Sunday, December 27, 2009


Cut Content Development Costs: Repurpose Your Prose

If you own a website, you own much more than some sell pages and a check-out. You own digital content in the form of articles, news forums, graphics, pictures, your logo – virtually every piece of your web site is digitized and programmed for display on a variety of browsers, from IE to AOL.

You paid a lot of money for those digital assets but are they paying you back? Are you seeing a nice return on your marketing development dollars? Probably not, but given time…

Digital Advertising

Tom Wheeler, managing Director at Core Capital Partners, recently forecasted that by the year 2011, digital, mobile advertising will hit $14.4 billion dollars. Currently. $1.4 billion is being spent on advertising via mobile computers, PDAs, cell phones, iPods, iPhones – and the list of gadgets just keeps on growing.

So, if your site marketing plan is limited to traditional promotional activities, i.e. PPC, paid links, hosted content and other marketing tactics that worked well last year, chances are you won’t be in business next year.

The Changing Paradigm

Paradigm is an odious word. People toss it around without a clue what it means. It’s one of those buzzwords that every SEO and CEO throws around like verbal confetti. But in the case of digital advertising, we have actually found a legitimate use for the words “changing paradigm.”

A paradigm is nothing more than an “outstandingly clear example,” what, in the day, was called an archetype. So you start researching how digital advertising is going to change things for web-based businesses and you keep running into “changing paradigm,” which doesn’t mean anything more than a changing example. Now, indeed, if we’re spending 1.4 billion on digital advertising today and the projected figure just a few years hence is $14.4, there is clearly something afoot. But it ain’t no paradigm.

The content will be the same. The messages won’t change and the human emotional buttons will still be there. In fact, the only thing that’ll change is the way this content is delivered to the listener or viewer.

Digital Content is Digital Content.

Once a document, a song, a picture or an image of the accountant’s butt is digitized on the copier at the office party, it can be used in lots of ways – ways that you can use to expand your site’s reach (except the accountant butt image. Toss it, PLEASE!) Even more importantly, you can reach that sweet, care-free-money-in-the-pocket-demographic of 15-25 year olds who have lots discretionary income and a cell or PDA.

If your future advertising is land-locked (as in you don’t plan on using digitized content for other promotional uses), you might as well be working in Mesopotamia with a mud table and a stylus. You are sooooo four millennia ago.

Once digitized, content can be quickly, easily and inexpensively adapted to other formats that are picked up by other communications devices. For example, let’s say you put together a weekly podcast for the illumination of your audience. If that podcast is only available on your website, do you have any idea how many opportunities you’re missing?

That same podcast can be formatted to XML scripting and sent via RSS feed to thousands, millions of sites. Or, it could be reformatted for pick up by cell or PDA. This way, even if your number one fan is on the bus, he can still hear your podcast through his cell – if you’re set up to do that. Even hearing aid technology has gone wireless, enabling those with hearing loss to take advantage of all these digital goings-on.

With ad revenues from traditional media dropping (thanks to the inventor of the remote control and the fine art of channel surfing, among other reasons), advertisers are scrambling to find new ways to keep the product or service in front of the buying public. You can’t see a movie without strategic product placement. The main character is eating Fruit Loops for a reason. Kellogg’s paid for that product placement.

What other avenues are growing – fast, especially for smaller online businesses? Cell phone downloads are coming on strong. You often get a 15-second ad for acne cream before your actually content appears on screen. Just cost a few pennies, but you saw it. And the more you see it the more likely you are to buy it.

Spreading Content Development Costs

Good copywriters don’t come cheap. And the ones who also understand SEM can be downright expensive. So, if you’ve paid pesos grandé for content development, you want to use that content in as many ways as you can. It’s an asset, but if it’s parked on your website and not making the digital rounds, you’ve paid more than you have to for a single piece of site text.

Use that expensive (but beautifully written) copy, your own song, your own pictures – whatever digital content you have to create a more expansive presence on the web. It won’t cost you more in development costs and, at least at this time, the costs of digital advertising outlets aren’t enough to break the bank – even if you’re fishing your marketing budget from between the car seats, i.e. it’s cost effective.

So amortize your content development costs and prepare yourself for a 10-fold increase in digital ad revenues. Do you want a piece of that pie?

Start now to stay ahead of the curve.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

7 Enterprise-Grade Social Media Platforms:

Stay In Touch With Staff, Customers and Clients From A Single Platform

Enterprise-grade social media platforms are available on a subscription basis, you can buy the software and service, or you can use OSS platforms to create a social and professional media exchange around your business.

It’s easy, it’s fun and an AA can do it for you with today’s intuitive GUIs. Check them out.

1. KickApps

Don’t get too excited. This is a paid service, but they do offer a 30-day trial so give it a shot to see if it works for you.

You can create your own social and/or professional network, or social site. It’s easy to invite everybody on your contacts list to sign in. Keep the network open, but monitor for trolls and malcontents. You manage posts and threads.

There’s robust networking software, making it easy for members to reach and shake hands, digitally speaking. There’s also all the security features of your own social media site to block unwanted followers and other routine stuff, meaning it’s low maintenance.

It’s fast. Set up your network in 60 minutes. Really. Send automated invites, post the general rules (keep them simple) and monitor for haters.

Also includes pretty decent audio, photo and video sharing capabilities so your members can express their inner selves.

Great for small business to keep in contact with vendors and sub-contractors, and it’s a great way for family members to stay in touch. The monthly fee isn’t a budget buster AND it’s your sandbox.

2. Igloo

A powerful networking tool and ideal for NFPs who drive for increased fund raising opportunities, health care organizations eager to interact with policy holders on a one-on-one basis, government agencies use Igloo as a time saving CRM, automating responses to FAQs, easily posting news and building a true community at the local level.

