Larry Brauner

This is an article about how to get more web site traffic. Unlike most articles discussing how to get more website traffic, this article focuses on optimizing sources of website traffic rather than optimizing links or keywords.

I’ve had some success getting web site traffic. Admittedly, I may never catch up to Seth Godin whose blog currently ranks 6,028 in Alexa for traffic. However, my blog did recently pass 50,000 in Alexa after a couple of years blogging.

Get More Web Site TrafficFriends wonder what I’m doing that they’re not, and whether they’re looking for website traffic in the wrong places.

Hard work and consistency are certainly key success factors, and I am hard working and consistent. I’m also very hard thinking, and I’ve concluded that there aren’t right and wrong places to look for traffic, and that diversifying traffic sources is a critical strategy for achieving long-term success. Most web site owners don’t diversify enough.

Rationale for Diversification of Traffic Sources

It’s true that some website traffic sources deliver greater, higher quality and better targeted website traffic than others. It’s also true that some traffic sources are less time consuming and easier to use than others. Nevertheless, 80/20 rule notwithstanding, to rely only upon your best website traffic sources is a questionable strategy for at least seven reasons:

  1. Quantity - Obviously, using more website traffic sources tends to generate more web site traffic. While some website traffic sources aren’t as efficient to use as others, their website traffic is no less valuable.
  2. Stability - Using more website traffic sources reduces risk and increases stability. Putting all your social media eggs in one basket is risky, since social media is in a constant state of change. We often see social networking sites rise and fall in popularity and even disappear completely. Search engines are also unpredictable. They can revise algorithms or remove web sites at their discretion. My strategy has allowed me to adapt gradually to changes over time.
  3. Opportunity - Testing to uncover the best approaches is a widely accepted marketing concept. Using more website traffic sources, you find opportunities you would otherwise miss. You also increase your chance of getting lucky.
  4. Diversity - Using multiple traffic sources, you can reach audiences that are more diverse and richer from a marketing perspective.
  5. Frequency - Using many website traffic sources, you tend to reach people more often which helps you build your relationships with them more effectively and reinforces your messages.
  6. Synergy -Some website traffic sources complement each other and create synergy.
  7. Latency - Some website traffic sources require persistent usage before they yield results (e.g. search engines) or the source itself may not have matured (e.g. Twitter).

Places I Look to Get More Website Traffic

Without going into detail, a partial list of sources that have recently helped me get more we site traffic are: search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) Entrecard, Twitter, Ning sites, Facebook profile, Facebook page, Facebook NetworkedBlogs, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, BlogCatalog, Google Friend Connect, and other blogs.

While you can use my partial list of website traffic sources for starters, you’ll need to develop your own long list of sources that’s geared to your audience and your marketing strategy.

I’ve intentionally excluded video websites such as YouTube from my list for now, but in all likelihood it will be on yours. Furthermore, I don’t generally buy website traffic, but it might make sense for you to do so.

Okay. We’ve reached the point in the post where you usually comment. Please share your favorite traffic sources and ways you like to get more web site traffic. :-)

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Larry Brauner
Everything defies measurement and tracking. Everything, really.

Try recording your food intake. If you’re an emotional eater, committing your diet to paper ought to make you feel quite uncomfortable. However, even if you eat normally, listing your meals poses the following interesting problem:

Because you’re making a list of your meals and snacks, you’ll tend to make healthier eating choices than you would otherwise make. You may eat less or more than usual. Therefore, the items on your list will not represent your typical food intake. Rather, they’ll be biased.

Tracking the Untrackable

For several years, I worked as a business analyst at IDT Corporation.

One of several areas responsibility at IDT was analyzing advertising tracking data, partly in order to evaluate each advertising purchase, and partly to in order to determine the net value of each customer (after factoring out the cost of acquiring that customer).

Given our level of sophistication, tracking the new customers by marketing channel should have been straightforward. Nevertheless, there was a major problem: Our new customer defied tracking.

A different toll-free telephone number and a different web address was used for each newspaper, magazine, television station, radio station and direct mail piece. When a customer called the toll-free number or visited the web site, we knew how the customer was referred to us.

Well, sort of. The problem was that the customer didn’t always behave as we had hoped.

