Archive for 'niche'

Quick Hit SEO to Do List

Many potential Search Engine Optimization (SEO) clients come to me stating they don’t have the financial resources to contract my firm for services yet they’d like to get started with the promotion of their site within the search engine sphere. Below I’ve attempted to outline the first steps I might take if I had a new website to promote from the ground up.

Submit Your Site to Directories

Directory submissions are an integral part of basic SEO, and directory listings help to form a foundation of links pointing to your site that generally won’t go anywhere unless the directory disappears or is shutdown for some reason. Many directories such as DMOZ or the Yahoo Directory feed search engine results and carry a lot of “weight” with major search engines such as Google, MSN/Live, and Yahoo!

There are hundreds of free directories out there, and my recommendation is to subcontract this service out to an inexpensive submission service (do a search for “directory submission service”). For as little as $30, you can have your website submitted to hundreds of directories in little time. Manually doing this could take countless hours, and it’s very tedious work. One note of caution: directories don’t get indexed overnight. It will take some time for your site to get “credit” for being listed in a lot of the online directories.

Write and Submit Articles about Your Business or Industry

Promoting your business via articles about your industry or the business itself are a great way to build awareness without being over the top or in someone’s face. The more articles you write and submit to online e-zines or article directories, the more your name circulates. Think about it, when you read an informative article that helps you solve a problem, perform a task better, or recaps an event, your guard isn’t as high as it is when you come across an all out advertisement is it?

Be sure to include a byline at the end containing a link to your site along with brief information about you and your company. This will not only generate awareness, it will also help your search engine optimization campaign by building “natural” links back to your website as the article circulates the online community.

Engage in a Free PR Campaign

While print media isn’t as popular as it once was, people still read newspapers, trade journals, and magazines. Local newspapers are always looking for interesting stories on local people to write about in order to increase their readership. Magazines are a bit different in that your story needs to be very compelling and unique in some fashion, but your website and business can get a big jolt if you can land a story in a print publication of some sort. One word of caution: don’t go shooting for the New York Times or Inc. Magazine right out of the chute unless you’re truly prepared to handle a huge influx of site visits, e-mails, phone calls, and unrelated requests about your business.

Involve Yourself in the Blogosphere

Blogs are a great way to show a more human side to a company, and their popularity continues to increase. My advice is to start a blog about your company, industry, or niche that is a sub-domain off of your main website. A sub-domain may look like this: subdomain.domain.com to where your blog may utilize a scheme similar to blog.yourdomain.com. This is a great way to build unique content for your domain while also helping your customers or clients get to know the human side of your business. There are several free blog generators out there that will even host your blog for free, and two of the more popular ones can be found at blogger.com or wordpress.com.

If starting your own blog is too tall a task, visit others’ blogs related to your industry and join in the conversation by posting comments and interacting with the blog owner. Many blog comments are indexed by the name you enter in the name field of the comment form so you can build links to your site this way. One note of caution: there is a lot of debate whether no-follow links such as the ones on most blogs provide any search optimization value, and I have found that they do provided the blog itself ranks well and has a large following.

Promote Your Site Everywhere

Offline optimization is just as important as it is online as you’re simply trying to generate interest in your business or website, right? Consider promoting your website offline just as you would your business. Nobody will know about your site unless you tell them, but you don’t want to be a hound about it either so be subtle. The traffic you generate may result in a huge sale that puts your business on the map.

Basic SEO isn’t that difficult if you think about it in a common sense manner. Promoting your site online is very similar to how you’d promote your business offline—it’s all about positive exposure. Being heavily involved online as well as off is a solid strategy to building awareness for your business and its website.

How to Beat Google (Part 1)

by Rich Skrenta

Our entire industry is scared witless by Google’s dominance in search and advertising. Microsoft and Yahoo have been unsuccessful at staunching the bleeding of their search market share. VCs parrot the Google PR FUD machine that you need giant datacenters next to hydroelectric dams to compete. They spout nonsense about how startups should just use Alexa’s crawl and put some ajax on top of it. Ye gods.

Grow a spine people! You have a giant growing market with just one dominant competitor, not even any real #2. You’re going to do clean-tech energy saving software to shut off lightbulbs in high-rises instead? Pfft. Get a stick and try to knock G’s crown off.

