Monday, June 11, 2012

What Is a Business Plan?

Business planning is about results. You need to make the contents of your plan match your purpose. Don’t accept a standard outline just because it’s there.

What Is a Business Plan?

What is a business plan?
A business plan is any plan that works for a business to look ahead, allocate resources, focus on key points, and prepare for problems and opportunities.

Unfortunately, many people think of business plans only for starting a new business or applying for business loans. But they are also vital for running a business, whether or not the business needs new loans or new investments. Businesses need plans to optimize growth and development according to priorities.

What’s a startup plan?
A simple startup plan includes a summary, mission statement, keys to success, market analysis, and break-even analysis. This kind of plan is good for deciding whether or not to proceed with a plan, to tell if there is a business worth pursuing, but it is not enough to run a business with.

Is there a standard business plan?
A normal business plan (one that follows the advice of business experts) includes a standard set of elements, as shown below. Plan formats and outlines vary, but generally a plan will include components such as descriptions of the company, product or service, market, forecasts, management team, and financial analysis.

Your plan will depend on your specific situation. For example, description of the management team is very important for investors while financial history is most important for banks. However, if you’re developing a plan for internal use only, you may not need to include all the background details that you already know. Make your plan match its purpose.

What is most important in a plan?
It depends on the case, but usually it’s the cash flow analysis and specific implementation details.

  • Cash flow is both vital to a company and hard to follow. Cash is usually misunderstood as profits, and they are different. Profits don’t guarantee cash in the bank. Lots of profitable companies go under because of cash flow problems. It just isn’t intuitive.
  • Implementation details are what make things happen. Your brilliant strategies and beautifully formatted planning documents are just theory unless you assign responsibilities, with dates and budgets, follow up with those responsible, and track results. Business plans are really about getting results and improving your company.

Can you suggest a standard outline?
If you have the main components, the order doesn’t matter that much, but here’s the outline order we suggest in Business Plan Pro and LivePlan software:

  1. Executive Summary: Write this last. It’s just a page or two of highlights.
  2. Company Description: Legal establishment, history, start-up plans, etc.
  3. Product or Service: Describe what you’re selling. Focus on customer benefits.
  4. Market Analysis: You need to know your market, customer needs, where they are, how to reach them, etc.
  5. Strategy and Implementation: Be specific. Include management responsibilities with dates and budget.
  6. Management Team: Include backgrounds of key members of the team, personnel strategy, and details.
  7. Financial Plan: Include profit and loss, cash flow, balance sheet, break-even analysis, assumptions, business ratios, etc.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Webspam And Panda Updates: Does SEO Still Matter?

It’s been a crazy week in search. While not entirely unexpected, Google launched its new Webspam update (which should still be in the process of rolling out, as Google said it would take a few days). This update, according to the company, is aimed at black hat SEO tactics and the sites engaging in them, to keep them from ranking over content that is just better and more relevant. While most that don’t engage in such tactics would agree that this would be a good thing, a lot of people are complaining about the effects of the update on the user experience, and on results in general.

The Webspam update, as it’s officially been dubbed by Google’s Matt Cutts, is really only part of the equation though. Cutts also revealed that Google launched a data refresh of the Panda update around April 19th. So it would appear that a mixture of these two updates (along with whatever other tweaks Google may have made) have caused a lot of chaos among webmasters and in some search results.

What The Panda Update Is About
I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about Panda here. I feel I’ve done that enough for the past year. If you’re not familiar with Panda, I’d suggest reading through our coverage here. Essentially, it’s Google’s attempt to make quality content rise to the top. There are a lot of variables, opinions and speculation throughout the Panda saga, but in a nutshell, it’s just about Google wanting good, quality content ranking well.

What The Webspam Update Is About
Interestingly enough, the Webspam update is about quality content as well. In fact, Google’s announcement of the update was titled: Another Step To Reward High-Quality Sites. It can be viewed as a complement to Panda. A way for Google to keep spammy crap from interfering with the high quality content the Panda update was designed to promote. That is, in a perfect world. But when has this world ever been perfect? When has Google ever been perfect?

