Larry Brauner

The long tail has recently become a major buzzword both in business and online.

The long tail concept is rather abstract, so it can help to look at concrete examples. Let’s look at examples from my blogging experience.

The Long Tail of the Search

I started publishing Online Social Networking in November 2007, and I installed Google Analytics to monitor, analyze and track traffic to my website.

My blog, as you can probably guess, has been search optimized for the keyword online social networking.

Out of 25,515 visits that were due to search engines, only 1,469 were searches for online social networking. The remaining 24,056 visits were based on 10,769 other search terms. 3,658 of those 10,769 were variants of online networking.

Fewer than 500 of the 3,658 search terms were used to find my site more than one time. These search terms each occurred very infrequently, yet in aggregate they accounted for a great proportion of my visits.

The Long Tail of Social MediaThe long tail of the search refers precisely to this phenomenon.

Most searches are based on all sorts of low frequency keywords. See the diagram to the left in which the yellow region under the curve corresponds to the long tail.

The Long Tail of ROI

I spend several hours writing each post on my blog and another hour or so bookmarking and promoting it. My hope is that people will come read the article and subscribe. Just to keep things simple, consider subscribing to be my return-on-investment.

A couple of hundred people, more or less, will visit within a couple of days to read my piece. Some will comment, and some will subscribe.

As I mentioned above, my blog is search engine optimized. I receive more than 100 visitors daily just from search engines. Over time each individual article on the blog will be read by a handful of search visitors per day. That’s not a large number, but it eventually adds up.

That’s the long tail of ROI: The small number of residual daily visits and subscriptions eventually match or surpass the initial surge of visits and subscriptions when the article is first written and posted.

The Allure of Social Media for Marketing

There are many aspects of social media that are appealing. It’s free. It’s social. It’s far reaching. However, the long tail aspect of social media I’ve described makes it especially attractive to savvy marketers.

Well written and keyword researched content remains online indefinitely and attracts an enormous number of search engine visits over time, a benefit not enjoyed using other media.

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.

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Short Version of My Story

Today I tell some of my own story and share some of my own social media strategy.

This article is about an idea that was planted in my head and how I nurtured that idea. The article is slightly longer than usual, so please hang in there with me.

Creative problem solving has been a forte of mine since my teen years as a math whiz and chess champion. Once I began employment, I applied my problem solving capabilities to helping companies improve their business processes and getting a better handle on many different types of business and scientific data.

Thirty years into my career I learned about the social media and Web 2.0 revolution from Time Magazine’s BIG December 2006 cover story, Time’s Person of the Year: You. I saw that, while I could no longer be one of the earliest adopters of social media, it wasn’t at all too late to position myself near the forefront of this enormous trend.

I had previously experienced and benefited to a small degree from online social networking and social networking sites such as Ryze and Direct Matches, but the Time article opened my eyes to possibilities greater than I’d previously imagined. I decided in January 2007, after reading the Time article, to master social media and to watch and see where that mastery would lead me.

Online Social Networking

Rather than try to master all social media at one time, I instead focused only on online networking and developed a first version of my online social networking strategy. These early conclusions, I based on my observations at MySpace, Direct Matches and Yuwie, social websites I have since rejected.

By September 2007, I was contemplating my next step.

Blogging and SEO

At MySpace and Yuwie I experimented with blogging. The next step was to start an independent blog, and I chose Wordpress.org as my platform in connection with web hosting at Go Daddy.

Before launching my Online Social Networking blog I spent months reading about blogging and search engine optimization, as well as conducting keyword research. The time invested paid off. I got started right, and keyword research become an important skill for me, as well.

I began blogging in November 2007 and devoted a year to learning how to write, promote and optimize my online publication. By October 2008 I no longer viewed myself as a novice blogger.

At present Online Social Networking has more than 350 Feedburner subscribers, receives 2,000+ search visits per month, and is ranked by Alexa in the top 100,000 websites.

Ning Social Networks and Twitter

First Ning networks and then Twitter captured my attention. These two social media platforms are powerful and growing rapidly in popularity.

Just as I’d done with my online social networking strategy, search engine optimization and blogging, I set out to master Ning and Twitter, writing articles on each that have since been read many times and featured by top news sites.

@larrybrauner on Twitter has 20,000+ followers, and thousands of users have already visited my blog.

“One Bite at a Time” Works

The key to my progress is internal motivation coupled with focus.

Rather than go off in too many directions and spread myself thin, I’ve applied the 80/20 Rule, taking one bite at a time out of the social media giant. This strategy has worked well for me and will work well for others too.

It’s March 2009. What will my next bite be?

FacebookStay tuned, but Facebook is at the top of my social marketing list, and along the way, I’m building my social media brand, helping clients, and looking for new ones.

We’ve now reached the point in the article where you subscribe to my blog and join my Facebook business page. ;-)

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.

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Larry Brauner

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began to blog. I had lots of great reasons for blogging, so I just got started and hoped for the best.

As Mike Litman says, “You don’t have to get it right. You just have to get it going.”

