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Working the Web in the 21st Century

12 May 2014 | Posted Under Internet
by Carl Weiss

Before the 1990’s businesses were relegated to using print, TV and radio to advertise their wares. Then along came the Internet in the latter half of the 90’s and suddenly businesses had a whole new lease on life, along with a new set of skills to hone.  Because when it comes to promoting products and services online, there is no such thing as one size fits all.  Far from it. 

Before the turn of the century online advertising was a bit simpler due to the fact that it all came down to two things: a website and a search engine.  Back then, there weren’t any such things as blogs and social networks.  Video was something that was worse than useless, due to bandwidth considerations.  Web designers back then had to selectively choose images due to the slow loading speeds that dial-ups provided.  Too many images could cause a site to load like molasses, or even freeze the screen solid. 

With the development of broadband suddenly it was a whole new ballgame.  With that ballgame came a new set of rules.  Instead of relying almost exclusively on text, many sites began experimenting with podcasts and video.  With the advent of YouTube, where anyone can post and host videos galore, multimedia went from being an anomaly to being practically a requirement. 

Search engines began to capitalize on the multimedia nature of the Internet, with many of them adapting their search algorithms to take into considerations all the latest online offerings.  Several, most notably Google, went one step farther by developing their own brand of blog, social network and video portal.  This meant that website owners and optimizers had their hands full feeding all these additional mouths.  As a result, many sites that previously dominated the search engines were relegated to its backwaters.  It also meant that SEO was no longer SOP (standard operating procedure.)  Whether you choose to administer your web presence yourself or outsource the task, there are a number of factors you need to take into consideration if you hope to succeed.

1.      Geo-Targeting – One of the things that has changed in a big way is the ability to geographically target online ads.   Unlike in the early days of the web where global advertising coverage was the norm, today online ads can be directed to targeted regionally, state-wide or locally for both pay-per-click and organic search. 
2.      What is SEO Today? – When I hear people conversion about search engine optimization, I ask them to define the term SEO.  Before the turn of the century everything a search engine needed to determine who ranked best resided exclusively on the website.  Today, only twenty five percent of the criteria used for ranking purposes is contained on-site.  The remainder consists of everything from blogs and social networks to videos and podcasts.

The other thing that has changed in a big way is the acumen of search engine spiders.  Not only 
can the spiders read, they can understand how well your website, blogs and social posts are constructed.  They are also programmed to look at how often you post as well as how much engagement this content generates.  The only things they can’t understand are your images and videos.  This is why it is so important to make sure your alt tags are filled in and the text and tags used to wrap your videos is complete.
This is icon for social networking website. Th...3.      Blogging for Business – Blogs are without a doubt one of the least understood of all web assets.  Most people treat them as a bastard stepchild of the web, not realizing that blogs can not only achieve search engine ranking on their own, but you can also sell products directly on your blog.  Add to this the fact that well-written blogs can be far more engaging than websites since they change more often than your site.  (The average website is updated quarterly, whereas the average blog is updated weekly.)  I have known clients who literally generated more traffic and sales from their blog than they did on their site, even when their site had page-1 ranking on Google, Yahoo and Bing. 
4.      How Social is your Business? – There is a big difference between having a social presence and feeding your social presence.  If you hope to turn Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and other social networks into a way to promote your business you need to understand a couple of things.  In the first place, social nets are all about telling as opposed to selling.  This means that for every attempt to display ad copy on your nets you need to deploy at least twenty pieces of information that would be of interest to your followers.  And by “information” I don’t mean ad copy.  The second factor is that social nets are all about your followers, not you.  If you provide them with useful information and prove that you are an authority in your area of expertise they will inevitably buy from you when they are ready.  However, if you rarely feed your nets or if you bombard your followers with ad copy then don’t complain that social networking doesn’t work.
Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
5.       Do You YouTube? – YouTube is another area that most businesses do not really get.  Look at it this way; If your local TV station told you they were giving away space for free TV spots and that they were looking for programming to fill air time, you would probably bust a gut to provide them with as much video content as they would accept. Then why is it that the world’s largest superstation is not on every business owner’s radar in a big way?  Not only does YouTube stream more video than all the other TV stations on the planet combined (4 billion videos per day), but they provide free hosting and broadcast, plus they are owned by the world’s most popular search engine (Google). 