When Matt Cutts first talked about this update, before it had a name or people even really knew what to expect, he said Google was going after “over-optimization”. He said, at SXSW last month, “The idea is basically to try and level the playing ground a little bit, so all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, ‘over-optimization’ or overly doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little more level.”

At the time, we wrote an article about it, talking about how Google was working on making SEO matter less. This week, Cutts aimed to clarify this a bit. Danny Sullivan quotes Cutts as saying, “I think ‘over-optimization’ wasn’t the best description, because it blurred the distinction between white hat SEO and webspam. This change is targeted at webspam, not SEO, and we tried to make that fact more clear in the blog post.”

Well, it’s clear that black hat webpsam is a target, because the post says those exact words. “The opposite of ‘white hat’ SEO is something called “black hat webspam” (we say ‘webspam’ to distinguish it from email spam),” Cutts says in the post, later adding, “In the next few days, we’re launching an important algorithm change targeted at webspam. The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. We’ve always targeted webspam in our rankings, and this algorithm represents another improvement in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content. ”

OK, so as long as you abide by Google’s quality guidelines, this update should not impact you negatively right?

The part that isn’t quite as clear is about how much SEO tactics really matter. While he have clarified that that they’re more concerned about getting rid of the black hat stuff, he also said something in that post, which would seem to indicate that Google wants content from sites not worried about SEO at all to rank better too (when it’s good of course).

“We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites,” says Cutts. Emphasis added.

To me, that says that Google is not against white hat SEO (obviously – Google promotes plenty of white hat tactics), but they also would like to have it matter less.

While I’m sure many in the SEO industry would disagree (because it could cost them their businesses), wouldn’t it ultimately be better for users and webmasters alike if they didn’t have to worry about SEO at all? If Google could just determine what the best results really were?

Don’t worry, SEOs. We don’t live in that fantasy land yet, and while Google (and its competitors) would love to be able to do this, there is little evidence to suggest that will happen in the foreseeable future. In fact, I’d expect the nature of how we consume information from the web to evolve so much by that point, that it may not even be a relevant discussion.

But rather than talk about what the future may bring (though Google’s certainly thinking about it), let’s focus on the here and now.

Who Has Felt The Effects Of Google’s Updates?
You can browse any number of forum threads and blog comments and see plenty of personal stories about sites getting hit. Searchmetrics, as it usually does following major Google updates, compiled some preliminary lists of the top winners and losers. Before we get to those lists, however, there are some caveats. For one, the firm was clear that these are preview lists. Secondly, the update has probably not finished rolling out yet. Third, they were put out before the Panda refresh was made public, and Matt Cutts says the list isn’t indicative of the sites impacted by the Webspam update.”

He told Sullivan, “There’s a pretty big flaw with this “winner/loser” data. Searchmetrics says that they’re comparing by looking at rankings from a week ago. We rolled out a Panda data refresh several days ago. Because of the one week window, the Searchmetrics data include not only drops because of the webspam algorithm update but also Panda-related drops. In fact, when our engineers looked at Searchmetrics’ list of 50 sites that dropped, we only saw 2-3 sites that were affected in any way by the webspam algorithm update. I wouldn’t take the Searchmetrics list as indicative of the sites that were affected by the webspam algorithm update.”

OK, so the lists apparently more indicative of the lastest Panda victims and winners. We still don’t really know who the biggest losers and winners on the Webpspam front are. Perhaps Searchmetrics will release another lists soon, with this new information taken into account.

Here are the lists:
Who Has Felt The Effects Of Google’s Updates?

Webspam winners
Note that Demand Media’s is not on the list. If you’ve followed the Panda saga all the way, you’ll know that it has always been in the conversation. Thought of as a content farm, it was the kind of site many thought Panda was designed to target. While it managed to escape unscathed for a while, Panda eventually caught up with it, and Demand Media made a lot of changes, which seem to have helped tremendously. They deleted a lot of articles and implemented some other things designed to keep quality up.

During the company’s most recent earnings call (there’s another one coming in May), Demand Media said it hadn’t been affected by a Google update since July. It will be interesting to see what they say on the next call.