Commercial ventures use Igloo to engage employees at a different level. It’s a great tool for making improvements to operations based on suggestions from the people doing the job.

Create a social or professional network and social media site. Then, invite all your friends. Leave security open and encourage posts. Monitor well. Delete spam.

3. Ramius

Ramius is a mash-up of a virtual office suite and social/professional platform. Designed more for small to mid-sized companies, Ramius delivers CMR, increased inter-team productivity through on-line collaboration, improves company morale by encouraging your team to post recommendations without fear of speaking truth in the face of authority.

This is a great, real-time data gathering tool for any growing business. Tried it with one client who sends me emails abut how great Ramius is.

4. iHype

So new, it’s still in beta but I didn’t have any problems navigating the site.

The interface divides those who land on the homepage down one of three paths: Advertisers, Results and Bloggers/Publishers, which in the web world usually means affiliate marketers, of which there are millions.

iHype claims to : Build Buzz, Generate Traffic and Improve SEO. How? By using what it calls an “Army of On-Line Publishers,” like Facebook, Plurk, Zimbio and other sites that draw from the masses, all looking for a little more web exposure.

I look at it this way. If you’re just launching, or testing a soft launch, sign up for a test run with a marketing machine like iHype and track results. How much traffic is iHype delivering and what’s your CPA?

Do the math and decide. For niche, web-based companies, iHype offers more opportunities than for companies reaching a broad-based demographic, like 16- to 24-year-olds. That’s a few billion people who are kind of blasé about anything that smacks of a sell.

5. RightNow

A very popular platform with small business owners because it does a bunch of stuff from one place. From the site’s home page:

  • Support Communities
  • Innovation Communities
  • Cloud Monitoring (off-site computing)
  • Social Experience Design
  • Integrates with RightNow Engage and RightNow CX

Definitely skewed to the business world, the Right Now suite is a GREAT tool for building a community of previous customers – the people who convert site visitors better than any copy writer ever could.

6. On-Line Innovations Communication

Is the perfect choice for web site owners on tight budgets. This is a robust, OSS social media platform that delivers a lot of features.

Using OIC, you can:

Publish blogs and on-line journals, though do remember, this is a 3rd-party blogging client, which I’ve addressed previously. Publish your audio podcasts and A/V webcasts free. Develop dynamic Twitter results for use on your blog or web site home page – only tweets related to the topicality of your site.

And of course. OIC simplifies posting chores with a selection of links you create for posting to sites by topic or group. You choose. It’s a great way to stay in touch with customers, clients and your vendors and subs. In other words, it’s also a pretty decent CMS with a social side built in. Kinda cool. And I love FREE.

7. Jive

Jive is having an impact on enterprise, customizable social media platforms, in part because Jive offers endless customization, a totally intuitive interface and, oh yeah, the basics are free – and most of us will only use the basics so go for it.

Jive is totally business-oriented, so it’s ideal for building a community of clients, customers, remote-site workers and office staff working in small and mid-sized companies.

With open social media sites like LinkedIn and Naymz, BrightKite and Ning, anyone can create a presence. The seven platforms above place social media at your fingertips – from controlling access to employees to simplifying posts to remote site employees around the world.

If you’re a small or mid-sized company, take control of social media and use it to your best advantage. While some of these services charge a subscription fee, there are no budget busters. And the OSS, enterprise-grade social media platforms do most of what you need them to do.

Take control of your in-house media exchanges. Gather input from employees. Conduct on-line collaborations easily and stay in touch with your customer base through a special site designed just for them.

Enterprise social media. Get on board today.

Monday, December 21, 2009


7 Key Tips For Engaging That New Client:

The Discovery Phase

Congratulations! You landed a web seo OR OPTIMIZED copy writing gig and you’re about to discuss the project with your new client. Usually these chats take place by phone since your client could well be a few time zones away.

Now, during this initial conversation – sometimes called discovery – your objective is to ask the right questions and take careful notes. The closer you come on your first draft the faster you move on to the next assignment. (And the happier your clients!)

So, during this initial conversation, here’s what you want to make clear:

Objective. What is the objective of your writing? To sell a product or service? To inform? Persuade? Exactly what are the objectives of the client? Some will tell you they want to see a 100% jump in conversion rate within 60 days. Make sure the client has reasonable expectations.

You can write better than Hunter Thompson but you have no control over what your client does to promote his or her site so never make any guarantees or even promises. Just get the #1 objective and secondary objectives down on paper.

Demographic. Who is the client targeting? Teens? Boomers? Car owners? Republicans? In order to tailor the message properly you have to know who forms the sweet spot within the target demographic.

Then, you have to learn what these people need and what drives them. It’s a process.

Most desired action. What is the MDA? In most cases, it’s to convert a visitor to a buyer, i.e., sell something. But sometimes it’s to capture an email address, complete a form, pick up the telephone and call. Or all of the above. Your client will know precisely what the MDA is.

Then, as you’re writing, all of your sell points point directly at getting that MDA performed ASAP and as often as possible, as well.

Logistics. Exchange all pertinent contact information and ask the client how s/he would like to work. I usually develop a simple “reaction” piece, kinda like raw meat that all stakeholders can tear to shreds. “Too academic. Not academic enough. Wrong tone. Excellent tone. Too broad in scope, not broad enough blah, blah.”

This gives me a starting point. Even better, it makes the client a stakeholder because s/he’s the one who told you to do it this way and it’s tough to back off your own directions.

Milestones. The web writer’s favorite subject and the client’s least favorite. Best to get it out of the way during the discovery phase.