YouTube is much more than just a video portal.  It is a search engine, it is a social network and it is a free web TV station that can place your videos on page 1 of Google.  How cool is that?  Yet most businesses are not taking advantage of this free marketing powerhouse.  By taking advantage of it, I don’t mean having one or two videos on YouTube. What I am talking about is having dozens or even hundreds of videos on YouTube.  Better yet, why not start a channel that focuses on your business?  Don’t think that’s practical?  Think again.  We have shown all kinds of businesses from chiropractors to plumbers how 2-minute microcasts can be used to generate a following and turn their owners into rock stars.  Shooting 2-4 short videos each and every month isn’t all that complicated or costly.  All it takes is a little imagination to turn the world’s largest superstation into a business asset that’s hard to beat.
AngiesListSuperService20136.      Reputation Management – In years past it was all too easy for companies that produced slipshod       workmanship and poor customer service to remain below the radar to consumers.  As a result it was very difficult to judge a business’ reputation until after the fact, by which time it was too late.  With the advent of online reputation management all that has changed.  Today the emperor wears no clothes and it is simple for the public to find out how your customers perceive the quality of your company.  Whether they use Google Local, Yahoo, Angie’s List or any of the hundreds of sites dedicated to broadcasting reviews good and bad about a business, this is generally the first place that consumers go to check out a company with whom they have never done business.

That being said, many businesses have no system of encouraging satisfied customers to post positive reviews.  What this means is that for the vast majority of businesses, all there is to be found are negative reviews.  I don’t care how capable and courteous you are, as they say you can’t please everyone all the time.  So it’s a foregone conclusion that sooner or later you will rub someone the wrong way.  That someone (or even a wily competitor) can sully your reputation at the click of a mouse if you aren’t actively encouraging your best customers to submit positive reviews all the public will find are complaints.

One of the things we use to promote our business as well as those of our clients is to ask your best customers if they wouldn’t mind telling the public what they think of your services on video. By shooting a 2-3 minute interview and then cutting this down to 60-90 seconds not only will you have a powerful endorsement of your business, but while they are there you can then have them submit a positive review on Google+ that will go a long way toward helping you prove once and for all that you are the man or woman for the job.
7.      Who You Gonna Call? -  Obviously creating and distributing everything from daily social posts to weekly blogs and monthly videos takes time.  And time is something of which no business owner or manager has enough.  So outsourcing some or all of the above mentioned tasks is the path of least resistance for many businesses.  That being said, you need to be very careful who you allow to promote your business online.  While there are a number of legitimate digital marketing agencies, there are also thousands of shortcut artists that can do more harm than good. 

In past blogs, we have written about Black Hat tactics that can put your website 
Black Hat Thief
between a rock and a hard place.  It isn’t at all unusual for a search engine to delist or even black ball anyone caught using black hat techniques.  While it would take more than a blog to cover them all, the biggest red flag to watch out for is anyone who claims they can get your site listed organically with Google or any other major search engine within 30 days or less.  Depending upon the competition involved with any keyword or phrase it can take anywhere from four to six months or more to produce enough compelling content to leverage page 1 on any of the major search engines.  However, the results can be well worth the effort.

In short, with the exception of pay-per-click advertising (which takes an entire skill set of its own to employ successfully), there is no shortcut to online success. The only way of leveraging the Internet in the 21st century is to take the long view.  Just like your business, working the web to win takes time.  But it’s time well spent.

When he isn't surfing the web, Carl is Working the Web to Win, which is both a digital marketing agency in Jacksonville, Florida and a weekly online radio show on BlogTalkRadio.

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