There is some speculation that eHow may have benefited from recent Google updates, whether Panda or Webspam.

Are Google Results Better?
There is never a shortage of criticism of Google’s search results, yet it has managed to steadily dominate the market, so clearly they’ve remained good enough not to alienate the majority of users. There do, however, seem to be some very identifiable flaws in some search results right now.

For example, there is all kinds of weird stuff going on with the SERP for “viagra”. For example,, the official site, was not on the first page, when it should have been the first result. Just as I was writing this piece, reappeared at number one. More on the other viagra page issues (some of which are still there) here.

For the query, “make money online,” the top result was a page without any content on it whatsoever. Not what Google had in mind in terms of quality, I assume. Looking now, it actually appears Google has fixed this one too.

A couple things we’ve seen mentioned by webmasters repeatedly, with regards to what has gotten sites’ Google rankings hit, are exact match domains and sites with a lot of links from spun content sources. Of course not every exact match domain is hit, but it could be a factor for some topics that do tend to generate a lot of spam. Viagra would certainly fit that bill, and may have just been an innocent casualty, which Google had to correct. I wonder how many more of those there are, and if Google will correct them.

From what Google says, it’s more about things like keyword stuffing, link schemes and other things that violate its quality guidelines. You may want to go read those carefully.

Update: Apparently, the Webspam update is now called the Penguin update, even though Cutts already called it the Webspam update. Sigh. I guess I have some re-tagging to do.

What do you think? Did Google get its Webspam update right? As Panda continues to march on, is that making results better? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

SEO Mistakes You Definitely Don't Want to Make - Webmasters

Getting on the first page and staying there for a competitive keyword requires specialized knowledge. But the fact remains that no matter what niche your business is in, you will need SEO to get targeted traffic to your website. As an internet marketer, you must seriously consider getting high rankings so people can find your site when they do their searches. In fact, some marketers have become very wealthy by focusing on SEO as their main way of getting traffic to their landing pages. Learn SEO correctly and you have a skill that can put your site in front of the entire world. Instead of going over the best practices, we are going to inform you about the things to avoid at all costs. For some reason, many internet marketers believe that SEO is a bag of tricks that is updated every month, in fact, it is the opposite.

Making the website with excess flash is a common SEO blunder made by beginner webmasters. Even though flash gives your website the "coolness" factor, it's not really recommended when you're doing SEO. Flash may help you with the visitors to your website, but search engines can't see it and therefore it can't be seen by the spiders.

Content is what attracts the search engine spiders and when they don't find it, they'll simply skip your site and move on. This is the only way to rank high. You can still have your flash as long as you use text also so that the search engines can find your site. If you add more text, your site will do better.

Choosing the wrong keywords is another mistake that webmasters make. The best SEO starts with good keyword research. How can you convert visitors who don't want what you have? If you base your web pages on phrases that people aren't searching for then your site will never be found by anyone. With the right keywords you are off to a running start; with the wrong keywords you might as well start over because you won't win the race. The key is to locate lower competition keywords and to build your content around them. To assist you with your keyword research, several companies have keyword tools that you can use online for free to compile a keyword list for free.

A really big mistake that's sometimes made is not paying attention to the rules of search engines.

This is why you will always want to heed those guidelines so that your SEO methods are always in the search engine's favor. The search engines are always changing their criteria so make sure you're always updated so that you avoid penalties. For instance, when we look at Google, we see it changing its search engine algorithm on a regular basis, so if you don't go by their rules, your ranking will probably fall. In conclusion, successful SEO is a combination of multiple elements. Don't fall for the promises made by 'blackhat' SEO tactics that say you'll see instant search engine results, especially since none of those techniques will benefit you in the long term. Try to focus on using Whitehat SEO techniques that are more reliable in terms of improving your search engine rankings, bringing in plenty of targeted traffic and won't get you banned for your efforts.
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

The New Google Algorithm Farmer What SEOSEM Professionals Need to Know

It's official! While there has been talk of an upcoming algorithm change from Google for at least a couple of months, these past couple of weeks saw a definite change in the way that Google ranks those sites on the web vying for top placement in its listings. So what is the big news? This algorithm specifically went after content farms and in addition to a broad extent low quality sites that have been gaming the system for higher rankings. Since the algorithm targeted content farmers, this algorithm has been nicknamed The Farmer.

