Thursday, July 30, 2009


Data Mining:

Solid Gold Information

Data mining is the practice of collecting and storing information in humongous data bases. The information is gathered from opt ins, on-line surveys, forms and other “voluntary” means of collecting information, usually from customers and buyers and about customers and buyers.

Who uses data mining? Retail outlets, insurance companies, banks, airlines and other industries that not only collect data, but derive benefit from analyzing that data in a scientific, systematic manner to improve service and profit margins. And if it works for the big guys, it’ll work for you (only on a slightly smaller scale).

What are we looking for?

Using data mining technology, industries are looking for trends before they become trends. Relationships between customer A and widget B. Patterns of activity, unusual events – the list is endless and growing all the time.

The fact is, billions and billions of pages are stored on computers and billions of those billions of pages are available through any search engine. And while this information can help your on-line activities in a general way, data mining your own historical repository of data will reveal useful information about activities closer to home – yours!

If you’ve been in business on-line for any length of time, even a couple of years, you’re sitting on solid gold marketing data. Your database of customers and what they bought, where they live and how they pay. And you can use an analysis of this information to improve the performance of your web site.

How can it help me?

Probably the most useful way data mining will help small- to mid-sized site owners is by defining the target demographic – the characteristics of most buyers. Men or women? Age? Zip code? Income bracket? Using data harvesting and analytic software, you’ll quickly be able to develop a picture of that perfect buyer – the one who buys the most, most often.

This information equips you to develop marketing campaigns targeted specifically at your key demographic. If you’re selling knitting supplies, using a Harley-Davidson as the centerpiece of your e-mail campaign probably won’t pull as much as a nice picture of a kitten playing with a ball of yarn. Data harvesting enables site owners (and huge media and retail conglomerates) to target their marketing with pinpoint precision. (You don’t think those Gap ads were created by accident, do you?)

Interactive Marketing

Of most importance to on-line business owners, interactive marketing appeals to visitors to your web site. What can visitors do? Where can they go? What can they learn? And see?

By analyzing harvested data, you can track the movements of site visitors to determine which features draw attention and which are just taking up space. “Google Analytics” will even perform the analysis for you, indicating in GUI form which site pages attract attention and which are quickly passed over.

For on-line retailers, this kind of analysis defines your most valuable digital real estate and, obviously, this is where you’d place your most popular or profitable products, announcements of upcoming sales and other “targeted” information.

Is it working?

It would be nice to know if your Adsense program was pulling better than your banners placed on a dozen different sites. Data harvesting will give you the answer quickly once you establish a baseline.

The baseline is what’s happening now – the status quo. With an established baseline, you have a yardstick by which to measure whether your PPC program should get more dollars while your click-through rate on banners isn’t worth the money you’re spending.

Is it bogus?

Large, on-line (and real world) retailers use data harvesting to better detect fraudulent activity. For example, MasterCard will quickly contact cardholders in whose accounts unusual activity has occurred. For example, using data harvesting, the credit card company knows you’ve never made a purchase of anything in Taiwan. Then, in a matter of two hours, 23 transactions from Taiwan all show up on your card. Now that’s called an anomaly – something out of the ordinary.

The MasterCard program continues with follow through. The cardholder of the account in question is likely to get a call from a MasterCard representative to see if, indeed, you did purchase 23 racing bikes in Taiwan within the past 24 hours. If not, they can often void the transaction before it actually takes place.

Will it make my customers happier?

Much. You’ll be ahead of the curve on spotting trends so you’ll have the latest when visitors come to shop. You’ll be able to better predict seasonal buying patterns for your particular goods or services. You’ll be able to improve warehousing, order handling, inventory management and more – even if the inventory is stored in a spare bedroom.

Where do I get this wonderful tool?

You’ve got the data – or at least you should have it, if you’ve been in business for a while. That customer data just needs to be analyzed to better equip you to refine your site, better target your ideal buyer, identify trends ahead of the competition, better identify fraud and deliver the precise product at the precise time to the exact right buyer. Metrics and analytical software, like Google Analytics, will help crunch the raw data into meaningful results.

If you haven’t started using the information you have on your hard drive, you’re wasting some of the best information you’ll ever have concerning the success of your business.

Use it or lose it.