No matter which phone number or web address the customer was given, that customer sometimes found it more convenient to obtain the phone number by calling Information or going online, and to bypass their assigned web address, going to the company’s main website instead.

We called such a customer “untrackable” and were forced to make the best assumptions we could to deal with the untrackables in our analyses.

Tracking Twitter

I can provide many examples of tracking and measurement difficulties, especially from my years working in marketing research at Eric Marder Associates, but not to bore you too much, I’ll jump now to my discussion of Twitter.

My thoughts on Twitter will apply in varying degrees to Facebook and other social sites as well. I break down the measurement and tracking of Twitter traffic into these eight parts:

  1. You need to realize that much activity on the Internet, and on Twitter specifically is generated by cyber robots or plain bots. They tweet the majority of updates on Twitter, and they account for more than 90% of the traffic that flows through the links in Twitter posts.
  2. While some techies may be very interested in bot activity, most of us are simply interested in counting and tracking human clicks on our links. We need to separate out and count only real clicks by real peeps.
  3. Realize too that most humans access Twitter from desktop and mobile clients, not from the Twitter domain. (The extent to which this is true depends on the particular audience you’re targeting.)
  4. Web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics and Clicky, do exclude bot traffic from their stats. However, they do not know how to break down and allocate the so-called direct traffic coming from users’ desktops and mobile devices. In web analytics, direct traffic is the untrackable element which I discussed above in connection with my work at IDT. Nevertheless, do not rely on the stats from your site’s log. Install and use Google Analytics and Clicky in your blog or website. I use both myself. (For my Wordpress blog, I use the Ultimate Google Analytics plugin, and I installed the Clicky script in a sidebar.)
  5. Web untrackables come to websites in many different ways, such as directly typing a website address, selecting browser bookmarks, using a variety of desktop and mobile clients like TweetDeck, and even clicking on a link in an e-mail program such as Microsoft Outlook. Try and get a sense of where your direct traffic comes from.
  6. Rules of thumb provide no more than ball park estimates, and these crude approximations are often inadequate. Use rules of thumb only as a last resort.
  7. You can substitute tracked links in your tweets, but tracked links generally count bot traffic. However, BudUrl from Live Oak 360 has begun counting only human clicks. Great news! While their links can’t be generated automatically by TweetDeck, if you’re serious about tracking, you’ll put up with the inconvenience. Not every tweet will have a link, and not every link will need to be tracked.
  8. Even if you use BudUrl as I recommend, there’s still one more thing defying measurement, the Twitter user who replaces your link with theirs in order to track their retweet or because they prefer another shortening link. No way around this one! Remember, “Everything defies measurement and tracking.”

I count the comments made on each article. Don’t you defy measurement and tracking. :-P

Share your ideas below in a comment. :-)

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Larry Brauner
Like you, I typically visit many blogs and websites each day.

Some websites clearly have it together. They have lots of website traffic and appeal to visitors.

Other websites aren’t bad. They have good potential. With a few tweaks here and there, they could enjoy much more website traffic and appeal much more to their audience.

I promised myself that I’d write up some suggestions for improving blogs and websites. I realize that while much is possible, we can’t hope to do everything. We need to apply the 80/20 rule and focus on strategies and techniques that are easy to implement yet promise substantial benefits:

