Getting your company or personal website to rank on the three major search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN) is the quickest and most effective way to boost your sales and grow your business. Many search engine optimization (SEO) companies charge an arm-and-a-leg for ranking services, when you can do much of the work yourself for a fraction of the cost.
Marketing your business online is easier, and more importantly cheaper, than you probably realize. By using free web marketing tools and capitalizing on free social mediums you can easily drive traffic to your website and interact with your customers for no cost and very little time. Online social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube require nothing more than a valid email account and password, and give your business free access to millions of potential customers. Social bookmarking sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon are a couple more free resources that will spread your product or message like wildfire.
Social media, also known as Web 2.0, is no longer for the kids. Don't be fooled by the flashy profiles and young founders; networking online has become the driving force behind many marketing campaigns. Social marketing is still a new strategy for many major companies, but with literally hundreds-of-millions of users from all demographics, these free platforms provide great potential. According to a recent article on Forbes.com, social media outlets allow CEO's and companies to interact with their customers daily in a highly productive way. Starbucks, for example, uses Twitter to get direct feedback from customers and update them on new products.
The majority of Web 2.0 users are between the ages of 18-34, and while MySpace still attracts the younger crowd, Facebook, Squidoo, and even LinkedIn are great for reaching the buying public in an innovative way. The best part about these free networks is that they come with built-in blog, photo, and email applications. These are the tools that make conveying your message and redirecting traffic to your site easier then ever.
There are two simple things to remember when setting up a social networking account: use keywords in your profile name, and use a catchy profile picture. Your profile picture is the first thing that customers will see when browsing the internet or considering your online 'friendship.' Your profile picture can be your logo, but in some cases it is preferable to set up an account as the company CEO, rather than as the business itself. If you are a photographer, for example, it is well worth your time to set up a Flickr profile with examples of your best work. By setting up a free account as an individual, you can blog about your work on upcoming projects, post pictures of your business convention, and interact on a more personal level. While statistics show that a certain amount of trust is already given to a social network 'friend,' that trust only enhances when the interaction is with an individual instead of a business.
Setting up a social profile, whether it be on Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter involves finding the "Sign Up" tab (or "Join" tab) usually located on the right-hand-side near the "Sign In" tab. You will be prompted to enter your email address and new password. I would suggest using your company email or setting up a free Gmail account using your business name.
When creating a profile on YouTube and Twitter, you will be instantly asked for a username. You basically have two options here: use your company name or use an optimized keyword name. Use free online tools such as Wordtracker and Google Keywords to research what names will attract more traffic. If your business name is already optimized, then you have the best of both worlds. Keep in mind that this will be how a customer finds you on these social platforms. When a user searches for new 'friends,' they will enter a keyword to find profiles. For example, if a MySpace user is searching for an Arizona Cardinal's fan, they will type in the keyword Arizona Cardinals. If you happen to have a business selling Cardinal's apparel, using this keyword is highly productive for you.
Use the free online tool CheckUserNames.com to simultaneously check multiple social networks for user name availability. From this site you can test your keyword optimized profile name, and sign up for many accounts quickly and easily.
When it's time to fill in your personal information, don't be too professional. Have some fun with it while conveying your company's message. In order to update your personal information on MySpace, you'll have to go to "Edit Profile" under the "Profile" tab near the top of your screen. From this page you will be able to change the look of your profile and add to your "About Me" section.
After creating your account, you will have to check your email to authenticate your profile. This is why you must use a valid email address. Follow the setup steps as prompted, and within a matter of minutes you have created your first social marketing site. Of course, it's definitely not advised that you simply come out and post your product all over the network. That is a great way to get blocked and rejected by every user on every platform. MySpace comes equipped with a "Spam" tab to use when you send an unwanted or commercial email. If too many of your recipients mark your email as "Spam," you run the great risk of being banned from MySpace.
Once your profiles are created and customized, it's time to get down to work. Remember, you can have an account in every social network and can optimize each one to drive traffic back to your site. The more free profiles that you have, the more opportunity you give yourself to organically rank higher on search engine report pages (SERPS). By organically, I simply mean to rank on the top three search engines without paying for it through Pay-Per-Click strategies or paid advertising.
Each Web 2.0 platform thrives under different strategies. MySpace is a great platform for "shock-and-awe." Search engine guru's still typically stay away from this free medium. However, if you're targeting a younger crowd, have a band or gaming product, this is the perfect free resource. Tools such as Pyzam will help you build your site with flair. To market your profile, use some of your email marketing skills to reach "friends." Use a lot of art, photos and videos to convey your message. MySpace is an extremely visual medium, and you can use this to your advantage. Use banners that redirect traffic to your site. Embed links in every picture, video, and piece of artwork on your profile that will lead traffic back to your website.
In order to find your market customer, follow the "Friends" tab to "Find Friends," where you can search by age, gender, location, and even interests. Find your customer and let them know who you are without sounding like a used car salesman. Build your profile with multiple links back to your website.
Advertising on MySpace is just as easy as setting up a profile, and, though it may take a little cash, it will drive traffic to your site. Facebook advertising is built to allow you complete control of who is seeing your ad. You create it, select exactly who will see it, how much money you are willing to spend, and an advertising timeframe. Be smart about how you word your ad, what photos or logo you use, and the money you are willing to spend. Check your numbers frequently, keeping in mind that weekends will show different results than weekdays.
After you have secured "friends" on these social networks, it couldn't be easier to tell them anything and everything you want. For example, let's say you have a new product coming out, or a discounted special. By simply posting a bulletin on MySpace, writing a blog, or posting a note on Facebook, you can reach all of your customers at once. Every time you update your website in any way, you should let your customers know. This is a great way to keep things interactive and personal between you and your Web 2.0 "friends." By attaching or embedding a link back to your website, and a few bookmarking options, you are taking your social marketing to the next level.
