Online Marketing Articles, covering B2B, B2C, email marketing, search engine marketing and more.

21 Hot Online Marketing Articles

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It’s Friday night and I thought I’d drop this little Online Marketing Article Roundup into the mix…

One morning this past week, like most mornings, my Inbox was busting at the seams with Online Marketing newsletters, articles, tips, guides and so on.

It’s rare that I have the time to read them, letting my Outlook Filters, Rules and Alerts do their organizing tricks. Of course, with the intention of visiting them at some point in the near future.

But last night, after I finished teaching my Kung Fu class, I opened a few of them and found some interesting reads.

21 Online Marketing Articles to Read Today

We’ve got 6 SEO Articles, 4 Google Articles, 6 Social Media Articles, 3 User Experience (UX) Articles, and 2 WordPress Articles. There may even a Bonus Article at the bottom!

SEO

Google

Google

Social Media

Social Media

User Experience

User Experience

WordPress

WordPress

Bonus

Bonus

Big Data = Little People

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Big Data

Wikipedia will tell you that Big Data "is a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications".

Online Marketers have jumped all over this (not-so-new) Big Data concept, buzzword and hype. Why? Well it’s fairly obvious. Data = Information and Information = Power. But beyond that, it’s what we use in Marketing; email lists, social media profiles, analytics, CRM (Customer / Client Relationship Management), and many other things are opportunities to fine-tune our message, our audience, our websites, our understanding…

There are blatant advantages in having access to deep data in marketing. However, there is also the innate potential that is not so good; and it is happening right now.

Just look at the recent hot trend of Infographics. During 2011 – 2013, I have seen so many of them, but now we are seeing fewer and fewer as it’s become saturated (Marketers and saturation in the same sentence? Say it ain’t so… 😛), over-hyped, over-used, mis-used and just plain tired.

But think for a moment why they popped up in the first place. Unless you’re an Accountant or someone who just gets overly-excited by seeing a gazillion numbers in a spreadsheet, which I doubt, then you need a way to visualize the information being thrown your way.

I’m searching for employment. So I’m looking at Job Boards, LinkedIn, classifieds, blogs – you name it – but basically I am reading a whole lot of Job Descriptions. And I learn a lot from this activity, besides merely collecting Big Data:

  • What the hiring trends are
  • What recruiters, hiring managers and HR Pros believe certain technologies, buzzwords and more mean
  • What these people believe are best practices
  • What they feel is good experience or knowledge to fulfill these roles are
  • What the best KPI (Key Performance Indicators) are
  • What the latest trend, tool, methodology, etc. is and how important it is to them
  • And much more

For the most part, what I learn is both disappointing (as someone fairly knowledgeable in the field) and frustrating (as someone looking to fill these roles). For example, I see many companies with e-commerce websites who want Online Marketers or SEO Pros to specifically have X years in Retail. This tells me that they really do not understand what is involved in these areas; yes – understanding the retail holiday shopping calendar is important – but this is common "marketing" knowledge; yes we need to understand taxes, shipping, etc. and again – this is "marketing" knowledge. Or how about the ads that say they want a Front-End Developer (and this always kills me), yet the Job Requirements list a host of Server-Side Languages. And a bit more relevant…Social Media Marketer needs to be expert in analytics, CRM, CMS, (Content Management System) jQuery and other completely irrelevant things…

Another area of example is the last item in that list up there – the "Latest & Greatest" craze. People listen to podcasts, read blogs and other media, attend conferences, etc. and hear about the hottest new thing. And they gobble it up. This piece of "Big Data" would be called Early Adopters.

Those rare good Marketing Managers source and read a whole lotta Case Studies. And this is a good thing. I, for one, love Case Studies. They help you learn, help you sell, help you win. Often. However…These two things go hand-in-hand more often than not: Latest & Greatest + Case Studies. Take a look at it and think for a minute – Twitter comes out – everybody loves it – it’s the coolest ever! All sorts of studies, all sorts of best practices, all sorts of new tools and methodologies. And then there is our earlier example of Infographics. But look at it today – yes all that stuff is still out there. But now we realize it may not be for everybody. We realize that it takes some sort of magic to have decent ROI (Return On Investment) in its use. Or does it?