  1. Make Your Text Easier to Read - Some months ago, I noticed that my blog’s text wasn’t visually sharp enough. It was difficult to read. Upon examination, I noticed that the font wasn’t quite black, and the background wasn’t totally white. The links were grayish. After a few minor theme changes, the color scheme was improved. Low contrast combinations or light text on a dark background always require extra effort to read.
  2. Optimize for Human Eyeballs - A site’s title tells search engines and their users what the site is about. The title is the bold headline in search engine results. Using keywords in your site’s title can help you rank higher for those keywords. Recently, I changed the title of my blog hoping to rank higher on more keywords, and my traffic fell. The new title was unfortunately less relevant and less appealing to my potential readers. I changed my title back, and traffic rebounded. The takeaway: Optimize for humans, not just for search engines.
  3. Use Headings to Break Up Long Articles - Headings break up an article into sections and help make the article easy to scan and read. Limiting paragraph size helps too. Headings, however, like titles, can tell search engines what an article is about and are an excellent place to insert your keywords.
  4. Link Out - I provided a rationale for linking out to other sites in The Blogger’s Guide to Links and Comments: “Use of outbound links enhances your pages in ways that both search engines and people can easily appreciate.” The advice in that article applies equally to blogs and conventional websites. Unless you’re linking to ads, use only dofollow links.
  5. Link Internally - This can be huge. Linking internally increases a site’s circulation, and it increases the perceived relevance of both the linking page and the page linked to. Link to another page or article on your site when you have the opportunity. In a blog, you can even link to a tag, as I often do. A blog site map such as the once generated by the Wordpress plugin Really Simple Sitemap makes it easy for visitors to find a blog’s archived content. I use internal links on my blog nearly everywhere, even in places which aren’t obvious.
  6. Be Social - Adding a social dimension to your web presence makes you real and credible. Join all the major social networking sites, and let visitors know how they can connect with you. Google Friend Connect and Facebook NetworkedBlogs widgets add sociability to your site and enable readers to publicly endorse you. Bloggers can join blog networking sites as well such as Technorati, Entrecard, BlogCatalog and MyBlogLog.
  7. Make Subscription Simple - Make it as easy as possible for readers to subscribe to your blog or newsletter. Blogs should offer subscription by both email (using a service like Aweber) and RSS (using a service like Feedburner). I’m always amazed when I have to hunt for a way to subscribe to a site.
  8. Use Social Bookmarking - Make your content easier to find and, as is the case with some social bookmarking sites, create quality links into your blog or website. Some of the social bookmarking sites I use are Digg, Delicious, Propeller, Reddit, diigo, Jumptags, Google Bookmarks and iZeby.
  9. Encourage Comments - Not only do I generally ask readers to comment, but I comment back as well whenever it’s appropriate.
  10. Extend Your Domain - If your domain will expire with the next twelve months, you might be signaling to search engines and savvy visitors that your site is only temporary.

I’ve omitted other ways that you can improve your website, because they’re harder to implement, and because they’ll give me something to discuss in a subsequent article. ;-)

In any case, we have our work cut out for us. :-)

What do you think?

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Larry Brauner
Since Twitter Lists Beta Observations and Tips one month ago, Twitter completed the roll out of Twitter Lists to all its users.

Twitter members have been occupied with building and following lists, while the pundits have been occupied with observing and dissecting them (the lists of course, not the members). :-P

Twitter ListsThe reaction in the blogosphere has been somewhat mixed. 9 Reasons Why You Should Be In Love with Twitter Lists (RotorBlog) was very upbeat. Twitter Lists Are Not About Discovery (Regular Geek) was more skeptical.

A new social media site, Listorious, has surfaced to helps us discover Twitter lists for categories which are important to us. How splendid this is! I’ll explain why.

Realizing the Potential of Web 2.0

Twitter comes along and lets anybody who’s connected to the Net (even a bot) create a user account and add text messages (tweets) to the Twitter message stream. Simultaneously, Twitter lets users subscribe to messages in the Twitter stream.

Twitter is a good example of Web 2.0, i.e. people creating and sharing web content.

Twitter becomes popular. Millions of messages from millions of people start flowing downstream. The social media community asks, “How will all these messages be organized?”

Twitter responds, permitting users to create and share lists of Twitter users. These Twitter lists are another form of Web 2.0 content. The community wonders, “How will all these lists be organized?”

Listorious appears, and using the Twitter API,  provides a platform for users to create and share Twitter meta lists (lists of Twitter lists). These meta lists are yet more Web 2.0 content.

Suddenly, we’re realizing the potential of Web 2.0, the social web, on a large scale. We’re creating, sharing and organizing our own web of information.

How I Use Twitter Lists

I use Twitter Lists both to organize people I find on Twitter and to discover new people.

I have 20 Twitter lists of my own, some private, to which I assign people, and I explore Twitter and Listorious to find new lists of Twitter people.

For example, I like lists of public relations people and companies, because in many ways, my skills are a strong match for PR firms. I let Twitter lists help me locate and connect with organizations and people working in the PR and communications industry.

When I find a list I like, I follow it. I certainly don’t want to lose track of it. I assign many people in the list to my own lists too.

