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Step 10 - Web 2.0 and Viral Marketing

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Introduction

Finally, we have arrived at the last frontier of improving your website's ranking on the search engines. We are talking about riding the waves of the social revolution of the Internet. The truly democratic nature of the web started to shine through a few years ago when new socially focused applications started to surface. First there was the launch and popularity of the blogosphere world. Your site could gain instant publicity with well written insightful blog posts in days or weeks instead of years using traditional old school press releases and other paper based media. Who wouldn't want to receive some free publicity and a steady stream of visitors for being opinionated and funny? 10 years later, the blogging world is stronger than ever, and we'll show you some quick and easy ways to get started.

Viral Marketing – Is their a Vaccine?

Marketing is getting a bad wrap these days.  With the advent of social media networks, marketers have resorted to viral marketing techniques to promote brand loyalty.  Increasing bran awareness through viral marketing is not a new technique.  Word of mouth travels fast and as the old Faberge Shampoo ads used to say ‘you tell two friends, who tell two friends, and so on and so on’, was viral marketing before the term was coined.

These days the process is sped along the internet community by a self-replicating ‘viral’ process, video clips and interactive games, eBooks and more recently text messages produced to increase brand awareness and increase sales. 

What used to be the community ‘women’s clubs’ which were used to spread information about and through the community, shifted through radio, television and now exploded through the internet and social media platforms.  The word-of-mouth product recommendation has spread from a community to a global universe.

History

As early as 1996 some Harvard Business School faculty members popularized the term Viral Marketing.  Tim Draper is considered to be the ‘big daddy’ of viral marketing, used the term to “describe Hotmail’s email practice of appending advertising for itself in outgoing mail from their users”.   This move, by attaching advertizing about emails in an email, will automatically reach an audience already inclined to use email and present them with an idea to use this brand of email. 

The analogy is that the new user will be ‘infected’, that is, accept, the new idea or product and then ‘re-infect’ others by sharing it.  When each infected user ‘infects’ a new user that new user goes on to ‘infect’ other new users.  Just as a virus would infect a population it is hoped that the number of infected users will grow exponentially.  Even if it doesn’t, the idea has been shared successfully and promoted or increased sales.

Scams

Scams are susceptible to viral marketing.  One of the most recent viral marketing scams was a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by fraudster Madoff.  Bernard Madoff had viral marketing down pat, or so he thought.  The scheme, involving tens of billions of dollars, was a “giant Ponzi scheme”. 

A Ponzi scheme was developed by Charles Ponzi where investors are paid dividends from investments with their own money, or from money paid into the scheme by new investors.  The cycle and lure of easy money deludes individual’s rational thinking. 

Pyramid schemes and multilevel marketing schemes each contain the viral marketing format.  Early investors are encouraged to “recruit” friends, family and others to beef up the sales force.  The exponential growth flows to the ‘up-line’ resulting in networks of money flow.

Today’s viral marketing can be considers the equivalent to the word of mouth of yesteryear.  The marketing strategy involves getting a message out to as many people as possible, and that message is strong enough to entice users to pass it on to others.  Social media platforms have most recently been the target of viral marketing.  And marketers are continually developing ways to increase interest and develop novel and entertaining ways to prompt users to pass their product information on to others.

In recent years Blogger, Myspace, Facebook, Wiki, You Tube and many social tagging, and book marking sites such as Delicious and Stumble Upon had become very popular. A new breed of web promotion techniques has been developed utilizing these sites as a launching pad for gaining visitors and link popularity on the search engines. We'll cover in detail which methods can give you the biggest return on your investment.

Blogging with SEO in mind

A few years ago, blogging was considered a hobby of sort by people who had a lot of free time to spare and very little substance to add. Now, businesses without a blog are looked on with a certain level of dismay as some type of outcast of the web world. Their clients and suppliers are probably all wondering if they simply don't have anything to say, or they are just plain lazy and don't care. It's really not a question of, if you need a blog, but when you need it. If you don't have a blog yet, you owe it to yourself to develop one and post regularly right away.

It turns out web blogs are not only a great way to keep in touch with you clients and business partners, but it's also an excellent way to expand the content on your website. Every new blog post becomes a unique URL on your site and gets indexed just like any other web page without any additional effort on your part.

The search engines love content, so it make sense, the more content you have on your site's main topics, the wider variety of keywords are likely used somewhere in the title or body of the web blog. This directly increases the chance for other keyword combinations to rank well and to bring in a few extra visitors every month which ties into the concept of "long tail' keywords. The long tail keywords are those that are usually more than 3 to 4 words in length and only come up in the searches very rarely compared to the mainstream keywords. The most important benefit of the long term keywords is the high conversion rates since these keywords are extremely focused. Although the number of searches may be very low for long tail keywords, but attaining top ranking for a few hundred of long tail keywords can guarantee thousands of well targeted visitors to your site every month.

