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by Mike Moran

When my friend called me, there was a little panic in his voice. He owned a successful, customer-friendly small business, and was generally an easygoing person. But he didn't know what to do. A long-time and loyal customer alerted him to a savage review of his business on an Internet Yellow Pages site. And so now he was turning to me to find out what he could do about it.

I asked him for the details and he ruefully rela
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ted the story. When he read the review, he immediately knew who the unhappy client was, recognizing some details in the story. He told me that this client had been impossible, constantly changing her mind about what she wanted with no notice, and although he did his best to satisfy her, at the end he had to tell her that he had done all he could for what he had been paid.

Image via CrunchBase
He would have understood if she had honestly expressed her disappointment in him in the review (even though he felt she was expecting way too much), but what irked him no end was that her review attributed egregious bits of behavior to him that were completely made up from whole cloth. He had objective proof that some of her comments were lies.

This isn't an isolated case. Although most reviews are factual, and some small businesses have it coming, there's nothing stopping dissatisfied customers from responding in extreme ways. And the services that post such reviews, such as Yahoo! Yellow Pages and Yelp, don't want to be in the position of having to discern who's telling the truth, letting the "wisdom of crowds" sort things out.

So, what's a small business to do? First, treat your customers well, remembering that they have more power than you think. Encourage your happy customers to post reviews online, so that the wisdom of your crowd is in evidence--that will dilute the power of any one negative review. (Yesterday, I posted some small business social media success stories that you can emulate.) When someone posts a bad review, consider engaging that person online to try to make amends.

Unfortunately, it might require that you develop a thicker skin, because the rudeness of some online reviews might be more than you can bear. One San Francisco bookstore owner was arrested for battery after responding to a Yelp reviewer.

But that's no reason to accept outright lies. When it clearly goes beyond a difference of opinion, and you can prove you've been wronged, go to the review site and plead your case. Show them that it's a lie and ask them to remove it.

That's what my friend did, and Yahoo! Yellow Pages, to their credit, did remove the dishonest review. But my friend learned form the situation. Now, he solicits good reviews and he works harder to satisfy even the nut jobs. It's a different world out there, so make sure you know how to make your way through it.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

by Stoney deGeyter
One of the things I like to tell my clients when I'm trying to get them involved in the SEO process is that they know their business better than I do. This is true. What do I know about flow meters, motorcycle batteries, baby diapers, ski jackets or cost segregation?

An argument can be made that as soon as I take on these clients I need to learn everything I can about their industry so I can market it properly. This is also true. But no matter what, I'll never be an expert at cost segregation. Nor do I believe my clients want me to be. They want me to b
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e an expert in SEO and that takes enough of my time as it is.

And this is why clients need to be involved. I can do the keyword research, weed out the junk, and help them organize them into strongly optimization groups. But I still need the client's help telling me what's good and what's not. How am I to know that "net present value equation" is a good keyword while "net present value annuity" isn't. The client, that's how.

It would be foolish of us to barrel through an optimization campaign without seeking the client's guidance along the way. We have to rely pretty heavily on the client's expertise in many of the marketing tasks before us. Are these keywords targeted? Is this text spot-on? These are all common questions we pose to the clients before moving on to the next task.

Who's the real expert?

I found that the client isn't always the expert they think they are. So often we provide them keyword research and they just barrel through it and say, "yup, these look good." So we run with it only to have them remove those very same keywords from the text we had developed. "We don't do that," they say.

Or we send them text to approve and they say, "looks good," only to come back months later remarking that don't like how it's written. Fair enough, it deserves to be right, but couldn't they have mentioned that earlier?

These things happen and it does no good to get bent out of shape about it. Everybody makes mistakes, gets things wrong or is caught not paying close enough attention. But sometimes clients think they know more than they really do.

I recently had a client tell me that content focused on the benefits their customers get wasn't the way to go. They wanted to tout their knowledge and experience pretty much exclusively.