I also follow most of the people. I hope that they’ll check out my blog and decide to follow me back. Perhaps they’ll even subscribe while they’re here.

In Conclusion

The way Twitter Lists have greatly extended the functionality of Twitter is cool. So is the way that Twitter Lists fit nicely into Web 2.0 social media paradigm. Critics can say what they wish about Twitter lists but cannot diminish their usefulness to me (and to my readers).

Okay. We’ve reached the point in the post where you usually comment. ;-)

What do you like or dislike about Twitter Lists? How would you improve them if you were Twitter?  What are some of your favorite Twitter lists?

Follow @larrybrauner on Twitter. :-)

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Larry Brauner
What’s the big deal about WordPress?

In Website vs. Web Presence, I emphasize the role of social media in web marketing.

Darren Rouse, the author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, shares in a video his blog-centric approach to web marketing in which social media sites (which aren’t under our complete control) serve as outposts for our blogs and web sites (which we do control).

For further discussion about the control issue and the trade-offs, read How to Start a Blog Made Easy and Creating a Home for Your Blog.

Choosing WordPress for Blogs

Blogs and Web Sites Which We Own and Can ControlWordPress is popular software for setting up and managing our own blogs and web sites which we are able to control.

Using popular software is like buying a popular car. It’s easy to locate parts and easy to locate mechanics. With WordPress it’s easy to customize using add-on modules and easy to locate technical help when we need it.

Bloggers who use WordPress appreciate the way its functionality can be expanded or customized using plugins, which are add-on software modules (that are easy to append from within a blog’s control panel and often about as easy to use).

Choosing Plugins for WordPress

WordPress PluginThe best way to choose plugins is through word of mouth recommendation. Most WordPress plugins are free. However, if we don’t choose the plugins that are correct for us, our blogs will not perform the way we wish.

I’m sharing my top dozen WordPress plugins. I use more than twelve, and I’ve tried many others. These are the twelve WordPress plugins which I find the most handy for social marketing:

  1. AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget - One of many widgets available which enables readers to easily share and bookmark blog content. There’s an option to register with AddThis and track the widget’s usage.
  2. Akismet - A must have! Without this SPAM filter, life can be quite unpleasant. :-(
  3. All in One SEO Pack - Has had competition, but apparently, this plugin has proven to be reliable and well maintained. It provides control over meta tags and other aspects of SEO.
  4. Easy Icon - Helps set and determine the blog’s icon so the visitor can see the logo on browser title bar. Really is easy!
  5. Google XML Sitemaps - Another must have. Helps Google find all the blog’s content. Works quietly behind the scenes.
  6. Link to Me Textbox - Not a must have at all, but this plugin makes it easier for readers to link-in from their own blog and gives them a not too subtle hint. Cough. Cough. ;-)
  7. Nofollow Case by Case - This is the plugin which I referenced in The Blogger’s Guide to Links and Comments. I love it, but not everybody wants a dofollow blog.
  8. Really Simple Sitemap - Strongly recommended! Helps create a site map like mine that’s helpful for both readers and search engines.
  9. Simple Tags - Has many features. My favorite is the auto-complete feature.
  10. Tag Managing Thing - Offers basic tag management. I like the combination of this plugin and the previous plugin.
  11. Ultimate Google Analytics - In my opinion, the easiest way to incorporate Google Analytics in one’s blog.
  12. WordPress Mobile Edition - Creates an interface enabling mobile users to access the blog. Why not?

Your choice of plugins depends upon your needs and objectives.

Be Careful About User Registration

I have a suggestion that has nothing to do with plugins but is important to mention. Disable blog registrations! Do not let blog visitors set up accounts. Letting in strangers creates an unnecessary security risk.

Instead, set up a subscription system that enables readers to subscribe by RSS feed or email. I’ve found that FeedBurner and Aweber work very well together.

What Are Your Favorite WordPress Plugins?

It’s your turn to share some of your favorite WordPress plugins. You can share as many as you like, but please, explain what each does.

Do not list any plugins which have already been listed. However, if you’ve had a bad experience with a plugin that has been listed, feel free to explain.

I’m especially interested in hearing from other social marketers.

Here ya go. Comment away! :-D

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We learn nearly every day of developments in the social media world which have the potential for far reaching impact.

