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As I'm sure you're aware, last year was a dramatic year for everyone involved in advertising online and Internet marketing. There were major industry changes in search engine optimization, Internet marketing software, pay-per-click advertising just about everything related to selling products and services online- and online sales to grow.

With all this growth and all these changes, it's more important than ever to stay on top of the latest industry developments. So as my way of thanking you, our clients, for making last year the best year yet, I've put together this special issue on key trends in best online advertising and Internet marketing. It examines three big changes that you absolutely MUST know about if you're planning to make money online this year!

Keep Your Google Listings from Dropping out of Sight!

If you rely on search engines to drive traffic to your site- and especially if you're using search engine optimization strategies such as link popularity- then you've probably already heard about the changes to Google that have been nicknamed "The Florida Dance."

Back when Google used to update their servers with new web pages once a month, the monthly changes came to be called "Google Dances" because site rankings "danced" up and down the search results pages. Now that Google makes updates on an ongoing basis, the big "dances" only happen when Google makes major changes to the way they evaluate pages. And the latest one has damaged the rankings of so many web sites that it's been nicknamed "Florida" after the destructive Florida hurricanes!

So if you haven't checked your Google listing recently, you might want to do it now... because even if you've been ranked well with your Google keywords, your site might have dropped by hundreds of positions- literally overnight!

One marketer we know told us that her thriving online business had seen a tenfold increase in sales in 2003... until the changes in Google dropped her web site listing from a #9 position to somewhere below #999! Now she's doing very little business, and she's desperately looking for a way to bring her best online advertising and listing back up.

Here's why these changes are occurring: Like all search engines, Google uses a variety of programs called filters and algorithms to rank web pages in its search results.
The company is constantly changing and updating its programs to ensure that listings are "relevant," meaning that they are actually related to the keywords people are searching for.

Now, if search engines don't make these changes regularly, "search engine spammers" can actually trick search engines into making unrelated sites appear in the top listings. (Imagine searching for "affordable gift ideas" and finding that all the top listings link to gambling and adult web sites!) But the newest changes to Google have done more than penalize "search engine spammers." A lot of online business owners who have been using ethical, commonly accepted techniques to improve their search engine rankings are finding that their Google listings have dropped right out of sight.

The new changes have caused headaches for a huge number of online business owners by penalizing advertising online and "over-optimized" web pages- meaning that if you've spent time and money trying to push your page to the top of the listings, you might actually be punished for your hard work with a diminished ranking.

If your site listing has dropped in Google, you're probably scrambling to figure out how you can fix the problem- after all, a lower listing practically guarantees that you're losing money!

So what should you do for best advertising online?

We've researched the changes and listened to the industry buzz, and it looks like the best thing to do now- is to wait. Google is still fine-tuning this latest round of changes, so before you start overhauling your web site, you should wait until the final tweaks to "Florida" have been made.

Frustrating? Yes. But if you've been burned by these changes, here are a few things you CAN do to ensure that potential customers are still finding your site while the dust settles:

  1. Make sure your site offers relevant, high-quality content. Remember, Google's goal in making these types of changes is to ensure that top positions go to sites offering valuable resources and information. Google uses sophisticated software to measure the "relevance" of your site's content to keywords that people search for- so adding well-written content to your web site is still an effective way for advertising oline and to improve your ranking.

  2. Be careful not to "over-optimize" your site. In the early days of search engine marketing, people discovered a number of "loopholes" -- tricks that sent sites to the top of the search engines even if they had little or nothing to do with the keywords being searched for. These tricks include:

  3. Hidden links and text (i.e., white keywords on a white background)

  4. "Mirror" sites (copies of a site that are optimized for a single search engine)

  5. "Link farms" (multiple web sites whose sole purpose is to link to each other)

  6. "Doorway" pages (pages designed primarily for search engines, not for users)

Google can now detect these and many other tricks, and it penalizes sites that use them by dropping their ranking dramatically. If you've hired someone to optimize your ranking, make sure they're not using any of these outdated methods- or they may actually be damaging your advertising online and chances of getting a top ranking!

Likewise, if you're using extensive affiliate links to create "link popularity" for your site, you should be aware that indiscriminate use of affiliate links can hurt your ranking under the Florida changes... so be careful with your advertising online and link to sites with content that is related to yours.