So here are my tips to get started. These are all about competing with Google’s search engine. Of course G is big business now and does a lot of different things. Their advertising business is particularly strong, and exhibits some eBay-like network effects that substantially enhance its defensibility. Still, even if you’re going to take that on too, you have to start with a strong base of search driven traffic.

  1. A conventional attack against Google’s search product will fail. They are unassailable in their core domain. If you merely duplicate Google’s search engine, you will have nothing. A copy of their product with your brand has no pull against the original product with their brand.

  2. Duplicating Google’s engine is uninteresting anyway. The design and approach were begun a decade ago. You can do better now.

  3. You need both a great product and a strong new brand. Both are hard problems. The lack of either dooms the effort. “Strong new brand” specifically excludes “search.you.com”. The branding and positioning are half the battle.

  4. You need to position your product to sub-segment the market and carve out a new niche. Or better, define an entirely new category. See Ries on how to launch a new brand into a market owned by a competitor. If it can be done in Ketchup or Shampoo, it can be done in search.

  5. Forget interface innovation. The editorial value of search is in the index, not the interface. That’s why google’s minimalist interface is so appealing. Interface features only get in the way.

  6. Forget about asking users to do anything besides typing two words into a box.

  7. Users do not click on clusters, or tags, or categories, or directory tabs, or pulldowns. Ever. Extra work from users is going the wrong way. You want to figure out how the user can do even less work.

  8. Your results need to be in a single column. UI successes like Google and blogging have shown that we don’t want multiple columns. Distractions from the middle with junk on the sides corrupt your thinking and drive users away.

  9. Your product must look different than Google in some way that is deliberately incompatible with their UI, for two reasons. One, if you look the same as them, consumers can’t tell how you’re different, and then you won’t pull any users over. Two, if your results are shown in the same form as Google’s, they will simply copy whatever innovations you introduce. You need to do something they can’t copy, not because they’re not technically capable of doing so, but because of the constraints of their legacy interface on Google.com.

  10. Your core team will be 2-3 people, not 20. You cannot build something new and different with a big team. Big teams are only capable of duplicating existing technology. The sum of 20 sets of vision is mud.

  11. Search is more about systems software than algorithms or relevance tricks. That’s why Google has all those OS programmers. You need a strong platform to win, you can’t just cobble it together as you go like other big web apps.

  12. Do not fear Google’s vast CapEx. You should wish maintenance of that monster on your worst enemies. Resource constraints are healthy for innovation. You’re building something new and different anyway.

By Derrick Daye on State Farm

The findings from our comprehensive brand equity study of the insurance industry has implications for many industries. Here is what we found:

•While there are over 100 insurance brands whose names people have heard of, few achieve widespread top-of-mind awareness (first recall).

•The insurance industry is highly fragmented with a low dominance of usage and preference by a few brands.

•Very few companies are aggressively claiming relevant differentiating benefits in consumer communication. The few that are, are rapidly gaining market share (witness GEICO which is claiming price/value leadership in auto insurance with substantial advertising support).

•Prices/rates are cited as one of the top differentiating benefits, suggesting that the category is commodity-like for many consumers.

•While behavioral loyalty is high, attitudinal loyalty is much lower, indicating a consumer’s propensity to switch companies when the switching becomes easier (something the Internet might facilitate).

•Emotional connection to insurance brands is very low. Less than one in five consumers say that their insurance brand has never disappointed them. (The top brand on this measure disappointed two thirds of its customers at some time. All brands below the top eight on this measure disappointed over 90% of their customers.)

•Our analysis of the most powerful differentiating benefits indicate that many of them lie with the way in which insurance agents/representatives and the claims adjusters interact with customers.

•Our data would indicate that the industry is ripe for consolidation or strong niche marketing.

Three opportunity areas emerged for insurance companies:

1.Reinventing the process by which they interact with their consumers.
2.Claiming a highly relevant, unique point of difference (focusing on a product category, a consumer benefit or both).
3.Increasing emotional connection with their consumers.

The study provides the following lessons that are applicable to other industries:

•Strong, recognizable brand names and logos are important, but the brands behind those trademarks must stand for something unique and important in consumer’s eyes. What does your brand stand for?