"It just doesn't work better, I'm sorry. I know my business. I know who my clients are. It just sounds trite and meaningless when you tell people [what the benefits are,] their eyes glaze over. The point is to undersell not oversell. This is a prestige business. People want to be treated like adults. "

The client is always right? Well, yes. Ultimately the client always gets what they want, even if it works against their best interests. You can only make your point so many times before you just have to say, "Okay, we'll do it just how you want it."

And you do it their way knowing full well that they won't like the results and will likely come back and blame you for it. I guess that's what paper trails are for! After a few more rounds of trying to share my knowledge of online marketing I was told, "I really think we just have to focus on technical stuff. I don't need help with marketing. Believe me."

I'll believe him. But will he believe me when the technical stuff isn't enough to get their site ranked for their keywords? Or if by chance we are able to get their keywords ranked without any on-page optimization and they don't see any improvement in conversions?

Follow the expert's advice

Just as SEMs (that stands for Search Engine Marketing) rely heavily on their client's to guide them through the maze of industry specific knowledge, clients must also rely on their marketer's expertise.

As far as the technical stuff goes, what's technical? Sure there is a technical side of marketing such as analytics, cleaning up junk code, researching keywords, etc., but it all goes hand in hand with the creative. Is it the technical side or creative side that determines which keywords are more likely to be better converters than the other? Is it the technical or creative side that writes search engine and user-friendly Titles and Meta Descriptions? Is it the technical or creative side that builds relationships with other sites for links?

I'm always one to compromise and look for solutions that make the client happy. I understand they come with knowledge that is valuable and we need to integrate that knowledge into what we are doing. But compromise is a two-way street. This goes back to clients who want SEO but don't want to make the changes required to SEO the site. What better way to do that than to test differing versions?

You like your version, I like mine, lets put them both out there and see what works!

The problem is sometimes clients have an ego stake in it. They feel superior in knowledge and don't want to be proven wrong. It's a shame because they are only hurting themselves.

Sometimes you just have to let go. And if you're right, hey then you've got the proof to back it up.

You don't know jack

Let's assume that SEOs don't know jack about your industry. We can also assume that most client's don't know jack about online marketing. Most clients think their audience is just like them. If they like technical details then that must be what the audience wants. If they like fluff then that's what you have to provide because nobody looks at the technical stuff. Right? Wrong.

But our audience isn't all like us. They search differently, they expect different things, and they respond differently. But there is one thing that all searchers have in common. They all want to know they landed in the right place. And if you don't show them that with your content, they're gonna bolt.

Searchers don't have time to figure out if you are going to meet their needs. Only once they know you do will they stay and read more or dig deeper. But you only have a couple of seconds to keep them interested or they move off. If at first glance they don't see their keywords on the page, they are gone.

Both SEOs and clients can learn a lot from each other. But it takes a genuine collaborative effort. Knowing your stuff isn't enough. Because you don't know jack about SEO. How do I know? Because you hired someone to do it for you.
Check out our small business news site.


by Stoney deGeyter

The only way to avoid hearing criticism is to be deaf or dead.

The only way to avoid being criticized is to never have been alive.

As history books have shown, even the dead can't escape criticism. So, those of us who are alive must simply learn to deal with it; even as we often try to avoid it.

As much as we hate it, cri

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ticism isn't all bad. Criticism, regardless of how it was intended, can help us adjust and adapt to situations. It can provide useful insight, justified or not, into our lives and give us the opportunity to become a better person.

Rarely do we enjoy hearing it, but criticism is a needed component for growth as a person.

There is an old Arab proverb that says, "if one person calls you a donkey, forget it. But if five people call you a donkey, buy a saddle."

Or, take a lesson, and perhaps try a different approach.

In most circumstances, you can freely ignore criticism coming from a single source, or perhaps a few dubious sources. But be careful about ignoring criticism from someone who knows you pretty intimately and is likely point out things that other people won't--or can't.

Regardless of the source, if you find yourself hearing similar criticisms from multiple avenues, it might be a good idea to take stock in what's being said. Failure to do so will only result in the same mistakes being made time and time again.