Take for example the recent integration of LinkedIn with Twitter. You can now tweet your LinkedIn status to your Twitter followers and automatically post your tweets to your LinkedIn status.

It is easy to see that this Twitter-LinkedIn partnership has many practical implications. Based on my research, these are my top 10 takeaways from the new Twitter-LinkedIn hookup:

  1. Microblogging has gone mainstream. Facebook has its own microblogging platform, and Twitter tweets can now show up on MySpace, LinkedIn and lots of other places on the web.
  2. Twitter is the de facto king (queen?) of microblogging.
  3. Twitter is a medium for real business conversation. You can still tweet about  breakfast, diapers or the light turning green. Small talk and chit-chat are the norm on Twitter. However, increasingly, people and companies are branding themselves and exchanging ideas on Twitter, 140 characters or one link at a time.
  4. The Twitter-LinkedIn integration helps LinkedIn by adding new life and meaning to its neglected status-update function and by adding much more dynamic content to the site as a whole. As a result, LinkedIn can be more competitive. Hopefully Ning will take notice and react!
  5. The Twitter-LinkedIn integration helps Twitter by attracting new professional users from LinkedIn who were previously too skeptical to join.
  6. The Twitter-LinkedIn integration enables members of both Twitter and LinkedIn to cross-post with ease, providing users with greater social marketing leverage.
  7. LinkedIn can help to reduce an enormous amount of content, functioning almost as would a Twitter list containing only members of your LinkedIn network.
  8. The hashtags #in and #li allow for selective cross-posting from Twitter to LinkedIn. This wasn’t possible when cross-posting with Ping.fm.
  9. The use of hashtags to selectively cross-post from Twitter to LinkedIn suggests the possibility of using hashtags similarly with other apps.
  10. Aggregation and syndication (using the semantic web or tools like Ping.fm and FriendFeed) have been touted as the next major trend in social media. However, the integration of Twitter and LinkedIn, although still at an early stage,  demonstrates that collaboration too (when achievable) has much to offer. I suppose that the absence of conflict between Twitter’s business model (whatever that is) and the ad-based models of competitors helps to create a favorable climate for collaboration.

What are your thoughts on the Twitter-LinkedIn integration, and what are some of your takeaways?

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No aspect of the Internet is more critical to understand than hyperlinks or simply links, as we call them. After all, what is the World Wide Web but countless documents which are interconnected by links?

A web page without links in to it can never be discovered by search engines, nor will people find the page unless directed to it. A page without links out of it is a virtual cul de sac, a dead end street from which visitors must back out in order to exit.

Woe to the web page that has neither inbound nor outbound links! :-(

Links Can Transfer Some of Their Authority

When a web page, especially an important one, links to your page, it serves as a recommendation and conveys, i.e. transfers, to your web page some amount of its authority both with search engines and with Internet users. The authority of your page increases, while the authority of the page linking in to you decreases.

When you link to others’ pages you transfer authority to their pages. Their authority of their pages increases, while the authority of yours decreases.

Links play an key role in search engine optimization. They help search engines to gauge the validity and the authority of each page or document on the web.

Why Relinquish Your Authority?

Why should you give away any of the authority that you’ve worked so hard to earn?

Authority isn’t all that matters. Relevance matters. Participation in the web and in your niche’s online community matter too. Generous use of outbound links enhances your pages in ways that both search engines and people can easily appreciate.

The Internet and search engines are mainly research tools, and outbound links help researchers to find and to verify the information they seek.

Linking Without Transferring Authority

There are two cases in which you need to link out but prefer not to give up any of your authority and don’t even want the search engines to follow your link to see where it leads.

When linking to something you’re advertising, it’s common practice to have search engines ignore your link. Why convey authority upon an ad?

There is another case which I discuss in the next section.

To request that a link be ignored by search engines, rel=nofollow is used in the HTML code. (Don’t worry if HTML is too technical for you.) Therefore this type of link is commonly referred to in SEO jargon as a nofollow link. A normal link is referred to as a dofollow link.

Comments on Blogs and Forums

Blogs and forums need comments to thrive. They help to build community and add valuable content which search engines like.

Comment often require links to be meaningful or to identify the commenter. Comments which are completely devoid of links have a sterile quality, so some degree of linking is necessary and desirable.

