Everyone comes to the Reputation Monitoring party at one stage or another. Maybe you’re a rookie, bumbling around and covering up your mistakes because you don’t know any better. Maybe you’re an empath, getting dirty in the trenches while you ooze sympathy for everyone’s feelings. Perhaps  you’re a veteran, wise enough to know thy enemy before he strikes.  But maybe, just maybe, you’re a Jedi, aware of all things at all times. Dynamically in touch with The Force.

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Okay, half of my friends and family already checked out because the title involves search engine optimization. That's okay. Those of you willing and brave enough to continue, let's get on with it. 

As a search marketer, one of the key strategies I employ in on-site optimization includes internal linking strategy. Here's a quick summary of how it works, from the beginning: 

Step 1: Keyword Research

Step 2: META Tag Optimization

Step 3: Content and Header Tag Revisions

Step 4: Internal Linking 

Step 5: External Linking 

If you want an explanation of these basic concepts, visit any one of a hundred SEO blogs and search for these terms. Or, you can wait for a few weeks and I will begin recovering all the SEO basics on another blog which I will announce soon. For now, I'm only covering Step #4 as it applies to a blog. 

The thought occurred to me months ago after I had written a blog post about how my wife loves the affordable women's clothing at Papaya Clothing Store in the Grapevine Mills Mall. Actually, it was also after my most popular post was written on the Papaya Clothing website. That second post, written in April 2007 (only three months ago), received more than 1,000 visitors the first month simply by ranking at the bottom of the first page on Google for "Papaya Clothing". After I saw that jump in my analytics, I decided to test something out. I wrote two more blog posts referencing Papaya and linked back to that second post from each of them. My ranking jumped from #8 or #9 to #2 within a couple weeks.

Granted, many phrases are more competitive and getting solid results take much more work. But the results I saw were phenomenal. I now receive more than 13k visitors per month just reading my few posts about Papaya Clothing. It's ridiculous. Of course, it really helps that the company has taken more than a year to build a website and has only an unlaunched tester site to show for the time and money lost. 

My point is that I'd never paid much attention to internal linking within my own blogs. I'm all over the map with my blogging, and it just never occurred to me until then that it could be very useful to use some of the same principles for a blog that I use on static websites. It's the visual blog style that probably kept me from thinking about it. I mean, even when I look at my own home page, I only see the most recent 10 posts or so. Everything prior to that is filed in Archives and fades from view.

Blog categories are an excellent way to keep tabs on what you've written before. Of course, you can always do a site search if you've incorporated search functionality. So here's the easiest way to go about building internal links on your site:

Rule #1 – When writing a new post, search your own blog for references to the same subject or keywords. Copy those specific post URLs and use them in hyperlinks on the new post.

Rule #2 – As an alternative, determine which category your new post falls under and search that category's archives for pages to link to in your new post.  

There you have it. Basic. Simple. Link to your own posts. I'll give more specific advice on internal blog linking in the new blog which will be announced soon.  

As I mentioned previously in ReputationAdvisor.com, the "web 2.0" space (sorry Nathan – I know how much you love that term) has grown and matured to the point that the what is written or posted on the Internet can make or break a company's profitability. Reputation was a priceless commodity back in 1950s small town America. Then cities expanded and companies branched out and a bad rep here or there still allowed for success in other towns or regions.

The consumer had no way to expose a fraud or a bad deal to the masses. Newspapers, books, and radio were the primary methods of communicating to the public. Television obviously took over as the most popular mass media communications method, but the stations were run by the rich minority, leaving the public with little more than gossip and petitions to spread the word of malpractice. 

The Internet levels the playing field once and for all. Even the most average person can create a blog or join a forum and post their experiences and opinions of the various businesses they've encountered. We live in an unprecedented age of consumer power. A timely message delivered in the right place online by a single consumer can literally cost a business millions of dollars in sales and reputation repair. 

The Internet also allows for corporations to flood the space with positive messages and claims to good intentions and benevolent deeds. Any business willing to dedicate some time and money can seriously spin their online image in any way they see fit.

The Web is the battlefield, and some corporations are just waking up to the realization that cyber slander can destroy their profits. I'm thinking of one small to mid-sized oil and gas company in particular. A disgruntled ex-salesperson posted a slanderous accusation against the company on a very influential investor forum. This forum was already crooked to begin with, since the forum owner propagated false accusations against similar oil and gas companies in order to win the confidence of the seeking investor. The owner would then direct the disillusioned investor toward an "honest" organization which he coincidentally benefited from. 

This is a black hat marketing method which earns no respect from me. This forum abuses the power of its influence to slander others in order to keep the spoils. But this oil and gas company now finds itself in a dilemma: what do we do about these horrible things which our ex-employees and competitors are saying about us?