Create milestones and a payment schedule tied to those milestones: 30% on starting, 20% on deliver of first draft, 30% on delivery of final draft and 20% on final proofing. This way, everybody knows what the rules are.

Never commit to a job that pays “on completion.” You have no leverage and, believe me, you will be stiffed.

Finally, ask the client how s/he wants to communicate. Email or phone. Either way, provide regular progress reports and continue to feed content to the client for revisions. BTW, expect revisions. Everybody wants to put their nose on your baby.

Write it all up in a statement of work or letter of agreement and start your keyword research and copy writing.

You’ve got a deadline.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Automate Email Responses:

Save Time, Keep ‘em Happy & Make a Sale

For many of us who’ve “opted in” for a newsletter or free e-book, we think of auto responders as the spam that fills our inboxes once the webmaster has our email addresses. An email every other day, once a week or even daily urging us to buy this or try that. When used improperly and ineffectively, auto responders are a nuisance. Used properly, they’ll save time, keep your customers happy and even generate some sales.

What is an auto responder?

It’s pretty much what the name implies – an email that is sent automatically in response to some action on the part of a visitor to a web site. That action can be sending you an email, asking a question by telephone or, again, providing an email address in exchange for something that sounds useful.

How do they work?

Automatically. There are software packages and even online businesses that handle these emailing chores. You can purchase auto responder software. However, before you do, check to see if your web hosting service offers the software free. The better ones do. These server-side packages can be used with your site’s email system, or they can generate an HTML web page for distribution to customers.

If you want to have someone else manage the auto responder side of things, check out the companies that deliver this service free.

When searching for a free auto responder service, look for these key features:

  • No advertising. Some of these companies send emails to your registrants with their ads or paid ads from other companies. It’s distracting and it looks kind of cheesy.

  • No limits on message length. You’ll find that many free services limit the length of messages (sometimes to 100 words or less) and limit the number of characters per line, making formatting a chore.

  • Look for options. Some companies handle responses to direct queries from customers. Others offer options for timed deliveries of emails over a specified period. Each of these options has a different purpose and you want as many options to serve as many purposes as possible.

  • Finally, read the fine print. Some auto responder companies offer teaser incentives to sign on with them but, once you’ve passed certain quotas, i.e. number per mailing, HTML mailings or length of message, the fees kick in and all of a sudden that free service is costing you a bundle.

How do I use auto responders?

Auto responders fall into two broad categories: routine responses to customer queries and marketing a site. Let’s look at both uses, pros and cons.

Routine Responses

If your inbox is packed each morning with questions and comments from customers (or would-be customers) then you spend a good part of your day answering these emails. Not a very productive use of your time, but absolutely necessary. Customer care is key to customer retention and customer retention is key to long-term site success. Conversely, if you receive a couple of emails a day from customers, stick with the personalized response. It makes a very positive impression on customers who know an auto responder from a personalized email.

Develop routine responses to routine business matters. For example, if you receive a lot of requests about order status, develop an auto responder that provides customers with the information they’re after. Or, if you receive the same questions over and over about a product or service, develop an email or HTML page that answers those questions and even provides a bit of prodding to induce the receiver to buy from you.

Today, customers expect results. Quickly. Even to routine questions. If you can’t handle the work load of prepping personal responses, don’t leave your client base wondering. Use auto responders to get the response out quickly. And be sure to provide additional contact information (a telephone number is always appreciated) in your auto responder.

Marketing Your Site

Auto responders are also a low-cost method of marketing your goods or services. In fact, many web hosts allow unlimited auto responders even with their lowest-tiered pricing plans. It’s not a big expense for the host so why not?

Now, you can’t just buy a list of email addresses and start spamming people at random. It’s frowned upon by law and the TOS (Terms of Service) of web portals like AOL and Yahoo. Any hint of spamming sets off alarm bells at portal HQ so don’t even bother. Besides, the positive responses to these mass mailings are usually well below 1%. In other words, they just don’t work.

However, if site visitors request information (opt in) in the form of an e-book (the bait) or a “free” newsletter (another kind of bait) then the site owner has established a business relationship with the opt in and is free to email that person without repercussions – all legal and legit. That’s one reason for the proliferation of downloadable e-books, quotes of the day in your email, and weekly or monthly newsletters. Once visitors opt in, you can market the wares unimpeded.

There are some general rules about this type of marketing auto responder, though research on just how successful this technique is isn’t available. However, because the marketing effort is free (or should be) it really doesn’t matter if the conversion rate is low. Even one new buyer is a plus.

Time marketing auto responders so the first one arrives immediately after the opt in. This first automated response thanks the individual for downloading the e-book or other bait, and prepares the reader for the additional emails coming over the next few weeks: “In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sending you additional information on this unique investment opportunity.” In this way, the opt in knows who you are and that yours is the site that offered the bait. (Another reason for the bait to be good, BTW.)

Allow time in between e-mailings. If the receiver sees an email a day from you, you’ll be categorized as a nuisance and your emails will be trashed unread. Initially, auto responders can be sent every few days but as more time passes, the intervals between mailings should increase. So, during week one, opt ins receive two emails, then one a week for a few weeks, then a follow-up email a month or two later and finally, a “last time opportunity” email five or six months later.

Consumers must hear or see a product brand name six or seven times before it sinks in, or so goes the old Madison-Avenue-traditional-marketing adage. So it’s okay to keep your name in front of the consumer through auto responders, but don’t be a pest.

Include useful, interesting info in each auto responder. The straight hard sell hype every week isn’t going to be read. However, a few tips, suggestions or notification of money-saving opportunities will be opened and read.

Finally, don’t over do it. One company sent out 13 auto responders over a period of six weeks. 13! If you haven’t closed the customer or made the sale after six attempts, give it up. The chances of it happening on the 10th auto responder are slim and zip.