Of course, not all criticism is justified. Sometimes we get criticized for things that other people don't understand. Often ignorance or lack of information, combined with a healthy dose of bias, can bring someone to criticize something that they really don't get. I have recently found this to be true of myself. People just don't know the full story of what is going on in other people's lives, but they often find it easy to criticize anyway.

Preacher, Henry Ward Beecher stepped up to the pulpit one Sunday morning to deliver his sermon. As he put his bible on the pulpit there was a paper with the word "fool" written on it. He lifted the paper for the congregation to see then announced, "Generally I receive letters from people who write letters and forget to sign their name. This letter is different. The person signed his name but forgot to write the letter."

There is nothing you can do about unjustified criticism other than to let it roll off your back. Don't let it get to you, don't let it bother you or change you. But take note of what you hear; if the same criticisms keep coming up from multiple and trusted sources, then it may be justified. In which case you need to accept it, learn from it, and change what is necessary to become a better person, employee, business owner, spouse, parent, grandparent, friend, etc.

Criticism is a part of life. But, what we do with it makes us who we are.

Be sure and visit our small business news site.

by Miriam Ellis

Is there a table, a shelf, a corner of your house that starts out bare and clean, but over time, you begin setting this and that on it without much thought?
Some mail, old newspapers, a rain hat, a screwdriver, a bracelet, a dog toy...Suddenly you look at this area one day and say,"Hey, that's a whole lot
of junk. That's a mess." When it was one little thing or two little things, it was no big deal, but when those litt
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le odds and ends start adding up, you
wind up with a big, messy pile. That's the way things have been adding up with me and my frequent use of Google Maps. I've got a pile of irritations and it's
time to sort and clean them into a cathartic list, for my own health. Here we go:

1. When I am logged into Google Maps, why do you sometimes show me my reviews in a box, set apart from the rest of the reviews, and why do you sometimes not?

2. Could you please develop a different error message for times when your system is malfunctioning. I really get tired of seeing the 'we do not support that location'
error of a business when, yes, it is very much supported by you, listed, and often even owner-claimed. I feel like this error message is shown for a ton of different
bugs that have nothing to do with you not having a business listed. I encounter it constantly.

3. Why, if I want to edit a review, can I not change the stars and the content of the review at the same time? Or, at least, sometimes I can't. Suppose I had
a bad experience at restaurant, but then had a good one and wanted to update my review copy and the stars I'd initially given. It only makes sense to let
me do this all at once, rather than making me change the text, see that my change of stars is not being reflected, and then have to go back to try to alter the
stars a second time.

4. What about that 'was this review helpful' feature? What is this supposed to be for? Is it a pat on the back for me, the reviewer? I think the language of
it is confusing. Does it mean, if I see 2 People Out Of 2 People Found This Review Helpful that only 2 people have ever read my review, that 2 people
have checked the helpful box, that 2 people have checked the helpful box but 10 of them who have read my review found it unhelpful and chose that option? Do
helpful review marks take away unhelpful votes? Do they counteract each other? Do you realize that I can mark my own reviews as helpful? If I do this enough
times (theoretically speaking, of course) will you suspend my account? Is this metric supposed to help the reviewer or the person looking for reviews? Like
several of the features in Maps, this one is vague.

5. Why do my Maps-based reviews sometimes disappear? They are just gone. Then they show up again.

6. Why do I sometimes encounter listings or Place Pages that won't let me leave a review for them or add to their content in any way? What causes this?

7. Call me funny, but sometimes I like to log into my profile and look back through the growing library of reviews I've left. Why do I sometimes encounter
a bug that simply will not take me to my reviews when I click on the See All Reviews link?

8. I've saved my favorite for last, because it's something I've been asking Google for multiple years now. Why, why, why do you often not count Maps-based
reviews in the review total number shown in the highest levels of Maps data? You include, you include CitySearch, you include Yahoo. Why do you
treat your own users, who are making a special effort to use Google's review app to leave their reviews, with the least respect in this matter? This will
continue to be my top Google Maps pet peeve.