The other quantifiable benefit of blogging is the potential increase of deep links to your blog posts. When other websites find your blog posts valuable you may earn unsolicited one-way deep links to the inner pages of your site, which are the best kind of links you can get.

Here are a few tips to get started with blogging:

  • Pick a blogging service or setup your own blog. One of the most popular blogging services is Blogger.com. It's owned by Google and it only takes a few minutes to get started. The biggest drawback is the lack of customization ability and the fact that it's located on a different domain from the one you already own. The free alternative blogging option is installing WordPress on your website, but you will need to have a fair bit of technical know how to set it up properly. The other paid blogging platform alternatives are Movable Type and TypePad which directly compete with WordPress.

  • Successful blogs concentrate on a very specific topic. It's easy to wonder of topic sometimes and it can be even a good thing to take a break from rehashing what others already covered, but 90% of your posts should deal with your market segment's news topics. You can write about your industry, current changes, and any insider knowledge you may have. It's also ok to be opinionated and funny, but avoid bad mouthing your competitors or posting extreme views you may regret later.

  • Pick catchy headlines that promise some tangible benefit to the readers with your keywords in mind. You can easily double or triple the clickthroughs of your blog posts with well written keyword rich headlines that are also a magnet for the search engines. The headline of your blog post will become the title tag for the web page it will be posted on, so it's essential to come up with titles that have some of your main or secondary keywords in them.

  • Write from personal experience with a story line. We are all sick and tried of self serving promotions and marketing fluffs, so give your readers a reason to come back again and again. Write from personal experiences that can relate to your blog's audience. If it could happen to you it can happen to them as well. Tell them how you solve complex problems in your business that can demonstrate your expert knowledge, resourcefulness and professionalism.

Submitting your blog's RSS feed to important blog aggregators

The next important phase is to get your blog promoted on blog search engines, blog directories, and feed aggregators. Although there are hundreds of blog search engines out there, you should concentrate on handful to get the most publicity for your blog with the least amount of effort. We are going to list a few top blog directory sites that you should consider submitting to. Blog directory submissions are little bit different from submitting your site to other general directories.

The blog search engines are interested in indexing the so called RSS ("Really Simple Syndication") feed of your blog. An RSS feed is a format that publishers use to publish new and updated content that blog aggregators can easily import into their databases. An RSS feed URL looks something like this: myblogURL/atom.xml or myrblogURL/rss.xml. The XML based file will contain all your posts, their dates and a short summary for each post.

Selecting blog directories and submitting your blog

If your site is already indexed by Yahoo!, Google, or MSN, there is most likely no need to submit your blog's RSS feed. All the three search engines can index your blog posts in RSS format and the only thing you have to do is to notify them with a "ping" from your blog when you have new content posted.

For example, you can let Google know you have new content posted using this URL http://blogsearch.google.com/ping/RPC2 or Yahoo! at this URL http://api.my.yahoo.com/rss/ping.

Her is a list of blog submission sites you should consider getting your blog listed in.

Blog Submission Sites

Feedburner
Bloglines
Typead
Blogstreet
Blogarama
Syndic8
Boingboing
Search4rss
Icerocket
Feedminer
2rss
Technorati

 

Getting your blog readers to spread the word

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Your blog readers can be your best assets when it comes to promoting your blog and your website. People want to share valuable information with others, and if your blog posts are interesting, your readers will gladly submit them to social media and bookmarking sites. We have listed a few top social media sites, their icons and submit URLs so you can incorporate them into your blog. The best place to insert these icons is the bottom of each blog post linking to the URL of the post. You may need to do a bit of programming in your blogging software to create the submission hyperlinks on the fly, but its well worth the effort.

The most popular social media and bookmarking sites and their submission pages:

  • StumbleUpon - Stumble Upon http://www.stumbleupon.com/url/your-blogpost-url
  • YahooMyWeb - Yahoo! Bookmarks http://myweb2.search.yahoo.com/myresults/bookmarklet?u=your-blogpost-url&=your+blog+post+title
  • SphereIt - Sphere  http://www.sphere.com/search?q=sphereit:your-blogpost-url&title=your+blog+post+title
  • Ma.gnolia - Magnolia http://ma.gnolia.com/bookmarklet/add?url=your-blogpost-url&title=your+blog+post+title
  • Digg - Digg http://digg.com/submit?phase=2&url=your-blogpost-url&title=your+blog+post+title
  • Technorati - Technorati http://technorati.com/faves?add=your-blogpost-url
  • Netscape - Netscape http://www.netscape.com/submit/?U=hyour-blogpost-url&T=your+blog+post+title
  • Reddit - Reddit http://reddit.com/submit?url=your-blogpost-url&title=your+blog+post+title
  • NewsVine - Newsvine http://www.newsvine.com/tools/seed&save?u=your-blogpost-url&h=your+blog+post+title
  • Fark - Fark http://cgi.fark.com/cgi/fark/edit.pl?new_url=your-blogpost-url&new_comment=your+blog+post+title=your-domain&linktype=Misc
  • Spurl - Spurl http://www.spurl.net/spurl.php?url=your-blogpost-url&title=your+blog+post+title
  • del.icio.us - Delicious http://del.icio.us/post?url=your-blogpost-url&title=your+blog+post+title
  • Slashdot -Slashdot http://slashdot.org/bookmark.pl?title=your+blog+post+title&url=your-blogpost-url
  • Furl - Furl http://www.furl.net/storeIt.jsp?u=your-blogpost-url&t=your+blog+post+title

