Larry BraunerHave you ever been slapped by Google or by one of the major business networking sites?

I have — more than once.

I recently received a Twitter slap, and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. If you’ve never received a slap yourself, perhaps your approach is overly cautious.

Clarification

Slapped by GoogleOf course, one wouldn’t actively choose to be penalized by a major business site. Yet, with so many gray and fuzzy areas, this particular hazard is very difficult to skirt.

Fortunately, a slap isn’t as bad as a total ban. A ban can have major long-term consequences. However, even a slap by Google or by an ISP could cause considerable loss. Most slaps result from black hat SEO techniques or some other form of spam.

Twitter Slap

Twitter SlapOutright spam on Twitter risks account cancellation.  More subtle types of spam typically incur the exclusion of tweets from search results, thereby making one invisible to all except his or her followers.

Here are four situations that invite Twitter slap:

  1. Duplicate content - Repeatedly tweeting the same tweets or links
  2. Duplicate accounts - Creating multiple Twitter accounts with the same bio text or linking to the same site
  3. Aggressive use of #hashtags - Using #hashtags haphazardly or maliciously
  4. Following vs. follower ratio - For example, an account following 2,000 with only 10 followers.

In the past, I had several Twitter accounts linking to this blog and tended to append #hashtags to my tweets much too generously. I may also have tweeted some duplicate content. Now tweets from my main Twitter account are excluded from search results.

Sending lots of @ messages to non-followers is outright spam and ought to be reported using the “report for spam” link. I would never consider doing such a thing.

Coping with Twitter Slap

While not disastrous, Twitter slap is troublesome. My #hashtags do no good, unless a follower (in good standing with Twitter) retweets my posts with all my #hashtags intact.

The best way to work around this kind of Twitter slap is to create another account with different bio text and a different bio link. Then, that account can be used to retweet all the important tweets and those with #hashtags from a slapped account.

Have your own stories or comments? Please share them below. :-)

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

Dofollow Blogs Online Social Networking Home Online Social Networking Sitemap About Larry Brauner
Sharing is Caring!
Tags: ,


Larry BraunerAre you using website widgets effectively?

I listed 10 Types of Widgets for Your Blog or Website. Now, I discuss strategies for employing widgets on your site.

While using website widgets is not rocket science, here are some important concepts worth keeping in mind:

  1. Widgets Are Content - Recently, a Twitter connection told me he liked my content and use of widgets. I thanked him, but the truth is that website widgets are content, as is each other aspect of your web site’s design. When you select widgets for your site, realize that they are just as much a part of your site as the copy you write. When you select a widget, customize it to the extent possible to appear as you wish, including both its size and color scheme.
  2. Widget Privacy Issues - In Website Widgets and Ads Raise Security and Privacy Issues (recommended reading), I discussed security and privacy issues and concluded that, “You are responsible as a blogger or web site owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use web widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too.”
  3. Space Considerations - One way you pay for the use of a widget is by giving it valuable space on your website. There are only a modest number of widgets you can reasonably host on your website without it becoming cluttered. Choose carefully and don’t clutter your web site with widgets (or anything else).
  4. Website Widget Placement - As I stated in 10 More Easy Ways to Improve Your Website, “If visitors need to scroll down to view vital content, you’ll most likely lose them. Similarly, if you have an important widget, such as a Facebook fan page widget, place it where it will be visible without scrolling down.” Place key widgets near the top of each page and prioritize the rest.
  5. Most Useful Website Widgets - Community building, subscription, tracking, and social networking widgets (see 10 Types of Widgets for Your Blog or Website mentioned above), can add important functionality to almost any website.
  6. Monitor Your Widgets - Periodically, monitor and reevaluate your website widgets. Don’t set them and forget them or fall in love with them. Your needs and priorities can change, and widgets can also stop working or become obsolete.
  7. Your Website Layout- If you plan on using many website widgets, I suggest picking a theme with two sidebars, rather than one, to better accommodate all your widgets.

When you surf the ‘Net and find sites you like, look to see which widgets they use and how they use them. That’s a good way to come up with new ideas.

Here we are, coming to an end of our time together. Don’t go yet. Please subscribe first and leave a comment. :-)

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

Dofollow Blogs Online Social Networking Home Online Social Networking Sitemap About Larry Brauner
Sharing is Caring!
Tags: , ,


Larry BraunerHow much do you know about website widgets?

Last week, in Website Widgets and Ads Raise Security and Privacy Issues, I shared my concerns about security and privacy issues connected with the use of widgets on a blog or other website.