The overall question, which I haven't included in my list of 8 gripes, is why is Google Maps so bug ridden? We're just talking about little inconsistencies
and annoyances with the review portion of Maps. I dare not include the list of bugs within Maps on the whole or this post would have to have been entitled
'8 Billion Little Gripes With Google Maps'. Add to that 3,632 more gripes if all of the citizens of Rogers, MN. pipe up about the fact that their entire town has
gone missing
in Maps. No, there are just too many mistakes, errors and oddities for me to handle. What I want to know is - are there too many of
them for Google to handle? Is the reason there are bugs and problems at every level of Maps that Google bit off way more than they could chew getting
into this whole Local/Mapping thing? It feels like that to me, sometimes.

And, the strongest feeling I come away from Maps with is that it's neglected and erratic. Unsupported by customer service, remote and confusing, filled with
poorly-understood features and riddled with inconsistent performance, the apps that are Maps just do not function professionally too much of the time. Perhaps
you've noticed other review-oriented problems that have come to irritate you over time - please feel free to list them in the comments! Google should be
seeking and listening to real user feedback. Dear Google, I only gripe because I care...I think Maps has, possibly, the highest potential to be a useful Internet resource of anything published on the web. But not
without some more loving care from you. Come on, now. Doesn't Maps deserve this? I think so.


by Miriam Ellis
Friend and colleague, Matt McGee, recently published a very fine piece on getting started in SEO. For business owners new to the discipline of search engine optimization, Matt offers very good advice with the voice of experience. And, while this was the main focus of his piece, it is Matt's comment about hiring SEOs that is generating some of the liveliest feedback on his blog. Matt advises:

Don't hire anyone who contacts you first. SEO i
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s very much in demand these days. The best and most trusted companies don't need to spam you with offers of free web site analyses. Delete those emails right away.

Responses have ranged from readers explaining that they feel it's important to research and contact businesses that might be a good match for their services, to asking why SEO is any different from any other industry that might contact potential clients, to suggesting that only a prestigious SEO like Matt would be doing well enough to comfortably give this kind of advice. As it happens, I support what Matt has said, and I'd like to explain why.

Why Business Owners Shouldn't Hire Web Services Providers Who Contact Them

I'm broadening my statement to include any type of web service: SEO, website design, SEM, Local SEM, name it. If you own a business and are seeking to establish a presence or increase your visibility on the web, I would never advise you to hire a provider who contacts you first, whether via phone or email. Why not?

- Well, it's not because someone new to SEO, SEM, website design, etc. doesn't have any talent or skill. Most assuredly not.

- And it's not because cold calling or cold emailing automatically equates with spam or crooked business practices.

- And it's not even because unsolicited marketing is something that annoys so many of us.

Rather, these are my 3 reasons why hiring a web services provider who contacts you is probably not your best bet for success.

1. It's my contention, and this is borne out by the experience of so many folks I know in this business, that the majority of established web services provider's work comes through referrals from satisfied clients or colleagues or directly via searches on the web for the desired services. One of the commentors on Matt's blog suggested that cold calling is fine because the SEO may be 'hungry' (eager for work and ready to do a good job). My feeling is that hunger is only possible in the absence of established experience.

Established SEOs, Web Designers, Usability Experts, SEMs have to turn down work all the time because there is more demand than they can fulfill. I would say that a hungry SEO is one who has simply yet to establish a satisfied clientele that will refer their own friends, family and associates to him, or who has yet to establish good search engine rankings of his own that bring visitors to his website where the first contact can be made by the client. Only time is going to amass the experience a web services provider needs to be best bet for a client. When you hire someone to strengthen your presence on the web, your business' success is in their hands and I would advise that you will be better off with a firm with a track record of real past success.

2. It's important to consider additional scenarios besides the lone and hungry SEO who is cold calling business owners. Telephone marketing can also be the province of very large web services companies who have the staff to run their fingers through the YP calling every business in sight in hopes of picking up contracts. When I think about the welfare of the client, I'm not happy with this scenario either.

