Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Local SEO Lead Generation: Mining Gold In Your Own Backyard

Because search engine optimizers (SEOs) and marketeers (SEMs) live in the web world, we often overlook the opportunities in our own community. Almost every commercial outlet has a website that’s been collecting digital dust since ’02. Most of these business owners don’t recognize the expanding use of local search and personalized search to find businesses close by.

Local sites can include (at no additional cost, btw), printable maps showing the location of the outlet, written directions, a snapshot of the store front and other helpful features that drive residents of the region to actually visit the local outlet.

Local search is growing by leaps and bounds and local businesses need SEO. Here are some suggestions for generating some local buzz-worthy biz.

1. Advertise in the local newspapers. Yes it’s a dying medium but it’s also one of the best way to reach local business owners. And because the local rag is headed south you can often negotiate better terms for more insertions. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

2. Teach an adult education course on SEO. Solid gold. The folks who sign up understand the importance of on-line marketing and you (in the context of an authority on optimization) are bound to pick up a few clients over the course of the course.

3. Contact local service organizations. The Elks, Knights of Columbus, Lions Club – your community has branches of these service organizations that meet monthly for lunch. And they’re always looking for guest speakers. So, not only do you have the chance to demonstrate your knowledge before community and business leaders, you get the rubber chicken on the house.

4. Join the local Chamber of Commerce. The crème de la crème of the local business community and one of the best networking-lead generation steps you can take. (As a side benefit, your local CoC should offer health coverage at group rates – a little money-saver.)

One final suggestion: In all your local promotional efforts, offer a FREE SITE ANALYSIS. It’s something you’d do any way and it immediately creates a value-added offer. Be straight up in your analysis. If the site’s all set, say so. Don’t use SEO-babble to create a problem where none exists.

However, offer prospects a menu of on- and off-site optimization opportunities. Low cost options like adding revenue streams (there are 10 of them), content syndication and, of course, optimization for local search.

Most small business owners are unaware of the power of the web and lots of those business owners operate in your neighborhood. So, when prospecting for prospects, consider local businesses.

You may even get a free lunch out of the deal.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Best Ecommerce Website EVER: Amazon Brings Web 2.0 to Life

  • Okay, so it’s We’ve all shopped there. Even my 83-year-old father has a single click checkout PIN. Amazon, as we all know, owns a great deal of space in the e-commerce sector, expanding from books to DVDs and now, (blushing) sexual novelties. Don’t ask me the site search word. I didn’t go there.

    Here’s the thing. Jeff Bezos and the creative minds at Amazon have long employed what are now considered standard issue on ever pushcart site operating on a shoestring. But Amazon, with its far-horizon thinking, saw Web 2.0 long before the rest of the digital realm and integrated the basics of Web 2.0 when we were all dully clicking from one static, one-way site to another.

    Web 1.0
    The first incarnation of the web was pretty straightforward. It was static. It wasn’t very interactive (unless you made a purchase) and it was, for the most part, a one-way street. The site presented its products and you made your buying decision. Period.

    Today, with the deep penetration of DSL and cable into delivery of the web, site designers and webmasters can add a lot more. And Amazon is the perfect example of just how effective these new age principles work.

    Web 2.0
    Web 2.0 is all about engagement – engaging the site visitor. Let’s review how Amazon employs 2.0 tactics.

    Personalized search results
    First, dynamic web pages enable Amazon to personalize my Amazon home page based on my buying history. I receive recommendations generated by items previously bought. Oh, and I’m also greeted by name – all from the big, juicy d-base maintained by Amazon.

    Of course, you can by-pass the recommendations and employ simple dropdown menus to narrow your search.

    Visitor Interaction
    Nobody does it better.

    At Amazon, buyers are encouraged to leave reviews. Heck, if you buy a piece of junk, trash it on Amazon. You’ll feel better and total strangers will be better informed.

    Suggested Products
    If you buy a piece of electronics gear, Amazon will automatically up sell by providing a list of related items and other gear required to hook-in the gizmo – USB cables, e.g.

    Amazon provides:

    other items purchased by those who searched the item you’re considering



    free shipping and other useful information intended to keep the Amazon visitor on site longer. Even when you log off, the tireless hits you with one last list of suggestions worth your time.

    I even get a golden box filled with specials targeted especially at me – items on sale and on my list of reading interests.

    Easy Out
    I can save items in my wish list and return later to purchase them. And once I’ve determined my purchase, I can employ Amazon’s One-Click Checkout. Man, making it easy to buy with confidence boosts sales.

    Daily Specials
    There’s always something new on sale at Amazon. Changes daily so I’m tempted to return to see what’s new today – even if I’m not in a buying mood.

    Ease of use, changing content, easy navigation, personalized pages based on an active d-base that creates pages on the fly, one-click out the door – Amazon is doing it right when it comes to on-line commerce.

    And let me just say that I don’t work for Amazon, nor am I in any way affiliated with the company (unless Mr. Bezos would like to drop me a line), so this assessment of Amazon is based on personal experience and my experience with Web 2.0 features.

    Amazon has it all.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Intuitive SERPs

Search engines, as we know them today, will soon join the heap of outdated technologies along with 8-tracks, VHS and DVD. Why? Because search engines collect data on our browsing habits and produces unique results pages based on our past browsing histories.

If I type in “dogs” as my query word, I’ll get everything from pet stores to the history of the basset hound. And, if I’m using one of the growing number of Chinese search engines, I’ll come up with some recipes, as well. Unfortunately, my broad query provides thousands of results, often requiring me to refine my search to whatever it is I’m looking for. “Dogs” as a query just won’t cut it.

However, that search engine will have in its database a long history of my queries. The SE will know that I order dog chow on-line in bulk and will (1) bring up outlets where I’ve previously purchased dog chow and (2) offer a few hundred SERPs of similar sites to those I’ve frequented in the past.

Amazon employs this approach to a more “intuitive” search engine my scouring my buying history and offering “MY RECCOMMENDATIONS.” So, my Amazon home page will display different products than those shown on your home page. Very convenient and obviously very effective.

So, the days of the “throw anything out there and let the user decide” will soon come to an end, at least as the default mode. Of course, you’ll always have the option of “SHOW ALL.” This will change the fundamentals of how users search.

Looking for a specific item or type of item. Personal search.

Want the full spectrum? Search all.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Holy Cow! How To Use Twitter to Build Business

Yeah, I’m a twit, or tweet as some preferred to be called. I only follow 13 friends. I can’t plow through the daily trivia of strangers, much less the trivia generated by my own life. But something happened.


I’ve tried to figure out how to use Twitter as a sales tool. Nothing, though I admit my efforts were less than consistent. However….


…I recently Twittered an ebook I was flogging, looking for partners. True fact. Within 24 minutes of posting, I picked up five more followers (many in the same field as the ebook covers) and an invite for an interview.


Sell stuff. Find partners who complete the puzzle. I was amazed and…wait, I just got another follower. Got to check him/her out.


Any way, got something to sell, or looking for partners for projects, check out and keep those offers coming in.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

10 Words and Phrases That Have to Go

Like most web copywriters I spend more time in the 2-D world than in the 3-D world, aka The Matrix. So I see a ton of horrible (and I mean horrible) writing posted on big and small websites.

Now, I’m not a member of the grammar police and chills don’t run down my spine when a sentence ends with a preposition. But, folks, there are some words and phrases that are like fingernails on a blackboard.

