by John Eberhard

At this time of year, going back for several years, I usually do an article about what we can expect from Internet marketing in the coming year.

a. Pay Per Click Advertising: PPC is still a very dominant force and very effective, though its use is pretty much limited to high ticket items because of its cost. PPC is an excellent way to drive traffic to your site on an immediate basis, and due to the excellent statistical and monitoring tools, in skilled hands it can be very effective. It’s just not viable for selling books and CDs.

b. Social Media: Social media will continue to be an important avenue in online marketing, with Facebook being the big player, then YouTube, then Twitter, then LinkedIn. I think social media is a great vehicle for marketing small businesses with limited budgets and for low cost items. A little over a year ago Facebook made changes allowing you to customize the look of your fan pages, with one screen that visitors would see before they “liked” you and a different one afterwards. MySpace really crashed in the last year in terms of usage, and was sold for peanuts, after having been the biggest thing in social media just a few years ago. With Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, the key is to get lots of friends/followers/connections, so that whatever communications you send out get seen by lots of people. Google+ is Google’s entry into the social media universe (similar to Facebook), and will start to become more popular in the coming year.

c. SEO: Search Engine Optimization has always been a vital part of website marketing and that will not change in the coming year. The term refers to doing research to find the best keywords to use, then inputting those keywords into specific places on your website, then building up links to your site from other sites around the web.

The major techniques Real Web Marketing Inc. has used for link building for the past few years have been:

  1. Submitting articles to article directories
  2. Writing press releases and submitting these to online PR sites
  3. Creating multiple blogs and posting articles and releases to these, including links back to the client’s main site

Google came out with a new algorithm update in February 2011 called “Panda,” and has come out with minor updates every couple of weeks since then. The major purpose of the update appears to be to stop people from building up links to their sites via article directories. We are still doing link building using the techniques listed above, and I am closely watching the statistics for these clients to see if Panda is defeating our efforts. The above program is still working fine as measured by statistics. But we can probably figure that sometime in the next year, the effectiveness of article marketing will diminish, and we will have to come up with another method of developing links.

d. Local SEO: I should explain that there are two significantly different approaches to SEO. It depends on whether your company is local, i.e. only delivering products or services to a specific geographical area, or regional or national. This distinction has become much more important in the last year.

For local companies, it is much more important to go for local oriented keywords, i.e. keywords that mention the city or cities where the company does business. In other words, a dentist would not try to target or rank for general keywords like “dentist” or “root canals,” because he would be competing with basically every other dentist on the face of the earth. Instead he would target keywords like “dentist Glendale” or “dentist Pasadena,” or “root canal Glendale.” You still have to do keyword research to find keywords that have traffic coming to them, because it doesn’t do any good to target a keyword and rank number one for it when nobody searches for it. If you’re in a major metro area like Los Angeles it is smart to include research on keywords relating to names of suburbs or neighborhoods.

Once you find local oriented keywords that have search traffic, you put those keywords into your site the same way as you do for national SEO. Another technique is to select the largest traffic keywords on your list and register some domain names that contain those keywords in the name. Then put up a micro-site on those domains, i.e. a small site. Make sure you don’t make that site identical to your main site as Google frowns on multiple identical sites.

Once you complete keyword research, input those keywords into your main site, and put up one or more microsites, then you still have to do link building, to get your site ranking for those keywords.

e. Local Marketing: This has been the biggest change in the last year. Google has completely changed the search landscape with the introduction of Google Maps/Places. When someone enters a search that Google determines is local in nature, they put up a map in the right hand column showing businesses near you. And then you will see listings in the left hand column related to the red dots on that map. Google keeps changing the way the listings are displayed. Right now there is a special section in the left hand column with all the Google Maps listings. Both Yahoo and Bing have introduced a similar feature.

The first thing to do is to make sure there is a listing on Google Maps/Places for your business. Google gas created thousands of listings for businesses, but not all of course. So you have to see if you have a listing and if so, claim it. If not put one up.

Then in order to get your listing to appear at or near the top, you have to put up listings (called “citations” in Google parlance) on other local listings sites, and ensure you get online reviews from your customers. So this is an ongoing action and is very important, especially in competitive industries, because getting your Google Maps/Places listing on page one of the results will drive a lot of traffic to you.

f. Email Marketing: The most effective use of email marketing today is to build up a large in-house email list by offering an email newsletter or offering other items such as white papers or special reports, then sending newsletters and other offerings to that list. Many companies neglect this completely and are leaving money on the table. Just make sure you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.

g. Blogs: I have written extensively about the effectiveness of blogs. They are one of the best things you can do, and it’s free. I have several blogs and for the last several years they have been the biggest source of traffic to my main site. But once you start a blog you have to post to it regularly for it to do any good.

h. Video: Video is a great way to effectively communicate the benefits of your products or services, and posting on YouTube and other video sharing sites can give you lots of exposure.

Best wishes for 2012 and may it be your most prosperous year ever. There is no question that the economy is affecting us all, but with smart and effective marketing we can overcome it and be successful.

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