Social mediums such as MySpace and Facebook have an amazing way of spreading photos, videos, gossip, and most of all, questioners and personality tests. By using a simple SEO strategy known as link baiting, you can drive traffic to your site. Create a simple questioner about almost anything from a users favorite things to what they had for lunch, and send it to your friends or post it on your profile. Entice your "friends" to fill out the questioner and send it to their friends, and the cycle will continue throughout the network. It may seem like a small process, but creating a small quiz or questioner will end up reaching for more people than you might imagine.
Twitter is a social network that you truly must be a part of. It's unique in the way that it allows you to consistently update your status without being too obnoxious. The whole purpose of Twitter is to literally let your "friends" know what you're doing in every second of every day. Use Twitter to inform customers of upcoming events, specials, and newly posted articles and blogs. Let customers know how you're feeling about popular news, or a company event. Don't be too professional, but send relaxed and informational messages to your "friends" on a constant basis. Embed links back to your site, or to a recent blog that you posted.
YouTube is another free social venue that is quickly becoming the SEO guru's dream, and while it may take a bit more technical knowledge, it can be your greatest free marketing tool. Filming a short video, or throwing together a quick slideshow with music, and adding a link directing people to your site, is all the work you need to do. It rarely even matters what the video is about, as long as it's entertaining and under about three minutes. You can simply use your Windows MovieMaker to edit the video, add music, a title and credits. Be sure to include a reference to your website.
How-To videos are, and will continue to be, in demand and creating one that is short and informational will do wonders for your website. Do a little research on Google Trends or Yahoo Buzz to find out what the hot topics are, and talk about them. If you're a gamble, make a controversial video (or blog). If you can get people interested and talking, you will definitely get them to your site. This will also persuade people to bookmark your video (or blog) to share the controversy with others.
The key to YouTube marketing is filling your video description with keywords and links to your website. The only way that your video will be found is through the description that you give it. Be specific to either what your video is about, or what your business is about, without sounding too much like that used car salesman. Make your description as long as you need to, as long as the link to your website is within the first few lines. These will be the first words that a viewer will see in your description. By using optimized keywords, when users search for YouTube videos via Google or YouTube itself, your video will be at the top of the list. Don't be afraid to comment on your own video, or have a friend or employee comment to get the ball rolling.
Post the videos you make on other video sharing sites such as MySpace and Meta Tube, and before you know it your video will rank on Google alongside your Facebook page and company website. If you have built your social profiles and video descriptions with smart links to redirect traffic, you should notice your numbers going up.
Another free Web 2.0 marketing tool is social bookmarking. Creating a profile on sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon is similar to creating your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Bookmarking sites are used to spread the word about interesting blogs, articles, and websites. For example, on Digg a user will post a story that he found interesting about Obama's stimulus package. He will "shout" it out to all of his friends, where they'll "Digg" the article and pass it to their friends. The more Digg users that see this link, the more readers this Obama article gets. The New York Times uses Digg as its number three resource to drive traffic back to its website. If you can harness the power of social bookmarking sites like Digg, you will drastically improve your traffic. This is why it is crucial that anytime you post a blog on Myspace, a video on YouTube, or an article on your personal or company website, you must add some bookmarking options for your readers.
Adding bookmarking options to your blogs involves one simple step. It's an embed code that you will place directly into your work. Check out AddThis.com to get the code and customize your bookmarking options. SocialMarker.com is another great free resource for creating accounts on many different bookmarking platforms and easily accessing those accounts. This is a platform that will actually take you from site to site, allowing you to open an account or add your blog one by one.
An SEO strategy that has been implemented by many marketing companies is to combine RSS feeds with social bookmarking. (An RSS feed is a way of syndicating your content throughout the internet to anyone who is subscribed to receive it). Your employees should all be subscribing to your RSS feeds already. Anytime you post a new blog or article, they should be automatically notified. Their step is to choose one of the many free bookmarking sites, post your blog on that site, and thus spread the word to their Web 2.0 "friends." If each of your employees bookmarks your blog, it will appear to the search engines that you must have something relevant and important to say. Your next step is to bookmark your bookmarking profile. This will only add more relevance to your blogs and articles.
Something to consider when doing social marketing is your online reputation, and the reputation of other users. By using the free online tool Trackur.com, you can monitor yourself as well as others across many social mediums. While this product is not entirely free, it can come in handy when you need to know the atmosphere of your online network. Tweetbeep.com is a great free resource that allows you to track who is talking about you on Twitter, what they are saying, and how often they are saying it. Lastly, by using Google Alerts and setting it up manage your online reputation as well as monitoring your competitors reputation, you can stay completely informed at all times. These are great tools for staying on top of what is new in your industry, what people in your industry are talking about, what they are saying about you, and how well your social marketing strategy is going.
Social marketing is free, easy, and incredibly useful if you know how to take advantage of it. While it's still a new medium, and SEO guru's are still learning how to capitalize on it, by using these simple steps you can drive traffic to where you want it absolutely free. Take some time to do your research on keywords and effective social strategies by simply Googling social network marketing. Use the sites like MySpace, Facebook, Squidoo, and LinkedIn to get your product known. Make the most of social bookmarking sites, exploit the opportunities your own employees can offer you through their online profiles and bookmarking pages. By converging many different aspects of social media, and implementing social strategies, you will no doubt watch your sales go up. It may take a little longer to see your website rank higher on Google or Yahoo, but in time this completely free online SEO technique will work towards your advantage.