If you read our recent article: "Google Moving Against Content Farms- What Does This Mean for SEO?" You probably were already on the look-out for the coming algorithm change. Now that the algorithm has taken effect, the SEO/SEM community definitely knows a little bit more about it, however there are still a few things that require more research and information.

Who Was Targeted by the Farmer Algorithm?

This algorithm change which took effect since late February is said to have affected between 11% and 12% of the search queries in the United States. As of the moment, it is not sure when the algorithm will affect other regions in the world.

Some of the major website properties that were affected included article distribution sites, aggregated content sites (those sites that republish original content from others), sites that mostly sell products with little or no content associated with them, and in general sites that don't have unique or high quality content. Generally speaking, if a website's goal is to monetize content that is not original or high quality, then it is likely that the site has been targeted by Google.

Who Has Benefited from the Farmer Algorithm?

Generally speaking, those sites that have or will benefit from this algorithm will be sites that create unique, high quality content. Obviously, white hat SEO always included creating high quality, unique content as a prerequisite for obtaining long term quality results, this fact hasn't changed.

Tips for SEO/SEM to Avoid the Wrath of Farmer

If you noticed a sudden drop in the Search engine result pages or if you want to avoid a sudden drop in the future, here are some tips that should help you avoid the raft of the Farmer algorithm.

Make sure that the vast majority of content that you post on your website is unique and original. Obviously, you may have to post product descriptions or technical specs that come from a manufacturer, however when possible, create original and unique content in addition to this republished content.

Consider using the Original Source meta tag from Google: meta name="original-source" content= More information at:

This meta tag directly tells Google that the content you have on your site is original- this way if someone plagiarizes your content or duplicates it in anyway, Google will know the original source and you should get all the credit from Google.

Another good tool to checkout is at This tool will scan the net looking for duplicate content so that you can identify specific pages on your website that need to be re-written so they are 100% unique.

Be choosy with the type of articles that you distribute. It should be noted that while Google has targeted many article distribution sites, you will not be penalized for having your content on these sites- the more likely possibility will be these back links will have less power and thus be less effective- so there is no need to remove any of your content from these sites.

Be careful how you monetize your content. Obviously, those that heavily advertise on their site will receive extra scrutiny from Google. If you use content to lure traffic for monetization, definitely use unique content and do not rely solely on aggregated/republished content.

Obviously, the Farmer algorithm has only been out for a couple of weeks, so SEO/SEM professionals are still researching its broad effects. As always, we'll keep you updated as well if we find important information.

How To Make Your Website More Panda Friendly

The recent Google Panda update has raised the bar not only for SEO experts but also for web designers. It's getting tougher and tougher to rank well and that means that you really have to pay attention to all designing and Google ranking factors. When we do this, search engines rewards us because we are rewarding our audience and providing them with the information and experience they are looking for. The following points will help you to make your website panda proof:-

1. Content is key: The Panda algorithm update emphasizes providing assurance only on websites that contain unique and useful content. This will help users better find content relevant to their search. If you provide web page content that is unique, relevant, high quality and preferably 1000+ words, your site will likely be rewarded with improved rankings and therefore, increased traffic.

2. Above the fold design: Narrowing your header images, removing header banner images and pushing more content onto the top of your site will help with Panda.

3. Web Page indexing: A website with more than 100 web pages and maximum pages indexed by Google would be considered as a Panda friendly website.

4. Page rank: Page rank is still one of the most important factors. PageRank is an independent measure of Google?s perception of the quality/authority/credibility of an individual web page. It does not depend on any particular search phrase. Google conveniently reports this as a number from 0-10 (10 being the best).

5. Check your Domain registration: Domain registration for five years helps to enhance authority points. This is a small tip, but every little bit helps.

6. Webmaster tools: It enables webmasters to get a better idea of what Google thinks about their web sites, how the Google spider sees them, and what improvements could be made.