You are doing it wrong

Bad Big Data?

So am I saying Big Data, Data Visualization, Case Studies, Social Media, Actionable Data and all the other goodies are bad? Definitely not. However I am saying something similar to a recently popular Facebook meme. You’ve seen them – funny photos with a specific quote – for example the picture of a bus in NYC, where the front LED sign says something like "Moon" and the quote says something like "Go Home bus, You’re Drunk" or "You’re Doing it Wrong". Yep – that’s what I want to say to a whole lot of folks out there – you’re doing it wrong.

Yeah, yeah, I know – Who am I to say such a thing? How Dare I? And so on. But hear me out.

Although I have been feeling this way for quite a while now, it wasn’t until recently when I began re-reading (for like the 10th time) a certain collaborative work that hoped to give a clue to these very people. Reading it for the tenth time should tell you something:

  1. It’s an older work, and more importantly
  2. It’s valuable and still relevant

That last piece is the most bothersome. It’s a very popular work – many people have read it, thought they understood it and implemented it in the way they understood it. And that’s where I have to say yet again You Totally Missed the Boat, Missed the Point; in short – You’re Doing It Wrong.

So get on your thinking caps and take off your PR Magical Buzzwords from the Big Data Boss Hats and let’s get cracking!

Listen to Market

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Listen

Listen to Market

It still surprises me how many people, businesses, big brands and even agencies miss this extremely important yet basic concept: Listen to Market.

Yes it’s a double entendre; a play on words, if you will.

You need to listen in order to market and you must also listen to your market.

These concepts seem so common sense that it almost feels ridiculous to point them out, however… These concepts are often not being utilized by many businesses.

From targeting irrelevant keywords to being unaware of waves of negative online reputation, the list of examples go on and on.

Yes, you’re in business to make money. But does the money you receive just come a poppin out of Narnia via wardrobe? Or is there…Hmmm…another entity that gets a minus where you get a plus?

Getting the hint? You actually have to pay some attention to your customers. You have to know your audience. You have to listen to your ideal market.

Ideal customer personas. Target markets. Social Media. Comments. Buzz. Conversations. Relevance. Solutions. Trust. And many others.

These things had better be more than just a trumped up list of buzz terms in your business strategy and methodology.

Listen to Market.

Quality vs. Quantity

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Quality vs. Quantity

Quality vs. Quantity

Which is better?

If you know me at all, you’ll bet I choose Quality; and you’d be right – every time.

Consider all of the times you’ve dealt with Customer Service for a large company. Out of all the interactions you had, what percentage of them were pretty awesome? I’m going to take a stab and say that it’s a very low number.

So if you have a bad experience, what do you do? Perhaps you complain. And do the companies care? Do they actually do anything about it?

Think now about the "Occupy *blank*" movements. Quite literally, hundreds of thousands of people around the world have complained to governments and big business to change their ways. And what positive change has that brought about?

Now head over to oDesk.com. Do a search for an SEO project or long term job. Look at the rates being bid upon, look at the average rate the employer pays; it’s pennies on the dollar.

Go to LinkedIn.com. Look at the discussions in an SEO group – if the group manager is slack (like most are), then you’ll see the majority of "discussions" are mainly spam. Get bold and become a manager of a group like I did. Delete those topics, send warning posts, delete shady members and…it never stops – they don’t get the message nor care.

Or how about reporting Spam email messages. Does it stop them?

Why Quality is so-often overlooked in favor of Quantity

So why, in all of these examples, and countless others, does nothing positive happen?

Because the world is obsessed with Quantity over Quality. Why on earth should they care about dissatisfaction from a relatively small number of complaintants when the potential opportunities or the non-complainers occupy a much higher number?

And then there is the appearance of the ever-decreasing natural resource: TIME. People feel they have less and less of it – so they need to make those efforts multi-faceted and cover as much ground as necessary in as little time as possible.

