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.