So, my top 10 copywriters’ crutches that should never, ever be used again.

10. FOR FREE!!!! It’s not the word. There are two problems. First is the use of the word ‘FOR’. It’s not FOR FREE. It’s just FREE!!! The second problem is the formatting. Copywriters generate enthusiasm through the use of exclamation points – the more the better!!!!!!!! (Do you feel more excited?)

9. Absolutely Free. A variation on the above. It’s either free or it’s not. Absolutely free is akin to ‘somewhat pregnant’. You either are or you’re not.

8. As we speak. This annoying phrase began to pick up steam with mainstream media during ’07 and now is in common usage. Couldn’t you just say ‘now’.

7. Leading edge and variants: cutting edge, bleeding edge, ahead of the curve, et al. Come on, everything can’t be leading edge.

6. Amazing, which can be tied to any number of words: Amazing Product, Amazing Results, Amazing, SECRET Formula. Ummm, I don’t care how good it is, hand cream is NOT amazing. World peace would be amazing.

5. Discover, which is grossly overused by web writers because it sounds better than ‘learn’. What would you rather do? Learn the Secrets of Investing Success or Discover the Secrets of Investing Success. Discover has the whiff of adventure.

4. Best Business Practices. This utterly meaningless phrase appears on a lot of coaching and consultant websites. What the hell are best business practices? Same for ‘Reputation Management’, ‘C-Level’ and ‘outside the box’. Biz babble.

3. Completely Unique. Please see #9 above. It’s either unique or it’s not. This one is everywhere and it’s usually FOR FREE!!!!!

2. “Who Else Wants To Make A Million Bucks Before Supper!!!!! The bane of every copywriter’s existence – the long form, Dan Kennedy sales letter. Page after page of endless hype, changing type fonts and “testimonials” from Delores M., Los Angeles. Yeah, try to track down Delores to verify the veracity of her endorsement. Good luck, suckers.

And finally, the absolute must-delete phrase is:

1. At this point in time. It’s either “at this point” or “at this time.” Redundantly redundant and intended to, somehow convey importance. All it conveys to me is smiles at some other hack using this brain-piercing, ear-poking phrase.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Making the Most of Google

The world of e-commerce depends on Google. Even though there are more than 4,000 search engines available, including the biggies like Yahoo, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, etc., the name people know is Google. Even the word itself has become part of everyday speak, as in, "Let me Google that." (a verb) or "I want the Google on our competition." (the complete picture). So, as a site owner or designer, it pays to get the Google on Google - more specifically, how potential visitors to your site might use this mighty SE with over 1 billion pages currently in its data base

In addition, Google offers a lot of search options that will enable site owners to see their sites the way the Googlebot sees them. Something as simple as revising your site's title tag can make a significant difference in how Google's SE picks you up, views your site, ranks it and, subsequently, places your URL on its SERPs - all in one-tenth of a second.

Most users simply log on to the Google site, enter their query (in the form of key words), hit the enter key and wait to see what pops up. This is called a default search and it will deliver all sites in which the entered keywords appear as part of the SERPs available to the user. In other words, the user will get pages and pages of search results that are only marginally associated to his or her search topic.

By using common symbols, the more sophisticated users can narrow their searches, isolating those sites that are truly relevant. For example, by adding a minus sign (-) in front of a key word, Google's SE will NOT show the results of that key word. So, let's say you're looking for a recipe for apple pie. The last thing you want is 118 useless SERPs about Apple, the company. So, you might enter: 'apple pie -Apple computer' to eliminate pages of information about Steven Jobs. The tilde (~) tells the SE to search for the entered keywords and synonyms of the keywords. Add quotes to key words and only pages in which quotes appear around the key words will be delivered to the user's screen.

All of these basic search techniques improve the quality of search results for users, making users happy and Google shareholders even happier. But then there are Google Search operators - in fact, specified keywords that the SE recognizes as directions rather than words to be searched. And some of these operators will be extremely useful to the owners of e-commerce sites by enabling them to optimize their sites while conducting e-espionage on competitor sites - and it's all free.

Here's a for instance: want to find out how many inbound links are pointing to your site? Try this: Obviously, type in your site's name where it says 'yoursitename'. You'll get SERPs with all URLs pointing to your site. And as most site owners know, quality, non-reciprocal links are like gold when it comes to improving your PageRank. You can also identify links that aren't helping your site. In other words, this Google tool allows you to control inbound links - an ability that's grown in importance now that Google heavily weighs inbound links in its ranking algorithm.

Want to know what the competition is doing? It's simple enough. All you have to do is enter: and sites that are, in some way, related to yours, will appear. Not only is this a good means of tracking competitor activities, it's also a great way to find sites that might be interested in some link swapping - always a good thing, especially for the owner of a small or brand new site.

Now, turning to the matter of SEO and how Google's search services can help determine if your site is, indeed, fully optimized. Check this out: try using the search engine to see how your site ranks when the SE is instructed to find keywords only in the title of your page. Enter: allintitle: fruit baskets (of course substituting any of your keywords in place of the example keywords, fruit baskets, unless you're in the fruit basket business). Chances are, if your site's PageRank tanks on this search, a bit of tweaking of your title tag just might be in order. If your title tag reads 'Rosie's Little Bit of Home", i.e., no mention of fruit baskets, your visitor traffic will increase by simply adding the words 'fruit baskets' to your title tag.

You can also check out your site's level of optimization by conducting the following Google searches:

1. To have Google search for keywords - your keywords - in the text of the site, type in:
allintext: fruit baskets

This search will identify if keyword density and placement are sufficient to make the Google SE sit up and take notice.

2. To ask Google to search for your keywords in URLs only, type in:
allinurl: fruit baskets

A search of URLs will reveal sites similar to yours (since all sites will have the same key words as part of their address, i.e., and, of course, the ever-popular fruitbaskets'r' If these sites are ranking higher than your site, check out what the competition is doing better than you. E-espionage is legal, so do a little spying on the competition and learn from them.

3. How about a search of the anchor text of all sites that mention your keywords? Type in:
allinanchor: fruit baskets

This will indicate sites that mention fruit baskets somewhere in their anchor text, which might also indicate sites interested in reciprocal links.

4. When Google discovers your site (or you submit your URL for spidering), the SE takes a snapshot of every indexed page and places them into a cache. To search the pages in your site's cache, type:

To further refine the search of cached pages, you can also conduct a keyword search within the cache. Simply type: web

And finally,

5. On of the most useful tools Google offers for no-cost marketing research is the info search. This will provide whatever information Google keeps on your site (or any other site, for that matter). Type:

This will produce a general profile of your site and the sites of your competitors, at least from the Google perspective. Much of this information - everything from inbound links to meta tag text - can help you (or your web designer) deliver more visitor traffic and a higher conversion rate because visitors are actually looking for your product, not something like your product. In short, better results all around.

Google's objective is to deliver the highest quality search results to its users, which is one of the reasons they offer this variety of search tools for knowledgeable users and, of course, site owners. Your knowledge of how the leading SE views your site and compares it to similar (competitive) sites is a critical aspect of making adjustments to everything from key word density to fresh anchor text.

To learn even more about the tools Google offers, click on the links below and get your site Googlized. (See, another new word!)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Getting Found By Spiders, Bots and Crawlers

"Hey, I'm back here - on page 63!"