7. Social media proof: Google Panda takes social media trends seriously and content that is loved by social media sites like Twitter and Facebook gets better position in search engines.

8. Optimize for Fast Load Times: Avoid flash, single background images in the website. Google tends to favor sites that are snappy, quick, and fast.
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Sunday, February 12, 2012

What is a Landing Page?

A landing page is a special type of website sales page. It may be a page that directly sells a product or service. Alternatively, it could be a web page that sells visitors on the benefits of entering their name and email address in exchange for a free download; or to get more information about a product or service (usually for more expensive or complex products or services); or to subscribe to a newsletter; or to register for a contest; or to call for more information; or for any of many other types of lead generation strategies.

In most cases a landing page is not a home page (although there are exceptions – including for certain websites that only sell one product or service).

In certain limited examples, a landing page is not even part of a website’s navigation menu, which means that users would not end up on such a page as a result of browsing a particular website. They would arrive, or land there, by being purposefully directed to that page via an email, or an advertisement. (By the way, the advertisement could be an ad on one’s own site, in addition to other sites).

Landing Page Expectations
Typically, a visitor “lands” on a landing page via an advertisement (such as PPC or other ads), e-mail, or search listing. That initial message establishes the viewer’s expectation for what the user expects to see when they click on a link that leads them to your landing page.

An obvious point that contributes to the sales success of any landing page is how well the landing page delivers on the promise of the ad or email that drove the visitor to the landing page.

If a person clicks on a link from an ad, or email, or search result, with a promise of a solution to a problem, or more information, or certain details, only to land on a generalized page about a company (such as a home page), then the visitor is forced to search again for the information that brought him to the site. Most visitors will leave such a site and look for another website that makes it easier for the searcher to find what they’re after.

For example, if a searcher clicks on an ad that describes a sale for a particular brand of motorcycle tire, only to land on the home page of a motorcycle dealer’s website that features all kinds of motorcycles, helmets, jackets, accessories, parts, mechanical services – as well as motorcycle tires – the visitor would be forced to do further searching on the dealer’s website to find the tire sale. Many visitors will leave such a website disappointed, and continue their search for a site that will show them the exact motorcycle tire they’re after.

A better example would be a searcher who clicks on an ad for a particular brand of motorcycle tire, and arrives on a web page that has a picture of that exact tire, with the regular price, the sale price, the tire’s specifications, shipping details, a phone number to call for any questions, and a very easy-to-see “BUY” button (or “Add to Shopping Cart”) so that such a consumer can get the info they’re after (if they want), but more importantly, so they make their purchase and move on with their day.

Landing Page Call-to-Action
The “call-to-action” is what you want the visitor to do, such as make a purchase, download some information, make a phone call, etc. In the above example, the call-to-action is represented by a very prominent “BUY” button.

Whatever it is you want the visitor to do, be sure to clearly state it on the landing page. Any visitor should be able to quickly identify what their expected action is.

Market Testing Landing Pages
There is more than one can know about landing pages, including not distracting visitors from the main intent of the web page. Hence, landing pages can be made more effective by “not” including other advertisements.

More importantly, landing pages can be made more effective by testing, testing and more testing. Market testing landing page variables such as the wording in the headlines, the main copywriting information, the placement of “more details,” and product images are among some of the fundamental items that should be statistically compared and then refined.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Building Links With Social Bookmarking‏

Social bookmarking is extremely popular with marketers in many niches. Social bookmarking sites such as Digg,, and Technorati allow users to add links to sites they like, and then other visitors can grab those links and add them to their own lists, making your URLs go viral.

Social bookmarking sites can be great for getting traffic to your own domains. You can bookmark your sites yourself and then hope others will share the links, and in some cases vote your entries up, like Digg users often do.

If enough people vote for a particular story, it might make it to the front page of that bookmarking site. A front-page listing can mean thousands of visitors a day. But because of the very nature of social bookmarking sites, if you want to get a lot of traffic from the bookmarking sites themselves, then you have to make sure that the links you submit are newsworthy - not just your sales pitch page.