So, step one: check to see if your web host offers free auto responder software. It would be a part of your site email or database offerings.

Step two: if no software is available free, buy some software. It’s not pricey and it’ll be loaded on your hard drive rather than the host’s server.

Step three: develop auto responders for routine email chores first. It’ll free up enough time each day to manage an auto responder marketing campaign. You can use your existing customer list (an invaluable resource) or you can plant some bait on the site to entice opt ins. If you use auto responders judiciously, they can be an effective means of growing site revenues.

Whether you’re trying to cut down on email chores to focus on other, more critical matters of business, or you’re looking for a low-cost means of marketing your site, auto responders can be an important tool in managing your workload and your site’s profitability.

The conclusion? It’s so low cost it’s worth experimenting. And even if you don’t use auto responders as a marketing tool, you can use it to cut your daily workload by freeing up hours of customer care. So, go for it!

Monday, December 14, 2009



Yes or no? enables you to start your own social network. Umm, okay, not too sure about that.

So, I'm looking for any input on ning - good, bad or indifferent.

Have you used it? If so how? Did it work, i.e. did you grow a network of like-minded people?

What's the downside? Managment time?

Any advice, suggestions, rants, screeds or songs of praise are appreciated.

Thanks, in advance.


Friday, December 11, 2009


Make Your Clients Stakeholders

As a web writer you’ll quickly discover that some clients are easy to work with while others are a royal pain. The way I look at it, if you don’t have final text after one revision, your client isn’t giving you good input. And the last thing you want to do is get in to a “trial-and-error” situation where each draft is a roll of the dice.

So how do you tame these time-wasters? Make them stakeholders in the project.

The Discovery Phase

This is, perhaps, the most important part of the project. This is the time you determine what the client wants and what his or her expectations are.

Who is the text targeted at? What is the purpose of the text and what’s the most desired action or MDA? Get the client to commit to these basics in writing. You can do that by preparing a statement of work (SOW) or by asking the client to spec the job for you. This is even better. A client who puts it in writing is already a stakeholder, though you’re far from a smooth-sailing assignment. Even with specs in writing, some clients are more than happy to change the project parameters, aka, project creep.

This usually takes the form of “just one more little thing” or “would you mind re-writing the second half of the book in a more technical style?” You’ve got a problem.

Get Approvals

I always prepare a “reaction piece” – a short body of text designed for all stakeholders to tear to shreds. Wrong tone. (Or right tone!!! Yay!!), scope is too broad or narrow, too much tech talk, etc.

It’s a good idea to ask the client to track changes on the approval piece and to insert comments where appropriate and changes as required. This forces the client to think about changes. Further, by making recommendations for change, you’ve created a stakeholder. That client isn’t going to ask for changes to his or her own idea or concept.

Again, get it in writing. The ideal? A marked up red-line of the reaction piece with lots of notes. This is your road map to a short and sweet project and a happy client who’s put his nose on your baby.

Get More Approvals

If the project involves a lot of text – an e-book for example – submit your work chapter by chapter. This way, the client can be calling for revisions on previously-written chapters without slowing you up.

Be aware that some clients don’t know what they want until they see it or read it. That’s why it’s essential to keep the client involved throughout the content creation process. This prevents extensive re-writes at the precise time the project should be finished.


A time-wasting client is costing you money. Time is money and if you’re rewriting text over and over, you’re losing money. It’s as simple as that.

If you find yourself working with a client who is totally clueless, time for a chat. Don’t accuse. Don’t be angry or annoyed. Simply explain that you have a schedule and that the project must be finished in order for you to move on and get to work on the next assignment.

Most professionals will understand your dilemma and do their best to wrap things up quickly. However, you run in to the occasional prima donna who thinks his $300 bought you for life. It’s important to keep clients happy but you don’t owe them 20 revisions for $300.

Know when to draw the line. Know when to walk away. If you can’t make the client commit, if you can’t make the client a stakeholder, you’re better off walking away from the job.

This is NOT the kind of client you want to add to your regular client base.

Client managment is all part of the job. Need some help?

Call me.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


How to Pick the Right Web Host:

It’s Not Just About the Fees

If you’re just starting out in the world of e-commerce, chances are you don’t even know what you don’t know, which makes finding the right web host a major obstacle. If you’re not sure what’s important and what’s fluff, how can you choose the right company to host your site?

Here are some tips on what to look for and what to avoid when weighing different hosting companies.

Don’t judge by price alone.

Web hosts charge anywhere from $3 to 20$ a month for their web hosting services. Yes, you can even find free web hosting, but of course nothing is free. Low-cost or free hosting services don’t deliver control over what appears on your site.

If you go with a cheapie or free host, part of the deal is that the hosting company gets to put up its ads on your site. (See, nothing is really free.) So, you’re never quite sure whose product will show up on your home page.

Also, keep in mind that all of these banner ads and click-throughs are intended to get visitors to click off of your site and to go someplace else, so in effect, the advertising placed on your site by free or low cost hosts is actually competition for the attention of your visitors.

Low cost = low quality.

Select a host that puts you in charge of what visitors see when they visit your site. You can find these sites at prices starting as low as $6.95 a month.

Check out the host company’s own website.

There’s an old adage that says you can judge the quality of a home improvement contractor by looking at his or her truck. If it’s neat and clean, chances are the contractor takes care. If it’s an accident waiting to happen, look for another contractor.

The same is true of a web hosting company. Check out the company’s own website. If it’s low rent, you can bet your site won’t fare any better.

Don’t believe everything you read.

