Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Business Twitter Primer

You might have heard about Twitter lately.  It seems the world has been, if you'll pardon the obvious pun, all a-twitter about it.  But what if you're one of those who's never seen it or never tried it.  How do people know what it is in the first place?

It's kind of difficult to explain Twitter.  If you think of it as primarily a place where you can find and interact with the audience you're trying to build for your website business, it'll be a little easier to understand.  It's one of a number of sites that are referred to as "Social Networking" sites.  These allow you to find and communiciate with your audience.

You'll go to the Twitter site and sign up.  You'll spend a little time checking out some of the people that are already on there, and reading the short messages they're posting.  You'll sort out who's a part of your target audience.  Then you'll start joining in the ongoing conversation that these people are having, drawing them to your website in the process.

On Twitter, people post short messages about things they're doing and things they find on the 'net.  You'll want to read messages from people that are talking about your niche, and you'll want people interested in your niche reading what you have to say.  On Twitter, you read the messages of other people that you've chosen by "following" them.  Other people who read your messages are "following" you. This kind of interactivity is what social networking is all about.

It's much easier to experience it than it is to explain it  Let's jump in, shall we?

  • Step 1: Sign up

The first thing to do is simply to go to and sign up for a new account.  It only takes a quick minute.  You'll fill in some basic information, and you'll be ready to go.  It will offer you the chance to choose to follow some famous people, and to find some of your current friends to follow.  This can be fun, but I'd recommend that you not do that yet, because these people won't necessarily be a part of your web business' audience. 

  • Step 2: Find some other twitterers

Do a search for your site's keywords and read the messages (called "tweets") that other people are posting.  You can click on the avatar or icon of the person right next to their post and visit their profile page.  Read their other tweets, and their bios.  Click to their websites.  It doesn't take much to discover what they're interested in.

  • Step 3: "Follow" them

If it's clear that the person your looking at is a part of your website business' audience, then you can click the small button toward the top that says "Follow".  This means two things:  One, every time this person posts a tweet, it will appear on your twitter home page and you can read it.  Two, this person will get a notice via email that you're now following them.  Chances are, they'll at least check out your twitter profile page.  They might even check out your website.  It's very likely that this person will follow you back.  That means that whenever you post a message, they'll get it.

  • Step 4: Begin "Tweeting"

The last step in this beginning primer is to start posting tweets of your own.  You can post about things at your website, like a new product line, or a new article of content.  You can post about a new blog entry at your blog. 

You can also do what I call "resource tweeting".  That means you find a good article or resource on the 'net, and you tweet about it.  Sharing this kind of information builds your own reputation, even if people know the article wasn't one you write.  You're seen as someone who's active in the community, spreading good information and help around.  You should post at least two resource tweets for every time you tweet about your own website.

Then, you keep doing this same process.  Find more people interested in your topic.  Follow them.  Get more information into your own tweets.  Read the tweets of others.  Before long, your follower list is growing, and you're interacting with your community.  You find you're understanding social networking better.  You get more traffic and a better search engine ranking.

And that makes your business grow!

Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, and his MoBoy blog.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reciprocating Content

This is an exciting new buzzword in the world of blogging. I first read about reciprocating content here. The concept behind it really isn't very new, but the term, the label, is.

The basic idea is that you, as a blogger, can involve your audience in the creation of content.

The typical approach to blogging is this:

  • The blogger gets an idea for a rant
  • He/she rants out his/her knowledge, opinions, feelings or thoughts, and posts them.
  • The audience reads the rant
  • The audience, if moved upon by the post, will comment.
  • Other audience members will comment on the post.
  • Other readers will comment on the comments.

For all we say about "Web 2.0" and interactivity, this model really has a "Web 1.5" feel. It is more interactive than a static website ("Web 1.0"), where the visitor would simply read the content and then leave. But on the other hand, the author can simply sit back and watch the discussion around his/her thoughts. Occasionally, the author will join in the discussion.

But the original content still originated from the mind of the blog owner. It's true that there's some lateral conversation going on, but the initial communication is still top-down.

What if the readership were to participate in the creation of the original content as well as the discussion?

