If your business has been avoiding E-commerce because you think your target market doesn’t buy things online, you may be making an expensive mistake.

According to the report Generations Online released earlier this year by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, an amazing 71 percent of all online adults use the Internet to make purchases. […]

Google is huge, no doubt, but one area they have struggled is in establishing a social networking platform to connect their huge user base.  The more time users spend with Google – the more opportunities for Google to monetize off of them.  Granted, they have a lot of cool and free tools to play with, but there is a reason Google Adwords appear in your Gmail inbox.  Having a social network that users can hang out on for hours at a time is the big nut Google hopes to crack, and Google’s primary social networking nutcracker for the last few years has been Orkut.

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While email has been around as long the Internet and may not be as “trendy” as the new social media marketing strategies, email campaigns and email marketing are still among the most popular and effective tools in an advertiser’s arsenal.   According to a recent study by the Center for Media Research, 56.8% of marketers polled “realistically” plan to use email in their advertising next year.

But even though email may be “old”, new strategies and technologies come along every day that can help you start an effective email campaign, or improve your existing one.  Below, I present five new things to try along with five things you really should avoid when planning your next email campaign.

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Now that the hype has settled and the new website smell has faded, let’s take a look at Twitter and how to maximize it’s effectiveness via third party Twitter tools.  These tools come in various forms; from websites, desktop apps to mobile phone applications, there are many ways to get your tweets in order.

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Regardless of what your business does, what services you provide or what you want to sell through E-commerce, all business web sites have at least one common need: They all need to attract visitors in order to succeed.

Obviously, volumes upon volumes of information have been produced on various tips, tricks and tactics for building both search engine rankings and site traffic. Often overlooked in the middle of that huge data dump, however, are three simple things you can do to help build your site’s search recognition and drive more visitors to your site.

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Yep, that is my predicition.

In 2009, while our economy continues to slug along, those that do a good job of marketing themselves online stand to have a very good year. We’ve all probably heard stories of how a lot of people became rich during the Great Depression – because it is true. Those that keep their eye on the ball when everyone else is distracted will continue to hit home runs – it won’t be as easy as it was before, but it will still happen.

Markets are shifting right now. While mainstream for quite some time now, the internet is now starting to subplant other channels of distribution and marketing. Newspapers are struggling, some either are, or are planning to go to internet-only distribution. Video, which had the exclusivity of TV delivery, is now more popular than ever online (even traditional TV’s might be hooked up to a PC or Apple TV), Google searches are replacing Yellow Page look-ups, users are carrying around internet-enabled cell phones loaded with mobile apps that connect to their online accounts, businesses are advertising online with pay-per-click advertising. While lower than before, the spikes in gas prices over the last few years has more people getting used to the idea of staying at home where they can spend more time surfing the web. A new generation is growing up not knowing of a world prior to high-speed internet. Social networking is redefining public relations for major companies and public figures.

There is a fundamental shift that is taking place – while we thought we have already seen the impact of the internet on our lives, we are now realizing that the last 10 years was just a slightly advanced stage in it’s infancy. A major growth spurt is coming in 2009 and a lot of companies that thought they had a “web presence” are going to get left behind, while a lot of companies that are “plugged in” to the coming changes will reap great rewards.

So, what are the nutshell nuggets of knowledge to pull from all this?

First you can’t be just a “web presence”. You can’t be “static” online. You can’t think of a website as the beginning and end of your online efforts. Sure, it has worked in the past, and in many cases working still. But at some point it no longer will.

Second, change the way you think about the internet – almost consider it a parallel universe. 20 years ago, they called the concept “virtual reality”. It made a lot of buzz but died down as the real world realities of the internet’s limitations at the time softened our vision of this “cyber-space”. Now we are seeing virtual reality slowly coming about. Sure, it’s not a funny headset and Tron-like graphics, but the internet is becoming another place that we exist, or more importantly, where your customer’s exist. They are not just hopping online to do a quick search with a keyword phrase to find your product or service and then signing off, they are living much of their life there. So, you will need to be “plugged in” to where they are, what they’re doing and how to get their attention.