I concluded, “You are responsible as a blogger or website owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too.”

Today, I list 10 types of website widgets that can enhance your site:

  1. Community Building Widgets - I use both Google Friend Connect and Facebook fan page widgets here on Online Social Networking. They work on blogs, as well as other websites, and I like them very much. Make sure you enable and use the Google Friend Connect newsletter feature.
  2. Subscription Widgets - I use RSS and NetworkedBlogs widgets, which are suitable for blogs, and I also use an email subscription widget that works with any website.
  3. Tracking Widgets - In addition to embedding Google Analytics internally on every page of this blog, I use Get Clicky, Alexa, Page Rank Checker, Website Grader and Flag Counter widgets to acquire a broad range of additional statistics.
  4. Social Networking Widgets - Social network widgets encourage visitors to connect with you on Twitter, Facebook, BlogCatalog, MyBlogLog and other key social bookmarking and social networking sites. An Entrecard widget enables me to network and expose my blog to thousands of bloggers.
  5. Polls and Survey Widgets - I use the interests and comments features of Google Friend Connect to obtain feedback and preferences from my GFC community.
  6. Content Sharing Widgets - The Add This widget at the end of each article makes it very easy (hint, hint) for you to share content with friends in your networks.
  7. Advertising Widgets - Ad widgets from Google Adwords, ad networks and retailers such as Amazon help you generate income from your blog or other website.
  8. Syndication Widgets - Display news, other information, YouTube videos and Flickr pics on your site.
  9. Widget Bars - Here’s an example of a page with a Digg toolbar widget (hint, hint again). Widget bars are becoming more and more common.
  10. Widget Gadgets - See Google Gadgets for everything else under the sun.

My favorite website widgets are community building widgets, subscription widgets, tracking widgets and social networking widgets. In a subsequent article, I’ll provide useful tips for using widgets. :-)

However, one more thing before you leave. What types of widgets do you use? What are examples of each?

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

Dofollow Blogs Online Social Networking Home Online Social Networking Sitemap About Larry Brauner
Sharing is Caring!
Tags: , , , , ,

Larry BraunerWebsite widgets are commonplace in the world of social media. They tend to make interacting, marketing and web site tracking easier and more fun. Many types of website widgets are currently used on this blog.

However, don’t you ever question how safe website widgets really are? The use of website widgets and banner ads raises online safety and privacy issues for you and your website visitors that are worthy of consideration.

Marketing Experiment Gone Wrong

Marketing Experiment Gone WrongI was experimenting with my website tracking software. I wanted to determine whether it would work on websites not belonging to me. I installed the required tracking code in a blog post on a Ning site and on my Ryze profile.

I very quickly uncovered a major obstacle. The JavaScript, a key element in the tracking code, had been stripped off by each of the social networking sites. All that remained was a link to a very tiny and invisible image hosted by my tracking service.

I decided to continue the test in order to see the outcome. I invited friends to visit the test pages and inspected the resulting traffic data. I saw the IP address, ISP, location, operating system and web browser for each person who had visited the test pages — and all it took was embedding an invisible one pixel by one pixel image on those pages.

Privacy and Security Implications

When you install a banner ad on your blog or other website, and that banner ad is hosted on the advertiser’s server, not yours, you give that advertiser identical information about your visitors as I was able to obtain about mine; your visitors don’t even need to click on the banner ad to make that happen.

Once an advertiser obtains an IP address, they may obtain more sensitive information as well. Some offline merchants sell data about their customers. Why not assume that some online merchants and social networking sites do the same?

They have some amount of personal information matched to an IP address, and may decide to monetize that private data. They might even state that in their privacy policy.

When you install a widget or ad on your site that contains script, the effects are more far reaching. The company that provided you with the widget code can obtain information about the source and actions of each visitor. Scripts can even be malicious, as in the case of poisoned banners. :-(

Your Due Diligence Can Help

You are responsible as a blogger or web site owner to protect the privacy of your visitors as best you can. Use web widgets from reputable sources and banner ads, too. If practical, host the image on your own server, as I myself generally do.

Hopefully, data that reputable third parties obtain from you and your visitors will be used for reasonable purposes, and their widget code will perform as specified. You need to take care that all third party widget code you embed in your site is from a reputable source.

Your turn for questions or comments. ;-)

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

Dofollow Blogs Online Social Networking Home Online Social Networking Sitemap About Larry Brauner
Sharing is Caring!
Tags: , , , , , ,

Larry BraunerHow well is your blog or website performing?

