Marketing ideas for the shoestring bourgeoisie.

Marketing Mastery Series: 5 Steps to Powerful Article Marketing

Marketing Ideas Article Marketing

Today, article marketing is probably one of the most powerful and inexpensive forms of online marketing available to small business owners and non-profits. For those not savvy with the term “article marketing”, here is a quick definition:

In exchange for a little sweat and focus, an article author (you) shares their wisdom and experience with the world by posting their short article of advice or insight to blogs, social media and article publication sites. Within those articles are one-way links leading back into the author’s own website, raising their website’s “authority” karma with the search engines and increasing their qualified web traffic.

You Are the Expert

Here is a little mental preparation for you. I want to make sure you are looking at article marketing—and yourself—through the proper lens.

When you produce articles, it is your goal to encapsulate gems of experience-hardened wisdom and share them with the online community. In doing so, you:

  1. Help to advise those who are seeking that knowledge, and you
  2. Position yourself as an expert on the topic. (Important!)

Warning: Don’t get caught on the term “expert.” Many humble folks who are vastly knowledgeable about their industry wouldn’t refer to themselves as experts because they are also aware there is much they don’t know. You don’t have to know it all. You just need to know more than your customers and then know where to find the answers when you are stumped.

Your Mission: Inspire, Inform, Entertain

Your primary goal in business is to help, right? Businesses and non-profit organizations provide products and services with the intent of helping people. (Naïve? Maybe. Choosing to see the best? Definitely.) That might mean helping to:

  1. Provide a solution to a problem,
  2. Offer inspiration, motivation or elevation,
  3. Foster greater awareness to a social concern, or even to
  4. Entertain and enthrall.

The best place to start? Begin with what you know. Offer advice. Offer your life experience. Offer sagacious words of wisdom. Expound and elucidate. Maybe even do a little research. Article marketing is your vehicle for taking your wisdom to your audience, answering their questions before their questions have bubbled up.

Step 1: Target Your Topic

What do you specialize in? What do you know a lot about? What is the point to your website? After all, the goal of any article marketing campaign is to place articles of value out into the world and grow your number of back links (links that point back to your website from another website.) Google and other popular search engines/directories see these links leading into your website as proof you must be something of an authority.

Translation: On the Internet, you are somebody important if other people say you are. It’s like high school all over again! Yeah!

Step 2: Write the Article

To begin marketing with articles, you must write the articles. No kidding. Sure, there is some work involved here, but the rewards can be great as qualified traffic to your website increases. Yes, I’m aware there are certain sources for pre-written articles on a myriad of topics, however I would recommend against putting your name on other people’s work. Call me paranoid, but here are some possible dangers with this:

  1. Loss of credibility and damage to your reputation when it’s discovered you’re not writing your own material,
  2. Being called upon to discuss a topic you barely considered to begin with, and
  3. Being accountable for someone else’s errors if they pop up.

Remember: One of the greatest things about writing is the fact you’re building an asset when you write. You are building a body of reproducible and shareable knowledge. This is what “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” author, Rob Kiyosaki, refers to as “doing it once and replicating it over and over.”

To write an article, you don’t have to be a Harvard literature graduate, but you should know how to complete a thought, hold a one-way conversation with a friend, and use spellcheck.

  • First, know what your goal is for your article. What is your point? Being clear on this will help keep you on track as craft your introduction, body and conclusion.
  • Next, pretend you are relaying this information to a friend. What would you say? How would you counsel this friend if they came to you seeking this advice?
  • Finally, use spellcheck. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Read the article aloud to test for smooth flow and phrasing. Ferret out all typos, grammatical errors and punctuation gaffs. If missed, these mistakes can detract from your writing and credibility.

The Resource Box

The last detail you’ll consider for your article will be your resource box. Your resource box is the little paragraph at the end of your article that tells the reader a little about you and how to contact you. It should always include a link to your website. Always. You want your readers to be able to find you if they desire more information and you want the search engines to see you as an authority through that back link, remember?

Key point: In your resource box, you don’t always have to use the same link back to your website’s homepage. In fact, you will likely have greater success by linking to the page on your site most closely related to your article’s topic. This moves visitors from the article directly to their topic of interest. (For example, if a web design company also offers web hosting, their article “How to pick the best web host” should link back to the page on their website that describes their web hosting services.)

Step 3: Launch!

There! You have produced a shiny little gem of literary brilliance. Now it is time to set it free.