Of course every hosting company is going to tell you it’s the best, but anyone with a server stuck in a closet can call themselves a web host. It doesn’t make it so. How long has the company been around? What do webmasters have to say about the host? Read reviews of web hosting services. There are lots of them. Go with a company recommended by a web professional and skip all of the sales hype smaller, less established hosts use to pull in newcomers.

Ask about server side security.

Hackers spend a lot of time trying to break through the fortifications put in place by a web host and all too often these bad guys are successful, putting your site at serious, even lethal risk.

Surf the web for interviews with site owners who have experienced numerous hacker attacks, not because they lacked adequate security but because their web hosts were lacking in the latest in hardware and software. You’ll find lots of information.

Some web hosts are in it strictly for the money. That’s all. If they hook up your site to the w3, they’ve fulfilled their obligation to you. Other web hosts take a more proactive approach to your site’s security, recognizing that if their client sites are safe and secure, their hosting business will be, too. A satisfied client will stick around once the service subscription is finished and smart hosts know it costs a lot less to keep a customer than it does to find a new one.

Customer service should be close to the servers.

Web host servers crash. It happens. And when it does, you want it fixed fast because if the server is down, so is your site. And if the host server is on the fritz, you may not be able to access the customer support number because the server is off line and you never wrote down the telephone number!

First, make sure that the company you choose has 24/7/365 customer support, preferably close to the hardware that’s not working. If the server is in Illinois and the customer support desk is in Bangalore, India, it may take a while to get the server operational again.

Second, write down the customer service number so you have it whether the server is up or down.

Make sure your selected host has an impeccable up time record.

Some web hosts take great pride in proclaiming that their servers have a 94% up time record. Sounds good, but that means that company’s servers and your business are off line 6% of the time. That’s costing you business and, if an SE spider should happen to index your site while it’s down, you may well lose PR points.

A good host will have an up time record above 98%. A great host will have an up time rate of 99.9%, as in nearly perfect. It may cost you a couple of dollars more each month to get this level of security but it’s more than worth the minimal expense for the peace of mind you get knowing that your site is protected as it should be.

Billing Policies

Always a good thing to check out. How often are you billed and what are the terms if you close down your site halfway through your web hosting subscription?

Check out the web host’s site to find the company’s billing policies. Also, look for that all important customer care number – the one you call when you have a problem with your bill. The number should be toll free and US based. There’s nothing worse than having a problem with your latest payment and dealing with a customer service rep half way around the world.

Standard Services

What do you get for your standard services besides a certain amount of disk space? A lot of web hosts lure you in with bargain basement rates and then nick you every time you add a new feature.

A good web host provides e-mail services and should allow you to host more than one domain name with your single account. Not all do.

A good web host will also provide a variety of software applications and tools for use free of charge. Again, not all do which means you have to go out and buy checkout software, analytics software and other “must haves.” Go with the host that offers low and no-cost access to everything you need to build, launch and run a web site. And if you can get all of these goodies free (you can), that’s even better.

Site Access

Make sure the host allows 24/7 FTP access to your site so you can upload new data when you want to. Some hosts restrict the hours that clients can upload data, making it difficult to update your site at 11:00 AM due to too much traffic.

Tiered Pricing

If you don’t need VPS (virtual private server) access, why pay for it – especially when you’re first starting out? Go with a host that offers an entry-level package and allows you to upgrade when your site grows a bit.

Tiered pricing lets you test the waters before committing a lot of cash to your venture. And note, the company should not ding you a surcharge when you upgrade – just the cost of the additional disk space and bandwidth.

A Guarantee

You won’t find many hosts that guarantee their services so this may take some research and time, but they’re out there.

Now, no host can guarantee a 100% up time or guarantee that your site will be successful. But some web hosts do offer a partial or complete money back guarantee if you opt out of their service within a specified period, say 30 days. That gives you a month to try out the host server and if you aren’t happy, your subscription is refunded.


How often does the web host back up server data? This is critical to sites that change often, adding or deleting products and services. If you’ve spent a great deal of time upgrading your site only to have the host server go down in flames before a security back up, you’ll be none too pleased. You want a web host that saves and saves often – at least once every 24 hours.

Test the web host

Before you sign on with a web host, test them. Call the customer support line with your questions and see if you get answers you can actually understand. Some companies employ client care reps who are more interested in demonstrating their own knowledge than they are in resolving your particular problem or answering a simple question.

Be sure to ask the client care rep several questions. Do they appear to be rushed? Are they willing to take the time to teach you what you need to know? Are they patient and courteous? If not, don’t expect things to change once you’ve signed up for 12 months of service.

Finding the right web host may not sound like a whole lot of fun, but it is necessary since you and the host will be partnering in the ultimate success of your site. Take your time, read the fine print, ask a ton of questions and look for some kind of back-out guarantee.

It may well mean the difference between site success and failure, and therefore, it may be the most important decision you make regarding your online enterprise.

Need some help picking the right host? Your web host is your on-line partner so choose wisely. Not sure, call me.


Saturday, November 28, 2009


Low-Cost Site Promotion:

Use Everything You’ve Got

Many site owners don’t have the financial resources to heavily promote their sites through paid advertisements like banners and PPC links from other sites. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get proactive – even on a bare-bones budget.

Here are some no- and low-cost methods of getting your web site address into the hands of the market you’re trying to reach.

Stationery, Business Cards & Print Marketing

If you have a business (web-based or otherwise), chances are you have company stationery, biz cards, brochures, flyers, invoices and other print marketing or collateral materials. Great if you do, but are you taking full advantage of what you’ve got?

Does your web site address appear on your letterhead? How about your business card? Since you need these printed materials anyway, be sure to include your URL on every company document intended for public consumption. It won’t cost you any more for the printing but it will drive traffic to your site. After all, the readers of that brochure already know something about your company, so a URL just might do the trick to get these interested parties to drop by your site.