•When price becomes the major point of difference in an industry, consolidation will occur. The companies that are most likely to succeed in this environment (other than the acquirers) are those that aggressively take ownership of relevant points of difference and redesign themselves to consistently deliver against those points of difference.

•The importance of the customer points of contact to strong brands can not be underestimated. Aligning these with your brand’s promise is critical. This may require redesign of your hiring, training, performance management, recognition and rewards and other HR practices. It may also require a redesign of your customer service processes.

•Companies that are market driven, truly caring about their consumers and constantly changing their products and services to meet changing consumer needs, will succeed at the expense of companies that are purely sales driven.

Are You Linkbaiting The Right Audience

Jan. 29, 2007 at 1:09pm Eastern by Eric Ward

Last summer, I was asked for my personal definition of the term “linkbait.” In a column titled Link Bait Kool-Aid, I wrote that linkbait was “more or less anything you create anywhere on the web that inspires other people to link to it.” The link to your bait can come from another web page, from a blog, from a social media sharing site (bookmarks, news, videos or whatever), from a tagging site or even from an email newsletter. In a nutshell, anywhere you are with a mouse and a clickable link can be viewed as a potential target venue for link seeking via linkbait.

There are several motivations for seeking links via linkbait creation. The most obvious motivation is improved search rank. Get a bunch of links, and your site’s search rank will improve. Not every time, but often enough to inspire a whole new micro-niche in what was already a niche industry.

After search rank, another key motivation for seeking links via linkbait is increased click traffic. Get your link on the front page at Digg, Newsvine, Netscape, Reddit, Technorati or for that matter, any of the sources you find at popurls, and the result can be traffic spikes that cause headaches like these and this for webmasters.

For some sites, there can also be a residual linking effect. Some of the people visiting Digg will learn about your site for the first time, and they might like it so much they link to it from their own site or blog or wherever. Call it trickle-down-linking. Links beget links. The filthy linking rich get filthy linking richer.

There are several rarely discussed fundamental flaws to practice of linkbaiting. The most obvious flaw is that the most valuable IBLs (inbound links) for any given piece of content are completely different. Most linkbait strategies I see ignore this fundamental concept.

An example I’ve mentioned before is the Diet Coke/Mentos fountain video. Sure it’s funny. It’s clever, it’s fascinating. I’ve watched it many times. And then I go back to my day. I didn’t buy anything, didn’t click an ad. I didn’t subscribe to anything. I came, I saw. I left.

On the other hand, the flurry of popularity and links the video sparked did actually result in some links that have some residual benefit, as nearly 500 .edu based sites mention or link to it. But not every video goes viral with a scientific angle that inspires links from teachers, and copycats dilute the power of the original.

Whatever your linkbait is, it will appeal to a certain segment of the online population. The rest of us will never see it unless by pure chance. In this regard, there really is no difference between linkbait and other type of online content. You can only expect linkbait to travel so far on its own or via the big buzz venues mentioned earlier. And no matter what steps you take to help ease the sharing of the content, it may never reach the most relevant audience most inclined to link to it.

Some types of content engender links from a wide variety of targets. For me one of the single best example of this is The Weather Channel’s Weather On Your Site. Here’s my announcement of it, nearly four years ago. We didn’t call it linkbait back then, we called it “useful content.” The Weather Channel example is also a rarity. After all, anyone with a web site and a zip code can add a weather forecast. The web helped The Weather Channel connect forecasts and zip codes and HTML code, and the rest is linking history. The odds are your linkbait doesn’t have the universal appeal and potential of The Weather Channel or Diet Coke / Mentos. What do you do then?

If you are considering implementing a linkbait strategy, do some homework before you spend money creating the bait. What is the goal? Who is the most likely person to link to your content, and where can those people be found? Can they be found online at all? (Hint: if your content is geared towards an academic or librarian audience, Digg is nearly pointless). What types of content will they link to it from? How do you properly reach out to them when seeking a link? What will the effect of any obtained links be?

The answers to these questions is likely to be as different as the content itself. When I was seeking links for the first Times Square Web Cam (what we now call linkbait), I approached the process in a far different way than I did for the Children’s Hospital Boston Virtual Stem Cell Laboratory.