Need more info on how to use the data you've collected? How to read site metrics? Drop me a line and let's have a look at that dbase. It's solid gold!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009



Customer Interactions:

Maximize Sales Routinely

Many website owners find themselves interacting with customers in a number of ways. The website, of course, is interactive to one degree or another (more interactivity is better if you haven’t been paying attention to the ever-expanding Web 2.0 list of must-haves).

But you interact with customers before, during and after the sale and each of those contact points is an opportunity to sell your products, explain the quality of your service and encourage upsells – sales in which the buyer opts for a second item or a more expensive item than originally planned.

Before The Sale

Your site should designed to appeal to your ideal buyer – young mothers, corporate HR execs, kids, jocks – whatever your ideal buyer’s attributes, everything about your site should be focused on engaging those interests to generate a sale.

So, before the sale, be sure to point new visitors to daily weekly items on special and make sure they understand your iron-clad, 100% no-headache guarantee. “You don’t like it, send it back and we even pay the shipping. You risk nothing.” This kind of trust building should be evident in your site text – especially on the first page of the checkout sequence.

Restate your guarantee and provide assurance to site visitors that yours is a 100% hacker-safe site so “order with confidence.”

Provide complete product descriptions and product pictures. This is going to save you so much time and money on returns, client care and other time-consuming but essential administrative chores.

During the Sale

You must have an easy to use shopping cart system – one the user can access with a click to change quantities, add or delete items.

On some sites, the cart abandonment rate runs as high as 50% and you have to ask yourself why? Why did a visitor take the time to shop your site and even put something in the cart before clicking off to some other site? If the buyer doesn’t feel reassured and secure, s/he may simply leave so once the buyer has entered the check-out sequence, use text and icons to direct buyers through the process.

Provide the ability to back out to a previous page so buyers can make changes or just double, triple check without having to start the entire checkout sequence from start. That’s going to lose more than a few sales.

Provide steps that allow the visitor to consider and reconsider the order before finally clicking on the submit button. The visitor should be able to just click off, or back through the sequence to make changes. Make it easy to quit your site even if they’re on the final page of the checkout sequence.

Introduce additional products discreetly at the top and bottom of the first checkout page. These kinds of presentations generate impulse sales. Select products of interest to the buyer based on previous buying history. Personalize the experience of shopping on your site and your repeat buyer ratios will increase dramatically and quickly. Online buyers have shown dedication to specific sites for specific goods – until there’s the slightest problem. It doesn’t take much to throw out 10 years of good will on a shipping glitch.

Finally, keep the number of pages in the checkout to a minimum. Offer your regulars the one-click checkout option. Avoid confusing pages in the sequence. Instead, let the buyer take charge.

Change shipping method. Click here. Add gift wrapping. Click here. Send to another address. Click here. Guide the new buyer through the checkout process the first time and when they come back, the whole sequence will run smoother.

After the Sale

This is where automation should kick in and save you a lot of time on administrative chores.

Immediately send a printable invoice. Be sure to thank the buyer for the sale and suggest a ship and receipt date. Be sure to include all of the order information – address, quantities, etc. Provide the buyer with a 10-minute time window to reopen the order to make a change, fix a mistake or change shipping information.

Also use this text message to highlight other products of interest to this particular buyer, again based on a previous buying history stored in your database. It’s another point of contact and another opportunity to turn a warm buyer into a hot prospect.

Notify buyers when their orders have shipped and, again, spell out the specials of the day and be sure to provide a link back to the recipient’s account or to your site’s home page. Another contact point, another opportunity to introduce specials or products of special interest to that buyer.

Once you’re certain that the order has arrived safely (no telephone calls from angry buyers) follow up with a thank you note for “shopping with us” or “becoming a part of the Huffnagle family.” It shows the importance of customer care and, of course, provides another opportunity to introduce new products, services or the new sales rep in the buyer’s region.

Finally, after the sale, there are auto-responders. Most people expect to hear from companies from which they’ve made purchases but getting bombarded daily with your specials or your inspirational tip of the day, you’re going to get clicked over to the recycling bin faster than you can shout “But wait!”

The judicious use of auto-responders can keep previous buyers coming back if their senses and sensibilities aren’t assaulted with an automated weekly email blast trying to make another sale.

