Your Website - Lost in Cyberspace

 By Carl Weiss

Lost In Space Second Series.
Lost In Space Second Series. (Photo credit: Jimmy Big Potatoes)
Every time Google sneezes, the entire Internet comes down with a cold. Many websites fall off Page One  every time Google updates their search algorithms.  Because Google controls 82% of search, it is vital that you understand its likes and dislikes. You also need to know what  to do to bulletproof your web presence so that the next time an update occurs you won't be lost in cyberspace. The problem is that Google, like all other search engines, doesn't make it easy for webmasters and site designers to understand the rules of engagement.  This article will attempt to part the curtain and give you a look behind the scenes in order to show you what the wizard wants. 

In the recently released motion picture "Gravity," NASA astronaut Sandra Bullock becomes detached from the Space Shuttle after a debris storm causes her and fellow astronaut played by George Clooney to wind up adrift in the vastness of outer space.  Tumbling all alone in the dark void with a limited supply of oxygen and little hope of being rescued, Sandra copes as best she can with the terror of being lost in space.  While few of us will ever come to know this kind of visceral fear, many website owners have experienced a similar sense of despair and helplessness when their site went from page one to the vastness of cyberspace after an algorithm reset by a major search engine.

The fact of the matter is that search engine operators do not want anyone save for a select few to understand how their algorithms work.  They are also known to throw a monkey wrench into the machinery from time to time.  Sometimes they do this to shake out the legions of businesses that make money by gaming the system.  Sometimes they do it just because they can.  Either way, while an update by Google may come with a cute and fuzzy moniker such as Panda or Penguin, once published it can leave website owners feeling more like they have been attacked by a Bengal Tiger or Great White Shark

Don’t be Found Guilty by Association

While there are more than 200 items that Google uses to rank pages, one of the easiest ways to run afoul of the 800-pound gorilla in the room is to game the system, or hire someone who does so on your behalf.  For more than a decade it was possible to aggregate rank by using underhanded tactics such as keyword stuffing, link farms and invisible text in order to create the appearance of viability.  Of course, this was back in the days before the search engine spiders had the ability to analyze what they saw as they leapt from website to website.  Today the Google bots and other search engine spiders cannot only understand what they read, but they have been programmed to detect cheaters and respond accordingly.  If your site is determined to be employing any of the Black Hat techniques that are frowned upon, not only will you be relegated to the backwaters of cyberspace, but also, it could be years before you will ever see the light of day. This last fact is regardless of whether you were the one who added the offending code, or whether it was added by someone in your employ. 

More importantly, when it comes to search engine success, you don’t need to cheat them to beat them.  While gaming the system may generate position in the short run, it almost always fails over the long haul. Plus there is a high probability that when the next algorithm change is published, you may fall into a black hole from which you may never be able to climb out of.  Some website owners are literally forced to commission an entirely new website in order to get back into the game, losing time and money in the process.

Google is a Picky Eater


While it is impossible to completely understand every warp and weave of Google’s algorithm, just as you don’t have to understand how to build a chicken to make an omelet, you can get the gorilla to like you by feeding him what he likes to eat.  The Google gorilla is a picky eater who first and foremost likes his own brand.  This translates into creating lots of content on all the properties that Google owns.  So if you blog, you need to become familiar with Blogger, which is owned by Google.  If you produce videos, then you need to create a channel on YouTube.  And even though you may be addicted to Facebook, if you want to make the gorilla smile on your online marketing efforts, you had better start feeding Google+ as well.

On-Page Optimization, What’s it Worth?


Notice that so far I have failed to even mention on-page optimization (a.k.a., SEO).  That’s because while important, it now only contributes 25% of your overall 
English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...
English: Google Logo officially released on May 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
score.  The other 75% is gleaned from legitimate back links and mixed media such as blogs, social media and videos.  Not that on-site optimization is unimportant.  It has simply changed over the course of the past few years.  Where such things as Meta Tags and keyword richness were all the rage four or five years ago, Google claims that they no longer rely on Meta Tags at all for ranking.  Today Google places more emphasis on keyword specific urls’ and titles, along with backlinks and mixed media post that are similarly optimized.  Don’t confuse having links to social sites and blogs with feeding them.  Unless you are adding at least a blog a week and feeding your social nets on a daily basis, the Google bots will know and act accordingly.