We are already seeing this shift in our business. We are not a website development firm anymore, despite my old-habits-die-hard habit of calling us that. We are actually an interactive agency now. Developing the site for your web presence is no longer the beginning and end of our involvement. Throughout 2009 we will be asked to build the “main” site, setup the blogs, create sub-sites, recommend lead tracking solutions, secure advertising, handle marketing campaigns, develop a social media strategy, manage company brands, oversee public relations, broadcast online call-in radio shows, produce video, write copy, record podcasts, program applications, create training materials, research keywords and provide consultation services.

By being prepared for changes in 2009 as the internet leaves behind it’s infancy, you can be a part of it’s growth spurt.

Can you and your company afford not to take into consideration Goggle’s Googlebomb algorithms? First, for those of you that don’t know what it is, a Googlebomb is when people try to purposely push another website to rank for a search term that they didn’t intend it to rank for. You might ask… “how can this effect me and my site?”. Let’s say that you own a popular restaurant and you do everything “White Hat” with your web site. Your web site has developed over time and you have earned the rankings you wanted, but your cross town competition doesn’t hold the same moral values as you, and so they decide to try and setup some Googlebombs against your web site. They setup a number of different Blogs and forum threads that refer to your restaurant as something derogatory, and next thing you know your web site is ranking for “Worst Italian Restaurant in City”.

Now, I’m not writing this to put a scare into anyone as Google has algorithms in place to filter these Googlebombs. If you would like to read further about these Google algorithms just click the links in this sentence and you will go to Matt Cutts blog where he explains them in depth. What I am curious about is whether or not the algorithms are smart enough to realize if a company or organization is actually assembling a link building campaign or if they are trying to implement a Googlebomb. If it were the case that Google’s algorithm can’t decipher between the two, then it stands to reason that your web site could be penalized for link building or even repeating a targeted keyword term more than 2 or 3 times on your web site.

So what’s the answer? While some people have decided to ignore it and just deal with the repercussions of whatever bad press they may receive from this, others have decided to take action. The answer is “two-part”. The first part is building a Search Engine friendly web site that utilizes White Hat SEO tactics. This entails a number of different things that we will save for other blog posts, but the most important thing to remember is to write content for your visitors and not the Search Engines. By writing for your visitors you will limit the number of times you use your targeted keywords and find other related keywords that  complement them also. You can also used these different keywords as alternative navigation within your web site to generate more credibility for yourself. The second part is “patience”. Yes Google has algorithms in place to filter through these Googlebombs, but like everything else in life, it takes time to get it right. If you find that you are a victim of Googlebombing and you have done all the right things to ensure your SERPs, just try patience as it will take time to Google to decipher between the two, but in the end the two algorithms they have in place should catch any persistent problems with derogatory keyword rankings. the catch is that they only run every few months so the key is “Patience”.

Too many business owners get caught in the trap of making a website something that they like as opposed to researching what type of site will best convert visitors into buying customers.  I commonly hear “I want” this or “I want” that without having answers to how a customer might percieve those things.  I’m not saying the site shouldn’t be an online reflection of your business – it should, and it should be appropriately branded – but, site usability, content displayed and specific features added should be geared towards your client’s likes and dislikes.

The site is a sales tool, and like all sales tools and marketing messages it can be refined and tweaked to better convert customers.  The only way to refine your marketing materials is to step back from being emotionally involved and look at your material from a strictly analytical view.

If your site is not a sales tool but provides a service itself, such as an e-commerce site or membership-based site, then you need to be even more aware of your customer’s wants and needs because with websites, you always have stiff competition that will try and woo your client base with features specifically tailored to them.

Regardless of your site, stay in communication with your customers and solicit feedback from them on their impressions of the site.  Ask them want they like, what they don’t like, what they wish the site had and what they would change about it.  Visit your competitor’s websites to stay on top of new features they add.  Keep track of your website traffic stats to monitor changes in traffic as you tweak your online message.

I am fortunate to work with a talented team of experts at NetSource Technologies.  One of these experts is Ed Cehi, our search engine consultant.  Ed gave me a few minutes of his valuable time to answer some common questions clients ask me.

Brent: What is the first thing a site owner can do to increase SEO visibility?

Ed: There’s not really one singular thing that a site owner can do to improve their SEO visibility as there is a multitude of different things.  But if there was one thing that I would do I would say to optimize the site for the end user and not the search engines.  Because when you do that it helps the search engines.  When you optimize the site with content, especially relative content towards the keywords you’re trying to target, that helps the search engines get an idea of exactly what it is that you’re trying to provide to the user. […]