Author: Lisa Barone
In just the blink of an eye it will be 2012. And with that comes the opportunity for us to focus in on the hottest trends of the upcoming New Year, and maybe even those that eluded us in years prior. While you’re putting the finishing touches on your action plan for 2012, let’s dig into some of the hot Internet trends for SMBs to watch over the next 12 months. After all, you want to kick off the New Year on the right foot, don’t you?
Of course you do.
It was during November’s PubCon Vegas show that distinguished Google engineer Matt Cutts stood in front of a packed room and encouraged search marketers to focus on three areas over the next year:
While these areas were certainly hot in 2011, the data shows they’re only going to heat up from here.
The year 2011 saw a 400 percent increase in the number of mobile searches, with 74 percent of people using their mobile phones to search while running errands. For Black Friday this year we even saw advertisers attempting to lure customers away and steal competitor sales while they were waiting on line to make a purchase, as The New York Times reports.
Piggybacking off the explosion of mobile are social networks trying to get in on the action. Mashable reports Facebook just bought Gowalla’s management team to help them tie proximity to intent, while SearchEngineLand reports FourSquare recently released the new FourSquare button to add your place to their ToDo lists to help customers find you before they even realized a need was there. It’s awareness through relevance and, if you’re a small business owner, it’s a fantastic way to appeal to new customers.
In the face of the SoLoMo revolution, SMBs must not only adapt to new screens but also to new ways of reaching customers.
Using Online Reviews As Social Signals
Focusing on online reviews is not new, but in 2012 its continued importance will be driven by two impressive factors.
1. A Shift in Buying Behaviors: A study from NM Incite showed us that 63 percent of social media users list “consumer ratings” as their preferred source for getting information about a business, product or service. Data shared by Gregg Stewart during March’s SMX West event told us that 32 percent of all searches expect to find ratings and review information. And when they don’t, they wonder:
- Why aren’t you visible in search?
- Why aren’t people naturally reviewing your product/service?
- Why has no one used you before?
- Why don’t others trust you?
Once they’re done with the “why” questions, they simply go search for a business that does have this information available. They go to your competitor.
2. Social Brings Accountability: It’s not just consumers who love online reviews; so does Google. Google looks at reviews as just one of many social signals that will bring accountability back into their algorithm. Google is so serious about accountability and social signals that they even built a new social network around it called Google+. Here consumers are forced to interact on the Web using their real names and identities. That changes the types of interactions that are taking place. Search engines want to return the best possible experience, and an increased focus on social signals is one way they’re looking to do that.
The combination of users looking for this type of social data and Google wanting to display it is a clear sign that SMBs need to invest in this area. In 2012, the SMBs that will be left behind will the ones who have not developed a strategy for how they’ll solicit online reviews, how they’ll manage them, and how they will respond to negative reviews that pop up around their businesses.
A Move Into the Cloud
Cloud computing alternatives will continue to go mainstream in the upcoming year, RingCentral says, as SMBs look to save money and gain access to resources they wouldn’t have otherwise. If you’re not familiar with the term, cloud computing refers to using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store and manage data instead of hosting it on your local server.
For example, instead of hosting your email on your personal computer, if you use Gmail, they host it for you. Or maybe you use DropBox to store your media instead of putting it on a local server at your office. The benefits of moving into the cloud are obvious:
- Low barrier to entry: All you need is an Internet connection to take advantage of most cloud computing options.
- More accessibility: You can log in and edit your data from anywhere.
- Easier scalability: You can add storage or licenses as your company grows and as you need them.
- Reduced costs: You’re only paying for what you use and you are responsible for none of the overhead.
Through the use of cloud computing, SMBs can run their businesses more smoothly thanks to established infrastructure they don’t have to build (or pay for) on their own.
Of course, moving into the cloud does pose some issues. For example, check out the next big trend for 2012…
Yes, with more businesses using Web-based services and with hackers shifting their attacks to smaller firms, site security is a major issues for SMBs in 2012. Hackers are setting their eyes on small computer users who they know will have weaker security systems in place and who, The Huffington Post reports, still think hacking can’t happen to them.
Only it can. And it is.
If you think your SMB is safe from hacking because you have nothing “worth stealing,” think again. Even a local pizza joint that delivers will have access to tens of dozens, maybe hundreds, of street addresses and credit card numbers. And that’s all the hackers are after. Protect yourself by putting basic security measures in place like changing default passwords often, setting up strong firewalls, and not falling prey to the kinds of phishing scams or malicious emails that Security News reports.
Going App Crazy
What else has the proliferation of smart phones done besides make us all mobile-crazy? It’s also driven us app crazy. And it’s not just Facebook, Twitter and Angry Birds, either. We’re turning to apps to help us run our businesses and be more efficient and, we hope, more profitable.
- Apps like Shoeboxed and Expensify help SMBs keep track of purchase history and create expense reports.
- Quickbooks Mobile (Android, iPhone) and Freshbooks MiniBooks help SMBs create invoices, access customer data and manage balances while away from their computer.
- Payment processing apps like Square or Intuit’s Go Payment make sales easier, allowing business owners to accept payments on the go.
- The Iconosys Tax Deduction Tracker allows a business owner to document tax-deductible items in real time.
The adoption of business applications will allow SMBs to streamline tasks and do more faster and easier.
Those are the five hot Internet trends I think small business owners should be aware of in 2012. Are you ready?
For the original article go to: http://smallbiztrends.com/2011/12/2012-internet-marketing-trends.html
Author: Ken Mueller
The other day I was sitting in a client’s office for a meeting when they got a phone call. The person who answered listened, then looked at her boss (my client) and said:
“Do we want to be on the front page of Google and Bing?”