Time for a New Name

In fact, as I pointed out in a previous blog entitled, “Is SEO Still SOP?” the term Search Engine Optimization really needs to be altered to Search Engine Marketing (SEM), since optimizing the website is only a small part of the process to achieving page one results today.  As a result, the task has become infinitely more complicated.  No longer can you create a perfectly optimized webs
ite every two to three years, spin it off into cyberspace and expect it to climb the ranks to
English: Screaming Frog SEO Spider Screenshot
English: Screaming Frog SEO Spider Screenshot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
wind up on page one.  Now you also need to commit either time or money to feed the system on a daily, weekly and monthly basis in order to get into the game.  While many people see this as a way of tipping the playing field in favor of larger firms that can afford to hire a team of bloggers, social posters and videographers to do their bidding, nobody ever said the game was fair.

Face it, Google and all the other search engines don’t make one slim dime from organic search.  They make their money from pay-per-click campaigns and banner ads, most of which comes from major corporations.  Besides, when you own 82% of search as Google currently does, fairness doesn't even come into consideration.  As the saying goes, “What do you feed an 800 lb gorilla?  Anything it wants.”

Can Small Businesses Compete?


For small businesses, this isn't only the best policy, it’s the only policy.  Giving the gorilla what he wants gives you a chance to take advantage of the system just as your bigger brethren do.  In fact, we have worked with small businesses who not only competed successfully with Fortune 500 contenders, but who eventually bested them.  Another advantage of being smaller is that you can react faster.  You can analyze the competition and target their weaknesses.  If a larger competitor has the advantage in social media but is weak in blogging, bulk up your blog.  If they don’t understand the advantages of video, go after them on YouTube.  The beauty of the web is that the emperor wears no clothes.  You can see what they are doing well and not so well, in real-time, and react accordingly.

Make Time to Make a Dime


This brings up the second speed bump that stops many small businesses in their tracks: Making the time to feed the beast.  Most business owners have enough on their plate day in and day out in simply running their business.  This leaves them little time to write and post to blog
One Dime 1976
One Dime 1976 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
s and social sites, let alone shoot and edit video.  The answer to this dilemma is one point and click away.  It’s called outsourcing.  For less than most businesses spend on a display ad in the yellow pages, you can hire out some or all of the tasks mentioned above.  There are legions of bloggers, social posters and videographers out there that are ready, willing and able to come into the fray.  If you find that you don’t have the budget to outsource the entire project, determine which part of the equation you can do in-house and then outsource the rest. 

The only other solution is to ignore the Internet, as all too many small business owners are wont to do.  To this, I pose the following question, “If you aren't found on page one of Google, but your competitors are, is this good or bad for your business?”  (Danger, Will Robinson!)  While it may take a little time and money to get off the bench and into the game, even if it took several months to wind up on page one, this is still better than being lost in cyberspace.

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below. 

Thanks for sharing your time with me.



Since 1995, Carl Weiss has been helping clients succeed online.  He owns and operates several online marketing businesses, including Working the Web to Win and Jacksonville Video Production. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show, "Working the Web to Win," every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on BlogTalkRadio.com.


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Using Press Releases to Promote your Business



News story of the year award, 1943
News story of the year award, 1943 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Hector E. Cisneros

We live in America and believe in freedom of the press, right? However, Did you know you can use free and low-cost press releases to gain search ranking, drive web traffic and find more customers? Do realize anyone can also use it to get others to tell their story and to spread that message to hundreds if not thousands of news outlets in as little as 24 hours? More importantly, you can use it to get a page one position in as little as 24 hours.. Press releases not only build your brand, it raises your credibility to a whole new level. In this week's Working The Web To Win's blog, we will help you build your brand and gain more customers by using free and low cost press release services to gain search page ranking.

In The Beginning

Press releases have been used since 1906 when Ivey Lee released a statement about a terrible train wreck that kill 50 people in Atlantic City. His news release set the tone for what is now used by millions of companies and thousands of new outlets the world over Press release are a staple in
English: Photo of newspaper headline related t...
English: Photo of newspaper headline related to the Canoe River train crash of 1950 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
both convention and internet advertising. Wherever there are stories in print, you have an editor looking for new and attention getting content to fill their news outlets. A press release is a news story designed to do two things. First get your message out and second to attract reporters, editors and writers so that they will do a “feature story” on your business. Today, press releases look more like feature stores and that is why so many of them fail.

Follow the Format 


Press releases follow a relatively strict format that is designed to make it easier for the editor to determine if your store is newsworthy. It needs to contain your pertinent contact information for your company, the news outlet, the release date, a short, factual and descriptive title, the intro paragraph and the body of your story, some boilerplate and then your contact information again. If you want to see more detailed examples, I suggest you read Marketing 101, Understanding Press Release. This article provides an excellent primer for a novice who wants to start writing his or her own press releases. Here is a sample press release format that I use. Most new services follow this format closely but there will be some minor variations. Remember to follow each news service's rule (for example magazines differ slightly from newspapers etc...). To get more detail on each element read the primer listed above. It provides different perspective on the how each element is used and why are important.