  • Place it on your blog (if you have one and if it fits appropriately.)
  • Share it with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and your other social media outlets. You can post it over and over by hand or use tools like PingFM to automate this process.
  • Submit your article to free article directories! Here are the top 10 most popular article directories, according to list of the top 50, found at http://www.vretoolbar.com/articles/directories.php:
  1. ezinearticles.com
  2. ehow.com
  3. hubpages.com
  4. squidoo.com
  5. articlesbase.com
  6. buzzle.com
  7. associatedcontent.com
  8. suite101.com
  9. technorati.com
  • Use an article submission software or service to shorten this process. One good example is isnare.com.
  • Feeling brave? Record your article as you read it into a microphone and post it to iTunes.
  • Braver still? Use your digital video camera and post your work to YouTube and the like.

Step 4: Track Your Results

Just because you’ve accomplished the first three steps of deciding, drafting and delivering your article, don’t think you’re done! You should be watching to see how this article affects your traffic. Did you see an increase? Did your website’s conversion rate (the number of calls, emails, sign-ups, sales, etc.) edge up? If not, did your article compel people to want to know more? Did it provide enough value? Was it placed properly?

Marketing Tip: Use the powerful and free traffic-tracking tool, Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics). Design your Analytics reports and schedule them to automatically arrive in your inbox as frequently as you like.

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat

Now do it again. Find different-but-related categories to place your articles under so they don’t compete with each other. Discuss different aspects of products and services you offer. Determine how often you will produce and post your articles. This depends on how intensely you will run your article marketing campaign. You’ll need to weigh your priorities against your normal day-to-day workload, your goals and the competitiveness of your industry.

If you’re just starting out, aim to write weekly or bi-weekly articles using the promotional campaign in Step 3 as a model. If you are an ambitious writer or blogger, step up your efforts to daily and spread your articles across the media outlets.

Marketing Tip: Since you’re writing these articles anyways, you may as well post them to your website to keep your site’s content fresh. Then place them in your online newsletter and send them to your mailing list.

Afterglow

At this point, you have enough of a blueprint to successfully manage your own article marketing campaign. Writing articles can be a fun way to promote your website and your effort, but it can also be a great way to collect your thoughts and bring greater clarity to challenges you and your audience may be facing. Use articles to entertain, educate and inspire!

In support of your efforts,
M

Social Media Gone Bad: I’ll Like Your Page, if You Like Mine

Marketing Ideas Social Media Backliking

An interesting thing happened to me the other day. In the course of performing routine search engine marketing tasks, I received a message from someone who had just “liked” one of my Facebook fan pages, Marketing Ideas 101. The message read:

“Hey, I just liked your Facebook fan page! Please like mine back!” ~ Random

Now, I don’t know about you, but every time this happens to me, I feel awkward. What if I look at this person’s page and determine it’s junk? What if it’s spammy? What if it holds little value in the world at all? The burden! The obligation! All from a single note from someone I’ve never met!

Gasp. What if I don’t like their page?

I try to bring value to my websites. I try to inject interesting content, helpful tips and a wealth of wisdom in my contributions to the Internet community.

In addition, it takes a lot to “wow” me. I’ve never just “liked,” or “followed,” or “retweeted” someone just to be nice. Oh, wait..that’s not true.

In The Beginning

In the world of search engine marketing (SEM, commonly and erroneously referred to as SEO the same way everyone insists on calling all facial tissues “Kleenex,” there is a technique referred to as “back linking.” Back linking (spelled backlinking, back linking or back-linking, depending on who you talk to) is an activity whereby you add your website to niche directories, submit articles, post videos and podcasts, post blog comments and more – all of which include one-way links back to your website.

Of course, the result is simple to guess. The more conduits leading back into your website, the more traffic you have, and the more conversions (sign-ups, comments, calls, sales, etc.,) you should receive, right? That’s the theory, in a nutshell.

Well, humans are ingenious beasts. It wasn’t long before people figured out you could swap links and accomplish similar results. Google caught on, slapped everyone, and reciprocal link campaigns lost their value.

Then came link farms, where links between sites were less direct, placing sites in a circular chain of links. Google figured that out too, mostly.

During all this, social media was blooming. Blossoming. Exploding.

One booming social channel was called Twitter. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Personally, I resisted Twitter at first. The notion of a glorified text messaging system seemed a faddish time-eater to me. As a business owner and father of four, I am busy enough as it is. Eventually, I gave in, signed up and thus began my fall from grace.

I Blame Twitter

From day one, I began to see the “if you follow me, I’ll follow you” phenomenon in Twitter. Being new to Twitter country, I took this virtual exchange with random strangers to simply be part of the Twitter culture. “This is what you do with Twitter,” I said to myself. To play the game, you must first learn the rules and I figured following random people (especially if they followed you) was how you played the game.