You've got a good site, you're selling a good product or providing an important service and you still show up at the bottom of page 63 of the SERP (search engine results page). You've got a problem - a recognition problem. Your best, potential customers or consumers don't even know your cyber hut exists. This is not a good problem, but a problem that can be solved, or at least mitigated.

You need to be found, or your site does, actually. So how, exactly, do search engines find your little bit of digital real estate. Well, there are lots of ways but let's start with the most common, and coincidentally, the least expensive - as in free!

Search Engines - Powered Up For Success
There are hundreds (yes, hundreds) of search engines on the www. Some, like Google and Alta Vista are free. You submit the appropriate information and your site will be listed for free. Of course, your site will be buried on page 63 of the SERP, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Then, there are PPC sites - pay-per-click sites that nick you for every click they generate leading a potential customer to your cyber store. Yahoo is the best known of the PPC sites. Yahoo (in its usual fashion) has set off on its own path to search engine development, breaking off a once-promising partnership between Google and Yahoo - a good thing for us. The more competition among SEs, the better the quality of search results.

Directories - Get Proactive; Get Noticed
As a newcomer to cyber town, you should also consider registering your site in directories. There are open directories, like the aptly named Open Directory Project (DMOZ), in which volunteer editors search the www for interesting, helpful sites and then catalog each site for inclusion under one of many subject headings.

Then, there are smaller, more targeted directories where you can list your related site. For example, there are directories for charitable giving sites, sites of legal firms and so on. In fact, there are directory sites for just about any business or service you can imagine.

There are also association sites with outbound links, community directories, interest groups, political groups - many specialized directories that will list you for free - as long as your site is somehow related to the directory. If you're selling the better mousetrap, it's a sure bet your site won't be accepted on a national jewelers' directory. There has to be some connection between you and the subject of these topic-driven directories.

When you register with any of these SEs (free or PPC) and directories, in addition to the usual contact information, you'll also provide a list of key words - words and phrases that a potential customer might enter in conducting a search for a site just like yours. Your selection of key words is critical to the success of your e-biz. Enter inappropriate or off-target key words and you're not going to get the visitor traffic you'd get if every key word were dead on the money. In fact, there are a variety of assessment tools top site design firms employ to help you develop a tight, targeted key word list for submission to search engines and directories.

Key words often have to be adapted to specific SEs. You might use one set of key words for a search engine like Google, which covers the entire universe, and a completely different set of key words for an industry directory where most searchers already know the technical terms, model numbers, etc. of what they're looking for on a site like yours.

Let's say it one more time: It is essential to the success of your on-line business to develop a list of on-the-money key words to make sure your site is, well, on the money.

Spiders and Creepy Crawlers
Submitting your site to search engines and directories is a great way to start building site visibility. Moreover, they're all proactive steps - steps you can take on your own.

However, there's another way to increase your site presence on the www - and that's to get spidered by a crawler, which sounds pretty bad but, in fact, is pretty good. A search
engine 'crawler' - software that crawls (and 'reads') pages of various sites, stores the content data on your site and reports it back to the mother ship - the search engine index. Once this happens, restrained congratulations are in order. You've been discovered - maybe.

You see, a crawler (or spider) has one mission - to gather the content data on millions of sites and send that info back to the SEs index- a massive amount of stored data. Google maintains a +1 billion-page index and it grows every day. So, now you type in a search word at Google, Google scans the 1 billion pages in its database and delivers the SERP for your review. All pretty straightforward, right?

Wrong! Each search engine uses its own, 'Eyes Only' formula to assign weight to various search criteria, which in turn, determines your placement within the SERP. And if you aren't on the first page or two, you might as well be working out of Mongolia. Typical users don't look beyond the first two pages. It's a busy world.

That's where spidering comes in. You see, spiders don't just crawl the web randomly like, well, like spiders. No, this is smart software we're talking about here. Spiders follow links from one site to the next, based on the assumption that the links are, somehow relevant to the site from whence the link originated. If you're selling snowshoes, for example, and you have an outbound link to a local ski resort, the spider will follow the link and crawl that site.

That's why links - quality links - are so important. Why? Well, if you're selling snowshoes and the spider follows a link to Mom and Pop's Ye Olde On-Line Candy Shoppe, oops, that's a garbage link - a link that isn't helpful to your snowshoe customers. The result? You lose points in that search engines PR calculations.

There are sites, affectionately referred to as 'link farms' that are nothing more than sites providing in- and out-bound links. Spiders hate link farms because they diminish the quality of search results. The newest search engine algorithms place a much higher value on quality links - especially quality links pointing to your site.

If people in your area of commerce believe that your site would be helpful to their customers, the SE is going to rank you higher, based on the assumption that quality sites link to other quality sites.

An SE spider can do wonders for your PR (PageRank), moving you up in the SERP rankings from page 63 all the way up to page 6. Of course, getting spidered in and identified as an 'expert page" (one other sites send their visitors to) will do wonders for your ranking.

But you can't stop there. It's a dog-eat-dog cyber world in which we exist. That's why so many other factors enter into getting found and moving on up. Search engine optimized (SEO) text that's spider-friendly plays a key roll. The quality of content is another important factor. In fact, there's a checklist of do's and don'ts that form the basis of search engine marketing (SEM). So, before you build a single pixel, or reserve a single gig of space on your host's server, put together a business plan that includes SEM in the budget.

Why? Because if you spend all of your initial capital on building a good looking, visitor-friendly site, you won't have the necessary cash to hire an SEM professional to deliver the traffic that will make your site profitable.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Selling Services: What are the Benefits?

I was looking at snow blowers last week, reading through the literature and trying to compare specs of different models. I don’t know squat about the tech specs of snow blowers, but tell me “this model can shred a big block Chevy engine” and I’m sold. 

I get to see a lot of really bad web sites – sites that are struggling under the weight of too many keywords in two short a body of text, headlines with keywords crammed in with a shoe horn and complete, bot optimized text – boring.

But even today, there are website owners (and I assume designers) who develop sites that employ ineffective marketing text, leading to microscopic conversion ratios. The reason?

Features. Lists of them. In every snow blower tri-fold there was a long list of tech specs. And I suppose if you use a snow blower at work it might come in handy to learn a little about what these numbers mean. Probably not.


Sell Benefits Not Features

All of my snow-blower options come with an emergency STOP feature. Good. Very good. Ummm, why?

Well, it turns out the automatic stop feature prevents the machine from starting accidently while you’re unclogging the blades. Now NOT having your arm ripped off is a benefit anyone can understand. So, instead of just providing the feature, be sure to cover the benefits.

Service Providers and Product Merchants

If your client site sells products, it’s pretty easy to cram a product description into 60 words and provide a benefit or two: Ideal for the Heavy Runner; When security is a must, etc. These coupled with a professionally shot product picture usually provides all the information the prospect needs to make that all-important buying decision.

Not so much with service providers – every business from accounting services to chiropractics. In these cases, it’s essential to not only list service offerings but also the benefits delivered by these service offerings:

After completion of the Advantotex Morale Seminar, you will see:

  • an immediate drop in absenteeism  


  • fewer expensive turnovers of C-level managers


  • improved communication and cooperation between departments


Sure, you’d include a syllabus, target audience and other useful information that demonstrates your value – quantifies it if possible: “Average 198% increase in productivity within six months of implementation.” Sweet.

But list features and specs; highlight benefits. You just can’t assume the reader will make that critical connection between service offering/feature and “What’s in it for me?”