Use the news to work your site into the bookmarking bevy of links. For instance - let's say you're in the gardening niche and you have a site on growing tulips. A simple how-to site may not get shared a lot.

But let's say you read an article about a the discovery by a group of scientists that says people who grow tulips in their yards are 60% less likely to develop lung cancer, for example. Then you'd have a pretty decent shot at having a lot of users in both the gardening and health demographic share your links with others.

If your sites tend to be less newsworthy and more general, then you shouldn't worry about how many people vote for a story or share your links. Just concentrate on using the social bookmarking sites to gain backlinks to your sites.

Concentrate on bookmarking the index page of each of your sites first. Be careful not to bookmark too many of your own sites at first, since that can appear "spammy" - remember to bookmark other interesting sites you see that you don't necessarily own yourself.

The key to social bookmarking is to become part of the community who shares interesting information. Create a good profile that tells a little about you. Add a picture, and if the site offers it, start building a "friends" list.

Be careful about how many links you add per day. You shouldn't go crazy and add 100 links the day you sign up to a social bookmarking site. It's often helpful to keep it to ten or less per day, but check the individual site's tutorial to be sure.

After you've been a user for several weeks, you might be able to add more per day. Just make sure to keep bookmarking stories on other websites. Vote for a few of the stories that made it onto the first page. Bookmark a story at a news site every once in a while, or a funny YouTube video. This helps make your profile a lot more legitimate in the eyes of the community.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Top 5 Link Building Strategies for Your Site

The best Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts can guide and assist you in link building strategies that will increase your website’s visibility on the internet. The following categories of backlinks give an excellent overview of the wide variety of options available for improving your site’s SEO ranking.

Links from Multiple Domains
While your link building strategies should focus on volume, your plan should not be to get most links from a single site. Instead,work towards just a few links from many sites for best results.

As search engines rank sites, they consider how relevant the content is to the keywords and search terms. When you get links from multiple domains, you demonstrate that many sources find your content useful.

This is critically important when you develop additional backlinks from authoritative domains.

Deep (Ingrained) Links
Instead of directing links to your site’s main page, use links directly to specific pages of content or images. These are known as deep or ingrained links, and they show that you have important information throughout your site, not just isolated on the home page.
Using deep or ingrained links adds to your ability to use important keywords for greater ranking in search engine results. You can spread these words throughout your site as appropriate, which will ensure a user-friendly overall appearance.

Links to Local Sites
If your link building strategies don’t include neighboring customers, you are missing out on a large opportunity. It is exciting to develop international backlinks, but it is the locals that will keep you in business.

Obtaining authoritative links from local sources is far easier than from nationwide or internationally renowned experts. Nearby specialists enjoy building their communities by working with neighboring businesses. SEO rankings will climb when you include local authorities such as the Chamber of Commerce or the Better Business Bureau for your state. Consider local organizations, libraries, museums, and similar sites as well as your local government agencies. Directories like and are also excellent options. You might have to pay a fee for the service, but this tends to be very low. Some of those you approach will jump at the chance for a quid pro quo linking relationship.

Links to Authoritative Domains
Sites classified as authoritative on a subject are those that offer expertise in a given industry or specific field. For example, has extensive, reliable, and accurate information on events relevant to New York. Its strong reputation as a source of specialized knowledge lends it authority on New York news.

Link building strategies that include government and university websites lead to high ratings, as these are accepted as authorities on their subject matter. They can be easily recognized by their .gov and .edu domains, for example IRS and California State University.

Authoritative domain links lead visitors to extensive amounts of quality, well researched information, and they often contain additional links that lead to good sources for further exploration.

Linking through Anchor Text
The strongest and most popular tool available today is linking through anchor text. For best SEO ranking results, be sure to make this part of your link building strategies.

They work by turning your text into hyperlinks, so as readers go along, they can click on an interesting keyword. The link directs them to the page you specify, which makes your keywords even stronger, improving your site’s ultimate ranking.

Grow Your Rankings with an SEO Expert Today
Higher rankings mean higher traffic to your site, which results in more business for you. Don’t delay in designing and implementing your link building strategies. Begin with the five ideas listed here, and consider a professional SEO expert for
even greater success.