Occasionally, I would see a Twitter account that did not follow this pattern. Usually, this person was a celebrity, so they would have a million followers in contrast to the five people they were following. These examples were not the norm, however.

Enter Facebook

Born two years earlier than Twitter, Facebook was all about connecting friends. As time passed and dreams of monetization increased, fan pages were created. As fan pages were created, people and companies began to realize the power of “likes.” This power – similar to Twitter, whereby a broadcast became more powerful with the growing size of the fan base – was a real turn-on to anyone who understood the marketing principles of exposure and amplitude. Want to extend your reach on the most popular social network on the planet? Get more “likes.”

How do you get more “likes” you ask. Provide greater value. Increase your engagement. Maintain dialogues. Be entertaining. Be remarkable. “All that takes work, Matt!” you say. “What if we just trade ‘likes?’ That sounds easier.” True.

Welcome to “Back Liking”

I see a problem with reciprocal “like” campaigns. For one, social media is supposed to be about connection and engagement; not spamming. It’s similar to getting spam on your cellphone. Your cellphone is a very personal conduit into you, like your Facebook news feed. Who wants it junked up with spammy broadcasts and solicitations? Yuck.

Another problem with “like” reciprocity campaigns is the dilution of your “like” power. How can anyone trust you as a person of influence if you “like” 3,000 pages and many of them are junk or of little value. If you have “liked” 3,000 quality resources, that’s another matter; good for you.

Afterglow

This brings me back to my initial point. “Liking” someone back out of pure reciprocity and not from a place of belief in them or their message:

  • squanders your influence (a currency advertisers pay social networks handsomely for),
  • soils your news feed (and your attention) with posts and ads irrelevant to you, and
  • fails to reflect you and your tastes accurately.

I believe one of the best ways we can shine in the world – including the virtual world of social media – is to show integrity in our communications with others. Our daily challenge is to bring that integrity to every corner of our presence, both online and offline.

The next time someone asks you to “like” them back, make sure you can do so with a true heart and a clear conscience.

In support of your efforts,

Matt


Matt Schoenherr is a husband, father of four, marketing consultant and founder of Marketing Ideas 101. As a student, teacher and published author, Matt supports the worthy goals of service and commerce in the small business and nonprofit communities. Creative marketing ideas and marketing strategies may be found at MarketingIdeas101.com.

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Reference
Photo cropped from the work of Justin Blanton, http://hypertext.net/photos/112.

Marketing Defined Backlikingbackliking

back·lik·ing [bak-lahyk-ing]
verb, alt. back lik·ing, back-lik·ing.

1. in social media, stating public approval in return for receiving a statement of approval.
2. reciprocal approval, as opposed to a true statement of significant personal, cultural or semantic interest.

Dispelling 7 Common SEO Myths

Marketing Ideas SEO Myths
(Excerpt from Ideas Online, as seen in the Marketing Ideas Academy, Module 4, Online Marketing.)

Let us begin by dispelling a few myths about the art and science of search engine optimization (SEO).

Myth #1: If you purchase a new domain with maximum information per square inch, you’ll rank higher in the search engines.

Answer: Yes and no. Domain names are the first things a search engine looks at, so if you have the name of your product or service in your domain name, kudos to you. Google, on the other hand, uses what’s known as an “aging delay” for all new domains. This allows Google to weed out many of the fly-by-night’s and give priority to the sites that have remained staples the longest (thereby making Google a more valuable resource to those who use it.) This is just one of over a hundred metrics used by Google to ascertain where your site shows up in the search results.

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Myth #2: If you pollute your website with your targeted keywords, you’ll propel your site to the top of the search results.

Answer: Maybe. You may also be blacklisted by the search engines, causing you to plummet in rankings or disappear altogether. For months. Or years. Sound worth it?

You must strike the balance between optimizing your website for the search engines and optimizing your website for your target audience. Yes, construct your content with keywords and search engines in mind, but always write for your customer. What keywords are they going to use to find what you’re offering (read: What are they looking for?) The keywords your customers are using are the ones you want to target, so once you know those keywords, work them into your site. You will do this a number of ways:

  • Domain name (if the opportunity makes long-term business sense)
  • Your title (specific to every page)
  • Meta tags (description, keywords, et cetera, built into each page’s code)
  • Copy (your content about your, your services, ideas, etc.)
  • Your links (use descriptive links instead of “read more” or “click here”), and
  • Your image “alt” tags (which tell the search engines what the picture is)

While these are some important staples, there are still more items to consider. More about those later.

