Thursday, March 26, 2009

Twitter: Technology At Light Speed

Twitter has been around about as long as the jar of pickles in my fridge yet, in its short existence, Twitter has evolved into an industry with widgets, gadgets and plugins so the whole world now knows what I had for breakfast.

However, Twitter – described as “IM on steroids” – is a perfect example of how new technology remains a growth industry, web-wise.

Twitter Evolves

When the service first hit the web, people posted inane stuff. “I’m at the airport.” “I just finished a three 3 bartinni lush.” “Barack rocks.” Who cares? But, in very short order Tweets figured out various ways to use Twitter to drive traffic to sites, blogs, webinars and every other destination a Tweet can reach.

There’s actually a lot of good stuff posted in those 140 character blocks and each day, Twitter users are finding new uses for this potent outlet. I use it to flog my blogs, announce posts to SEOmoz (are you listening, Rebecca?) and other posts to content syndication sites. offers a service that automatically posts accepted submissions – a little side benefit for the author and, of course, for ezine’s Chris Knight, a voracious Tweet. Knight uses Twitter to drive new submissions and, as such, he’s one of the most popular Tweets.

And now, introducing Twitter Spam. Spitter? It needs a name. Any way, companies are now collecting Tweets like baseball cards. Some businesses have 10,000+ Tweets – direct links to an audience made up of potential buyers who signed up to “Follow” XYZ Plumbing” and its daily specials.

And all of this has happened in a matter of 24 months.

The Twitter Industry

If you Google Twitter gadgets you’ll get a couple hundred thousand hits. You’ll also develop a long list of Twitter-related sites that offer Twitter-related services – including Twitter metrics.

Twitseeker provides a lot of data on individual tweets – your 140-character posts including your name and a link to your site or blog, an –ever expanding category cloud and a simple click to link function that enables you to follow Tweets with similar interests.

Twitterholic parses stats as you grow in popularity among other Tweets. Today, CNN ranks #1 among Twitterers followed by Barack Obama. (Don’t bother sending a direct message to the President. He hasn’t answered one of the 3,287 I’ve sent him, though I did get a visit from some nice Secret Service folks.)

Tweetstat does a couple of things. First, it takes Twitter mobile for Twitter junkies who can’t go10 minutes without checking in. The site also provides simple metrics associated with your tweeting activity and those whom you’ve opted to follow. BTW, avoid the collectors – the Tweets who send out automated connects (yes, that’s now part of the Twitter culture) followed by an automated “thank you and let’s hook up” return Tweet (RT). I’ve had to block a number of Tweets I chose to follow because my Twitter page was crammed with Twitter Spam.

One of the most cleaver, Twitter-based sub-services is Twibes. It’s like “American Idol” for Twitter users. It’s also a big, gigantic chain letter. Here’s the deal.

A follower selects you and nine other Tweets as his or her favorites. You’re promptly notified “I chose you as my favorite” by email. The email also encourages you to “return the favor” by nominating your friend. However, to do so, you have to nominate 10 total Tweets who, in turn, receive the email and on and on and on. Great marketing and another way to call attention to yourself. Twibes even hawks a book for $5 called “Twitter Trick: How To Get More Followers.”

Finally, to keep all this connectivity organized, check out Tweetdeck. This software displays all posts from those you follow, direct messages and @ replies – public messages directed specifically to you.

It also shrinks URLs down to size, saving a few characters for text.

Twitter is bound to grow in impact in the hours ahead. There are Tweet blogs where you’ll discover “tweet secrets,” and more and better uses will be found for this tool.

If you don’t already, consider Twitter. Maybe you can figure out how to make more of what’s already sprouting up around this communications technology growing at light speed.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Six Places to Earn Money for Your Words

The need for content, both in print and on the web, is massive even in this tanking economy. If anything, the bad business climate has companies scrambling for new marketing outlets, most on line.