Think About It

What would happen if

  • At a restaurant, your waiter buzzed from table to table, getting orders incorrect, not clearing your dishes til after you left, not re-flling your drinks, etc.?
  • You practice a martial arts technique 10,000 times without focusing on proper execution, power, speed, timing, relaxation, application, body structure & alignment, footwork, etc.?
  • You have several job interviews planned in one day and cut each employer short because you’re going to be late to the next one?
  • As a student, you blaze through all required reading assignments and remember nothing from them?
  • Your legs and ribs are broken from an automobile accident, where a driver didn’t have time for pesky stop lights?
  • You spent tens of thousands of dollars in the hottest new automated marketing delivery software and yet…you have a .07% ROI?
  • After your father dies in the hospital due to malpractice, the judge says "Well, 1 out of 10,000 isn’t bad at all"?
  • People used the bathroom without wiping (it takes up too much time)?

Now let’s look at the flip-side. What would happen if

  • Your waiter did their job amazingly well, was conversational, cleared dishes on time, did not seem rushed, smiled, apologized for any mistakes, etc.,?
  • You practice said martial arts technique perfectly, paying attention to all important details, perhaps even focusing on one aspect at a time?
  • During rush hour traffic, someone paused and waved you into the line of traffic?
  • A brand actually responds conversationaly to you after you left a comment on one of their Facebook posts?

Quality Does Matter

You get the point. And the point is Quality DOES Matter!

This has HUGE effects on not only life in so many different aspects, but more specifically to Online Marketing and SEO as well.

THINK before you blast out 500k email marketing campaigns – did you really create your customer personas? Did you really select all the relevant criteria when creating that query of your CRM or database? Are you really sending the email at the right time to the right people? Does your offer really stand out?

THINK before you engage in another mad-genius Social Marketing effort of blasting links, Tweets, blog posts, re-sharing etc., nearly a hundred times a day. Do your customers or potentials really want or need your stuff in their faces that frequently?

THINK before you post a project on oDesk and accept a bid at $2 per hour or some other ridiculous thing (I was personally just approached about an Online Marketing & SEO Manager role, paying $16 per hour – and the average Costco employee makes $17 per hour…get a clue)

THINK before you send out the fifth touch-point email to a potential customer in a month

THINK before you release your Customer Service reps into the wild – Do they really understand the processes enough that they can Converse with the Customer?

And THINK before you enter into some sort of Link Scheme.

In short, Quantity over Quality is the way of the World. In some instances, this is necessary, for example direct sales (those who don’t understand the difference between Sales and Marketing drive me up the wall, by the way). Yet in most other circumstances, it’s a horrible trend that rarely produces anything resembling a positive experience for either party.

Think about it. And feel free to leave your comments.

Htaccess – Your Guide to Control

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htaccess

Control

Htaccess is just the file we need in today’s world of Content Management Systems (CMS), CPanels, plug-ins, applications and the like. Yet many people rarely encounter this old-world text file.

In general, .htaccess works on servers with the Apache Web Server set-up, but there are work-around tools etc. for others. With that said, let’s dive in to the nitty-gritty.

.htaccess – what is it?

To see if you already have an .htaccess file, open up your website in your favorite ftp program, file manager, etc. and look at the root folder; you should see it there.

This powerful control mechanism is simply a text file, placed at the root directory (you can place it elsewhere, but root directory is highly recommended, and has server directives within.

For example, with .htaccess, you can redirect users, put in URL re-writes, provide password-protected directories and more.

If you’d like to create your own – just open Notepad or a similarly text-based application, turn off the word-wrap and save the file as htaccess.txt or some such. Then and this is important, rename the file as simply .htaccess. Upload it to your root directory with file permission settings at 644 and you’re ready to go.

Useful .htaccess Snippets

Now that we know what the .htaccess is, let’s look at how we can use it.