Sample Press Release Format


Your name or name of company
Your address 
City, State, ZIP
Web address (if applicable) 

Media Contact Information: 

Name of contact (most likely, you)
Contact phone number
Contact email
Date of release 

SHORT TITLE FOR YOUR RELEASE
Subtitle of Press release (if there is one)

Primary paragraph. (Focused to the point. Why, What, Where, When, How)

First Paragraph - Body of Press Release (Provide more details add your credibility here)

Second paragraph - Body of Press Release. (Wrap up your story and reiterating your original point)

Third paragraph - Body of Press Release. (Add any additional information that may be helpful to the editor here)

-- MORE --
(Only use this if your release is longer than one printed page) 

 # # # 
(Otherwise, use the triple pound symbol to indicate the release is complete and there are no more pages) 

Note to editors: (Pertinent information that will not appear in the release)

Boilerplate Verbiage

This is standard information that appears on each and every press release that provides information about the company. It's usually no longer than a paragraph. 

Now that we have an example layout to follow, let’s start by going over some important tips. These tips are designed to make sure your press release is created on a sound footing. They are designed to get the editors and writer's attention and move them to take action.

Eight Important Tips


1. Identify your news angle. Why is this news worthy? Is it tied to a current national, seasonal or local event? Is it related to a big move, a facility upgrade, and important executive hire? Are you donating funds to a charity, starting a contest or received a national, regional or local award? Did you launch a new product or service?

2. Make sure your opening is focused and to the point. When we say your opening, we mean the headline, the subheadline and the opening paragraph. Don’t waste words, yet make sure your opening grabs their attention. Avoid sales speak and hype. Think, what why, when, where and how. Avoid cramming keyword or adding too many facts. However, keywords are important. Anytime you can use a keyword in your headline, it's a big plus.

3. Understand the journalistic point of view. Never forget that you’re writing to not only get your story just published, but that you want a reporter to come back and do a feature story on your company. Your story not only needs to be factual, it needs to spark the journalist's curiosity to want more. It needs to imply there is a “lot more to the whole story."

4. The details are very important. Follow the press release format precisely. Make sure you don’t leave out any important contact information. Make sure your article is clean and grammatically correct. Have a competent human being proof and double proof your article. Nothing hurts your credibility like misspelled words and typos. Never send a preliminary version of your article to a news outlet.

5. Make sure you include factual statements that build your credibility. Never portray yourself in a negative light. All too often a writer will leave out important information that explains why they are qualified to tell this story. If you don’t know how to do this then hire writer to make it happen. 

6. Make sure you quote yourself in the press release. This adds a personal element that editors and journalist are looking for. The human angle can set you apart from the hundreds of articles sitting on that editor’s desk. Editors and journalist love underdogs. Show them how you overcame all odds to be successful. This one element may be why they pick your story.

7. Use your company letterhead for the press release. This adds a touch of professionalism and at the same time provides pertinent information the editor needs. This does not mean to leave out your information as stated in the sample press release. It is extra icing for the editor’s use. If you don’t have letterhead, get some. It’s very inexpensive.

8. Make sure you’re easily accessible. Provide a phone number that either you will answer, or will be answered by someone who will portray you in a positive and professional light. This means your voice mail message needs to be professional. If a family member answers  in your stead make sure they are expecting such calls and you have briefed them on what to say. Whenever possible provide a separate business line for these calls. You can get a Google voice number free and have it forwarded to your cell phone. When using Google voice you will always know that this is a business call. When using your cell phone, use a professional greeting to answer your calls.

Water Lily (steamer Puget Sound) news story
Water Lily (steamer Puget Sound) news story (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Does this sound like a lot of work for you so far? Are you starting to feel that this is a daunting task? Fear not, there are many companies out there that can help. Most agencies will produce and publish press releases. We do them at our firm all as part of integrated campaigns. However, there are many free and low cost press release companies providing a wide range of services that do a great job. Here is a list of companies that are will recommended. Each has its own strengths, weaknesses and price structure. We suggest you check them out to decide which of their features suite your needs and budget best.

Companies That Can Help 


Prlog.org - This is a free press release website. It allows three text links. They distribute your press releases to several news sites and search engines. They are an online distribution service for press release submission.