That is the million dollar question (or multi-million dollar, as I've seen businesses drop like flies). Bad online reputation may not end your business, but it can undo years of costly progress.

If you and your business have already suffered loss from bad online reputation, there is no time to wait. Contact a reputation management professional immediately. 

If your business is expanding on the Web, now is the time to put a campaign into place that will protect your reputation in the future. Unsatisfied customers are inevitable. You can't please everyone all the time. But you can proactively protect your business from bad press that could cripple your business. 

For more information about protecting your good name on the Web, contact me at daniel@culturefeast.com.  

time to rethinkRand posted an SEOMoz comment this morning, with some illustrations of really underhanded advertising for search marketing. He then asked a question I have asked myself for months:

“So what are we to do, fellow SEOs? After 10 years of attempting to educate the outside world, is it time to give up the game and just accept the fact that SEO will always have negative, inaccurate associations and a shroud of mystery? Or… are there new approaches that could be taken to better inform a clearly curious and often desperate public?”

As influential as Google and Amazon have been in Internet history, they both made an effort to market themselves via television, radio, film, and print. And the core principal at work then is the same now: if you want to educate or influence the masses, reach them where they live.

You can’t educate the masses with an SEO blog. Trust me, I have dozens of friends and acquaintances who use MySpace and visit my blog, but they hate it when I write anything SEO related.

In order to educate the public, you have to entertain them at the same time. Someone needs to spearhead this. Let’s look at the two easiest ways to educate the public:

1. Find a budding movie scriptwriter and write a main character to be an SEO. Without overtly preaching about the industry, teach the public about SEO through the comments and experiences of the character. This is an extremely powerful (and expensive) method.

2. Get the financial backing to create some infomercials. Make them cool (think Mac & PC), funny (Sonic DriveThru commercials), or edgy (TRUTH campaign). Create 5-10 commercials, each that covers one topic or exposes one unethical practice. Let each one air for a month or two before moving on to the next.

Both of these ideas are ridiculously expensive. But how did Amazon brand itself? Traditional media. We should give Amazon a lot of credit for building the Internet user base. Millions of people discovered for the first time that they could purchase items online, and the rest was history. But it took reaching them through the mediums they use most.

Internet use is definitely on the rise. In the future, I expect most Americans with Internet access will have a website of some sort. eBusiness will continue to rise. Search marketing is a vital aspect of eCommerce. It’s unavoidable.

Are commercial spots and movie appearances pipe dreams? Maybe. But someone will do it someday, and they will become instant experts in the minds of millions. If ever there was an open opportunity to make a name for one’s self in search marketing, this is it. Throw a few million at it and watch what happens. Of course, once the rabbit is out of the hat, expect to see the unethical marketers create 30 minute infomercials on late night television promising millions if you create an instant SEO shop or use their services.

There will be abuse of every inspiration. The only way to combat that abuse may be to get enough SEO professionals to band together to support this ad campaign that the space is flooded with support and verification.

Thoughts?

Today, we’re talking about online user experience. Granted, this is the type of post that belongs on my Reputation Management blog, so I’ll be brief and expand on it there later. It’s still worth my time to cover these topics here or on MySpace because those are the places where my Internet illiterate friends hang out, and they represent the types of people who will “discover” the amazing opportunities made available by the Web, and without some kind of help they’ll throw up the ugliest or most unusable site you can imagine.

Here are the 2 biggest mistakes people make when designing and developing their first website:

1. FLASH – I don’t care how cool FLASH looks, designing your entire site in FLASH is a HORRIBLE idea. Don’t do it! I don’t care about how cool it looks, it’s a waste of your marketing dollars. Google and Yahoo! will not be able to index your site’s pages, which means you will get crap for search engine results. And in case you didn’t already know, the number one way people locate websites is by searching Google or Yahoo!. You absolutely cannot ignore this fact and must build your site to meet the standards of “crawlable” site.

2. Content Overload – No matter what you’ve seen from circa 1997 web designs, it does not help your website or company to place thousands of words on a single page. It’s a waste. Limit each page of information to 300-400 words. If you have that much more to say on a subject, think a little more strategically and organize your points so you can turn that one massive page into multiple, easy-to-digest pages. On the flip side, it’s equally unhelpful to have next to nothing on each page. If writing isn’t your strength, sub out the work to a professional copywriter (hmmm…. I wonder who?).
In EVERY situation, research what will improve online user experience for your targeted readers. There is tons of information out there to help you do it right the first time. You can always call me if you want to connect with someone offering professional design and SEO.

Once you’ve been around the SEO industry for awhile, you’ll get comfortable with the basic requirements of site design, development, and copywriting. Until then, feel free to shoot me your questions and I’ll be happy to help out.