking and the reasons include lack of understanding, lack of awareness of the power of social networking and perhaps the fear of the unknown.  Time and time again, I ask my prospects and clients "how many sales people do you have in your organization". And time and time again they give me a number that is much smaller than their company's total number of employees.  When I point out that each and every one of their employees is a "sales person", they are a bit embarrassed and also a bit perturbed as they never thought about it like that.

Companies are afraid to embrace social networking for more reasons than one. Most claim that they need to know the return on investment (ROI). This shows that their biggest reason for not embracing social networking is that they really don't understand the benefits. Companies are also afraid of employee abuse and not being able to determine who is doing what during company time.

The benefits of getting each and every employee of yours on social networks are many. Yes, there is potential for abuse too and I won't ignore that. However when employees are empowered, policies & procedures are put in place, and monitoring tools (kind of top video monitors for babies) are deployed, employee abuse can be managed appropriately.

Each employee can become a brand ambassador for your company helping build your company's brand awareness and brand visibility. By getting every employee trained on the various nuances of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks, your company will see an increase in connections & lead generation activity. And when each one of your employees engage with customers using social networks, you can build better customer loyalty and relationship.
 
Social networks become a great way for your employees to spread good PR about your company and its offerings. It also allows them to learn what's happening in the marketplace, see what your competitors are doing, and hear what the customers are saying. The fear of the unknown comes in when companies fear "negative" feedback from their customers who may choose to share their displeasure over something, on social networks. However, this is a great way to actually hear the negative feedback, offer a solution, implement a corrective course of action for the future, and turn the customer around to make him or her your biggest proponent.

And don't feel that you have to take the "each & every" recommendation to heart. It may be difficult to "train" each and every one of your employees to be a brand ambassador. There just may be a few employees whom you want to hide from prospects & customers due to lack of communication or "customer service" skills. By all means hide them for the greater good!

I believe that companies must embrace this new way of doing business or be left behind. Are you ready?

Search Engine Marketing Blog: Providing Search Results Faster Than You Can Think!

Thinking of something? Start typing and Google will provide you with the search results you may be thinking about faster than you can stop thinking!

Yep, Google's got the "instant" search which displays search results that are updated with every character you enter in the search box. So, Google is basically providing you an answer before you even formulate the question. No more pondering over what exactly to type when you are trying to find something. Every letter you type in will result in a set of results you can choose from.
 
Pretty cool eh?

Actually it is PRETTY DAMN annoying even as it is PRETTY DAMN cool!

The every character change results in distraction where you end up going somewhere you didn't want to go but because it showed up for a second before you typed the next character you decided to check it out. Also annoying because if you type the wrong character you end up again going somewhere where you didn't really want to go.

Also, I don't know if it is the Firefox browser I use or if it is Google's live search but the live search actually drags out the typing and makes me more prone to mistakes because a character doesn't register in the search box while it is retrieving  data. I know it's not fat fingers or my inability to type cause I can type with my eyes closed and barely make a few mistakes.

But those annoyances aside, live search is a pretty cool feature and if you stop to think about it, it's pretty awe-inspiring. And no, it doesn't stop the need to do search engine optimization in case you were thinking that. In fact I think that an even more comprehensive  Search Engine Optimization strategy may be needed in the future so that every phrase that may represent a company's business should be identified to allow that company's website to show up in the live search results.

Let's see how it shapes up but for now, hope you enjoy Google doing the thinking for you. Next thing we know Google may even begin delivering new clients to me! Hah!

Search Engine Marketing Blog: BitBop: Streaming, Full-length TV Shows for Androids

Wow! What will they think of next if all these new apps will get unveiled in 2010?

If you want to watch full-length TV shows from various networks and productions, Bitbop is the answer. Bitbop has unveiled an Android  application which will provide users with streaming, full-length TV shows over 3G or Wi-Fi. This Android App is available for most Androids and there's also a Blackberry version.

Similar to Hulu you say? Yep, it sure is except that for now, Bitbop offers two features that makes it more attractive over Hulu: you can download or stream shows (Hulu only allows streaming) and the content is commercial-free (Hulu has advertisements on some shows).

Bitbop offers a free trial for seven days and after that costs only $9.99 per month. Cheaper than cable or satellite TV eh?