Directory Index
Specify the index file of your directory
DirectoryIndex welcome.html welcome.php

Custom Error Pages
Redirect users to your very own customized Error Page, whether it be for 404, 500, etc.:
ErrorDocument 400 /400.html
ErrorDocument 401 /401.html
ErrorDocument 403 /403.html
ErrorDocument 404 /404.html
ErrorDocument 500 /500.html
ErrorDocument 502 /502.html
ErrorDocument 504 /504.html

Remove www
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.yourdomain.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yourdomain.com/$1 [L,R=301]

Set Server’s Timezone
Set your server’s timezone with:
SetEnv TZ Europe/London (obviously change the timezone to what you desire)

Control Access
Deny access from specific IP Addresses:
order allow,deny
deny from XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX
allow from all

301 Redirects
Redirect 301 /olddirectory/file.html

Detect and Redirect Tablet-based users

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^.*iPad.*$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yourdomain.com/folderfortablets [R=301]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^.*Android.*$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yourdomain.com/folderfortablets [R=301]

Hotlink Protection

Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www.)?domainname.com/ [nc]
RewriteRule .*.(gif|jpg|png)$ ^http://domainname.com/img/hotlink_f_o.png [nc]

Force Save As
Want to force users to download files instead of viewing them in the browser?
AddType application/octet-stream .avi .mpg .mov .pdf .xls .mp4

Disable Directory browsing

# disable directory browsing
Options All -Indexes
# enable directory browsing
Options All +Indexes

Blocking Specific User Agents

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
SetEnvIfNoCase ^User-Agent$ .*(bot1|bot2|bot3|bot4|bot5|bot6|) HTTP_SAFE_BADBOT
SetEnvIfNoCase ^User-Agent$ .*(bot1|bot2|bot3|bot4|bot5|bot6|) HTTP_SAFE_BADBOT
Deny from env=HTTP_SAFE_BADBOT
</ifModule>

What’s Next?

This is just a quick glance into the .htaccess file, but I hope it gives you some idea of the power at your fingertips. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

Styling for Google

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Google with Style

Style

Google recently released their new HTML/CSS Style Guides for Webmasters; to help create better websites, as well as the nudge-nod-wink to enhanced SEO.

While some of the suggestions seem fairly obvious, some are a bit surprising. Let’s take a look at a few.


Google’s Suggestions

General

Protocol

  • Leave out protocols (http:, https:) from URLs pointing to various files unless they aren’t available for both protocols.

Indentation

  • Google says to Indent by 2 Spaces in code; don’t use Tabs.

Capitalization

  • Use only lowercase in code, including element names, attributes, attribute values, selectors, properties, and property values (except strings)

Encoding

  • Use UTF-8

Action Items

  • This is a new one on me – Mark "To Do" and action items with the keyword TODO in code, along with the contact name of person involved. Examples given are:

    {# TODO(john.doe): revisit centering #}
    <center>Test</center>

HTML Styles

Document Type

  • Google suggests using HTML5 instead of XHTML. <!DOCTYPE html>

Validity

  • Use Valid HTML where possible. Test with the W3C HTML Validator

Semantics

  • Use Elements / Tags according to their original intent and purpose.

Multimedia Fallback

  • Google would like for you to provide alternatives for media. Always include Alt attributes; alt="" if necessary.

Separation

  • Separate structure from presentation from behavior.

Format Block Level Elements in Code

  • Start each new block-level element on a new line in your code.

Quotation Marks

  • Use double Quotation marks ("") for attribute values.

CSS Styles

Validity

  • Use the W3C CSS Validator to validate your CSS whenever possible.

ID and Class Names

  • Use meaningful class and ID names, based on the element’s purpose; make names short as possible but as long as necessary.
  • Avoid qualifying ID and class names with type selectors. Instead of ul#example {}, use #example {}.

Shorthand

  • Google says, in short, use the shorthand when possible.

Zeroes

  • Don’t specify units after a 0 value but instead like margin: 0;
  • Don’t lead with a 0 value, but instead like font-size: .8em;

Hexadecimals

  • Use 3 digit declaration when possible. For example, instead of color: #eebbcc;, use color: #ebc;.

Declaration Order

  • Alphabatezie declarations.

Stops

  • Use a semicolon after every declaration, including the last one.
  • Use a space after the property name’s colon.

Declarations

  • Start a new line for each selector, declaration and rule.

Quotation Marks

  • Use single quotation marks for selectors & property values (”).
  • Do not use quotation marks in URI values (url()).

And that’s about it. Good luck with your implementation!