In my experience, business owners (especially small business owners) will be best served by forming a long term relationship with a web designer, webmaster, SEO, etc., who will know them by name and come to know their business like the back of their hand. Can you really hope to succeed on the web when you start out as an 'account', being treated like a number by a company too large to ever know you by name? I wouldn't bet on it.

I've seen one too many small business owners get burned by $9.99 website builder companies and generic PPC management offers. This scenario stands in sharp contrast to the lucky business owner who manages to hire somebody like Matt McGee to start working for the success of her business. Genuine rapport and a personal investment will develop between provider and owner and I am convinced that the business owner is going to be far better off working with someone whose chief concern is client well being rather than whether his boss will fire his tomorrow for not picking up enough new accounts.

3. I saved this for last, because I see this as applicable much of the time, but surely not all of the time. There are a heck of a lot of rotten spammers and scammers out there who very much do contact business owners with the intention of rooking them. That's just the truth and I've seen it happen. The bad guys can't rely on a hard-won reputation for providing quality services. Rather, they rely on the naivety of business owners who don't know the difference between valuable services and ripoff deals.

I will never forget a personal experience with a small business owner - a client who came to us many years ago for website design for his handmade wood toy company. We built him a small, functional, simple little site, solidly grounded in good onpage SEO practices, properly optimized for the keywords that were important to him. For one reason or another, the client lost touch with us, only to show up 6 months later pleading for help.

He had given his credit card number to an 'SEO company' who had contacted him, guaranteeing him top 10 Google rankings. Instead, they had stuffed his meta tags, turned his copy into utter nonsense and desecrated his code and run up unapproved charges on his card...and continued to charge his credit card after he had told them they were very much fired. We went in and did damage control on the site, but I still wish the owner had thought to contact us first before handing over the keys to these crooks. Really frustrating.

When a stranger calls or emails you offering you something, please remember that you have no idea who this person is, where they are or what they are up to. I'd love to live in a world where I could trust everyone's word at face value, but that's just not the way things are. The health of your business' web presence is far too important to automatically trust to a person who falls from the sky into your life. If you needed to take the most important person in your life to an exceptional restaurant for an incredibly special occasion, chances are, you'd ask your friends for recommendations on the very best eating place in town. Surely, your success on the web deserves equal thought and care.

The bottom line here is that you should ask your circle of friends and colleagues for referrals when it's time to hire an SEO, a website designer or marketer. You should visit multiple websites, look at testimonials for credibility, read blogs, visit top industry forums and social media sites to see who is spoken well of and plan to have a real heart-to-heart talk with the person or team you're considering hiring to see if you can really work with them. If you own the business, the effort needs to be on your part to make that first connection, based upon your research and good sense.

It's No Shame To Be New
So where does this leave those new to the various web-based work fields? How are you supposed to build up this circle of colleagues who will gladly refer to you, this valued pool of clients who so love what you did for them that they will recommend you to their best friend, this mass of web citations that refer to you as an expert and a good guy?

My advice here is simple. You already know a lot of people. Palore recently estimated that only 1/2 of the small businesses in America currently have websites. This means that some of your friends who run businesses almost assuredly have no website, have never engaged in SEO, Local Search Marketing, PPC or any other web-based efforts. These people can be your first clients, pro bono or at a very modest fee that is commensurate with your present lack of experience. Don't quit your day job until your aunt refers you to her hairdresser...someone you don't know but who is about to become your client via referral. When you reach this stage, when you've started to build up that gorgeous page of totally legitimate testimonials from business owners in whose lives you've made a real difference, you are headed for success.

And, while you're working for little or no money, make the smart move of identifying where the very best conversations are happening in your industry. Start participating. Ask questions. Offer help when you can. Don't try to wear bigger boots than you actually own. There is absolutely no shame in being new and there is a ton of room in all the web-based specialties for hard-working, decent, honest, committed people who want to acquire skills and put them to use for others.