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Myth #3: Pick the top words for your keywords and stick with them, regardless of whether you ever see those keywords generate any traffic for you.

Answer: Continually refine your keywords. You must know what your customers are searching on. It doesn’t matter if you sell the best widget in the world. If your customers call your widget a thingamabob, they will never find you. Worse, they will find your competition who may make a very fine widget as well, but they refer to their widget as a thingamabob, which brings them up in the search engines in front of your prospective clients. To see what people are searching on, use keyword research tools such as the Google AdWords keyword tool (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal.) Create lists of the most relevant keywords and key phrases for your website and choose different ones to embed on each page (in the meta data and content.) The more specific you are, the more qualified your visitors will be to buy from you.

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Myth #4: We can save all this keyword optimization mumbo-jumbo until the end of our web project and just add our keywords in later.

Answer: Construct (or reconstruct) your site with your keywords in mind. Once you know what your clients are looking for, now you can ensure your site offers it in the way they would like to see it presented. For instance, if we go back to our earlier widget example, you might consider that people may be looking for a particular brand of widget, type of widget, size of widget or widget genre. The more you know about how they’re searching, the better you’ll be able to set up your site to show them what they’re looking for. When applied properly, your keywords will affect what you name your images, files and folders all across your website, so settle on them as much as possible prior to breaking ground on that big website overhaul.

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Myth #5: I made my site in Adobe Flash. It’s really killer. Whoever lands there will be really impressed.

Answer: Maybe, but they have to find you first. Back to optimizing your site for the search engines. There are certain things most search engines choke on:

  • Flash
  • Frames
  • JavaScript links and menus
  • Image maps
  • Dynamic URL’s

Search engines also can’t read graphics, so without descriptive alt tags and file names, the graphics may as well be ignored.

When search engines get caught on these things, years ago they would simply stop indexing your site and not dig any deeper. Obviously, this didn’t win you any visitors. Search engines are smarter these days and most can sniff past troublesome areas. You can certainly use these technologies on your site, however you also need to ensure a search engine can find what it’s looking for. Using text links, linking images to web pages (and using appropriate alt tags), including ror.xml and robots.txt files in your website’s home directory, and using sitemaps will help search engines make sense of your website.

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Myth #6: See? I have the same keywords at the top of all my pages. This should work, right?

Answer: Only if you’re in a very small niche or your local competition is just as lazy as you are. Make every page title unique. It’s terribly easy to use the same title for every page as you’re constructing a website. Take the extra time, however, to vary the title, meta description and meta keywords for each page. Ensuring each title is different and uses the keywords used within that page will take you further than relying upon the same title, description and keywords for every page on your website. The search engines rely heavily on page titles, so use them wisely. The title will be what the search engine presents as a link to your site (providing your site appears in the results at all.)

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Myth #7: Okay! I’ve optimized my site! I’m done! Right?

Answer: Not quite. Search engine optimization and marketing is a journey; not a destination. Even if you make it to the top of the first page in the search results, you’ll have to contend with other sites jockeying for the same position. Fostering backlinks to your website is a very important strategy for achieving search term dominance and maintaining it. How do you do this? There are a number of ways.

First, ensure people want to link to your site. If you’ve worked to make your site helpful, informative or just plain cool, you may earn the links from other websites that will increase your standing with the search engines.

What if your site is lame? Well.. it’s likely your search engine ranking will be as well. Don’t be afraid to approach other webmasters with an offer of “link reciprocity”. If your websites compliment each other, a reciprocal link campaign may be just what the doctor ordered to help drive traffic and rankings. Just be sure to link to only the best and the brightest; your links are a reflection upon you and your site to your visitors and the search engines. Other ways to grow backlinks may include social bookmarking, article marketing, news release sites, and posting your link when commenting on blog sites. All these methods need to be handled responsibly and maturely, otherwise you risk rebuke by the Internet community. Strive to provide value in whatever you post and you go a long way toward keeping your reputation in good standing.

How to Use Blog Comments to Build Backlinks

Marketing Ideas Blog Comments

When conducting search engine marketing, the quality and quantity of backlinks leading into your website provide the search engines something upon which to base your authority metric, bumping you up in the search results.

When making blog comments on sites that compliment your own, remember to mention your keywords 2-3 times, as well as your location (if pertinent.) Don’t be spammy. Make sure you are bringing value–or at the very least, validation–to the author’s blog.

Have patience: sometimes it takes a while for comments to be approved by the blog owners (if ever at all.)