This past November, I wrote, “Some web sites clearly have it together. They have lots of traffic and appeal to visitors.

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

Blog or WebsiteI listed 10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Blog or Website and indicated that there might be more suggestions to follow.

Here then are ten more tweaks (presented as problems and fixes), bringing the total to twenty. Hope they’ll keep you busy for a while. ;-)

  1. Key Content Hidden “Below the Fold” - You have seconds to capture a visitor’s attention. If visitors need to scroll down to view vital content, you’ll most likely lose them. Similarly, if you have an important widget, such as a Facebook fan page widget, place it where it will be visible without scrolling down.
  2. Long Flash Intro - I hate sitting through flash intros designed to impress. Don’t you? Why would you want to subject your visitors to long (or even short) flash intros? Flash intros are dead time. Why not instead impress visitors with your knowledge and the relevance of your content?
  3. Clutter - Some websites have too much going on; they look like patch quilts.  Others have ads that fill every nook and cranny. What can I say? Such sites are overwhelming.
  4. No Call to Action - What do you want your visitors to do when they visit your site? To buy? To subscribe? To leave a blog comment? Let them know what you expect, and if your request is reasonable, they may very well comply. If you don’t ask, they may not know what to do, and they’ll leave, perhaps forever, without taking action.
  5. Distracting Ads - Pop-up ads, blinking ads, glaring banners, sexy ads, scripts that forward to advertisers’ sites after a few seconds, inappropriate auto-playing audio, etc. I dare say, these are “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” Make sure your ads don’t interfere with your content. If your ads are your content, then please disregard everything you’ve ever read on this blog.
  6. Images Not Labeled - Make your visitors and the search engines happy. Whenever possible, describe your images using alt and title parameters in your img tags. If all this is gibberish to you, worry not. Your web development or HTML guru will know what to do.
  7. Hard to Navigate Site - Don’t confuse your visitors. Keep your website simple and provide a site map if you can.
  8. Difficult to Understand - Write for your audience. Not everyone will have an advanced degree, some could have nothing or as little as a certificate from an online school – unless of course such people are your target audience.
  9. Spelling and Grammar Mistakes - There ain’t no excuse for bad spellin and grammar.
  10. Stale Content - Fresh content is good for SEO and for attracting repeat visitors.

Implement as many of these ten website improvements (and the ones listed 10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Blog or Website) as you’re able to.

How time flies! Already, we’ve come to the part of the blog post where people usually leave a well thought-out comment. :-D

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

Dofollow Blogs Online Social Networking Home Online Social Networking Sitemap About Larry Brauner
Sharing is Caring!

Bookmark and Share

Tags: , , , ,

Larry BraunerYou want to market on the web and take advantage of the vast potential of social media. You start your blog, create your Twitter account, launch your Facebook fan page, and you’re ready to go.

Or are you? Have you missed any crucial first steps?

Sandy Abrams, begins her new book, Your Idea, Inc., with words that have been attributed to Mark Twain:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking down your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

This quotation presents three problems, which I believe ought to have troubled Samuel Clemens:

  1. Isn’t “breaking down your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks” itself a step in the process?
  2. Aren’t understanding your needs and clearly defining your objectives vital preparatory steps as well?
  3. How do we determine the optimal sequence in which to execute all the small manageable tasks?

Neglected Stepchild of Social Media MarketingThese are three aspects of planning.

Planning is not popular, which explains the all too common lack of direction and focus in social media work.

Lack of direction and focus impedes progress and can cause frustration.

Your Social Media Plan

Before you jump into social media, devise your social media marketing and PR plan. Here are 16 key areas that might factor into your social media plan:

  1. Understand your business and objectives.
  2. Think about your products and services, what makes each special and their respective market segments.
  3. Develop positioning strategies for each market or program.
  4. Compile a list of your online competitors for each market.
  5. Identify suitable social media, such as social networking sites and social bookmarking sites, for both your vertical and horizontal campaigns.
  6. Identify desirable directories and other sites that might link to your content.
  7. Research and evaluate the extent and quality of industry-specific online content.
  8. Devise strategies and techniques for developing and promoting your content.
  9. Define a policy for governing your employees’ interactions with the public through social media.
  10. Study the online methodology of competitors and identify their search engine keywords.
  11. Analyze and critique your existing web presence.
  12. Gauge your competitors’ online success based upon their standing in search engines, the number and quality of links to their site, and estimated traffic.
  13. Identify opportunities to outmaneuver your competitors.
  14. Use a process called keyword discovery to develop a potentially useful vocabulary that will attract targeted search engine traffic to your content through SEO.
  15. Analyze keywords to determine which ones ought to be emphasized, based on the frequency of search and the amount of competition for each keyword phrase.
  16. Create a lexicon as an output of your keyword research and as an aid to your content development.