So sell the benefits and let those who need to understand the tech specs figure out if this is a good purchase or not.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Getting Slammed By Google: It's Easy

It doesn’t take much to make a Googlebot angry. And it certainly doesn’t take much to confuse one of these script-bits that swarm the web like those killer ants. And while there is no absolute consensus on the negative ranking factors employed by Google, there is general agreement on how to avoid getting slammed by the search engine that controls 46% of ALL web searches – the proverbial 800-pound gorilla.

So here are some common, agreed-upon slams Google can give you.

1. Lack of site access. If your host server is down, your site is down and if your site is down, visitors can’t reach you. Google won’t send its users to an inaccessible site. To avoid trouble: (1) go with a reputable host and (2) avoid launching until the site is complete.

2. All text appears in a graphics format like gif, jpg or bmp. Spiders are as dumb as a box of rocks. They can’t read anything in a graphics format. To avoid the problem, keep critical information in HTML format and provide description tags for all graphics.

3. You’re living in a bad neighborhood. You’re known by the company you keep on the web – in two ways. First, by your inbound and outbound links. Too many low-quality links gives you a bad name.

Further, though contestable, if you’re using a shared hosting account, your site is on the same server as 1,264 other client sites. A server that’s stuffed with porn and overseas drug company sites doesn’t exactly make your site shine, does it?

4. Keyword stuffing is bad for site health. You can overstuff an HTML keyword tag, you can overstuff on-site text (keep keyword density at no more than 3%), HTML meta data, headers and headlines. Any overuse of keywords is a bad sign to spiders.

5. Redirects raise suspicions. Not all redirects are bad. Some serve useful purposes. For example, when you submit an information form online, you might immediately be redirected to a confirmation page with a short note stating that “If this page doesn’t redirect you click here” message.

That’s fine. This isn’t: a site page is designed for one purpose only, to appeal to spiders. It’s a perfectly optimized, single site page buried deep within the site. Because the page is hyper-optimized for crawling, there are no graphics, there is no useful information – it’s simply a highly-optimized page of site code.

Because the page is highly optimized, it ranks highly on Google SERPs. That means it pulls in a great deal of organic traffic. However, as soon as a visitor clicks on the SERP link, s/he is immediately redirected to a page designed for humans. It happens so fast, you won’t even notice. This kind of redirect is bad form to spiders. It’s not nice to fool with Google.

There are lots of other missteps Googlebots look for: invisible text, too much cross-linking within one site, dynamic pages – the list goes on and on. The fact is, it’s easy to get slammed – and not even know why!

To learn more, visit Google’s Webmaster Central and get the information straight from the source.

Friday, October 31, 2008

If Your On-Line Business is Going Down in Flames…

…there’s a lot you can do to boost revenues, expand service offerings, drive more traffic to your web site – lots of cool SEO voodoo that can make you and your site high ranking on Google, Yahoo and other search engines.

But here’s the problem. During rough economic times (Anybody notice? Hands?), on-line and other small business pull the wagons in a circle, batten down the hatches and try to hold on 'til happy days are here again.

Don’t cut back on marketing and promotion…
The fact is, this is exactly the wrong strategy to employ in bad economic times, regardless of what product or service and demographic you’re selling. For example, on-line businesses will cut down on PPC ads because of those monthly bills that are impossible to quantify.

Brick-and-mortars cut back on newspaper and traditional media marketing. If your customer base is shrinking, does it make ANY sense to cut your marketing budget? The fact is, marketing for pay or guerrilla marketing (which costs nothing but your time) is the only way to maintain a client base. You may lose some of your regulars as they crash and burn but, if you can point to your successes, you’ll always have a steady stream of new clients, some of whom become regulars – the best clients you can have.

Introduce new service offerings
If you run a small tax prep service, what would it take to add outsourced bookkeeping? How about financial planning. You may view the new experts you hire as expenses in hard times but you can (and will) make money from your associates.

So hire individuals who enable your company to deliver more services.

Don’t rely on metrics alone.
I know lots of site owners who scour their site performance metrics for hours. I’m not sure what they’re looking for, and it doesn’t seem to be very productive.

First, metrics tell you what’s already happened. Old news and there’s no guarantee that the realm of ecommerce has a stable future. One client was #3 on page one of Google SERPs and fell, overnight, to page 33. It took us a month to figure out why and fix the problem.

The web isn’t stable. It changes constantly. Content and websites are ephemeral – here today, gone today. There are no axioms in SEO – no "a = a," for instance. In fact, SEOs can’t even agree on positive and negative ranking factors so there’s just as much art and intuition in metrics analysis as there is number crunching.

Don’t have a cow, man
Clear analysis is better than sheer panic at the drop in site visitors but panic isn’t going to solve the problem.

A lot of site owners call in site doctors to analyze and diagnose the problems. Okay, but guaranteed there are no guarantees. It’s trial and error.

So, increase your marketing, hire sub-contractors that equip you to expand service offers and take your cut and use your instincts and the knowledge of your market to pull out of that digital nose dive.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Small Business Owners Turning to Web

I've seen it and I'm a small payer in the e-commerce world but business, despite the downturn in other financial spheres, has been up for me.


I'm picking up local clients trying to reach their local market - 20-30 miles from the retail outlet. Suddenly, TV and print ads aren't pulling and these local business owners are scrambling for (1) an effective website optimized for local search and (2) new marketing channels that can be integrated into traditional marketing outlets. By adding that URL to print ads, invoices, business cards, tri-folds and bi-folds, potential clients will have a map to the website, which, in turn, provides a map to the local outlet.


It all fits together like an interlocking puzzle. Using all of your marketing outlets to drive traffic presents more avenues and opportunities to find you.


Matchbook cover, anyone?


Sunday, October 19, 2008

On-Line Ad Revenues Up, Up and Away

A recent article in the NYT's biz section predicted a 15% increase in on-line ad revenues at the expense of traditional marketing outlets like newspapers and periodicals, and electronic, i.e. radio and TV.

There are more buyers on the web each year and more ways to attract new clients and customers to your site. The dynamics change at lightning speed so what worked last year is search engine taboo now.

There's an on-going battle between SEOs who are trying their best to manipulate search engine activity for the benefit of their clients, and the math monkeys who create search engine algorithms based on an ever-changing list of ranking factors.

Thus, it's a constant (daily) challenge to keep any web site optimized, and, in fact, tactics employed as positive ranking factors a few years ago are now considered negatives in the eyes of bots spidering your site, i.e. stuffing headlines with keywords.

To attract site traffic your site should be optimized on- and off-site. Through the use of off-site marketing strategies, it's easy to create a larger web presence in just a few months.

Oh, and you'll be able to cash in on some of that web dough floating around.

Paul Lalley

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Client Retention: Fix It If It's Broke

It happens. Even to the best.

The job is completed; all deliverables have been delivered (and perhaps a few thrown in to build goodwill), and the client is still not happy.

The small business owner relies on repeat business for long-term success and a disgruntled client is NOT going to build your client base. In fact, a dissatisfied client won’t recommend your services (the best sell in the world – a personal recommendation) but that unhappy client is going to bad mouth your company at every conference, seminar, luncheon and high-level business meeting.

You know that’s gonna hurt. So, can this relationship be saved? Indeed, it can. And as the company owner whose a$$ is on the line, you better get started ASAP.

1. Before the project, ensure that all parties (including sub-contractors) are on the same page. Client and professional team both know what to expect at the end of the business agreement.