I found Matt McGee's article to be an excellent starting point for thought and discussion, not just about getting started on the web as a business owner, but getting started as the owner of a web services business. Like any other industry in the world, achieving success and maintaining it is going to take time and a lot of hard work. There will be cases and places in which advertising, marketing and maybe even contacting interesting businesses now and again may be indicated, but solidity will best be built on establishing a name for yourself in the business world that makes clients come to you. Think of how proud you will feel achieving this. It's a worthy goal!


Flickr Photo Credit
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by Elise Phillips Image Forward of Tampa, Florida has been hired by the largest international home care company as their internet marketing group. Image Forwards Business Internet Promotion Experts have been selected to provide internet marketing and advertising for Home Instead Home Health Care, an international franchise which provides elderly care and elderly companionship for seniors. Image Forward will enhance the internet presence of the Home Instead Home Health Care franchise network.
by Stoney deGeyter
In the first six parts of this series we asked questions related to in-sourcing your search marketing efforts. Specific areas addressed were for those considering doing SEO themselves, subbing out SEO to another person, and hiring an in-house SEO
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> with and without SEO experience. In Part V we addressed issues of outsourcing your SEO campaign completely, asking questions regarding related to hiring an SEO consultant vs. hiring an full-fledged SEO firm.

In this installment we move into the realm of pricing and asking questions related to costs versus return on investment. When outsourcing your SEO to a firm or consultant it becomes a bit more difficult to control costs than it does when you hire-in house. But that's not to suggest that cost cannot be controlled and you cannot get a return on investment. It's all a matter of knowing how to manage the campaign, expectations and the budget that goes along with it.

Question 48: How much should search marketing cost? While this is every bit a legitimate question, it is also like asking "How much should a car cost?" The answer varies a great deal and there are many factors involved in coming to any conclusions. A few things that will be a factor in pricing is the quality of the firm or contractor you're hiring, their years of (combined) experience, difficulty in the project, expected results, and of course the actual services that will be performed.

Question 49: What should be included in my campaign? Ultimately it comes down to whatever you agree to. Any firm analyzing your account should have a general idea of what will be needed over the course of the next several months. However in many cases the initial assessment will only represent a piece of the overall campaign needs. While a good site audit can pinpoint the most obvious needs, many won't be able to be uncovered until the SEO is actually in the site and working through problems. New issues present themselves as other issues are fixed, new determinations are made based on site performance, and there is generally an ongoing analysis to help uncover other areas of weakness that can be patched. Often times these "unexpected" issues are considered the norm and for the most part will be covered by the optimization contract. There are instances, however, when issues arise that go above and beyond the scope of the contract.

Question 50: What should not be included in my campaign? SEO campaigns are not all created equal. What works (or is necessary) for on site won't always work (or be necessary) for another. While there are some universals that must be included in most SEO campaigns, there are many elements that will need to be determined based on the type of site, its history, and particular areas of need. When assessing a contract for services feel free to ask questions about the intended strategy as well as necessity of any given area of focus.

Question 51: What will my payment plan? There are a lot of different payment plan options and you'll simply have to find the firm that provides what you want with the payment plan you are happy with. Some variations are to pay based on performance, pay based on actual hours invested, or to pay based on a flat monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual fee. Any of these payment structures may or may not include an up-front set-up fee with a commitment period of a certain length of time.

Question 52: Will I get the return on my investment? This is the ultimate goal of every marketing campaign, whether it be online or off-line. The sad truth is, not every marketing campaign is successful every time. With SEO the return on investment often doesn't come for several months, and sometimes as long as a year or more. Competition largely plays a role in this as the more competitive the industry the more SEOs tend to charge. And with greater competition the time frame to "success" is often much longer as well. You should never enter into an SEO agreement without an expectation of success in terms of getting your return on investment, but neither should you have unreasonable expectations in how soon that return will be realized.