Print Advertising

Same thing, here. If you advertise in the local newspaper or the telephone book, you can amortize some of those promo costs by using print ads to herald your site’s web address. Even a small classified ad should include a URL so interested consumers can find out more about your products, services and location.

Local Cable Adverts

Local cable companies have to sell a lot of TV adverts to turn a profit and these media outlets are competing for print advertising dollars. So, to entice you to spend your tiny advertising budget on local cable ads, these companies offer great deals that might surprise you.

First, cable companies will produce a 30-second spot, usually for free, if you sign up for a lot of spots. Second, the more spots you take the cheaper each spot will cost you. One business cut a deal with the local cable company to run 100 spots in 30 days. Because the business placed such a large order, the cable company produced a nice looking ad and charged $5 per spot – a total of $500 for production and for running all of those ads. Finally, cable companies usually offer targeted marketing for small business owners. If you own a sporting goods company, for instance, you should be able to purchase ad time on sports channels and during sports broadcasts only. That’s something you can’t do with print adverts.

How About a Newsletter?

Weekly or monthly, e-newsletters are a no-cost means of keeping your clients or customers up to date on sales, coupon offerings, new products and the latest insider news. If you can string words together and you know your topic you should be able to write a simple newsletter every four weeks and send it out to all of the customers in your database. It’s free and easy.

If you can’t write a lick, ask friends and family if they could write up a few pages. Someone you know wants to be a writer and here’s a great opportunity to get on-the-job experience and help build your business.

Syndicate Content

If you (or your friend/writer) can develop some informational articles about your products or services, you can submit them to other web sites where they’ll appear with your URL link. This does a couple of things.

First, it gets other sites to promote your site in exchange for useful content – something every site needs. Second, as you syndicate more and more articles you define yourself as an expert in that particular field. And third, as more sites carry your content and you acquire more links back to your site, search engines will identify yours as an authority site – a site to which other site owners refer visitors. This is very, very good for your site’s search engine page rank.

Use Social Sites to Make Contact

Sites like and offer free advertising opportunities. Create a profile on myspace, or one of the many other social sites, add some pictures and personal information and be sure to provide a link to your site. If links aren’t possible, at least print the site’s URL so your on-line “friends” can find your hand-made jewelry site and make a purchase. It’s not just a great way to build your business, it’s also a great way to make new friends.

Join News Groups

News groups are like-minded people who gather at some cyber spot to discuss a topic of interest – everything from competitive cycling to dentistry. These news groups are accessible through portal sites like Yahoo and AOL, and there are also directories of news group activities available when you Google ‘news groups’.

Now these sites are usually focused on very narrow topics so do some research first before you barge in and start hawking the wares. If you run a rug cleaning business, why join a news group made up of would-be actors? Instead, hook up with realty and home improvement news groups.

Once you’ve become a member, don’t push your site too hard. Bring it up in casual discussions as a potential resource for the other members of the group. This is not the place for the old hard sell, but it is a free way to spread your URL.

Send Out Press Releases

With hundreds of thousands of web sites out there, you can imagine how much copy is needed to fill all of those site pages. So, routinely issue press releases whenever something newsworthy happens in your industry or on your site.

There are on-line businesses that will distribute press releases either free or at minimal cost. And don’t forget to include your URL at least a couple of times in the PR. It’s another low- or no-cost means of spreading the word about your site.

Are You an Expert?

If you know a lot about your products or services, you’re an expert and there are people who want to ask you questions. You can become an instant expert simply by signing up for Yahoo Answers at or Google Answers at

Here, you’ll be able to create a profile listing your areas of expertise and your credentials. You’ll also be able to list your site’s URL. And once you’ve helped out a few people by answering their questions, some of them are going to want to learn more about you and your site. And again, it’s 100% free.

Join the Chamber of Commerce

An especially good way to market your site, especially for site owners looking to drum up local business. Chamber of Commerce members meet regularly (usually for lunch!), sponsor events and bring in guest speakers. (You, perhaps?) It’s one of the best ways to network, meet other business owners in need of your products, and to hand out your business card with your URL printed in BIG letters. It’s also a lot of fun and educational. So sign up and spread the word.

Appeal to Visitors

If your site offers good, useful information and especially good prices, you’ll appeal to a lot of visitors who may not be in a buying mood at that precise moment but somewhere down the line, maybe. Ask visitors to bookmark your site and be sure to let them know that fresh, green content is posted regularly on your site’s blog. (You don’t have a site blog? That’s another low cost way to market your site.)

Get Creative

Low-cost marketing doesn’t require a lot of cash (thus its name) but it does require a great deal of imagination. The list of low-cost marketing options continues to expand as more and more small site owners hone in on their potential buyers.

Bumper stickers, posters and signs, web cards with nothing but your URL shipped out with every order, free give-aways, public speaking opportunities, local press and news media, a booth at the town fair – you get the idea.

There are endless opportunities to get your site noticed locally and globally. So, don’t sit around waiting for the world to find you. Go out and shout it from the rooftops – “I’m here and I’m open for business.” With a little creativity and some legwork, the world will learn about your site a lot faster if you tell others that you’re here.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Viral Marketing:

Contagious Profits

Viral marketing sounds new and high-tech but it’s been around since the first street vendor gave out free samples of dried dates a few thousand years ago. In essence, viral marketing is simply putting the goods and services out there to tempt others to see what’s up for sale. As any good pizza place will tell you, the exhaust fan draws in customers better than any print adverts. People smell that pizza cooking and that brings them in.

The Advantages to Viral Marketing

The biggest advantage is cost. Viral marketing is free or extremely low cost, perfect for online business owners on miniscule marketing budgets. For the $15 cost of some printed business cards, you can start your own viral marketing campaign. Lots for cheap.