You may want to do some CSS formatting and layout the icons horizontally under your blog posts like this:

Here is the CSS code to accomplish this:

<ul  style="display: inline;">
<li style="display: inline; list-style-type: none;"> the first icon goes here <li>
<li style="display: inline; list-style-type: none;"> the next icon goes here <li>
</ul>

 

Effective viral marketing with Delicious and Stumble Upon

You are no doubt already familiar with the concept of book marking important pages for easy retrieval using your web browser. It's called "Favorites" in Internet Explorer and "Bookmarks" in Firefox, but the name should not matter. The bottom line is, until now nobody else could have access to your own bookmarks since they are stored on your PC's hard drive.
Now, with the web 2.0 revolution we have a way to make our bookmarks public for everyone else to see and discover. It's a very neat concept and the growing popularity of Delicious and Stumble Upon proves that it's here to stay. Stumble upon has close to 3 million registered users and Delicious boast about the same. That's a lot of eyeballs that can potentially see your bookmarks and your own website. The avalanche of visitors that can result from a single blog post or the release of a new freebie can be somewhat scary. It's not uncommon to see 3,000 or more visitors arrive on a single web page within a few hours after it has been stumbled or bookmarked by a large number of Delicious or Stumble Upon users.

Signing up with Stumble Upon is easy and fast. Once you have signed up, download the Stumble Upon toolbar. Now, you are ready to add any page to Stumble Upon instantly. Navigate to your own site and click on the "I like it!" button on the toolbar and you can complete the submission process by specifying a title and appropriate keyword tags.

Delicious also has a toolbar, and after signing up, you can use the "Post to Delicious" feature right away to bookmark your sites in your Internet Explorer or Firefox browser.

Now let’s get to the most important benefits of signing up  Delicious and Stumble Upon:

  • Short, but high volume of traffic resulting from stumbles and bookmarks discovered by other users. When you bookmark or "stumble" your own web sites, you are giving other users a chance to discover your site. Beyond the bookmarking aspects, users can perform searches on other user's bookmarked sites based on the keyword tags used to describe that site. So, it very important to properly categorize your site when submitting it to Delicious and Stumble Upon. The users can also rate websites with thumbs up or thumbs down with the Stumble Upon toolbar. This helps to create a consensus about a site's quality and it's completely driven by user input.

  • Increased link popularity can result from other users linking to your site from their own bookmarks or their own websites. It's not uncommon for other users to add your site to their own bookmarks or even provide links back to your site if it has something really useful to offer. It's important that you submit your site only after it's completely finished. Stumble Upon and Delicious users are a fickle, sophisticated bunch and are attracted to interesting news, good site design, and unique content and concepts. In order to keep earning links to your site, you have to develop new, unique content on an ongoing basis.  

  • Join other groups and check out bookmarks of other users with similar interests. Getting involved in the community aspect of the social bookmarking sites can guarantee you a higher exposure and more traffic. First bookmark other users' sites you like and respect. In return they will most likely do the same. The key is to get involved as much as you can and provide feedback and reviews of sites. A great number of users on Stumble Upon and Delicious are there because they want to socialize and not necessarily promote their business. The more you can demonstrate your commitment to the community, the better your chances are of getting recognized by others.

Keep in mind the searches on Delicious and Stumble Upon are going to be less targeted than searches performed on Google because the searches rely on the user's ability to categorize and tag websites properly. There are bound to be some unrelated sites creeping into the search results when users conduct searches with your target keyword. So you may not always receive the most targeted traffic, but overall, it's an excellent source for a quick burst of visitors to your site.

Facebook powers the new social revolution

You may or may not have heard of Facebook.com, but if you haven't, it's time for an introduction to the next big phase of the World Wide Web and internet marketing. A few years ago social website memberships started to explode, and the marketing community started to take notice. It started with MySpace which Google actually purchased a few years ago. Now we are in the midst of a new web 2.0 application revolution as devoted fans flock to Facebook by the millions every day, about 31 million to be exact. Although Myspace is still growing and valued at close to 10 billion dollars, the Facebook founders have just turned down a 1 billion dollar offer from Yahoo!.