Without missing a beat, my client replied:
Now, it’s not that my client doesn’t want to be on the “front page of Google”. It’s that she understands that this is basically, at worst, a scam, and at best, empty promises.
You may have even gotten one of these calls. They often ask you if you want to be on the “first page” or “front page” of Google, and in some cases I’ve heard them say,
“There’s an opening on the first page of Google, are you interested?”
as if slots open up and it’s there job to help fit you in.
If you get these calls, I hope you’ll run the other way. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Here’s why you need to steer clear:
1. There IS no first or “front page” of Google – It’s not a newspaper or magazine. It is a search engine that is constantly changing. Every search you do comes up with a different front page. In fact, you and I could do the same exact search on our own computers and come up with different results. We could even be sitting right next to each other and might get different results for the same search.
Why? Because Google and others are doing their best to make your searches personal. Their ever-changing algorithm is increasingly taking a number of personal factors into consideration. These include: your location, your social graph/networks, and your personal search history, among other things.
You might not like this, but Google knows a lot about you, and they use that information to help improve your searches. They know where you are, who your friends are, and what your search history is. These all come in to play.
2. There is ALWAYS space free on the first page – Search engine optimization is not a once and done thing. It’s an ever changing process. Every spot on EVERY page is always up for grabs. Do any search. What you see in the top slot is there for a reason, but do that same search tomorrow, and you might see a different order in the top slots. There is a space free on the first page of Google and Bing. There is ALWAYS a space free as it is always changing, as is the algorithm. Google, Bing, and the others don’t slot special spaces just for you. It’s all part of that very complicated, and ever changing, algorithm I’ve mentioned.
3. What keywords will they use? – In many business categories there are a variety of keywords that are used to find your business. If you’re a plumber in my area, the most likely keywords might be things like “Plumbers Lancaster PA” or some variation. That’s how I would look for a plumber. Because of that, some key words are higher volume than others, and those are the keywords for which it is harder to get a high rank. If most people search by “Plumbers Lancaster PA”, then those are the best terms for which to rank, but also the most difficult. On the other hand, you might be able to guarantee a high ranking for “My toilet is clogged in Lancaster PA”, but then again, how many people search for plumbers that way.
The point of this is that if they are promising top ranking for keywords that no one uses…you’re not getting anything. And if they are promising top ranking for the most used, heavy volume keywords? Too good to be true.
4. Define “guaranteed” – What’s the guarantee, and will you get it in writing? The only guarantees that will work for me are:
- We guarantee top ranking for YOUR chosen keywords, or your money back, or
- We guarantee top ranking for YOUR chosen keywords, or you don’t have to pay us.
Other than that, run away.
5. WHERE will I be on the “front page” of Google? – Locally? Regionally? Nationally? Globally? In my market or someone else’s? I happen to focus mostly on doing well in my local area and region. I know that to rank really high on a national level is out of my reach. You want to rank high in the right places. If you are a plumber in Lancaster, PA, ranking high in Lancaster, CA does you no good.
6. Where do you show up now? – Perhaps you’re already doing well and just need to maintain. I’ve seen cases where a good website that was performing well was scrapped for a less than stellar site and started falling in the search engine results. All because someone told the business owner that they could be doing better and the owner bought it. Quite often the people offering these guarantees haven’t taken the time to do their homework.
7. Organic or PPC? – Are you paying them to get solid organic placement or advertising placement in something like Google Ad Words? Organic placement is much better, but also much more difficult. Or are they merely going to charge you to get those pay per click placements at the top and in the right sidebar? And if it’s PPC, how much will it cost you, and again, for which keywords? PPC is not SEO, even though a lot of practitioners do both.
So what should you do?
There are reputable SEO folks out there who can work with you to optimize your site in a variety of areas, including title tags, content, etc. And then there are others who will cut corners and do things which can actually hurt your rankings and get you banned. These type of “black hat” tactics can happen on both a small scale on the local level, or even on a larger scale on a national level, as J.C. Penney’s found out earlier this year.
But don’t be taken in. When you get that phone call, either hang up, or ask the tough questions. Either way, be careful.
For the original article go to: http://bit.ly/nlYQxD
If search engines can decide to trust links or social accounts, can they learn to trust web sites? Sure, and many SEOs believe that site trust plays a big role in whether a site will succeed or fail with search engine rankings.
Is your site an authority? Is it widely recognized as outstanding in its field, area, business or in some other way? That what you’re aiming for.
No one knows exactly how search engines calculate authority and, in fact, there are probably multiple “authority” signals that are tracked. The type of links your site receives (lots of quality?) or social references (from respected accounts?) and engagement metrics may all factor in. Negative review might also hurt, as covered below:
But there’s little doubt that search engines do try to assess an overall authority figure. Just look through the questions that Google told publishers to ask themselves in May 2011, if they were hit by the “Panda” update. Trust, authority, expertise all come up:
Since search engines are constantly visiting your web site, they can get a sense of what’s “normal” or how you’ve behaved over time. Are you suddenly linking out to what the search engines euphemistically call “bad neighborhoods?” Are you publishing content about a topic you haven’t typically covered? Such things might raise alarm bells.
Then again, sites do change just like people do, and often for the better. Changes aren’t taken in isolation; other factors are also assessed to determine if something worrisome has happened.
In the end, a good overall track record may help you. An older, established site may find it can keep cruising along with search success, while a new site may have to “pay its dues,” so to speak, for weeks, months or even longer to gain its own respect.
For the original article go to: http://searchengineland.com/seotable/trust-authority-search-rankings