Another advantage is that viral marketing, when done well, is self-perpetuating. It expands of its own accord, saving you time and, again, money. For example, if you leave a stack of business cards for your pet sitting service at the local vet’s office, each person who takes one becomes a potential salesperson for your biz – someone who will tell a friend or neighbor about your service. Viral marketing at its simplest.

Finally, viral marketing can be turned on a dime. If plan A isn’t working, you can switch to plans B, C and even D quickly, in part because you haven’t invested heavily in plan A.

So, viral marketing in the real world isn’t new, but on the w3 it’s still a fairly fresh concept – but one that’s been around long enough to have a proven track record.

Stationery, Business Cards and Local Adverts

There are lots of opportunities to use viral marketing to draw visitors to your space. Let’s start with your business card, stationery, invoices and such. Does your web site address appear on all printed documents associated with your business? If not, you’re missing a no cost marketing opportunity because you have to pay for those things anyway.

Check out TV adverts. Somewhere on most ads you’ll see a reference to the company’s URL – its website. Watch an ad for Ford Motors and you’ll see right there on the TV ad. Why not? Ford’s paying for the ad so why not push the company’s web site at the same time.

You can do the same with print and non-print materials like company stationery and local TV adverts. In fact, wherever you list a contact telephone number, list your web site’s URL as well. It’s just another way for potential customers to learn more about your company and convert from potential customers to buyers.

Web Cards

In addition to printing up business cards with all of you company information and a cool looking logo, print up some low-cost web cards. You can even do this yourself with a decent color printer and perforated business card stock available at any office supply store.

A web card should be colorful and eye catching. It should include your URL and a brief description of what you’re all about. So, a web card might look something like this:

Hand these web cards out to anyone. Keep them on the counter and stick one in every shopping bag if you run a brick-and-mortar outlet. Stick one in every shipped order. Give them to family and friends to pass along to others. Attach a web card to every invoice and every piece of correspondence that leaves the office. It’s so low-cost all you need is one sale to recoup your marketing “investment.”

Referral Incentives

There’s nothing like a word of mouth referral to develop a core base of dedicated buyers. If one customer likes your goods and your client care, s/he will tell others just how good you are. And then they tell their friends and their friends and before you know, the world is beating a path to your “better mouse trap” cyber shop.

Lots of sites have a “Refer a Friend” option but they aren’t used as much as they could or should be. However, by offering a small incentive, this online feature will certainly get more use. So what do you offer? Well, it doesn’t have to be much.

Offer a free discount coupon (cheap) or a free entry in a prize giveaway or maybe a free e-book. Just provide a little incentive for a visitor to recommend your site to a friend or family member and you’ll more than pay for the cost of the referral.


If you check your pen and pencil holder you’ll probably find examples of viral marketing – giveaways. There’s a cool pen from your bank, a text marker from the local vet and a pencil with a garbage can eraser from your trash hauler – each with the gifter’s URL prominently displayed.

Try this. Google “promotional items.” You won’t believe what pops up. There are companies that do nothing but sell imprintable promo items. Coffee cups at 79¢, tote bags for just 49¢, key chains for 10¢ and t-shirts at $2.59 a piece. Pens, in quantity, are just 9¢ apiece. So, you give away these low cost items. And, surprisingly, they get spread around from friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor. That one gel pen that cost you 19¢ might be seen by 10 different people.

Mail Promos

This won’t be cost effective for smaller sites with a limited number of clients, but if you have a client base of a few thousand, consider printing promo cards delivered to customer’s mail boxes by snail mail. (You remember that, don’t you?)

Now, it’s going to cost per card for printing and, even with a bulk rate stamp, postage could get pricey – especially if you’re e-mailing 10,000 pieces. But…

…if you cover a very narrow market niche, or your site sells high ticket items, this dual pronged approach may deliver the results you’re looking for.

And hey, add a short promo offering 15% off all items your customer buys when s/he refers a friend.

Your Billboard? Everything Moving. Everything Standing Still.

If it moves, put a bumper sticker on it – nothing but your URL and a few words about what you do or sell: The Consignment Shop That Cares. Boom. You’ve said it all, or your bumper sticker has. And that bumper sticker is going to be seen by thousands of people. (Note: Don’t put bumper stickers on cars without the owner’s permission. It tends to make them mad. And, it’s illegal.)

Window signs, “Knitter on Board.” is all you need. And knitters will love them.

If it’s standing still, think about posters, yards signs and even billboards with nothing but a URL and a brief description of what visitors will find there – www.KXOY Rocks Your World!

On-Line Viral Marketing

Post blog entries on other sites related to your market. Each will have an arrow pointing back to your site. and other social sites give you free space to list your site’s URL. “Hey, man, don’t forget to check out my site at www.whoeverI cuz it rocks.”

Enable visitors to download coupons, T-shirt decals or plans for a cool paper airplane. Give them something free. Just make sure it has your URL in big, BIG TYPE. Just the URL and one or two words to describe what you do…

where the ‘60s rule

…is all you need to draw collectors of vintage ‘60s memorabilia. Groovy, man!

So, Spread Your Virus

It’s part guerilla marketing, part digital theater, lots of hype and a whole lot of fun. And, once your guerilla tactics make initial contacts, your URL will start to build brand recognition.

Just be creative. Money isn’t a major factor in viral marketing but creativity and innovation certainly are. So, spread your virus, spread your URL with anything from preprinted pads (great for printing companies) to really cool coffee mugs (perfect for boutique coffee shops).

In no time, you’ll be highly contagious and.that’s a good thing in ecommerce.