With millions of people online poking around, making new connections, and posting on each other's "walls,” there is a huge opportunity for businesses to embrace this new medium and promote their companies. Facebook may seem like the online hangout for college kids, but Facebook attracts people from all demographics and age groups from around the world. There are certainly a fair number of 30, 40, and 50 year old professionals and non-professionals singing up lately who embrace the social aspect of Facebook, but the real question is, “How can you harness the power of a wildly successful social site like Facebook to your advantage and forge new business connections?”

You must remember the true power of Facebook lies in the personal relationships you forge with new people and groups you find through the hierarchies of friends and groups you discover through search and other member profiles. Facebook gives you the opportunity to explore every other member's profile, their friends, and the groups they belong to unless they explicitly block you or place limitations on what the public can see through their privacy settings in Facebook.

The recipe for successful Facebook business promotion:

  • Create a personal profile. The first step is of course to sign up. Next you will need to create your own personal profile. It's very important that you do a very thorough job by completing every possible section, especially the personal section. Almost everyone wants to know more about you. They want to know what your hobbies are, what your favorite music is among other things to get a sense of what they have in common with you. Make sure you also complete the Basic, Contact, and Work information with up-to-date information on what you do and how people can get in touch with you. It's important that you complete the Work section with the company and website address you are currently promoting.

  • Build up your network and make friends everywhere. Next you will need to search for friends, family and colleagues you already know and invite them to become part of your network of friends. You can use the Facebook search feature to find friends or business associates whom you have lost connection with.

  • Start making some interesting new post on your wall about your blog, business or website. Create a catchy introduction for your website and provide a direct link to it on your wall. Talk a bit about what it's about and what it has to offer. This is your personal page, so you don't need to write an infomercial, but do let others know what you are working on right now.

  • Create a new group and set up a discussion group about the theme of your website or business. You may want to check out other groups first on the same topic to gauge the level of professionalism and popularity. You can find out a group's popularity by the number of members, the total number of discussions posts and replies. If you like any of the groups, feel free to join them as long as they are not your direct competitors. Now it's time to set up your own group. Write an enticing description detailing specific benefits the group has to offer. Don't forget to fill in your website address, contact information and upload a group picture or logo. Be sure to check you have rights to use the picture for the group. Now it's time to add a welcome message and your first post to the discussion board. Talk about something current in your industry, but nothing too controversial. It can be any topic that invites an honest discussion and lot of questions.

  • Invite people to join from your personal group to join your new group if you feel they would be interested. You have to start from somewhere and getting some people you already know to join your group is the easiest way to get started. Once your group gains some traction try to make the group more interesting by holding contests, off line meetings and inviting experts in your fields to post articles or give interviews.

  • The power of the "My Notes Section." Just like in the blogging world, Facebook has its own XML/RSS/ATOM feed that is being fed by your notes directly to your home page. This is very important, because anyone who visits your profile will see your notes and can visit your site or special offer URLs. Post notes regularly about anything interesting on your site, such as contests, a new section or product or a sales special.

  • Create a Facebook application gadget. This promotion option can be especially valuable if you are developing websites for a living and have a good grasp on server side scripting languages like .NET, PHP, ASP, CGI, PERL, etc. Even if you are not a developer, you can come up with an idea for a new Facebook application. A Facebook application is an add-on to the existing Facebook interface, and it's an enhancement of the core features of Facebook. Some applications have over a million users, which is very substantial and can result in a flood of traffic for your sites.
    You can post your idea for a new Facebook application project on GetaFreeLancer.com or RentaCoder.com. One very important advice when you post a project. Keep your project hidden from the public so only the bidders and you can see it. You never know who wants to steal your idea and if you didn't patent it, it's too late if someone comes out with it first.

Conclusion

Getting social and participating in different web communities is the next big wave of traffic generation on the Internet. Google made the Internet a searchable asset for millions of people around the world by ranking websites according to relevance. The next web traffic revolution will be in the communities that are determining the value and ranking of websites based on the users' opinions and participation instead of relying on machines to create the ranking order.

Anyone who ignores the millions of people who regularly visit blogs, social bookmarking, social media, and community sites is missing a huge untapped market and potential targeted visitors. Don't get us wrong, SEO is here to say as long as there is a need for people to search. With the staggering growth of the number of websites online, there will be even stiffer competition for the top spots on the search engines in every keyword category. Visitors from social media sites can be viewed as an extension of your SEO campaign to reach potential customers who are not actively searching for your products or services, but nonetheless participating in related web communities.

 

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