The universe of potential linkers to your content often cannot be found hanging out at Digg, Newsvine, Netscape, Reddit, Technorati or any other online popularity contest oriented site. I’m not saying ignore these venues. I’m saying you need to take into consideration that the most useful links of all will come from an online audience that doesn’t depend on the collective wisdom of others. These folks must be identified and reached in ways that the linkbaiter usually ignores or misses.

Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers, The Ward Report. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Are You Ready To Start Your Home Based Business?

By Allen Lundy

There are all types of people in this world. Everyone of us is unique in one way or another. We all look different, we have different hobbies, likes, dislikes, and most of all we have varied skills and learning abilities.

Our uniqueness is what makes each of us special. The ability to make decisions and take responsibility for our actions is what really sets an entrepreneur apart from everybody else with a desire for a home based business.

Making the decision to start your own home based business is just the beginning of a long, fun, exciting and sometimes frustrating journey. Are you ready?

With the Internet being such a prolific venue for anyone desiring to have their own home based business, it’s no wonder so many people have shelled out hundreds and thousands of dollars for their dream – a successful home based business – only to have that dream turn into a nightmare.

You may or may not have been one of those that started a home based business only to find out there is more to a work at home business than just putting up a website and waiting for the money to come rolling in.

If you haven’t been told before, let me say it now – It doesn’t work that way.

Running a successful home business takes planning, hard work and yes, even money. You may have heard that you can start your own home business and make a fortune for no money. That my friend is a myth!

Before you start your own home based business you absolutely MUST look before you leap. A home based business requires the same dedication, hard work and ingenuity as any other brick and mortar business.

Do you have a business Plan? Without a “blue print” of what you envision your home business to be and a path forward to get there, all your hard work may be for nothing. You need to have a business plan and you must research the niche that you are planning on making your fortune in. You must know what your business is all about and what it is going to take to make it a success.

You must have a positive attitude. Your home based business will succeed or fail, depending on how you approach it. Regardless if you work your home business full time or part time, you must always do everything in a positive manner. Your should always remember and believe that your home business is a business, it is not a hobby. Thinking of your home business in any other way could set you up for failure.

Set yourself up a balanced schedule. To achieve a balanced schedule, you need to sit down and actually write out a schedule to follow on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Set up specific periods of time for your business. When your schedule shows it’s time to work, do nothing else but work on your business.

You will also set aside time for your family on your schedule. After all, isn’t more time with your friends and family a benefit of having your own business? Put in time for your hobbies, go fishing, ride your Harley, whatever you feel like. You absolutely must have some free fun time. Like the saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…Follow your schedule.

Learn everything you can about your products or service: Whether you are selling affiliate programs, software, PLR/MRR products or a service that you can offer, such as television repair, auto repair, the bottom line is you must be considered an expert or at least very knowledgeable. The more you know and the better you are able to articulate to others your knowledge, the more respect within your niche area you will receive. When you are considered the best, Word-of-Mouth advertising can do wonders for your bank account.

Purchase a good domain name: You have already done your research and you know what products you are going to sell, you now have to get one of the most important items for your new home based business. You need to “name” your business. Your domain name is one of the very first things people will see and it will be their first impression of you. Make a good first impression.

Set up your payment options: Many home based businesses will already have some sort of payment option set up on ready made websites. However, especially for individuals that may be new to Internet Marketing, I would suggest starting off with PayPal. It is one of the most popular payment processing systems around.

STUDY, STUDY, STUDY AND DID I MENTION – STUDY? You can never learn too much when it comes to setting up, running and maintaining your home based business. There are a ton of books in both hard copy and digital available for you to become an expert in your field in a very short period of time. Start off with the free eBooks you may find. They have excellent information for the beginner or those that just wish to refresh their knowledge. You don’t have to spend $197 for an eBook when you don’t even understand the basic fundamentals.

Finally: Take your time, be patient, don’t get down on yourself if you aren’t the next Internet Millionaire in 30 days or less. Think about this, Microsoft(tm)started out in a small garage and took many years to become what it is.

An overnight success story according to the newspapers and television – yet, that overnight success took 7-10 years to attain. Be patient, and you too could become the next “overnight success”.

Allen Lundy has been working online for the last few years. His new site The Home Business Plan teaches anyone how to create their own plan for a successful business.

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