I did do some keyword research before choosing a main topic and a domain name. I chose as my main keywords online social networking and made them the name of my blog.

In hindsight I see that I could have easily taken on keywords that were more competitive. Fortunately I realized before too long that I could venture off topic and rank well in the search engines on keywords other than my primary ones.

Content Attracts Traffic

Online marketing begins with content and traffic. A site needs to communicate with and pre-sell visitors and then ultimately monetize, i.e. sell them, and content is the catalyst.

One article I wrote about the Spider Web Marketing System has attracted more than 4,000 visits and one on Ad Surf Daily more than 5,000. The content in these two blog posts plus the content in the many comments they received drove them to the top of the search engines.

Overall my blog has received about 12,000 visits from approximately 5,000 keyword combinations making me a big believer in the power of content to draw substantial search engine traffic.

Blogs Are Problematic

Blogs are great for ongoing conversation with readers. However, their reverse chronological orientation makes it easy for visitors to access only the newest content. Older content becomes obscured. Bloggers attempt to compensate with extensive cataloging and liberal use of cross-linking — look at my blog’s sidebars — but this problem is never totally mitigated.

Traditional websites on the other hand are great for organizing and presenting large amounts of information. Their hierarchical orientation aided by site maps and cross-linking make it easy for visitors to access the most important and relevant content.

The Best of Both Worlds

The best way to market is to build a conventional website with a blog embedded in the site to communicate with visitors and customers.

This marketing idea works equally well for small businesses and large ones. I will be taking this direction for myself as I continue to develop my own web presence.

Conceptual and Technical Challenges

Starting a blog is easy in many ways. Blogger, for example, allows a novice to get up and going in a jiffy. Simply create an account, choose a theme and start writing. That’s it.

Building a marketing website is much more involved, both conceptually and technically, creating a major obstacle for the typical entrepreneur.

Faced with this obstacle most small business owners either

  • do nothing
  • opt for a simplistic small business website that resembles a big business card
  • rent of buy an expensive template to build a second-rate small business website that doesn’t get any traffic
  • hire an expensive web developer to build their second-rates mall business website for them

If they’re lucky they find somebody good, but the average web developer doesn’t understand marketing. I’m sure that what I’m saying will ring true for some readers.

My Recent Discovery

What we’re discussing isn’t new to me. I’ve been thinking about regular websites vis-à-vis blogs and conceptual and technical issues surrounding them for a number of months.

This past week I happened to listen to a conference call introducing a service that I knew existed but that had never managed to grab my attention. I listened for nearly 90 minutes as Ken Evoy explained how he arrived at his Internet business solution, Site Build It!, how it worked and why. He dealt with the blog vs. build issue as well. I was impressed by what I heard.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Site Build It! costs $299 per year — everything included. No high price template. No expensive consultant.
  2. SBI! makes online business do-able by hiding all the technical issues and structuring the conceptual ones. The process is simplified to such a degree that success (i.e. profits, not the mere presence of a website) can be achieved — with serious effort — even by a motivated beginner. The 80/20 Rule still applies — of course — but why shouldn’t the lives of the 20% be made easier?
  3. Online profits require more than just having an online business card or a collection of Web pages. The SBI! service appears to include the tools and the proven process required to build a long-term, profitable e-business.
  4. SBI! is more than just a “site builder.” There’s no need to worry about separate hosting, a separate keyword research tool, integrating autoresponders, etc.
  5. There’s also no need to know anything upfront about building a website. The tedious, “under-the-hood” stuff is handled automatically.
  6. The SBI! service helps clients to design a profitable business, before they jump into building their sites. For beginners, the learning curve will be shorter and they bypass show-stopping errors.
  7. The Action Guide presents a step-by-step process in both written and video formats. The most successful site owners are the ones who follow the guide and don’t get sidetracked. They don’t have to guess at what to do next, since the guided approach helps them reach their goals. Continuous mentoring via the Action Guide and online help is always available.
  8. A keyword brainstorming and research tool helps verify that a site concept has acceptable profit potential, saving site owners from making a common fatal error. The SBI! service helps to find topics related to the site owner’s niche that will pull in traffic and generate income.
  9. SBI! provides fully customizable, easy-to-use templates (this page shows a range of styles).
  10. The SBI! service includes domain name analysis, optimization, and registration, as well as fast and reliable website hosting.
  11. Unlimited customer support and forums that are supposedly friendly and helpful are major selling points for me personally.
  12. There’s a no-risk, 30-day money back guarantee.

In Conclusion

I can see the Site Build It! service helping both existing small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs reach their online marketing objectives. My only caveat is that sufficient internal motivation is a necessary prerequisite for success.

If you find that building your website is not “your cup of tea”, please get help or exercise the 30-day refund option. Don’t waste your money.

Now it’s your turn. Feel free to share your small business website experiences.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about me and my social media and web marketing services.

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Larry BraunerWhen Marc Andreessen and Gina Bianchini started their work on the Ning social network back in 2004, online social networking was still pretty much a teen thing. True there were marketers like yours truly making a home on Ryze and other business networking sites, but we were the exception rather than the rule.