There are lots of ways this could work. Here's one way the model could work:

  • A reader begins communicating with the blogger, probably in a way that transcends simple comment posting
  • The blogger, sensing some really good information, follows up on what the reader is saying, possibly doing some research or just pondering the concepts.
  • The blogger formulates his/her own ideas and opinions on the topic.
  • The blogger discusses those ideas with the reader, and, if necessary, gets his/her permission to write about it.
  • The blogger writes a post about the topic. As a part of the post, he/she cites the original reader and his/her ideas as the source of the topic.
  • The readership of the blog, then, as normal, begins to comment and discuss the topic.

The cool part about this is that now the reader feels a certain connection to the blog. He/she is no longer just a reader, but an active participant. Do that over and over, and before you know it, you have a fiercely loyal and active readership.

Here are some ways to do that:

  • Read your reader's blogs. Post comments on them. Draw your own inspiration from them. When you write about them in your blog, cite them with a link. Then return to their blog and post that you blogged about their ideas.
  • Actively ask for help. A large part of establishing yourself as an authority is in your ability to draw from lots of sources. Build that reputation. You become a focal point for good information.
  • Be creative in ways to draw your audience in.
  • Recognize and accept your own areas of weakness. As people share their knowledge with you, you learn more, and you become more and more of an expert.
  • Be respectful. If someone contacts you outside of the comments of your blog (for example, via email) it might be because they don't want their experience shared. Ask permission first.

Getting your audience involved is a great way to build your audience. Anyone have any stories about how they've done this? I'd love to share them here! Post a comment or email me.

Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, and his MoBoy blog.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Whither the keywords META?

Search engine gurus have been proclaiming for some time that the use of the META keywords tag is pointless. Fewer and fewer search engines are paying any attention to it at all, they said.

Here's the history of it: Back in the day, when search engines were new, and directories like Yahoo ruled supreme, the keywords META tag was the be-all, end-all of search marketing. You had to have the right keywords in your tag, and you repeated them a lot.

Sadly, as soon as you get something good, someone figures out how to abuse it. People who wanted to "game the system" started including many, multiple instances of keywords and keyword phrases into their keywords META tag. Sadly, the pornographers were among the first to engage this one. It got to be like an arms race. "Oh, I see you've included "sex" 100 times in your tag! I'll include it 300 times in mine!" It got to be absurd.

Not long after that, they also started including irrelevant words in their keywords META tags. Sites started appearing in searches and leaving the searchers heads scratching. "How did THAT get there?" There was a time in the early 90's where you couldn't do a search for ANYTHING, it seemed, with out at least one naughty site appearing in the list.

Well, it's no surprise that the search engines realized that this wasn't gonna work. Searchers were starting to mistrust the results they were getting.

Google came along and started indexing the results based on the words that were visible in the text, and valuing the sites based on how many inbound links a site was getting. Before long, other search engines were starting to devalue the keywords META tag.

Last week, Yahoo, the longest holdout, announced that they no longer valued the keywords META tag in the search results. After a short test, and a clarification, it's now pretty safe to say that the keywords META tag is pretty much useless in search engine optimization. Yahoo no longer uses it. says they don't use it. Google never did.

So, what good is it?

I, personally, still find some value in it. I work a lot of websites. Blogs, commercial sites, etc... It's not easy to remember and keep track of exactly which keywords I want to focus on when I'm editing and updating each individual page. If I put the keywords that I've researched to be strong in the META tag for that page, I have a valuable reference. I can look them up and remember what they are, and my edits and my tweaks will always be centered around those words.

Silly reason, you say? Well, I can't count how many times I've used this handy reference. Having some words in the tag doesn't hurt your ranking, even if it's not helping.

To recap, then:

The key to on-site search engine optimization is to use your keywords in the right places. Currently, those are:

  • The page title tag
  • The domain name and/or the URL
  • The visible text of the website
  • The page-to-page linking within your site
  • The description META tag
  • The ALT text attributes of your images

The key to off-site optimization has always been quality links from other sites and pages.

Go to it!

Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, and his MoBoy blog.