Look, if one party or the other is searching through the files for the contract, you’ve already got problems. Somebody isn’t happy. At least a statement of work (SOW) produces realistic expectations.

2. Be proactive. If you discover the typos before the client, contact the site owner immediately. “We caught it. We’ll fix it. No worries.”

3. When the mistake is discovered, take over. If you’ve been using a client rep to manage things, getting the boss on the phone goes a long way to improving a bad situation.

4. Isolate the clients dissatisfaction. What, exactly, has his knickers in a twist? Get the client to provide examples that aren’t “right.” Then, find out why they aren’t right.

5. Ask the client how she would like you to resolve the problem. The objective here is to engage the client in the solution. Rather than just saying we’ll fix it, make sure the client has a stake in whatever changes are required.

6. Determine how much you can “eat.” If you’ve got a couple of hundred very expensive man hours tied up in a site design, development, launch and SEO, you can’t walk away with nothing. In this case, figure your bottom line, break even and court the client to return with his next project. You’ve just created a great salesperson, as well.

I’ve given content away. It didn’t take thousands of man hours, it wasn’t what the client was looking for (too conversational, too academic, not academic enough, etc.) so, instead of having someone giving me the digital stink-eye, “Take it. if you can use it, it’s yours. If not, toss it.” It hurts, but more often than not, those individuals come back with another project.

It’s happened more than once. And that’s not counting unsolicited referrals.

So, fix it if it’s broke. It’s far-horizon thinking and a proven pathway to business growth.

Make Your Website Your Marketing Bulls-Eye

Most SEO professionals have worked with small, brick-and-mortar businesses seeking to drive local traffic to the office or store front. So, the client site is optimized for local search, launched and, often, fails to live up to minimum expectations.

The local purveyor of goods or services in Topeka isn’t looking for business in Mozambique. The business owner wants clients or customers from the Topeka metropolitan area. Integration of marketing channels delivers local traffic.

Marketing Channels
How many ways can prospects reach your client’s business? Chances are, the local CPA advertises in the Yellow Pages, and maybe runs some small adverts in the local newspaper during tax season.

The CPA also has a four-color brochure that she hands out to clients, and of course, an embossed business card. In fact, this may be the extent of the small business owner’s business promotion. Disjointed and utterly lacking in focus.

However, integrate that CPA’s web site into other marketing collaterals to produce market channel synergies. And conversely, integrate the web site into existing, albeit, happenstance marketing to improve the effectiveness of traditional marketing instruments.

The Website Is The Nexus recently posted some eye-opening stats:

78% of web users agree that shopping online is convenient.

68% state that buying on line saves time.

13% of high-end buyers ($100K +) comparison shop on line.

44% of lower-income buyers are uncomfortable with the level of data security.

81% of survey respondents conduct product- and services-related research on line.

66% of web users purchase on line.

These numbers demonstrate that web buying has deep penetration across all demographics – 68%. However, 81% use the web to conduct product research and comparison shop before running off to the big box store to make the actual purchase.

By integrating marketing channels, the small business owner uses his web site as the nexus of all promotional activities through integration of marketing channels. Here are some examples:

The local business owner displays the site’s URL on all paper associated with the business: stationery, business cards, brochures, invoices – plaster that URL all over print materials. This enables a prospect to learn more about a business using the web site as a source of information and a call to action.

Print advertising in local media should prominently display the business URL with a call to action, to “Learn more at” The print ad – even a small classified – can pique prospect interest. The site should provide the information and access to close the sale.

If the business employs local advertising through the regional cable provider (as little as $5 a spot when bought in quantity), the URL should appear as a text burn throughout the 30-second promo. If the business employs radio advertising, mention the business’ URL a couple of times during the spot. Again, pique interest; make the sale on site.

Add a toll-free number above the fold on the business’ web site. This creates one of the most powerful synergies. Check the stats again. There’s a lot of comparison shopping and research taking place. That big ol’ toll-free number is mighty tempting – especially for those prospects reluctant to give personal information on line.

Use mapping software to provide a map to the business’ physical outlet. Buyers check prices and features on line, print out the map and make the purchase locally.

Individually, a single marketing channel may not deliver anticipated results. However, when all marketing channels are integrated, they each play off the others creating marketing synergies.

In this case, 1 + 1 = 3.

Selling To Seniors: Are You Ready for the Baby Boomers?

There’s a huge demographic bubble about to burst all over the web. The Boomers are coming! The Boomers are coming! Get ready or miss the herd as they pass by your site.

Seniors Don’t Use the Web the Way We Do
My father is 82 and in the past 10 years he’s had 11 different computers. He blows them up like M-80s and proudly proclaims “That extended service contract more than pays for itself.”

Well, maybe it does when there’s a good chance that dad’s system is going to lock up, shoot sparks out of the back of the box and delete important files “all on its own.”

The Surfing Habits of Seniors
Unlike Gen-Xers, Gen-Yers and the Millennium Kids who grew up with mouses in their little chubby hands, seniors see computers with suspicion, distrust and a modicum of fear. They’re less likely to make an online purchase for fear of identity theft (even though the nice waiter at the four-star restaurant can swipe the credit card on a reader and have it posted all over the web by sunrise).

Seniors Follow Links
Older, less experienced consumers tend to follow links and are less likely to use search engines. It’s fun to look at my dad’s surfing history. Dementia has definitely set in. But that’s how many seniors surf. They bounce around like ping pong balls hoping to find the right site.

Seniors Rely On Guides
Seniors are often guided by everyone from the nice librarian to grandma’s eight-year-old little girl with 2000 downloads on her iPod, a cluttered space on MySpace (complete with pink unicorns) and even has her own website. These young ‘uns teach seniors the basics of site navigation.

Seniors Don’t Scroll
Or at least they’re less likely to than younger, more savvy users. That means that all critical information should appear above the fold of your site’s home page, with lots of body text to encourage the senior user to look below.

Seniors are Confused by Navigation
Many aren’t even aware of site navigation. Embedded text links help to direct the Gray Panther through the Plexiglas maze that is today’s feature-filled website.

Seniors Like Big Links
“Better to see you with, my dear.” [Little Red Riding Hood; pg. 8]

Clearly labeled, consistently labeled and always in the same spot – a navigation bar at the top of the page, for example. Older users are less likely to use a site map to navigate a site. Many don’t know what a site map is and those that do think it’s too much hassle, man.

Seniors Don’t Use Browser Buttons
Again, the web is alien turf to many seniors who don’t know what a browser is. So, they don’t know what browser buttons do. And they’re not inclined to experiment, unless you’re my dad who will click on any link on any site and in any email. Apparently, he’s going to receive $650,000 from the Nigerian Ambassador just for holding some assets in his name.

Savvy users employ next and back browser buttons with ease. They also use their browser histories to return to site worthy of a second look.

Seniors Will Not Read Day-Glo Pink on a White Background
Are you kidding me? Many of these senior prospects can hardly read black text against a white background. Think accessibility of content. How easy is it to read, how easy it to navigate the site for a newbie?

This tsunami of seniors is already knocking on your commercial site door, booking cruises, buying yoga books, comparison shopping for cars and getting fitted for a truss.

The easier it is for a senior visitor to make the purchase, the more purchases will be made. It’s that simple.

One final thought: add a telephone number to your home page for customer service and order taking. Those old hippies may not be comfortable giving a credit card number on a website, though they’ll gladly provide it over the phone.