Question 53: How soon should I expect to see results? Quickness of results varies by site, industry and investment. If the SEO is working with a brand new site then results will often take longer than an established site that can benefit greatly from just a few tweaks. The amount of your investment can also play a big role in how quickly you can see results. If you're investment is minimal and you're up against sites investing five to ten times as much as you in their online marketing campaigns, then you've got a long (if not impossible) road ahead of you. Even if you match your competitor's investment coming from behind is very difficult. Knowing the competitive landscape around you, the work being done both for you and your competitors, and how much investment is being made can help provide you with a decent predictor of how much time it will be until your SEO campaign becomes a success.

Question 54: What kind of results should I expect? This is somethign that should be discussed with your SEO before signing your contract. While its near impossible to make predictions on what will happen, you can get an overall sense of what you can expect and when. Most importantly, however, is knowing what kind of results you should look for. Are you looking at rankings, traffic, sales or ROI? If you expect "success" in rankings then you may tend to ignore the increase in sales because rankings are not where you think they should be. The area of expected results should be discussed ahead of time so the SEO knows exactly what you're looking for.

Costs and return on investment are two of the most critical aspects before engaging in any SEO campaign. But when it comes down to it, cost should not really be a factor. If the SEO campaign proves to be successful in giving you your return on initial investment and a healthy profit beyond that, cost becomes irrelevant. If you knew every dollar you spent would reap $2 in profit, then your profit would be limited to how much you were willing to invest. Unfortunately, the math never breaks down that easy and we often don't have the initial $1 to spend indefinitely until we can start getting our $2 in returns. Discussing the costs and expectations with your SEO firm will help you plan for the future both financially and in terms of how to handle the business that will be coming your way.

In the next installment in this series we'll talk about how much control you'll have to give up over your site and how much involvement you'll have throughout the process.

See Questions 1-11
See Questions 12-17
See Questions 18-24
See Questions 25-32
See Questions 33-40
See Questions 41-47

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by Mike Moran
Image by horizontal.integration via Flickr

I'm sometimes asked this question, usually by someone savvy in search marketing. After all, it's expensive to create and optimize pages for search, so you'd want to amortize that investment over as many keywords as possible right? Actually, no. The number of organic search keywords I recommend you target per page is one.

Surprised? A lot of people are, and I admit to perhaps
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being more extreme than some on this issue. Still, I will stick to this advice because I think it's the right way to approach the problem, even if you end up compromising later.

Now, understand, it's not possible for you to optimize for one keyword without having other words on the page. I'm not advocating pages that contain one word, but I am advising you to have one primary focus on the page, one concept that the page is about.

Of course, sometimes you have two words that mean absolutely the same thing. If you are trying to optimize the same page for "certified public accountant" and "CPA" then I have no issue with that--essentially they are the same word. I might also be talked into sharing landing pages between "sofa" and "couch" if you really think there is no distinction in the searchers. Obviously doing so saves time.

But if you told me that you think that people who type in "CPA" are more sophisticated than those that type in "certified public accountant" and that you want to target different types of messages to those two groups, I wouldn't fight you over having two distinct pages for those audiences.

I know it would be fantastic if you could use the same page as the search landing page for "CPA" and "certified public accountant" and "tax accountant" and "tax services" and "Income tax filing" but it won't work. Even though those concepts are related to each other, you're not going to get the number one result in Google with that approach. You won't have the absolute best page if you are all over the map.

It's fine for you to use all those phrases on the same page. It's also fine for you make some of those phrases secondary targets, and there are situations, when keywords are not highly competitive, when the same page will be #1 for multiple terms. It happens.

But your best approach is to think of highly targeted pages with a single primary goal. You don't need to avoid talking about those other concepts on the page as long as they fit into your primary concept. But you shouldn't think of pages as a catch-all where you can optimize for several concepts at once--that usually results in confusing the search engine about the purpose of the page, lowering its ranking.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "This means I will have to create a LOT of landing pages." Bingo.

I know it's a lot of work. I know that you'd rather find a shortcut. I understand that you don't have time to do this much work. So, start with the ones that are the absolute best matches for your site and move on from there. Every week, do a couple more. You gradually cover more and more of your target markets, because that's what keywords are.