And that means work for you. Here are six places that are actually looking for writers and are willing to pay them – in real dollars!. So, if you can string words in to sentences, you can earn money for your efforts. Check out these outlets for content.

1. odesk. Odesk is an outsource hook-up site, connecting service buyers and providers. The site has a number of categories – site design, coding and writing.

Just looked and there are over 200 gigs listed on odesk this morning, divided into general categories to make your search for a gig that much easier. Tech writer? 74 job listings on odesk this morning.

What are you waiting for?

2. Elance. Perhaps the most widely-known outsource hook-up site, Elance has taken strides of late to improve its image in this web space. Many of the writing jobs are for words by the pound. I saw one job – 1000 articles – top bid $500! That’s 50 cents an article.

However, if you’re good you can cherry pick the buyers looking for quality over quantity. Bid low until you gain some feedback from happy buyers. Then up your price gradually.

3. Helium. You don’t think of Helium as a paying site. It’s a content syndication site, right? Well, that’s the biz’s bread and butter but the site also posts paying gigs. You’re competing against a lot of other writers but the site is flogging the fact that one woman made $5K in six months writing for Helium.

Sounds perfect for the work-at-home parent. No commitment.

4. Guru. Another outsourcing site that’s coming up fast. The quality of its postings has improved meaning better paying gigs for you. Again, these on-line sites have postings that change daily so keep going back to see what’s new.

They’re all ideal for part-timers and newbs looking to gain experience and creds.

5. Your local newspaper. The local Picayune is desperate for content. A friend of mine, a Registered Nurse, writes a weekly health column for the local rag. $50 bucks a week. Now, given the amount of time said friend works on her columns – interviews, research, first and second draft, she makes less than minimum wage.

But she’s got a clip book – one that adds to her credibility as a writer – a reliable writer who can hit a deadline every week for years – even if she only gets $50 a week. It’s the creds that count here.

And those clippings can be compiled into a book on health and wellness since the RN friend owns the copyright. Sweet.

So, open your accounts or contact the local editor and offer to do a column on your particular expertise – gardening to low-cost living and consumer tips. Build your clip book and charge $10 a column. Watch that editor jump!

You start working at “burger-flipping” wages but as you gain experience, confidence and credibility, you and your words become better and more valuable.

Start here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Creating the Perfect Landing Page

A landing page is the first page a visitor sees upon clicking a link to your site, either from another site, through organic search results or a PPC link. The landing page MAY be the home page, but not necessarily. A visitor can land deep on your site based on the search words that were employed or which link was clicked.


So, in effect, almost any page can be a landing page, though some SEOs contend that a landing page is always a sell page. Not true. In fact, a landing page that makes a strong sales pitch isn’t a good landing page and you’ll see a high ratio of bounces as visitors determine, “This isn’t what I was looking for!”


The Characteristics of a Good Landing Page

There are quite a few, so let’s look at the characteristics of a quality landing page in detail. This is worth knowing. Most site owners slap together a home page with a dash of information, a bunch of sales copy and a “BUY” button that takes the visitor to the checkout. Bad. Very bad. You don’t sell the product or service before the visitor even knows what that product or service is.


Also, it’s important to bear in mind that a landing page should appeal to the visitors needs, NOT your wants. You want to sell something or obtain an opt in. The visitor doesn’t care what you want so keep landing pages targeted at visitors, not making the sale. That’s comes later.


Easy, Straightforward Navigation

If visitors land in site zones that don’t meet their needs, it’s a good idea to provide a navigation bar to take them to the zone or home page, archives or checkout so they can conduct their business and move on to the next item on the day’s agenda.


You don’t always know where a visitor will land so provide easy navigation on all pages. A site map is useful and a big “HOME” link will keep visitors on site longer.


Meet the Visitors’ Expectations

Regardless of how visitors reach your site, they have certain expectations when they access a landing page. They clicked on the link to your site for a reason – to meet a need or want.


If your landing pages consist of opt-ins, a log-in (Sign Up Now) or a bunch of links to affiliates, that visitor is so long gone you won’t have time to see the dust settle.