Earthtimes.org - This free site allows five text links or URLs. Their membership is free and you can use RSS feeds with their service. You can even create keyword alerts via email for the specific news category.

Prweb.com - They are considered the best for SEO traffic. They have a wide variety of packages available and reach from hundreds to thousands of outlets. Pricing varies depending on the service you chose.

MarketWire.com - They are a low cost alternative often used by small business who can’t afford the big-ticket press release service. Prices vary depending on the distribution channel. 

24-7PressRelease.com -This company allow for eight URLS or text links in your article. They also offer RSS feeds and you can add news to your website. 24-7 also offers other press release resources, such as press writing tips, press writing, formatting codes and more. Their service is great if you want help making sure your articles formatted correctly and written properly and SEO enhanced as well as proof read.

PRNewswire.com - This company’s price depends on which distribution channel you choose. They also charge per text link. They optimize news for search engines, focusing on creating website traffic compared to the other in this list. Their solution offers distribution for all kinds of organizations. This includes small businesses, public interest and nonprofit organizations.

Releaseswire.com - This company requires that your story has a news angle. It allows 8 text links in your story however; your release must be newsworthy. They publish all press releases on their site. They also send the more worthy ones to their partner’s press release websites. You can start out with a simple monthly subscription that can cancel it at any time. Their pricing options are for a fixed number of releases chosen per month. Finally, they also offer a Clipwire Trademark service, a publication report providing proof of your article being published.

 PrLeap.com - This company also allows eight text links per article. They guarantee effective online media exposure can boost your search engine visibility. They offer both monthly and prepaid plans and the only charge $79 for submitting a single press release. They also offer social media sharing to increase website traffic. They provide excellent customer support and have features that help track your results. You can schedule when you want your press release to be submitted.

TransWorldNews.com - They allow eight text links per story. Their prices vary and offer two options: single press release or unlimited press releases. They can access an impressive database of outlets, which includes radio, television stations, daily magazines and many other web media outlets. They also offer a picture gallery with sharing features, more than 200 social media sites, bookmarking sites and manual SEO links to the website.

In this article, I discussed how press releases got started, how they are used, and their primary purpose. We have also included a sample press release format for the reader to follow, links to other article, eight very important tips to follow and a list of press release companies that can help any business regardless of what level of help they need. If you found this article useful, please pass it on to your friends and co-workers. If you have a comment, please place it in the comment section below.

That's my opinion; I look forward to hearing yours.

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below. 



Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web To Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”


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Using Text Message Magic to Drive Traffic



Two phones with mobile internet capability dis...
Two phones with mobile internet capability displayed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Hector E Cisneros

Most people don’t want you to text and drive but did you know that you can drive web traffic with a text message! You can also sell products, announce events, deliver promo codes and other special offers. However, there are lots of pitfalls, technical issues and even laws that you have to navigate in order to be successful. Join us this week as we dive into the depths of Text Messaging Magic for your business.

In this article, I want to lay out several fundamentals every business needs to follow if they are planning to be successful at Text Message Marketing. I will break the article into two segments. The first is a brief overview of what is text messaging and why a business should be using text messaging for business advertising. The second segment will cover best practices for maximizing your campaign results.

Let's start by answering the question: "What is Text Message Marketing?" Text message marketing is a means of advertising where your message is delivered via Short Message Service technology also known as SMS marketing. In essence, you can send a short message (160 characters or less) to a person's cell phone number or to a short message account that they have on a computing device. These messages are very popular and are used by people of all ages.

Eight Reasons to Advertise with an SMS

#1 It works! Your return on investment, (ROI) is very high. Your cost of engaging in SMS marketing can run as low as $20 a month and still get real responses.

#2 It has a very high open rate. Most messages are read 95% of the time. On top of that your response time is almost instantaneous.

#3 A focused message is ideal and usually works better. Focus gives the viewer clarity and asks them to make a decision. A focus message is a powerful message.

#4 You can target an audience that wants to get your message. Opt-in lists are the keys to success. Sending a message blindly to someone will only make them angry. However, send someone a message for a coupon code for something they want and the phone will ring off the hook.
#5 There are more mobile phones in the world than there are computers. Mobile phones
English: Author: Redvers. Two
English: Author: Redvers. Two "welcome" messages received via SMS text messaging. T-Mobile welcomes Proximus to the United Kingdom; BASE welcomes Orange subscribers to Belgium. Both are Nokia phones, but the picture was taken with another brand of mobile phone camera. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
are the largest digital pool of people you can send a message to. People are addicted to texting. For most young adults, it is a way of life.

