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Link Buying & Gaming the System

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So, here we are, a little over a year removed from the JC Penny link buying debacle, and another major SEO player has gotten caught with their hand in the cookie jar.  I won’t go into detail about the latest case of blatant link buying, as you can find the details somewhere else, but I feel like the issue is worth revisiting.

Cash Under the Table
The Equivalent of Buying Links

The Link Buying Problem

In case you’re unfamiliar with the tactic, some SEO companies out there purchase links on their client’s behalf to help boost rankings.  This black hat tactic has been around since the dawn of Google, since they were the first search engine to put such an emphasis on a website’s link profile.  It used to work as simple as more links = higher rank.  Since then, the algorithm has changed dramatically, now focusing more on content, social, sharing, quality, page load speed, etc, but links are still a factor. 

Google has always stated that buying links is against their rules.  Here is the actual language from their site:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.

Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such.

However, as long as links are a factor in the ranking algorithm, companies and SEO firms are going to do anything possible to gain more of them.

How to Avoid Being the Next News Story

If you want to stay on Google’s good side, content marketing is the way to go.  Creating great, unique, relevant, & sharable content will allow your site to gain traffic and rankings.  The best part about this, the links will come naturally if you’re good at creating content.  Your site will begin ranking for hundreds and thousands of terms if you’re good at creating content.  Your site can break free of the “Keyword Jail Cell”, as I like to call it, and truly become a marketing tool.  Best of all, you don’t have to worry about changes in Google’s algorithm – content will always be king.

No SEO Should Have ThisIf you can’t take care of content marketing with in-house staff and you truly want results from your Internet marketing, then you can hire out some help.  One last word of advice, however, is to make sure whomever you choose to help you knows that you’re strictly against paying for links.  Sure it may work in the short term, but Google, and other watchdogs, are getting awfully good at noticing suspicious activity.  SEO firms these days should talk to you about your business goals, content creation, social strategy and overall marketing plans…not technical SEO.  If you can’t understand what they are going to do for you, don’t break out your checkbook.

Remember, Google's always trying level the playing field.  No company should have an ace up their sleeve.  If a tactic sounds fishy, it probably is. 

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Zen and the Art of Marketing Maintenance

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Maintenance is a topic that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Maintenance of my lawn, house, vehicles, finances, children, diet, relationships, hair, and clothing are just a few of the things that must be maintained on a regular basis. Marketpath also requires regular maintenance of our finances, infrastructure, culture, client relationships, custom software, and much more. The key to success is maintaining items in small doses on a regular basis (i.e. performing small tasks here and there). The more consistent I am with regular maintenance, the more likely major problems won't appear. Failure to maintain each item in my life leads to neglect, which leads to me having to spend a lot more time and a lot more money which leads to great frustration.

Website marketing requires regular maintenancePart of the reason I've been contemplating the importance of maintenance is that I've been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (yes, I stole the title for this post) - a philosophical novel that blends an attempt to define "Quality" and the importance of regular maintenance of our environment and our individual self.

Website marketing isn't all that different than anything else in our life. At Marketpath, we maintain our relationships with our customers and audience via our blogs, email blasts, social platforms, webinars, phone calls, and in-person meetings. I'm always pushing the importance of touch points and, if regularly maintained with good quality content, those touch points will result in a future sale or referral. Failure to regularly maintain  those touch points leads to a complete fall off of our audience engagement and an evaporation of sales and referrals.

Most marketers maintain a giant calendar with all the activity planned over the next few months. This is obviously important for the big items (trade shows and campaigns) but it is also import for the smaller, more easily maintained activities like blogging, social engagement, email sends, phone calls, etc. While these tasks may become slightly mundane or monotonous, they are still very important collectively over time.

If you fail to keep up your house it will fall into disrepair. Bringing it back to a normal state then requires more money, more time, and more frustration. Neglecting your website marketing efforts by not keeping a consistent schedule and constantly tweaking your message to keep your audience engaged will cause your marketing to fall into disrepair just as well. Then rebuilding the level of engagement you once had, or almost achieved, will require more time, more money, and more frustration. Keep it human, keep it consistent, and keep it meaningful.

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Which Social Network Is Right For My Business?

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As a small business owner, you’ve probably asked yourself this question.  With so many social networks out there, and more joining the list every day, it can be downright intimidating to choose the right one(s) and get started.  This post will focus on the big 5 – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and the relative newcomer and everyone’s favorite right now, Pinterest.

Facebook

FacebookWithout a doubt the largest social network on the web, with something like a gazillion users, a major motion picture detailing its rise, and now a $100 Billion IPO, everyone in the world has heard of Facebook.  So, as a business owner, you think more eyeballs = better ROI…right?  Well, maybe not.  Typically, Facebook is utilized by individuals connecting with friends and colleagues.  This mindset of person-to-person, casual interaction, limits the effectiveness of most B2B efforts on Facebook.  B2C companies on the other hand have more success with this, as it’s not uncommon for Facebook users to Like their favorite consumer brands…it’s basically a status symbol.   Millions of people Like Coca-Cola, BMW or their favorite handbag brand, not their HR Company or their web development company.

Twitter

TwitterTwitter has grown exponentially since its inception.  Users share ideas, links and images 140 characters at a time.  While the majority of tweets are utter nonsense or completely useless, B2B and B2C companies have found success here.  Connecting with thought leaders within an industry, interacting with competitors or customers, and giving clients the ability to gain instant feedback have all helped Twitter become a necessary part of a content marketing strategy.  The time it takes to run and monitor a twitter account can be pretty nominal with the right tools (and the right company to set it up for you), so it’s a good bet for any business.  Remember, twitter shouldn’t be used as a 1 way megaphone…nobody will care.  Share useful articles, talk about others, and participate in conversations.