Unfortunately, links create an opportunity for SPAM.

As I explain in Anti-Social Media Marketing, spammers submit stupid or even obscene comments hoping to build inbound links to their sites.

Why transfer even one iota of your authority to a spammer?

Filtering out these comments is a pain, especially when they’re written to look plausible. For this reason, blogs and forums are programmed to use nofollow links in comments as a disincentive for spammers.

Dofollow Blogs and Forums

Just as nofollow is a disincentive for spammers, it’s a disincentive for real blog commenters and forum posters as well. I know that I prefer (and I’m not alone in my preference) to visit dofollow blogs and get a dofollow link back to my blog when I comment.

Many blogs and forums deal with potential SPAM without resorting to the use of nofollow links. Quite a few forums and some blogs subject their un-vetted commenters to moderation and other restrictions.

How I Make Dofollow Work for Me

Online Social Networking is a dofollow freestanding Wordpress blog. These are eight steps I take to make dofollow work for me:

  1. I use the Askimet plugin to pre-screen comments for SPAM.
  2. I moderate all comments and screen them for SPAM, (as well as inappropriate content, bad spelling and very bad grammar).
  3. I reject SPAM and undesirable comments. (I also correct spelling and grammar when necessary.)
  4. I use the Nofollow Case by Case plugin to override the Wordpress nofollow default.
  5. If a comment is borderline SPAM, I let the comment through, but I tell Nofollow Case by Case to make its links nofollow.
  6. If I want particular links in the body of a comment to be nofollow, I edit the HTML and insert rel=nofollow in the code.
  7. I let regular commenters (whom I like) get away completely with borderline SPAM (with or without a lecture), because I care a lot about their friendship and good will.
  8. I display a You Comment I Follow banner at the bottom of each post to let readers know that my blog is dofollow. Over time my blog has been added to a number of dofollow search engines.

Linking and Dofollow Takeaways

Linking is vital to the Internet. All websites ought to use ample links on their pages, just as I have in this article.

If you blog, consider a dofollow approach. Don’t be afraid to relinquish some of your authority to commenters, because in balance, you can expect to gain.

Now please, leave a great comment below and collect your dofollow link back to your blog or website. ;-)

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I spoke this morning with a very pleasant chap from the Westchester County Business Journal.

In the course of conversation I had occasion to mention that “nobody buys drills, they buy holes,” an aphorism attributed to Theodore Levitt, the late economist.

A drill is but a means to an end.

Similarly, few people care about social networking sites.

While I’m able to get excited about a minor Facebook tweak,  a juicy little Gwave tidbit, a new Twitter tool, or even the latest Wordpress release, most people using social media care only about friendship, love, wealth, power or fame.

A Drill, Not a HoleIf you’re selling a product or service, people care not about your product but what it can do for them. Your product or service is but a means to an end, a drill, not a hole.

In your marketing, think about the problems potential customers and clients want to solve. Address those problems. Offer to solve them, and let them pay you for your solutions.

Nobody buys drills, they buy holes. Sell them the holes.

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Web marketing to me is entirely about building up both social capital and search equity, nurturing relationships and reputations both with people and with search engines.

In Social Media vs. Search Engine Optimization and in The NEW Search Engine Optimization, I underscore the importance of both social media and search engine optimization and their interdependence. Your web marketing recipe must include plenty of healthy social media and search engine optimization ingredients.

31 Days to Build a Better BlogI also point out in Website vs. Web Presence,  that SEO, social media, relationships and reputation each contribute to the building of a presence on the web. Darren Rouse, the author of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, shares in a video his blog-centric approach to web marketing in which social media sites — which aren’t under our complete control — serve as outposts for our blogs and websites, i.e. our home base — which we do control.

I agree with Darren’s point of view and adopted the same approach when I started Online Social Networking 24 months ago. I must stress however, that I have always envisioned search engines providing me with more than enough targeted traffic over time.

A Note of Caution

Many social media enthusiasts are in search of a predetermined blueprint for success. However, beware! One-recipe-feeds-all diners and buffets aren’t for you.

The precise description and proportion of each ingredient must depend upon your objectives, and upon the tastes of all the distinguished guests for whom you’re cooking up this sumptuous but scrumptious feast.

Bon appétit mon ami.

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