Grab Your ShareIn 2010, many of the “Big Boys” will be spending the same or less on their paid placements in the search engine results. Bad News for Google, Yahoo, AOL and Bing, but equally bad news for small business owners who have skipped out on paying for ads from the beginning.

Why is it bad news? Because the “big boys” (i.e big companies) are redoubling their social marketing efforts and pouring big bucks into SEO, potentially drowning out the less well funded competition. Don’t start breaking a sweat and hanging an html “Going Out of Business” sign on your website just yet, however. You can still get the social networking catch you need to keep yourself in business and not pay for it.

Search out the competition like a celebrity Paparazzo; be where they are and predict where they are going. Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and MySpace are the likely hangouts for your corporate Goliath competition. Like David and his little slingshot, start casting stones where your competition is not.

There are smaller social networking opportunities, which can be better than the larger ones for reaching your specific customer base. Instead of casting a wide net in the ocean of networking, focus your efforts on the small coves where schools of your customers are hanging out, ready to take your bait. Xanga, Meetup, Xing, Hi5 and others are wide-open options to stake your claim of their market.

When you do stake a claim to a plot on the larger social networks like FB and MySpace, be unique. Your competition can’t be everything to everyone at all times, and you have the opportunity to fill in the gaps. Be online more often than your competition, post more and more useful information to your blog, incorporate different media into your online profile; make your page an experience and not a reflection of your website!

Getting Dirty: the pseudo immorality of buying links

There are a couple of purists out there who take real moral issue with buying links.  Is the practice of buying links really “dirty” or are those who can’t afford to buy links or have some primal fear of the SERP gods’ wrath peppering the discussion with conjecture and possibilities that never seem to materialize for dirty linkers?

The point of linking is to score points with the search engines and climb up some imaginary rope to the top of the results page.  If you have a new website it may take a very long time to reach page one, and no amount of linking, purchased or otherwise, is going to get you there if your web page is an abomination. For arguments sake your website is perfect but you are still nowhere to be seen on the SERPs , do you break down and buy links or do you wait for some benevolent website owner with high rankings to throw you a rope ?

Don’t believe all the hype about getting blacklisted by the search engines for having a few dirty links, in reality dirty links are the least of their concern when evaluating your website.  Google’s own words on purchasing links  Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such.” Buying a link is no more dirty than buying a button advertisement, the goal is one in the same, is it not?  You are paying for something in one place that you could get for free somewhere else, but if you really, really want THAT link and you’re willing to pay for it then by all means fork over the cash.

If your PR is perpetually low, and your scruples are fading fast and you’ve done everything the “right” way with no luck, dip your toe into the muddy waters of link buying. Beware, be spare, and be ready to trade that dirty link if and when an equally good link comes along to take its’ place.  Don’t feel the need either to atone for your SEO sins since it’s only the small business owner buying links that Google or the other search engines call “dirty”. Add a couple million dollars to your company’s net worth and the search engines would be calling you a corporation instead.