LinkedIn

LinkedInWithout a doubt, LinkedIn is strictly a B2B social network.  Professionals use LinkedIn to connect on a business level with colleagues, clients, and people they have worked with.  Because users are in a business mindset when they are on the network, B2B efforts can be effective and useful.  The important point to remember here is that you’re not selling while you’re on this network.  Answer questions, solve problems, become the expert in a group of people and your efforts should be rewarded.

Google+

Google+Google+ is Google’s social network.  Depending on which articles you read, it is either dying or thriving.  It’s hard to say what the network will become, but it is important you keep an eye on it.  Google is using data it gathers from the network and plugging it into its search algorithm to help craft search engine results pages.  The more you share on Google+, the better the odds of ranking for particular terms…or at least that’s what it looks like so far.  All signs point to the fact we'll see more and more integration in the future, so it is probably wise to set up your account now. 

Pinterest

PinterestTaking the Internet by storm, Pinterest exploded onto the social networking scene due to its visual nature and simplicity.  The user base has grown extremely quickly, so one again may fall into the “more eyeballs = more leads” mentality.  Before you go jumping into Pinterest though, make sure you have a clear strategy and understanding of what is typically successful here.  Highly visual elements dominate, so your content may need overhauled to fit.  There have been stories of B2B and B2C success here, but the majority of those all revolve around certain industries.  Arts and crafts, recipes, fashion, and home décor are among the top items here, so tread lightly if you’re outside of those industries.

A few key things to remember about getting into social media:

  • Be consistent with your updates and conversations
  • Be real
  • Likes and retweets don’t pay the bills, conversions do…Can you get your followers to take action?

What are your tips for success on these networks?  Join the discussion below.

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What is Content Marketing and Why is it Important?

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Traditional outbound marketing and advertising have taken a backseat to “Content Marketing.”  Instead of buying ads, banners, and search rankings, companies all over the web are turning to this relatively new form of attracting and gaining clients and customers.   

     Content marketing is the creation of unique content for use in
     blog posts, 
videos, white papers, images (infographics), how-to guides,
     case studies, to gain more leads and acquire more customers.

If the content is unique and interesting, the message can spread across the web quickly.  Users and search engines alike have begun to pick up on this trend, bringing their purchasing power or rankings with it, respectively.  Here are a few tips to help you get started:

Dedicate the Time

Just seeing the words “unique content” might make small to medium sized business owners & marketers cringe.  Creating something that is unique and interesting is the most difficult task of the entire process, so don’t try to skip over it.  It is important that your message is clear, concise and entertaining.

Repurpose Content

Once you have content to market, repurpose it in many different forms.  Often times a blog post can be turned into a short video.  Add more data to the blog post and turn it into a case study.  Take that case study and make it visual, via an infographic.  The same topic can be used throughout multiple channels, minimizing the time it takes to create new topics and content. 

Share it

What good is shareable content if nobody can find it in the first place?  None.  Don’t make the mistake of putting up a blog post and expecting people to get there.  Create an email newsletter and/or tweet out links to it.  Have a video?  Put it on YouTube and share it across your social channels.  Have an interesting infographic or image?  Pinterest and Facebook should be your targets. 

So, why is it important?

With the ever evolving search engine algorithms valuing different tactics, having unique and interesting content has always remained important.  Now more than ever Google is focusing on bringing these content creating websites to the top of their rankings.

More content equals more visitors which usually equals more leads (assuming your website isn’t a complete dumpster fire for conversions).   



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Are SaaS Content Management Systems Right for SMBs?

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We’ve covered this topic a bit before on our blog, but recent data that has come to light makes it worth revisiting.  The question is, being a small to medium sized business (SMB), is it time to take a hard look at software-as-a-service (SaaS) for your content management needs?  The short answer – yes.  The longer answer – SaaS CMS platforms have come a long way over the years and provide companies with flexibility and reliability that installed or open-source systems lack. 

Its Time For SaaS

It's Time to Consider SaaS CMS

According to CMSWire, it is estimated that 34% of SMBs will become first time adopters, or switch their CMS platforms, to SaaS systems.  This is a massive amount of companies that are looking to tap into the benefits of SaaS CMS platforms that are all willing to pay upwards of $500/month. 

A Few of these benefits include:

No Extra Strain on IT Staff

By tapping into the SaaS model, your IT department can unload tasks associated with web hosting, updates, server patches, product patches, and security flaws to the provider.  With SaaS, any problems that arise are on the shoulders of the provider to fix.

No Worries About Versioning

Ever worry that the outdated version of WordPress that your site is running has a security flaw?  How about that widget that you installed that stopped working with the latest update to your installed system?  With SaaS, these problems are a thing of the past, as updates are rolled out automatically and you don’t have to worry about versioning conflicts.

Easier Budgeting

Open Source or Installed options can often times lead to unexpected bills and hourly charges for updates/fixes.  With SaaS, the monthly expense that you agreed to pay covers all of this.  No longer do you have to worry about budget wrecking invoices.

SMBs are always looking for ways to compete with the “big boys” that have seemingly unlimited resources.  Over the past few years, the adoption of the SaaS model within email marketing, CRM, and social communications (among other verticals) has been huge.  SaaS Content Management systems can (and do) provide the same flexibility, freedom, and power to the SMB market that these early adopted verticals have already shown.

If you’re in the market for a new website content management system, you owe it to yourself to take a serious look at a SaaS platform.     



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