Social Media Buttons and their Impact

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Social Media Buttons

Social Media. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Pinterest. I’m fairly certain you’re familiar with those names.

Branding hasn’t been much of an issue for Social Media. Most everyone at least knows about them, what they are and even their branding images – even if they don’t actively participate.

You can find those little Social Media icons and buttons all over the internet. Like us here, Share us there, Follow us everywhere.

Everybody uses Social Media and they recognize the social media buttons and icons.

For example on this website, you can find ways to share articles on your favorite social site – just scroll down. And up top? You can see links to my various social sites as well.

Social Media Buttons and Proximity

Do these little social graphics actually have any effect, aside from being a click-able way to share?

Some recent research suggests they do.

A joint study by the University of Miami School of Business Administration, Empirica Research and StyleCaster Media Group hints that consumers are affected by these little jewels…Subconsciously.

When social media icons were in close proximity to items that users would be proud to show off, such as sportswear or fragrances, it was found that users were 25% more likely to make a purchase.

However the flip side seemed also to be true. When those social buttons were near items that might embarrass them, like a weight-loss product or acne medication, users were 25% less likely to buy the product.

Interestingly enough, the buttons had the same impact on the users regardless of whether or not they consciously remember seeing them…

As an aside, however, it’s important to note that if you are using a WordPress-powered site, the majority of Social plugins out there cause huge bloat, meaning that they seriously slow down your site. So this is a trade off. Consider CSS sprites or hard-coding out the links yourself.

Social Media Buttons Study

Trend – Spotting Tools (for SEO and fun)

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Google Trends

Trends

(Scroll down for the Big List.)

Trends are powerful things.

Knowing what’s hot and happening now in the world can be fun. It can also be a great source of ideas for relevant content, linkbait and SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

As Wikipedia says, "SEO Trending is a technique used by webmasters to write content based on recent events on the web to get more visibility for their websites in search engine results pages."


What are Trends?

Think about this. Trends show the general direction in which something tends to move. They show a possible future, the "buzz" of tomorrow, the next hype, an evolving topic. Or…An opportunity for the SEO-inclined to push their websites up in the search engines, get more backlinks and new traffic.

Now think about this. When there’s hype around something, people will:

  • Speak about it
  • Get curious about it
  • Search for it
  • Share it

How Trend – Spotting affects SEO

What does this mean for the SEO Consultant and/or Webmaster? The trends and the hype provide a framework for a certain amount of success. Here’s some things to do during the hype:

  • People will speak about it
    • Listen to their words (keywords)
    • Join the conversation via Twitter, Social Media, etc. (real time search)
    • Create trust by allowing discussions on your site, forum, blog, etc. (user-generated content)
    • Become an authority by getting them to speak about the relevant pages on your website (backlinks)
  • People get curious about it
    • Understand intent behind the unclear questions and give answers (intent)
    • Give away more – value-added free relevant content (incentives)
    • Use all available channels to give answers (universal search)
  • People search for it
    • Don’t underestimate the rapid increase in search volume (search volume)
    • Google’s "Query deserves freshness" factor will push keywords to the top of the SERPs (SERP Promotion)
    • Create fresh content for these queries (fresh content)
  • People share it
    • Find creative ways of using the hype for Linkbait to get new links (link bait)
    • Actively use Social Media to spread content and generate new traffic (SMO – Social Media Optimization)

Tools to Identify Trends

But how do we identify them? We know they’re happening but we usually hear about them in the now or in the past.

Aside from simply listening in the proper places, there are many paid and free tools to do just that. We spoke about Hot Content Ideas from Google and The SEO of Search Trends, but what about a bigger list of Tools?

Well here you go. I’ve compiled a fairly huge list of tools for you to go out play and learn from (in no particular order):

I’ll understand if you need to take a break after that; God knows I do!

SEO Trend It and Spin It!

Definitely not advocating the Black Hat "Spin" methodology here, but more of the original intent of the word. 🙂

Now that you have a huge toolbox to find out what people are searching for and talking about, be a little bit creative and original in your content creation. Make it interesting so that people who come to you as new traffic, come back and want more.