Ning once completed would allow people to create and manage their own miniature MySpace-like social networking sites.

Ning’s founders probably envisioned a platform on which families and circles of friends would stay in close contact through their very own private social networking site. However, since launching 18 months ago, Ning has found its way into the business world as well as many other sectors of society.

You can start your own plain vanilla Ning social network for free, or for a fee you can exercise greater control over your site and add lots of bells and whistles.

Examples of Ning Social Networking Sites

In Web lifeline for the troops, the Naperville Sun writes that two local men, Ed Domain and Josh Lowe, launched Troop Space, a Ning-based networking site for the brave men and women of the United States Military. Troop Space “is geared toward US troops, their families and anyone who wants to become more personally connected to the military”.

Jim at medXcentral started his Ning community to network “the medical and health care universe” and to “stimulate great achievements and forward motion towards resolving many issues faced by the medical industry today”.

Diane Hochman built the online headquarters for My Private Classroom on the Ning foundation. I joined My Private Classroom several months ago to learn more about social media and to introduce free and low-cost marketing methods to network and direct marketers.

You can now participate in Diane’s social marketing training program for free. Read My Private Classroom Opens to Public for details.

I created the Ning social network Critical Thinking Outside the Box as a companion to this blog, and you are welcome to join me there.

What I Like About Ning Sites

From a user’s point of view here are some of my favorite Ning features:

  1. When you make a friend at one Ning site and you each belong to another Ning site, you’re connected at the other site too.
  2. You can browse friends and friends-of-friends and so forth to see what other Ning networks people belong to. In this way you can discover new and relevant places to network. While many Ning sites are private, there seem to be just as many sites that are open to the public. You can also browse Ning’s list of popular social networks.
  3. You can broadcast a message to all of your friends at any given Ning site. Be careful not to abuse this privelege. Spamming is not effective, and network administrators will typically not tolerate it. This broadcasting feature has allowed me to attract readers to my blog and gain new subscribers.
  4. In some Ning social networks you can also broadcast messages to fellow members of groups you join. This feature encourages spam and is therefore disabled on many Ning sites.
  5. You can customize your page’s theme and embed videos and widgets just as you might on MySpace and many other social networking sites.
  6. Much of your profile content can be taken from an existing site and easily reused when joining a new site.

And What I Don’t Like

Here are some of my least favorite Ning features:

  1. Most Ning sites have very small memberships that are just a little too cozy for marketers like me building their lists.
  2. A very high percentage of profiles are abandoned, so you can end up with lots of unaccepted friend requests. At some point you may need to delete some friend requests in order to remain eligible to make new requests.
  3. Very many Ning sites are not much more than recruiting pipelines and sales funnels for the sites’ owners. I find this aspect of Ning annoying, but I tolerate it. For this reason I’m slow to invite friends and business connections to join me on new Ning sites. I want to wait and see if the site is a safe enough place to bring them.

Show and Tell Opportuinity

You can find some of the many social networking sites to which I belong featured on my blog’s sidebar.

Do you have favorite Ning social networking sites? Have you started your own Ning social network? Do you have an interesting story to tell?

Feel free to comment and share with us.

Keep in mind that I’m responsible for the quality of my blog and legally responsible for its content. I therefore reserve the right to edit any comment as I see fit.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about me and my social media and web marketing services.

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Larry BraunerOur blog marketing and search engine optimization series is under way.

In this ongoing series we are looking at blogs and blogging in connection with several online marketing channels:

Quite obviously blogs are not laid out sequentially like a book. Even if you write in sequence, your material will be presented to the blog’s reader in reverse sequence. Therefore, I created this post to organize my blogging articles into a handy table of contents.

This is a good place to mention that I’m not writing a textbook or an all-encompassing reference on blogging and blog marketing. Rather, I’m raising issues that could be critical to your success and sharing my thoughts and opinions about them.

There are many books and blogs that deal extensively with the details of blogging, business networking and search engine marketing. I love reading such books, and as we progress, I’ll tell you about many of them.

Disclaimer

I am not giving you business direction or assuming any measure of responsibility for your business decisions. While I believe that my ideas are sound, it is you nevertheless who will determine your path and assume full responsibility for your business results.

Blog Marketing Articles

Top Reasons Why I Blog
Top 10 Blogging Success Factors
Don’t Make This Mistake
Narrowing Blog Focus
Blogging and Search Engine Marketing
Blogs and Blogging for Fun and Profit
Blog Marketing
Before You Begin Blogging
Creating a Home for Your Blog
Web Hosting for Your Blog
To Blog, or not to Blog, that is the Question
My Personal Branding Strategy

Search Engine Optimization Articles

Keyword Research Paying Off Big
Website or Online Presence?
Google Reverses Recent PageRank Update

Blog Monetization

Blogs and Blogging for Fun and Profit

This page will be updated frequently. To return here again, bookmark the page in your browser or on your desktop —  or look for the Blog Marketing SEO Training link on the blog’s sidebar.

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.

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