#6 Your competition is using it to sell to your customers. There is no better way to outsell your competitors than to use the same weapons better than they can.

#8 It will appeal to your "eco-friendly green clientele."  SMS uses no paper or ink and uses very little electricity. There is nothing to throw away. If you are into saving the planet, what's not to like.

Now that we have covered why a business should be using SMS to advertise, lets look at some principles that will help you be a success. Don't throw your money away by just experimenting. Use these principle to make your next SMS campaign a huge success.

16 Principles to Ensure Your Success

#1 Avoid slang, abbreviations, and most of all hype. People are tired of being lied to. Your message needs to be a focused legitimate offer that’s easy to understand and act on. Don't try to be slick just, simply provide a bona fide offer worth taking advantage of.

#2 There should not be a long time delay before the recipient can take advantage of the offer. The offer needs to be in the here and now, not next week. It should provide real time and money saving that recipients can take advantage of today.

#3 Make sure your message is recognizable. It should clearly identify your company, brand or product. If they have to guess who you are you're already lost. Unknown numbers get deleted!
ISO 9995-8 telephone keypad diagram.
ISO 9995-8 telephone keypad diagram. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#4 Customers want to feel special. Your offer has to be a real value that the average person can’t have unless they are subscribed to your SMS marketing service. Let them know that only they have access to this special offer.

#5 Make sure your message is positive and shows unmistakable value. If  they can't recognize the value of your offer, it's not a value to them!

#6 Make your messages interactive. Sometime by following up your offer with another message you can get a second or even a third sale, by just asking.

#7 Don't send your messages too often. Ask your subscribers when it's best to receive their messages. Find out which time zone they are in. If you don't know their needs, avoid early morning hours before 11 AM and don't send messages late at night unless you're a casino in Las Vegas.

#8 Master the right marketing moments. Learn to send messages when your clients want them. Restaurants clients want messages before Lunch and Dinner.  Travelers like messages on Thursday and Friday. Retail consumers like messages before major holidays. Scan your website data for peek visitation times. Always ask clients “what is best for them”, they will tell you.

# 9 Provide value first before you ask for any information. Win their trust by providing value and they will be more willing to cough up an email address, time zone or home address.

#10 Monitor your opt-out rate on every send. You should be capturing and analyzing your SMS statistics for every message you send out. Use this data to improve your messages and raise your ROI.

#11 Be ready to send an immediate message when you sign up a new subscriber. You want to hit them when they are excited and ready to go. Waiting too long to send a message could cause prospects to lose their enthusiasm or forget who you are altogether.

#12 Always get a client’s permission. Always buy opt-in lists if you’re not building your own. Nobody wants to see your message if they haven't chosen to subscribe to your service. If you add new campaigns, products or services, be ready to ask for permission again. Getting their permission is a fundamental key!

#13 Gather as much information on your opt-in page as possible. This information will allow you to service your clients much better. Knowing valuable information like their time zone and deliver preferences will make them happy. A happy client is a client who will spend money.

Text a Librarian Booth Artwork
Text a Librarian Booth Artwork (Photo credit: noelieo)
#14 Remember that SMS marketing is primarily a mobile experience. Do not send them to a regular website-landing page. If they must log into something let them log in using a Facebook or Twitter login account instead of having to type something. Make sure your landing sites are cell phone friendly. Use large icons, simple titles, simple messages and instructions and don't forget to use videos, as they are Smartphone friendly.

#15 Don't just send coupon codes, send valuable content. Provide product announcements, free access to special websites and social pages. Sending VIP status acknowledgements can also be a great way to build trust and loyalty.

#16 Get your own vanity short code SMS phone number. Having your own number shows a commitment to this kind of marketing program. It’s much easier for a person to remember a short number than what that number spells. It also makes it easier for your clients to respond.

There you have it a quick yet comprehensive overview of what you need to know about SMS marketing today. If you haven't listened to the BTR broadcast that goes with this article, check it out now. We have covered more than a ½ dozen reasons why you need to use Text Message Marketing and over a dozen principles that will help you to succeed as well. If you have found this article useful, please pass it on to your friends and co-workers. If you have a comment, please place it in the comment section below.  

That's my opinion; I look forward to hearing yours.

If you found this article useful, share it with your friends, families and co-works. If you have a comment related to this article, leave it in the comment sections below.  If you would like a free copy of our book, "Internet Marketing Tips for the 21st Century", fill out the form below. 



Hector Cisneros is COO and director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web To Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.”


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