Not getting the site traffic you expected. No problem. Give me a call and let's do some business - YOUR business.


Sunday, November 15, 2009


Twitter Pain:

5 Good Reasons to Be ‘UnFollowed”

Nobody likes to feel rejected. Unwanted. We all want to feel that we’re important and that what we have to say is important. Unfortunately, Twitter – the SMS that started SMS - has demonstrated just how painful it is to be “unfollowed.”

If you’re a Twitter junkie and you check your Twitter stats each day, you just might have an addiction. And you just might be carrying around a misconception that you aren’t worthy of a following. Especially when you log on to Twitterholic and discover that the number of people following you has dropped. You’ve been “unfollowed.”

Hurts, huh? Well, don’t let it get to you. Being “unfollowed” may actually set you on the right Twitter track and get your mind back to real work. There are a lot of reasons a one-time follower might “unfollow” you. And, in many cases, that’s a good thing.

1. Don’t just collect followers. Target who follows you.

You probably receive any number of requests to follow this Tweeter or that each day in your inbox. “So-and-so is now following you on Twitter” is a nice message to find in your email box.

However, not all of these followers are interested in you or what you have to say. These Tweet addicts collect followers like some people collect snow globes or baseball cards. They don’t care what you post. They don’t even read it.

Check out the characters who follow 11K other Tweeters and have a following of 13K Tweeters. Do you think that collector actually reads your Tweets? Most likely not. In fact, your Tweet posts may just clog up the guy’s Tweetdeck columns.

Pick your followers carefully. Check out their web sites or blogs. Is their business related to your own? Do they really want to learn more about web marketing or are they in the shoe business?

If you get dropped by someone who’s totally unrelated to you, your business, your interests or utile connectivity, what’s the problem? You haven’t lost anything – except somebody who wasn’t interested in your Twitter posts any way. Pick your followers with care and don’t follow a Tweeter simply because s/he is following you. Even on little Twitter, the quality of your following is more important than the number of folks actually following you.

Even in Tweetville, hang out with people who can do you some good. Follow those in your industry. And if you are unfollowed by someone who’s got nothing to do with you or your business, no harm done.

Go for a targeted, topic-specific following and leave the Tweeter collectors to their own business. You haven’t lost a thing.

2. Is Twitter THAT important to you?

Twitter is like the old school playground. If you have a lot of followers, you feel popular. If no one is following you, you feel left out. An outcast.

Twitter doesn’t drive traffic effectively and search engines rarely pick up your Tweets. If you’re trying to win a popularity contest, losing a follower might make you feel sad. But, you’re an adult and losing a follower that you don’t know, someone who has nothing in common with you or what you do, isn’t much of a loss, is it?

Twitter isn’t a popularity contest so if you get “unfollowed” so what? You’re still you. You still deliver quality services or sell quality products. Why would you even care if you’re unfollowed by someone you’ve never met and who shares nothing in common with you? Good riddance. Move on, and be more selective in who you follow.

3. On Twitter, sometimes fewer followers is actually better.

If you’ve collected 50,000 followers, big WHOOP! 99.9% of those followers don’t read your posts. Think about the people or businesses YOU follow on Twitter. Chances are, it’s only a handful. And the people you follow have something worthwhile to say.

For some Twitter addicts, more followers means they must be posting valuable information. Frankly, these people have way too much time on their hands. Collecting followers doesn’t make you a better person or a more accomplished professional. You’re better off with a small group of dedicated followers who are actually interested in what you post than 10,000 followers who check their Tweet stats hourly.

Twitter isn’t a game so if you’re unfollowed by a few people now and then, you don’t lose. Twitter is a source of good information if you’re selective in (1) what you post and (2) what you read from other posters. Again, if you lose a follower or two, who cares?

Just keep posting quality links and tidbits of information that actually help others in your business, or others who share your personal interests. That’s the real value of Twitter – connecting up with like-minded people, not just any people.

4. You’re bound to get dumped by somebody, sometime, and not know why.

The first time you discover the number of your followers is shrinking, you might feel as though you’re doing something wrong. Chances are, the person who stopped following you lost interest, or even more likely, was NEVER interested in your Tweets.

Check out who that person IS still following and ask yourself, “Do they post better Tweets than I do?” Chances are they don’t.

Who cares what Marcy 081278 had for breakfast? But Mary081278 is still being followed by the clown who “unfollowed” you. Feel better?

You’ll never know why you were unfollowed so don’t take it personally. If you keep providing useful links on topics of interest to you and your Twitter demographic, your follower list will grow organically. The way it should grow.

Post quality Tweets and forget about those who “unfollow” you. You’ll never figure out what you did or why you’re being dropped. And besides, don’t you have some real work to do?

5. Finally, follower count becomes an obsession for some Tweeters.

You have to feel sorry for someone who spends a couple of hours a day cultivating a Twitter following. First, why do they spend that much time on such a mundane activity? Twitter ranking doesn’t drive traffic to your web site. And the more followers you have is no indication of authority.

If you let your obsession to collect followers on Twitter take over your work day, you’ve got too much time on your hands. Instead, build your business or your social circle in the real world. Followers aren’t your friends. They don’t care if you’re sad or happy or smart or stupid. They don’t even know who you are.

So, when you see your Twit-base sliding, don’t start working double time to rebuild. Twitter doesn’t provide strong, quality links to your site and, in fact, you might actually see your site’s bounce rate skyrocket as more disinterested people visit your site only to discover that the two of you have virtually nothing in common.

Keep your Tweets on topic and targeted to those in your industry or those in your “social sphere.”

And don’t take it too hard when you find you’ve been unfollowed. You haven’t lost anything, and in the land of Tweets, as with all things web-based, quality is much more important than quantity.