Make it easy to make the sale, make more sales.
Paul Lalley

Hackers and Crackers: Barbarians At The Gate

Hate to tell you this but the barbarians are at the gate. Hackers, crackers and script-kiddies armed with dictionary software are poised and ready to hack your site and make off with all of that highly-sensitive customer data – oh, you know, names, addresses, CREDIT CARD NUMBERS. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who emails his customer base to cancel their credit cards and contact Experian, TransUnion and Equifax to flag their credit activity for the next two years.

Whether your MySQL is crammed with sensitive data, or your CMS is packed with sensitive, proprietary business information, you need to protect what you got, Jack, or you ain’t got jack.

Redundant layers of security are the norm in the corporate realm, but we regularly read that this university, this credit card company or this retail store data has been hacked and is now floating out there in the Ethernet. So, what’s a small business to do? A sole proprietor or a two-man dog-and-pony? How can they assure security?

The Number One Source of Hacker Attacks Is Some One You Know
Yeah, it’s not some 15-year-old in Bora Bora trying to access your MySpace account. The most likely threat is an angry business partner or sub-contractor or, sad to say, a spouse, a kid or your friendly Uncle Bob who comes over every Saturday to balance accounts.

Cures: Limit access to your business computer. It should not be a part of the home computer network. It should be a separate and distinct work station, password protected, off limits to anyone.

Bulk up your passwords, especially when keeping those who know you out. Forget Fluffy 909. An irate spouse’ll figure cat + birthday = password. Use signs, symbols and numbers to create passwords that can’t be defeated by someone you know.

Then There are the War Drivers, War Chalkers, Viruses, Worms, Trojan Horses, Key Logger Software and Zombie Computer Armies.

War drivers cruise industrial parks looking for leakage from an office network. All they need is a laptop, an antenna and networking software and they become a part of the office gang.

And all of that other nasty hacker-crap is out there. What can you do?

Protect your work station data and back it up automatically with an outboard hard drive.

Use a reputable host who maintains multiple layers of security hardware and software. Ask about access to the server room, ask where the servers are located and ask about on-site security. You can get good shared hosting for about $7.00 a month so we’re not talking breaking the bank, here.

Scan everything.
As an online entrepreneur, your inbox is filled every morning with every thing from the 14th penis enlargement spam this week to actual emails from customers and clients. Separating legitimate email from hacker missives isn’t always easy. However, any good email system will scan incoming, but if you have doubts, perform a separate scan on a piece of email before opening.

Use SSL Encryption
First, no savvy computer buyer is going to place an order if the little ‘s’ in ‘https’ is missing from the address bar of a site, and those that do jeopardize their identify, credit and your business

Maintain Your System Security
You don’t have to pay a bunch for site security software – good stuff. There’s even some OSS out there that professionals use. However, none of this software is going to do any good if it’s data and hasn’t been patched in three years

New bugs, viruses, scams and schemes are unleashed upon our sorry selves and there is no web police. It’s the wild, wild web.

Here’s what you want:

server side security and lots of it

SSL certification if you’re transmitting personal information.

An automatic back up system, i.e. an outboard hard drive

Quality system security software that performs a daily scan in the background and produces a log for review. Keep log data to track attempts by hackers to breach security.

A separate system, distinct from a home or office network. A stand-alone impervious to ware drivers, war chalkers and other ne’er-do-wells.

A hands off policy if you work out of a home office.

Security scan software – software that equips you to scan individual documents for malware.

Passwords on steroids. Let ‘em break :q##s6gr))1!sz+++. Never gonna happen.

Finally, stay vigilant. You never know where a security breach will take place and there’s no 100% guarantee that you can make your business impregnable.

But you can sure make it hard on hackers who are more likely to move on to an open door than try to figure out your redundant layers of server- and system-side security.

Trip-Wire Marketing: Go Guerrilla!

Trip wires are used by guerillas and regular military to set off explosives or warn that a parameter has been breached. The enemy breaks the wire hidden in the undergrowth, detonating a grenade strapped to a nearby tree. Or, the intruder breaks a trip wire to set of a warning bell.

Trip wires rely on two key elements: stealth and positioning. Both are important to the effectiveness of the tactic. If the wire isn’t properly hidden, it may be spotted by a sharp-eyed scout. And, if the trip wire doesn’t cross a well-beaten path, what’s the point, guerilla warfare-wise?

Trip wire marketing relies on the same two principles: stealth and position, and the tactic is useful in improving both SEO and conversion ratios.

Where’s the Message?
There’s no guarantee that a site visitor will come through the front door. Deep links, buried beneath several drill down screens, may serve as the access point for a visitor depending on the query words employed by the search engine user.

That means a visitor may never see that glitzy home page, and never read about the benefits of a site owner’s goods or services. If the primary explanation of service benefits is described in an article in the site’s archives, key sales information may well be missed by potential buyers.

Trip-Wire Marketing
Marketing and promotion are about pushing the right buttons and creating need. The guy in the $65K Jaguar needs the prestige and status. Otherwise, he’d have bought a Camry. The needs that drive purchases are broad. The need to love and be loved, the need to belong, the need for respect, power, money – just some of the human motivators that turn browsers into buyers.

The key to boosting sales is to position trip wire text links along the well-beaten paths of the web site. Metrics analysis will reveal access points by popularity. Trip wire links to sales and ordering information should be placed within sight of all access points.

Visitor activity will determine where to place trip wires. For example, a visitor may access the site through a side door, read the informational article listed on the SERPs and decide she wants to learn more. A trip wire link, right there, pushes the right buttons in the right place on the site, linking the visitor to the appropriate page.

Thus, a site owner must not only understand the motivations that drive sales, s/he must also have the opportunity to push those buttons and encourage the most desired action (MDA).

SEO Benefits
Spiders follow links. However, bots don’t always crawl each site page the first time through. In fact, Google provides a look at what pages are in its index and which have been missed.

Trip wire links provide crawling spiders more avenues to explore, keeping them on-site longer, leading to more complete and accurate indexing faster.

It’s not just what your site text says, it’s where the text is positioned that delivers maximum benefit. Well-traveled site paths should employ trip-wire marketing tactics to improve conversion ratios and encourage crawlers to stick around a little longer.

Monetize Your Site - Like NOW

If you rely solely on the sale of goods and services to generate revenue from your website, you’re missing some nice money-making opportunities that are easy to implement, and deposit cash into your business account every month.

Let’s look at some different ways you can generate cash from your online business.

Pay-Per-Click Programs
The most popular are AdWords and Adsense. By enrolling in a PPC program, you agree to allow the search engine to place paid-for links on your site. Now, you can arrange these little blue cubes in a skyscraper on the right side of the page, place them below the fold, above the fold. You decide.

When you enroll, you’re given a letter/number string to insert into your HTML code that identifies you as the source of the click. And that money is added to your account. It’s a one-time sign-up and automated revenue. Those are the positives.

The negatives are (1) you have no choice which ads are placed on your site, though you can stipulate no direct competitors. If you’re placing PPC ads, you're subject to a variety of click fraud schemes, including legions of workers in poor countries who earn a penny a click depleting your marketing resources. So whether you’re placing ads or renting space for ads, there are pros and cons.

Affiliate Programs
The small site owner’s best friend. You become an affiliate of a larger company. You provide a link on your site (you choose the size) and for every click-through that leads to a sale or some other desired action, you make money.