A few times a year to introduce new products and provide a business update is enough. The conversion rate on email direct marketing aren’t impressive, usually running between 2-3% so you have to send out a lot of ARs to make it worth your time. But, the fact is, happy customers may not buy for several years but if you keep in touch with helpful information (tips, recipes, advice, etc.), some of those long-absent buyers will come back – if you just give them enough time.

So, yes, keeping sending ARs to all the customers in your database but (1) don’t overdo it and (2) use these ARs as another opportunity to sell.

Each time you touch the client is an opportunity to sell your products, business, services of message. Don’t waste a single opportunity.

Need some help with your next AR campaign? Looking for ways to maintain a stable customer base? NP. Drop me a line and let's keep your web biz growing.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Four Axioms of Website Success

The Four Axioms of Site Success

You can scroll though this blog and find lots of good information on improving site performance, how to monetize a site six ways from Sunday and other topics that focus on the micro things webmasters can do to realize online success.

But what about the larger picture. The macros of site success? The web is a marketplace and, as such, it operates on the basic principles of market economics. Now, not to get all academic on you, the macro-dynamics employed by real-world and online businesses differ. The local boutique, catering to local clientele, uses local print and broadcast marketing channels.

A web-based business employs different promotional tactics based on the unique characteristics of this global, digital bazaar – the web. In the real world, business owners work to build their reputations and to keep their names before prospects on a daily basis. One New England furniture dealer (who shall remain nameless) has his own production staff – shooter, cutter, actress, etc – and releases a new, more-annoying-than-the-last advert daily. And it works! The guy’s got like a dozen stores now.

Retail success online is based on a different set of conventions simply due to the nature of the media and market. Online businesses may focus their efforts locally, regionally or worldwide. Can’t say that about “Woody’s Hardware Store” on main street.

So let’s pull back and take the broad view – see the forest from the trees. Just what are the keys to site success. There are four of them.

Site Connectivity

Not true in the real world, but online connecting up within your retail sphere is a must for long-term success. But not just any connectivity. The connectivity should be denser in the immediate marketplace.

Example: You own a site that sells racing bikes. That puts you in the realm of bicycles. Make your first connections with sites that help visitors learn more about racing bikes. Hook up with sites that sell after-purchase products – helmets, compression pants and those colorful, albeit clownish, outfits serious riders are compelled to wear.

Think of your site as the focus. The closer the topicality, the more links. The closer a site is in your marketing space, the more links. These links come first.

Then, over time (60-90 days) extend your universe and your reach by adding links that are somewhat related to your site but not spot on. Using our racing bike site, connect up with a physical fitness site, a nutrition site, a bike safety site and other satellites further out from the focus of your site.

The Closer the Connection to Your Site The More Relevant the Link

The closer the connection to your site’s products or services, the greater the interconnectivity – the more value to you in driving traffic from other sites and from sites that are somewhat removed but still related to the products you sell.

Axiom I: Connect first with sites closest to your products or services.

Make yourself a part of the web community within your sector. Then, expand your connections to include less related sites.

Here’s How

Research, research, research.

1. Google sites that don’t directly compete in your space but that would compliment the search of a site visitor. You can often use the “Contact Us” to reach the site owner directly. Hey, maybe he’s working out of his spare room, too!

2. Create a symbiotic network like the one pictured above. Keep relevant sites close. How?

  • exchange links
  • post to each other’s blog
  • write articles for each other’s sites
  • develop shared promotions (buy a bike, get your helmet free)
  • work as a partnership and expand the network when possible

3. With sites further removed from the subject of your site, go with good affiliate programs to develop additional revenues. Word of caution: read the fine print of each affiliate agreement you enter. Go with the ones that pay you simply for the referral – the click through.

Axiom II: Expansion

The wider you cast your digital net the more visitors will be drawn to your site. So, you need to expand your profile on the web.

Here’s How

1. Blog related sites. This provides a link back to your site, and if you write provocatively, readers from distant sites will link to your site to learn more about your interesting views on the disappearing honey bee, or whatever your expertise.

2. Syndicate content. Use these three sites:,, and go articles at Write a piece related to your site, your experience, opinions, advice whatever. Check for spelling and grammar. (Yes, they still count!). Then upload your article to these sites where they’ll be picked up by other sites who will link back to your site. Man, your site’s link popularity is just growing and growing.