Consider using paid listings to keep traffic coming to your site.

I know, I know... If you're still smarting after losing your coveted position in Google, the last thing you probably want to do is pay them for advertising! Still, as a short-term way of recouping your losses until you're able to get your ranking back up, you just might want to look into paid advertising.

If you do, be sure to do your research and calculate how much you can spend on advertising online while still making a profit.
Pay-per-clicks can be an effective way to get traffic coming to your site in just a few hours, but be careful:
A hastily implemented pay-per-click campaign can quickly get expensive!

  • Explore other search options.

  • Google isn't the only search engine! While it's true that most searchers go to Google first, you can drive fresh traffic to your site by working on improving your search results in some of the other engines.

    For starters, try looking at:

  • AllTheWeb

  • Teoma

  • Dogpile

  • And there's always MSN and Yahoo!...

  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
    Search engine optimization is just one of many ways to drive traffic to your web site.

If your best online advertising and business relies too heavily on search engine optimization, you're putting yourself at the mercy of the search engine algorithms- which are constantly changing!

The best way to ensure that your site gets a steady stream of traffic is to combine a variety of traffic-generating techniques. Consider adding some of the following strategies to your plan (or if you're already using them, try thinking of ways to make them even more effective!):

  • Opt-in e-mail marketing

  • Pay-per-click advertising

  • Affiliate programs

  • Link exchanges

Are You Wasting Money on Obsolete Advertising Online Formats?

A lot of people are struggling to predict the next big trends in advertising online. And it's no easy feat! Technology is changing, sometimes so quickly that we can barely keep up- and even though it's easy to track specific results such as click-throughs for a single online advertising, there are so many variables to consider that it can be difficult to tell if an advertising online campaign is even making a profit!

In the offline world, trends may come and go, but the formats stay pretty much the same: print, radio, and TV. But on the Internet, new technology and software seem to spawn new advertising online formats all the time. And although this rapid-fire development cycle can be rewarding for those in the know, it has fallen into a predictable pattern. A catchy new format comes out that gets dynamite results... within a few years, everyone is using it- and the ads that were so eye-catching stop getting noticed.

For example, in the early days of the Internet, people were excited about banner ads, which got high enough click-through rates to make them useful for just about anyone. But now, you'll need a very good online advertising banner just to break even with the cost of running it, let alone make a profit. Think about it: People are so used to seeing banners across the top of a web page that most of the time, they hardly even notice them!

If I've learned one thing about advertising online, it's that you can't escape this cycle. The only decision you can make is whether you're going to follow the pack or stay ahead of it.

If you're buying ad space on other people's web sites... or devoting space on your own site to ads for your products or services.
or using an opt-in form to collect the e-mail addresses of potential customers.
in short, if you're asking Internet users to take any sort of action.

You'll only see results if people actually notice your advertising online!

That's why I think you'll be interested in a new ad format that I've been experiencing a lot of success with.

It's a hot new advertising technology that generates advertising online with eye-catching motion.
These ads can hover across a web page or float down from the top; I've personally had incredible results from an ad that drops to the middle of the page and "bounces" before coming to rest.

Plus, you get total control over the position of your ads- unlike banners, which always appear in one of a few basic locations.
These ads are generated using javascript that lets you precisely control the motion and location of your ads...
so your best online advertising can move in any direction you choose, and come to rest exactly where they'll be most effective.

If you're one of the people still using pop-up windows to drive traffic to your site or collect opt-in addresses, you simply can't afford to ignore this new best online adverising development- because if you're still using pop-ups, you're almost certainly losing money!

Now, it's true that pop-ups were once a really effective way to get the attention of Internet users.
In fact, we had a lot of success in the past using pop-ups to collect e-mail addresses and build our opt-in list!
But it looks like the day of the pop-up is over. Too many sites have used them to "blast" Internet users with unwanted commercial content, and as a result, most people feel the same way about pop-ups as they do about spam:
They're fed up!