For example, if you put up an eBay link on your site, eBay will pay you a flat rate for each sign up plus a nickel any time one of your sign ups places a bid. Get a couple of hundred active bidders and the numbers add up quickly.

To learn more about affiliate programs, visit Commission Junction at and open an account. Choose affiliates that will appeal to your ideal site visitor. For example, if you’re selling porcelain figurine collectables online, a link to a car tire web site won’t generate much in the way of affiliate cash. Instead, sign on with other collectible affiliates to tempt visitors to clink on one of your affiliate links.

Choose affiliates with care. Too many and your site will be viewed as a links farm offering little in the way of useful information to visitors. Five or six well-chosen affiliate programs should up your site revenue quite smartly.

Hosted Content
You can rent space on your site to another site owner – a page where the site owner posts an article with links back to his or her site. How much you can charge depends on things like your reach, traffic rank, page views and so on.

This provides a couple of benefits. First, it provides fresh content for your site, though it is important that you know what appears on your site. It also generates monthly or weekly income.

Advertise your site space on SEO blogs, site designer blogs and other places where web denizens dwell.

Paid Advertising
How would you feel about a Coke banner across the top of your web site? Would it detract from the look, the impression you’re trying to display t the world?

How about small graphic links that take your site visitors to related sites. For example, if you run a cruise booking service, chances are those travelers would be interested in other vacation opportunities – opportunities available with a click off your site. This paid advertising doesn’t rely on the clicker to perform a most desired action. Paid advertising pays either by the click or by a flat rate.

Further, the advertising will change in many cases. It may be a Coke banner for a week followed by a banner for Hertz car rental. Unfortunately, you can’t control the space you rent out – other than opting out of the paid advertising program altogether.

There are other money making opportunities using a website as a base. A subscription newsletter; monthly reminders of upcoming birthdays; outsourced services and other ways to wring some more cash out of your site.

Don’t rely on sales alone. Develop as many revenue streams as you can (without making your homepage look like a carnival midway) to enjoy max financial benefit from all your hard, online work.

Adding Value to Site Content

I recently finished a job that changed the way I view what I do. The assignment was to revise operating manuals for a mainframe computer software company. For resource material, I was given the old manual and a summary of updates, upgrades, new procedures, and all of the new information that had to be included in the revised manuals. (Stay with me, this does have a point.)

I mean, everything I know about mainframes fits in this sentence. After I reviewed the old manuals to learn the jargon, I was able to write the new manuals using standard IT-ese – an arcane argot filled with mystery words, trouble tickets and dire “downstream consequences.” To anyone outside the IT business (that includes me, big time), the new manuals were gibberish, developed by identifying nouns and verbs and substituting new nouns and verbs from the update summary. (No, really, there’s a point, here.)

Any way, as I was rewriting these tomes of troubleshooting steps and default, remote input protocols, it occurred to me that what I was writing would only be useful to a small, select group of insiders – the IT crew – and wouldn’t it be great if this information was understandable to all stakeholders in the company – from the CEO, to the VP of Marketing, R&D, Accounting, to the guy on the loading dock? If everybody involved understood what, why, how and so on, the information in those manuals would have more value.

So, how do web copywriters add value to their product – words by the pound? Some suggestions.

Utility. The more useful the information to more readers, the more valuable the content. If your client site sells refurbed, high-end calibration gear, it’s not reasonable to assume that the reader understands the tech specs of that electron microscope on sale. The reader may well be the organization’s purchasing agent, or even the head of the hospital who has an MBA not an MD.

To increase the utility (and therefore value) of content:

Avoid the unnecessary use of jargon, and if insider jargon is required, provide a definition, example, case study or something to clarify what an angstrom is. This doesn’t mean copywriters shoot for the lowest common denominator (an 8-th grade reading level, really). But it does mean a careful examination of the role of the reader of your text to ensure that the “downstream” stakeholder fully understands choices, options, consequences, benefits – in plain English.

One way to increase utility of information is through the use of pie charts, bar graphs and other visual aids. These devices take a great deal of complex information and present it in an easier format for non-insiders to understand.

Reliability. I received a list of statistics from an associate to support her argument regarding the cost of “poor communications” within business. I’m not even sure how you develop hard data without first defining the term “poor communication.” Is that communication that isn’t understandable to the receiver? Is poor communication filled with lots of typos and grammar gaffes? How do you even define the terms to develop reliable data?

More about this bullet list of stats: there was no citation, no source given, no details about the study (did they study five people or 5,000?), no study guidelines – just a bullet list of so-called facts. With a cited authority and the means to verify the “facts” that appear on site, value is added. The information becomes more credible.

I’m not suggesting that each fact receive an APA formatted citation but by providing additional resources, interested readers can dig further.

Clean. Nothing says amateur night like site text that’s loaded with typos. I recently ran across a site for a “sucess coach.” Throughout the site, in 20-point type, “sucess, suceed, sucsessful” and every variation was misspelled, and no, I’m not a member of the grammar police. But if you’re a success coach, at least spell success correctly.

Truthful. Is there anyone over the age of 10 who believes the hype in long-form sales letters? I edited one the other day – 33 pages of 100% pure tripe, but the mortgage was due (and to those who stumble upon this mega-hype, I apologize in advance) so I took the assignment.

Most well-trained chimps can spot hype, and outright lies. Fake testimonials, bogus promises and unverifiable “facts.” A 33-page lie in full color with clip art, handsome charts and graphs and even a Flash clip of the company “President.”

There may be other ways to increase the value of information, but this is not yet a fully-baked idea. It’s half-baked. Understood.

Site text has to be pithy, on point, optimized for SEO and higher conversion ratios, and, of course, it must have real utility to the reader. That much I know.

Still working on other ways to add value to site content – things like information velocity, relevance, writing quality and other factors.

How to Talk to Your Copywriter: What We Need to Know

As soon as search engines became relevant, copywriting changed. Maybe you didn’t notice it. Content quality took a back seat to SEO and today, copywriters have to understand the basics of SEO/M so the content they produce appeals to spiders and humans.

A lot of SEOs sub-contract this facet of a job to professional copywriters who can produce optimized copy that doesn’t sound like spider snack gibberish. Keyword placement in headers, density of 1-2%, judicious use of bolded, underlined or italicized text and you have yourself some fine, SEO text. No sweat, right?

Well, that depends. The more the copywriter knows about the SOW, the smoother the content development. Here’s what a copywriter wants to know from any client, you for example:

What is the purpose of the content? Content can be used to explain, clarify, persuade, inform, direct, motivate and, on occasion, even inspire. What is the MDA after the reader has finished reading the words?

To whom is the text targeted? Experts don’t need explanations. They talk the talk so the content can contain “insider” references that create a feeling of “us” as in you and the site visitor.

What is the product, service or message? If you can provide a good copywriter with a product spec sheet or a web page recommended by the SEO’s client, the writer can convert specs and hard data into client or consumer benefits, and that’s what sells. How does this make me more productive, successful, richer, more famous…more anything.

What is the USP? The unique selling position (also sometimes called the UPS – unique positioning statement within a market sector) is what sets the SEO client apart from the competition. A good copywriter researches the competition and “steals” the best ideas. Ideas can’t be copyrighted.

What is the site’s content architecture? If you’re a copywriter, you don’t want to blow your wad on the home page and have nothing more motivational on deeper pages. A good copywriter ensures that informational content is spread liberally across a number of site pages.