Define Your Business

On every landing page? Yep. Every page has the potential to be a home page – the first page the visitor sees – so every page should be constructed with information in mind.


Now, this doesn’t mean you post your three-page company mission statement on every page. That’s a waste of good pixels. Instead, use taglines, headers and product pictures to define quickly what your business is about. We’ve mentioned in previous posts that the average time visitors spend assessing the value of a site is a whopping six seconds. SIX SECONDS! If visitors don’t know what you’re about in six seconds, you lose them.


Perform All Aspects of Sales

From quality materials to free overnight shipping, a well-designed landing page must serve as a primary sell page within the site without sounding like a heap of hype. That means visitors learn about the benefits of your products or services (use bulleted text instead of long paragraphs), manage any visitor objections and describe the “iron-clad, 30-day, no-hassle, money-back guarantee” in six seconds or less.


Large headlines grab attention. Headlines should describe benefits to the user instead of product features. For example, selling a paper shredder, which is the grabber?


The Acme 5000 comes with a 1.5 horsepower motor. (feature) Or;


The Acme 5000 is so powerful, it’ll shred a Cadillac. (benefit)



All landing pages must also be designed to convert visitors to buyers. That means easy access to product descriptions, shopping cart and check-out. Or, in the case of services, the landing page needs complete contact information IN BIG TYPE, not in six-point type at the bottom of the page. Visitors have questions before they convert. Provide every means available to answer those questions and establish personal contact.


Provide a toll-free number on every landing page and staff client care 24/7. You never know when a call will come in, and often, a client care call turns into a sale – once all questions are answered, all objections addressed.


Build Trust

Man, that landing page has to do a lot!


In this case, however, trust is more a perception than a reality. Trust builders include:


  • impartial product reviews from journals and periodicals;  


  • customer testimonials (real ones, please);


  • customer-generated  reviews (it works for Amazon, it’ll work for you);


  • logos from web security companies like VeriSign and Hacker Free;


  • assuring text that you don’t sell buyer lists and all information is confidential;


  • a guarantee.


Impress with Quality Design

Does the look of your site reflect industry standards? If you’re the marketing director for a large accounting consultancy, a site that employs “spray paint” text won’t fit the image you’re trying to project to a gaggle of CPAs. Instead, quiet, confident professionalism is what you want to project in the look of your site. Save the spray paint for the “chopper shop” sites.


The look of your site should reflect company values – cool and hot or sedate and conservative – the look of every site page makes a subliminal statement about your business image.


Keep Body Text Industry Appropriate.

If you’re main demographic is teens, the body text can be “like OMG totally casual 4U.” However, if your target demographic wear three-piece suits, they won’t appreciate being called “dawg,” or “dude.” Your site’s body text, from home page to check-out should be comfortable reading for that target buyer.


Be Straight With Visitors

No bait and switch, no added fees (restocking fees??), no hidden extras that’ll cost the visitor more. The fastest way to lose a hot prospect is to deceive so if the landing page says FREE SHIPPING, that shouldn’t just apply to “orders over $100,” on interior pages, it should apply to all orders.


Forget Branding. Who Cares?

Branding is important to you. It isn’t to potential buyers who come in through a side door landing page. Visitors come to your site for solutions and benefits, not to see your really clean logo and clever catch phrase.


Save branding for the “About Us” page. Visitors who click on this link are expecting a little self-congratulatory back slapping here. On landing pages, the product or service takes precedence over branding your business, at least in the customers’ eyes.


The key to a successful landing page is simple: provide what the visitor wants, not what you want, which is a sale. Visitors need time and they must feel secure and comfortable before the sale is made.


Put your needs aside. Save it for the “Order Now” page. That’s where you can sell. Otherwise, meet visitors’ expectations wherever they land.


Then, once they land, they may want to check out some of the scenery as they work their way to the checkout.

Friday, March 6, 2009