If that's not enough to change your mind, consider this:
Companies including Google, Alexa, Netscape, AOL, and Earthlink have all released their own FREE versions of pop-up blocking software.
And what's more, Microsoft has announced plans to build a pop-up blocking feature into its Internet Explorer browser this year.
And according to market researcher OneStat, two out of three web surfers worldwide use the latest version of Microsoft's browser, IE 6.0, so if Microsoft introduces pop-up blocking features, you can expect to see the effectiveness of your pop-up windows drop dramatically, whether you're using them to encourage sign-ups, direct traffic to your site, or generate sales.

In spite of this, a handful of marketing companies are scrambling to create software that can "trick" pop-up blockers so they won't recognize certain pop-up configurations.
Personally, I think these people are fighting a losing battle. It's time to move on- right now.
Put the newest technology to work for your business before the rest of the world learns about it, and you'll be laughing all the way to the bank!

Learn more about this revolutionary new advertising technology.

The CAN-SPAM Act: What You MUST Know

If you're using e-mail marketing to promote your business on the Internet, you know that e-mail is one of the most affordable, effective ways to convert interested prospects into customers, and to develop valuable relationships with your existing customer base.
But the e-mail marketing environment is changing- and if you're not already following a few basic rules, your e-mail promotions could actually wind up costing you money... or worse.

As you know, spam (i.e., unsolicited commercial e-mail) has long been one of the biggest problems facing legitimate e-marketers- and, for that matter, anyone with an inbox!
And although everyone knows spam is a problem, we haven't had federal legislation to deal with spammers... until now.

The new CAN-SPAM Act (which stands for "Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing") came into effect on January 1, 2004. It replaces a patchwork of more than 30 different state laws, and will make it easier for officials and companies to go after senders of illegal spam.

Take a look at the following list of deceptive e-mail marketing practices. Depending on where you live, they may have been outlawed or just viewed as unethical in the past... but now under CAN-SPAM, they're all officially illegal:

  • Falsifying headers (the part of an e-mail message that specifies where it came from)

  • Using deceptive subject lines to trick people into opening messages

  • "Hijacking" other peoples' e-mail accounts or computers to send spam

  • Creating e-mail or IP addresses specifically to send spam

  • Sending unsolicited e-mail with sexual content

  • Sending e-mail to people who have requested to be removed from your list

  • Neglecting to include a physical mailing address in commercial e-mail messages

Some people in the e-mail marketing industry are saying that CAN-SPAM will be difficult to enforce- but the new legislation does pack a punch.
Serious offenders can now be fined up to $2 million or sent to jail for up to five years!

So if you're currently using e-mail promotions to market your legitimate business, should you be worried?
In a word: No.
The legislation was created primarily to help prosecutors go after the worst offenders- spammers who hijack bandwidth and use deceptive methods to send millions of offensive, unsolicited e-mails.

Still, it's more important than ever that you make sure you're sending responsible, legal e-mail promotions- not spam!
The best thing to do is to stay informed and design thoughtful, targeted e-mail marketing campaigns.
If you follow these five guidelines, you'll be on track to creating promotions that won't get you accused of sending spam:

  1. Send e-mail to people who have consented to receive it from you.

  2. If you must buy or rent lists, be VERY careful about who you buy them from- and about how you contact the people on those lists.

  3. Use a subject line that accurately reflects the content of your e-mail.

  4. Include a real return e-mail address and a working "unsubscribe" link in every mailing you send.

  5. If you're sending "commercial" e-mail (i.e., promotions), include your company's physical mailing address in the body of the e-mail.

Make it your mission to stay educated about e-mail marketing and spam laws.
Laws and definitions are changing, so it's up to you to stay on top of new developments and ensure that your e-mail promotions are responsible, legal... and ultimately, profitable!
A good place to start is at:

Final Thoughts on Advertising Online

Last year was a year of huge growth and massive opportunity on the Internet, and this year promises to be even better! Each new year brings exciting developments- as well as new pitfalls for businesses that don't keep up with changing markets, technology, and laws.

So watch your position in the search engines, make sure you're using the most effective new adverising online and marketing tools, and PLEASE... if you're using e-mail to market your business, make sure you're sending legal, responsible promotions.

Keep a finger on the changing pulse of the Internet, and you should be on track to make this year the year for your advertising online and business!

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