Consider your copywriter a valuable asset in content architecture development. These men and women understand the “need-to-know” flow on site so visitors never encounter content that hasn’t been explained.

Can the content be used in more than one way? Home page text may make great text for a four-color tri-fold with a couple of word changes. The copywriter – a good one – can add value to the SEO’s consultation by producing content that serves more than one purpose, thus amortizing content development costs.

Finally, remember: copywriters are highly-caffeinated, neer-do-wells who want the project to go smoothly. These sellers of “words by the pound” want in, out, done. Hey, that’s the same thing the SEO wants.

When you find a good copywriter who can transcend audiences and topics – from the mundane to the highly-technical (quark theory?), keep them on a leash.

We tend to wander off.
When you find a good copywriter, keep him happy!

Is Your Blog Worthy? Get the Most from Your Post

If you don’t have a blog, build one. It’s easy using blog modules that plug in to your existing site. Then start posting content. Then get listed in blog directories. Then keep it fresh. Oh man, that’s a lot of work – especially when this is your second job!

Blogs build traffic and keep it coming back. However, too many site owners either don’t maintain a blog or don’t promote it for maximum benefit. So, here are some tips from your web host provider on maximizing the usefulness of a blog.

Post Your Thoughts on Topic-Related Sites
One way to get noticed, especially by those in the know, is to make posts on other topic-related blogs. You can provide your URL so that readers who find your astute insight are able to follow the trail back to your blog archives.

Blog Archives
And speaking of blog archives, keep a good one. Sort each blog post by date and general subject, i.e. conversion optimization. Unless you’re a great writer with plenty of time on your hands, good content is expensive to develop. Think of blog content as a commodity. An asset for you and others interested in what you have to say.

Stay Focused
And speaking of what you have to say, stay on topic. If your readership (whether 10 or 10,000) turns to you for certain information, meet expectations. If you occasionally go off on a tangent expressing your political views, for example, you’ll lose readership.

Keep It Unique
A change in the Google algorithm will be the topic of the week, and virtually every webmaster blog and forum will be crammed full of erudite opinions on the affect this change will have. In other words, they’ll be so much written on a major topic, you can afford to cover something else. And get noticed.

Make it Attractive
It’s human nature to become bored easily on the dynamic web where things change faster than you can say “keyword stuffing.” So, paragraph after paragraph of text is going to bore even the most dedicated reader or subscriber.

Add some relevant images. Charts and graphs. Eye candy to maintain the reader’s interest. Skip the endless pages of “just” text.

Perform Regular Blog Analysis
Good tracking software will tell you which posts are popular with visitors and which get passed over for whatever reason. Use these metrics to more specifically target the wants and needs of your readers.

The things you want to measure regularly are: number of page views, time spent on site and the source (link) and destination of the reader after leaving your site (do they go to the site or bounce off to another site?). Regular metrics analysis will provide concrete data to demonstrate whether your site blog is performing to expectations.

Write Like You Talk
This is the best advice any blogger or writer will ever receive. Something happens to people when they sit down at the keyboard to write the next blog entry. They become walking thesauruses. They use big, impressive words and long, run-on sentences. Don’t. That kind of writing is great for a master’s dissertation but it does nothing for the readers (except bore them).

Blogs as Linkbait
Some posts are better than others. Market your best posts only. Posts can be tagged and show up on human-based search engines like and – sites where readers determine how good you are. Don’t oversell every blog entry you write. You’ll start to pickup negative user feedback when readers have seen your post everywhere, or it’s a so-so post.

Blogs make great linkbait (a reason for another site to link to your site) but your efforts to “sell” your content to expand your presence may blow up and backfire with readers and search engines alike.

Use High Traffic Days to Build Your Reputation
When one of your posts is front page news on or, you’re going to see a lot more blog traffic that day sniffing out this high quality linkbait. Use these days, when your traffic jumps 100%, to build on a good thing. Immediately follow up with top-of-the-line posts – as good as the one tagged by enough readers to make it to the top of user-driven search engines. This will establish you as an authority, and your site one worth visiting for the latest.

Don’t Hide Your Blog
Your blog is designed to create stickiness and/or to provide something to subscribers. So, make it easy for users to access your blog. All tags, of course, link to the blog. But, do you have a big, well-labeled blog link on your home page? Is there a BLOG button on the navigation bar? If not, there should be. Make it easy to find your blog and more visitors will find (and read and return because of) it.

Don’t Host Your Blog on a Separate Domain
Some site owners do this to keep things simple. Business side. Blog side. But they’re missing a critical benefit of maintaining a blog (in a subfolder) as a sub-section of their primary domain. Blogs attract all kinds of good stuff. Links, improved PR, “buzz,” new readers and customers (showing up as more traffic in SERPs) offers to contribute to other blogs and so on. Maintain your blog as a section of your main domain to get all of the benefits that come with maintaining a blog.

Start the Conversation
Blogs should generate discussion among readers. They should provoke readers to add a comment – good, bad or indifferent. But what if your posts don’t elicit any response? What should you do?

Shill. Fake it. Salt your posts with a comment or two. Many readers are shy about leaving the first post but will happily jump in once they see what other posters have said. There’s nothing deceitful in starting a conversation – one that grows your site’s popularity.

An up-to-date blog – one that contains useful information for a particular market segment – is a great way to build site traffic and to maintain customer or subscriber interest. But, there are certainly things that every blogger can do to increase readership and squeeze out a few other benefits from blog building. After all, it’s time consuming. You might as well get all you can out of the time you invest.

SEO Voodoo

Before you write that big check to some SEO poobah who's just sold you a bunch of SEO snake oil consider the following salient point: SEO is NOT a science!

With legitimate hard sciences you can measure, compare and contrast and draw conclusions. Not so with SEO. The numbers change by the minute. So do the yardsticks. When search engines first hit the scene in 1994, keyword HTML tags and keyword desnity were the top determinants of page rank.

Then, all the yokels got on board, stuffed keywords everywhere, thus diminishing the value of the SERPs. So a new set of criteria are developed - one that won't be so easily circumvented. Inbound links. The more inbounds from quality sites (sites that rank higher than yours) the higher your site ranks.

Problem is, there are very few rules in this game of "Who's Tops?" There are no axioms (a=a). There are now laws, though there are plenty of ways to shoot yourself in the foot by using black hat or gray hat tactics.
Want to learn more about what the experts feel counts for and against websites. regularly publishes it's ranking factors based on input from SEO experts.
Consistantly, there is no single rating factor that all practitioners of the SEO arts agree. NOT ONE.
So, all SEO pros are guessing at what search engines are looking for, just like you.
And because SEO lacks empirical data, you can be sure that you'll be hearing excuses from that high-priced SEO about why you're site is still buried in the backwash of SERPs.
Paul Lalley

The Slow Death of SEO

There are lots of people earning good livings selling SEO services and, to an extent, SEO still has relevance. 48% of my site visitors find me through Google so I listen up when the 800-pound gorilla sneezes.

But here's the thing, more then half my site visitors find me through other means - usually links from other sites. This off-site marketing has significantly increased my web presence in a few months and, more importantly, has generated new business for my company.

Yes, SEO has its place for accurate and complete indexing within search engines but bots and spiders don't buy stuff and they never request services, no matter how good you are.

I think new site owners would do well to spend at least 50% of their starting budget on post-launch marketing. After that, adjust accordingly.

Paul Lalley