Archive for July, 2008

It’s a known fact that search engines (read: Google) place a weighty importance on one-way inbound links when determining your placement in search results. Unfortunately, successfully link building takes a lot of time and energy, so it’s often put on the back burner. This isn’t only costly – it’s plain foolish.

Inbound links are one of the ways the search engine determines the quality and relevancy of your site. Every link that points to your website is a vote for your relevance. The more votes your site has, the higher it will rank in the search engines.

The web is ultimately nothing but links, pathways for navigation for both humans and search engine spiders (also known as robots, crawlers, and bots). Search engines crawl through links they find on one website to visit other websites, adding them to their index of sites and reviewing them for search relevance. Even within your site, spiders follow links from one page to another.

Some links have more value than others. To be successful at link building, you must learn to recognize each of these links. In the world of link building, there are four general types of links:

  • URL Link – This is simply a website’s URL, written in such a way that clicking on it will take you to the site.
  • Text Links (or static links) – This is the most common type of link, where you click on a word to follow the link.
  • Image Links – Click on the image to follow the link.
  • Dynamic Links – These links are in JavaScript. They work like any other link, except they have extra code behind the scenes. The code performs special functions, such as affiliate commission tracking or automatic feeds. Search engines cannot follow dynamic links.

You must also consider the nofollow attribute.

The nofollow attribute (or just ‘nofollow’) is HTML code used to instruct search engines to not count a link as a vote for relevance. This is very common on websites that allow comments, especially blogs, and is intended to reduce the effectiveness of search engine spam.

It’s important to keep in mind that search engines do not follow links that have the nofollow attribute applied. (Hence the name…)

To determine whether or not a page uses nofollow links, look at the site’s code. Right click on the web site and choose ‘View Source’ (From Internet Explorer, choose Page > View Source. From Firefox choose View > Page Source). If the nofollow attribute is applied it will be clearly visible within the page code as ‘nofollow’. You will find it either in the Meta tag section or within the code surrounding the actual link.

Some hardball SEO folks avoid nofollow links like the plague. The mentality behind this is that a link is useless if a search engine spider can’t follow it. Remember, human visitors can still use the links to find you. Don’t shun a web page using the nofollow attribute if the audience is a good fit with your site.

When you are ready to build links to your site, your links can go two ways:

  1. One way links – A link from another website to yours with no returning link to theirs.
  2. Reciprocal links – Another website links to your site, and you link back to theirs.

One way links have always been more valuable in the eyes of the search engines, much like a politician who gets a vote without giving a favor. However, each link has its own value based upon how relevant it is to your site, the text in and around the link, and how much authority the linking website has with the search engines.

In order for your inbound links to have any significant value, you need to focus on getting high quality links. As a rule, the more websites that link to your site the better. However, there is no question that 20 quality links can be much more valuable from an SEO perspective than thousands of low quality links.

So what makes up a high quality link? Imagine if Google had a link to your website on their home page. That would obviously be a quality link – A highly relevant, highly trafficked, highly linked page with tons of authority with the search engines.

Of course this analogy is a bit extreme, but the point is that value is usually pretty easy to spot. For a more realistic example, let’s say you’re a photographer specializing in wedding photos. If this were the case, links from informational sites or blogs related to weddings and photography would be quality links.

Now that you understand the basics of quality link building, the next step is keyword research, finding the key words and phrases to build into the text in and around your link.  Next week, we’ll talk about keyword research that gets your link juice flowing.

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Last week we wrote about Twitter, a microblogging platform that allows you to have a real-time conversation with your online audience. Since we covered some of the benefits of using Twitter to promote your business, it’s time to discuss the best way to leverage those benefits. 

Using Twitter for marketing is a delicate balance, just like using any blogging tool for business purposes. And just like any other social media tool, Twitter has its own unwritten rules of etiquette. These 4 rules will serve as a guideline to help you jump into tweeting without breaking a wing.

Rule 1: If you use Twitter as strictly a sales tool, you will lose followers quickly.

It is in your best interest to seek out others you find interesting and follow them. As with other social media applications, Twitter is about creating conversations and sharing news. It’s not about aggressive selling.

Rule 2: Tweets are limited to 140 characters in total length.

This is a large appeal of Twitter, since followers can quickly get their updates (via their cell phone, Blackberry, iPhone, etc.) and continue about their business. Messages are short and to-the-point, more like a text from a friend than a conventional blog post.

Rule 3: Twitter does not allow you to embed HTML, with the exception of hyperlinks.

So, no formatting.  The links allowed all have the nofollow attribute, so there isn’t any SEO link juice benefit.  (The SEO benefit comes from all the keywords in content. This is what puts your tweet or your Twitter profile at the top of the search engine results, and then your profile will link to your website.)

Rule 4: Don’t get carried away. If you tweet once a day it’s an event to look forward to. If you tweet every hour, you may be viewed as irritating and lose followers in the process.

So, how often should you tweet?  There isn’t a set number of times a day recommended, since it largely varies according to your audience. However, if you intend to use Twitter to promote your website, we recommend tweeting once or twice a day.

Remember, your Twitter profile shows your tweet history, so a new visitor who comes along and sees that you don’t have many tweets may decide that you are not worthy of following. Conversely, too many tweets will get you blocked faster than a Nigerian prince with a business proposal.

Businesses all over the world are using Twitter already. Big name companies using promotional tweeting to market their website and brand include Amazon, Woot, H & R Block, and Zappos.

Making Twitter work as a promotional marketing tool for your website may take some trial and error, and it’s a good idea to check out what others are tweeting about to get a feel for style. But don’t spend too much time being a lurker – get in there, get a feel, and start tweeting!