Not everyone agrees with me. Lots of smart people believe that you can target multiple keywords on each page easily. I think it's not so easy, and that you are better off targeting one keyword and finding yourself lucky that sometimes you get another one along for the ride, rather than trying to target several and finding you get none.

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Keywords help your Google rating, but not if you abuse them.One of the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is keyword use. When used properly, keywords move your site up Google's results pages. However, Google's search engine moves sites down the list when they overuse keywords. Recent Article published on 8/9/2010 by Sara Williams


by Stoney deGeyter

One of the most important things business owners often fail to do is to make their website remarkable. It really doesn't matter what industry you're in or how many other websites you're competing against, making your site stand out from the pack is absolutely essential.

Take the movie Avatar.

Plot: Tired.

Story: Been

Read More
there, done that.

Acting and directing: Nothing special.

Special affects: Absolutely outstanding.

Worthy of a "Best Picture" nomination: Not by a long shot.

Worthy of a "Best Special Affects" Oscar: Without a doubt.

Nonsense. You're only saying that because no one ever has.So, how is it that a story we have all seen played out in 100 different movies and "message" Star Trek episodes turns into one of the most popular movies of all time? It's because James Cameron took a great heaping pile of "Meh.", and made it all, "Oooh, shiny!". It's uniqueness overshadowed the complete and total hollowness of everything else on the screen.

A lot of business owners out there feel that their business is just the same old, same old. Nothing special there. But in reality, they can take what they are doing and turn it into something remarkable. And the easiest way to do that is through the content.

A vast majority of internet searches are informational. That means people are not looking for your products or services, they are looking for information about them. They want to learn something new. And, you can be the one to give it to them.

The key to creating unique content that searchers are looking for is keyword research. Let your keyword research become your idea generator for blog posts, articles, e-books, and whatever else strikes your fancy.

When perusing your keyword research here are a few things to look for:

Easy to Rank Phrases: When looking for good traffic, you can always start with phrases that have little or no competition. Find queries that match what you provide that others have not yet optimized for. This gives you a chance to build up some rankings and traffic for good (yet lower traffic) phrases. You can immediately start siphoning off traffic from your competitors and start building a loyal audience that will keep coming back.

Niche Areas: Look for an area within your industry that your competitors are not covering or not covering very well. Find obscure topics that people are interested in, but, after conducting a few searches of your own, show that the available content on the web isn't sufficient. This creates an opportunity for you to fill in the gaps and create authoritative information of your own.

Niche Areas, Easy to Rank Phrases, Highly Targeted Keywords, Info QueriesHighly Targeted Phrases: These are long-tail phrases that are very targeted for your audience, addressing specific areas of interest. Highly targeted phrases are generally pretty easy to get ranked but they also bring in an audience that has a very specific need. Write information that targets these searchers by providing new information, a new spin, a new take on, or a new way of looking at things.

Info Queries: These often fit into the categories above, but are queries performed by people looking for information and nothing else. They are typically the queries with a question that answers questions, such as "how to..." or "what is...". These queries provide a great opportunity to provide content beyond simple text. "How to" videos, diagrams, flash animations, and podcasts are all great ways to provide this type of content in a way that people find valuable. Telling someone how to do something is great, but showing them how to do it is even better.

Just because you are providing a product or service that someone else is, that doesn't mean you have to provide content that someone else has. There are plenty of ways to step outside of the box and provide valuable information that nobody else is providing. Look for these opportunities, and take advantage of them . . . before someone else does.

Inconceivable ContentThis post was inspired from The Princess Bride themed presentation I gave in early 2010 at SEMpdx's Searchfest titled Inconceivable Content: The Dread Pirate Robert's Guide to Creating Swashbuckling Content, Pillaging the Search Engines, and Commandeering a Treasure Trove of Conversions. If you enjoyed this post you also might enjoy other posts inspired from the same. Search for "inconceivable content" on this blog to find them all.

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