Action is Everything

You need not be concerned about every one of these areas. Use your judgment, since these are more suggestions than requirements. Certainly, do not use the length of my list as an excuse not to take action.

Action is everything. However, action begins with planning.

What are your thoughts?

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

Dofollow Blogs Online Social Networking Home Online Social Networking Sitemap About Larry Brauner
Sharing is Caring!
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Larry BraunerI’ve written about list building extensively in connection with social media.

It’s time to revisit social media list building once again. In this article, however, I focus more on where to build lists than how to build them. In other words, I focus on social media list building destinations.

A few remarks are in order before I address the where-to of list building.

Importance of List Building

In List Building Using Twitter, I discuss the importance of list building in marketing. List building is equally important in PR, CRM and other types of communication.

Reach is the quantity of people your message reaches, while frequency is the average number of times each person is reached.

Frequency builds trust and drives your message home. Advertising without frequency is rarely effective. Marketers rely on list building to repeatedly reach their audience and achieve their target frequency levels.

New List Building Paradigm

List Building DestinationsIn List Building Paradigm Shift, I discard the stereotype of list building as “a well-written lead capture page linked by a web form to an auto- responder” and redefine it as the process of acquiring and nurturing followers.

More precisely:

List building is the process of subscribing members of your target audience, in order to engage and nurture them and brand yourself and that which you represent.

This definition leaves plenty of room for creativity and customization of the list building process, yet it defines our objectives: engaging, nurturing and branding. Prescribing our objectives enables you to gauge the relative merits of each list building venue at your disposal.

List Building Destinations

These are my five favorite venues for list building. They are just as useful to owners of static websites as they are to bloggers.

I use all of them and let people choose for themselves which they prefer.

  1. Autoresponders - Reports of the death of email have been greatly exaggerated. Everybody receives email and knows how email works. Every website should provide email subscription. Emails sent to opt-in subscribers will have an open rate of about 30% and a click through rate of approximately 10%, which is excellent. The downside of email subscription in general is anonymity, lack of interactivity and changes of address. I use an autoresponder service to maintain my database and deliver my email. My service has a high delivery rate, many important features, good customer service, and it integrates with Google’s FeedBurner RSS if you have a blog.
  2. Ning Social Networks - You can connect with members of a Ning network, interact with them and broadcast messages to them as the site creator, as an administrator, as a group creator and as a friend. They all work. However, only as the site creator do you actually own their data. My primary Ning site is Small Business Network. Subscription through Ning can be powerful, but it takes much more work to join a Ning site than to opt into an email list. A big problem with Ning is that if somebody joins more than one site or group of yours, they can receive duplicate mail from you. If you’re already established on Ning, incorporate it in your list building strategy. If not, to Ning or not to Ning will not be an easy question to answer.
  3. Facebook - A Facebook fan page widget lets Facebook members register for your page with one click. Based on my experience, response to posts runs at around 5%, about half the rate of email, which is good. The quality of traffic is superb with high average time spent on site. Your posts on Facebook can promote interaction and draw comments themselves from the members of your page, which helps you brand yourself. The potential also exists with Facebook pages to benefit from viral effects.
  4. Twitter - Posts on Twitter, or tweets as they’re called, can easily be retweeted and spread virally throughout the site. In a future post, I might list the reasons why, not withstanding the viral effect, I like Twitter much less than I like Facebook for list building. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to make Twitter subscription available, and I love all the traffic it brings me. (I’m @larrybrauner.)
  5. Google Friend Connect - This is Google’s attempt to add a social element to every website.  I doubt that it’s very successful from a social perspective, but it’s from Google, so I’m in. If Google uses or will use GFC membership to assess the relevance of websites, I’m covered. One nice feature of GFC is its newsletters. Make sure you enable them and use them to email your GFC subscribers.

I also use RSS subscription for my blog, but it doesn’t support interaction, and I believe that the response rate from RSS is very low.

If you’re not yet a subscriber, please choose a destination and subscribe.

Your comments about list building or social media list building destinations are welcome. :-)

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web. See also my Disclosure Policy regarding affiliations and compensation.

Dofollow Blogs Online Social Networking Home Online Social Networking Sitemap About Larry Brauner
Sharing is Caring!
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,