In addition to Twitter, you may also want to explore other microblogging services such as Pownce, Plurk, Plaxo, and Jaiku.

If you like our blog, check out our tweets on Twitter at Twitter.com/EPORIA.

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Unless you live in a web-less world, you’ve probably heard of Twitter by now. If not, I suggest you try out a great new search tool I’ve found called Google.

Twitter is a blogging platform designed around conversation, rather than information. They accomplish the give and take of conversation by restricting everyone to one short statement at a time. As a result, Twitter is a microcosm of quips, a flurry of microblogs. Mass texting on steroids. Users call it ‘tweeting’.

Twitter defines itself as a communication platform, stating on their home page:

“Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

According to that repository of public knowledge that is Wikipedia;

“Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates (otherwise known as tweets) which are text-based posts, ranging up to 140 characters long.”

What makes Twitter a powerful communication tool is the ability to send and receive updates via your web browser, email, instant messaging or your cell phone. No matter where you are, you can quickly add updates to your Twitter profile for others to follow.

For example, when Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was interviewed at a recent media industry conference, Twitter was alive with audience members commenting, complaining, and heckling the interviewer – during the interview. This is real time mass communication at its finest.

How does this affect your business?

At first, many people just don’t get Twitter, and wonder if there’s really any point to it. This is becoming less of a question as individuals and businesses are finding ways to effectively use Twitter to add value to their online business.

Think of it this way; the more contact you have with potential customers, the more likely they will buy from you. Twitter is an excellent tool for creating “top of mind awareness”. By effectively using Twitter to promote your ideas, share knowledge and even advertise sales and other ecommerce offers, you become a source of quick information that your followers want to read.

Here are just a few of the benefits of tweeting on Twitter:

  • It reminds people that you exist, keeping you on their radar and part of their decision making process.
  • It shows people you have something worthwhile to share.
  • It allows you to inform others of new offers, sales and breaking news immediately.
  • It allows you to communicate more often.
  • It allows you to form more relationships casually, since tweets are short and readable in one glance.
  • Twitter pages get indexed by search engines and may show up for search inquiries when your website may not.
  • You can ask for referrals, suggestions, feedback and help, and people will respond.

With so much marketing hype on the web, people are increasingly looking for companies they can trust. You can build this trust in your brand with prospects by allowing them to get to know you, and by providing them with information that they’re truly interested in. Twitter allows you to do just that, in a matter of seconds.

Not sure this can be done? Big name companies using Twitter to promote their website and brand include Amazon, Woot, H & R Block, and Zappos, among others.

Check back next week for 4 Rules of Tweeting – Making Twitter Work for Your Business.

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Social media marketing has spread across the web like wildfire, and for good reason; it works. Just knowing it works is not enough for your average marketing manager, though – you’ll need to know how WELL it works.

A lot of online marketing managers are perplexed when asked to determine the return on their investment.  Many are missing out on valuable brand building and marketing opportunities because they’re unsure of how to measure their results.

Although measuring social media can be more of a challenge than the traditional web analytics, you can find the answers to what’s working and what’s not if you look. Start with those traditional web analytics. Are you seeing referrals from bookmarks on Digg or del.icio.us? Are your profile pages on Facebook or Plaxo sending you traffic? If you’re actively working your social media marketing, you should be seeing some regular referrals from the sites you’re participating in.

In addition to traditional metrics (like referring sites) there are some other elements you can look at to help measure the success of your social media marketing efforts. Key social media marketing metrics to measure engagement and influence include the following:

  • Content Consumption – If you have a blog this is easy to measure since traditional web analytics can be used to measure the engagement of your blog. WordPress, for example, has built in stats that will take care of this for you.
  • Content Contribution – Look at your blog or other social media property that allows for comments. Are people interacting with your content? What is the ratio of your blog posts to comments left?
  • Emailing Posts – If you allow (or actively encourage) your blog posts to be emailed to others, you can use your blog platform analytics tool (like WordPress offers) to see how many emails are actually being sent through your form.
  • Who’s Talking About You – This isn’t an exact science, however you can go to the blog search engine at Technorati and search on your domain for some clues. You can also use the search for your domain in Google, Yahoo and MSN with the following: link:http://www.yourwebsite.com . The numbers won’t match up exactly, but it gives you a good idea if your efforts are making progress.

To measure engagement with your profiles on MySpace or Facebook, you can monitor the number of friends you have, total profile visits, etc. Every social networking site offers some type of metric tool to see what’s going on with the pages you’ve established.

Regardless of what social media marketing methods you’re putting into action, you can usually find some type of measurement to gauge whether or not it’s providing a benefit. Either way, don’t shy away from social media just because you can’t measuring every detail. After all, you’re not going to find what works if you don’t get out there and make an effort.

Go ahead and try new things and monitor them the best you can. You’ll often be surprised at what will work for you!

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Have you heard the word?

Digg’s long awaited recommendation engine is now live for some users. Let us know if it’s live for you.

Haven’t heard the word? Learn more about Digg’s Recommendation Engine by watching the video at vimeo.com.

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Tired of searching Google for info related to eCommerce, SEO, Web 2.0, and other online business info? Try our new EPORIA Facebook page! It’s a good place to start connecting with others like you in the world of ecommerce!

EPORIA’s Facebook page is open to all readers of our blog, customers, and friends. Our Facebook page will allow members to interact, comment, and share ideas.

To join and contribute to our group on Facebook, you will need to have your own Facebook account and request to friend us. Facebook accounts are free and can be easily set up at www.facebook.com.

It is our hope that our space on Facebook will give some of the best ecommerce and online marketing minds in the country a place to network with each other on a more focused level than traditional webmaster forums.

To get started, visit EPORIA’s Facebook page today!

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