3. Broadcast via RSS. Get your thoughts out there via remote site syndication. If you have something worth saying, your piece will get picked up and delivered to dozens (hundreds, even) of sites. Just let RSS aggregators know you’re there.

4. Once again, create affiliate programs. The best place to start your affiliate education is at Commission Junction located at

Axiom III: A Unique Positioning Statement (UPS)

And for our friends in the UK, Australia and other countries, a UPS is the same as what you call a USP – a unique selling proposition. Same diff.

Two college roomies come up with the idea for a website where people can upload video clips (an America’s Funniest Videos online and on demand). They call it YouTube and it’s changed everything from the outcome of political races (remember that Mukaka misstep) to the way rock bands find an audience. Got an idea like that? That’s definitely a UPS, which explains why Google bought YouTube for $1.8 billion.

Here’s How

1. Scope out the competition to see what they’re doing, what they’re charging. Looking for a stealth tool? Check out for a behind-the curtain look at your competitions’ keywords, product prices, menu of services, give-aways and come-ons. Learn from competitors – especially the ones that have seen site success.

2. Create the hook. If you can’t beat them on prices, you’d better consider value added benefits – unlimited replacements, 24/7 tech support, money-back guarantee – put all of these together – then keep going because all of this is standard issue on the web. So, to stand out you have to offer better.

Better service, better information, a better return policy – what makes your site stand out from the thousands of other similar sites. If you can define a truly UPS, you may be the next YouTube, or at least be able to quit your day job.

Axiom IV Constancy

What the heck is constancy?

The web is a fluid, almost a liquid entity, spreading, expanding, thinning in spots. The W3 is in a constant state of flux with new technologies, integration with other media (cell phones, PDAs, GPS, etc.) and a population in the billions! 6,000 new sites launch every day and some of them will eat your lunch ‘cause they do it better.

There are site owners still looking for the passive click-through income of their links farms, but if you’re serious about growing a real, online business, constancy is critical.

Here’s How

1. Constantly update your site with new content. Daily if possible. Blogs and forums are great for free, user-generated content. Keep your site looking fresh.

2. Constantly add new and better interactive features: CSS, live feeds, RSS feeds, a blog, the sale du jour, and so on. This keeps visitors coming back to a truly dynamic site.

3. Keep navigation constant for easier movement through the site. If the navigation is always in the left column starting on the home page, it’s in the left column on every page to prevent visitor confusion.

4. Constantly visit webmaster blogs and websites to keep up with the latest from the professional POV – and these are the folks who are designing websites today with lots of animation, vid-clips, real-time news and all of the other things that visitors are coming to expect. Stay ahead of the curve by constantly staying updated.

5. Constancy in client care. Fast and reliable. ‘Nuff said.

6. Constancy in marketing. This is critical to branding. Use the same logo throughout, the same tag line “…where smart shoppers shop smart”, the same type face – it gives the site a unified presentation rather than a cut-and-paste job.

In the macro-market of the world wide web, indeed, it is the little things that matter. Your site must be optimized for search engines and humans. There’s a whole playbook of SEO dos and don’ts, most of which you’ve memorized and have in place on your well optimized site.

But step back for a moment to take in the bigger picture – the macro-trends in web commerce, the technology that moves forward daily, the new science of SEM – search engine marketing.

This is all new stuff. And without a fundamental understanding of web biz success, you ain't going to make it.

New to the web world of search engine optimization and e-commerce? No sweat. Visit and get in touch. I specialize in start-ups and stretching those limited budgets in lots of different ways.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Still Using Shared Hosting? Time To Move Up To A Dedicated Server?

Dedicated Hosting Services:

Maybe It's Time

Chances are, if you’re like most website owners, you started with a shared hosting program with a web host. In this case, you rent a given amount of disk space and share use of resources, like bandwidth and CPU access, with other shared hosting account holders. In the case of shared hosting, a web host can cram over 1,000 sites on a single box (server). If some of your neighbors are bandwidth hogs, it could mean longer download times and slower response times from your site when interacting with customers.

And customers aren’t a patient bunch. In this day of DSL and cable modems, web users want speed. They expect it, and if you aren’t delivering content fast, some site visitors are going to grow tired of watching that blue line slowly crawl to the right. They’ll click off and go somewhere else to purchase products or services.

Dedicated Servers

Just as the name states. Dedicated service consists of one box, one business. This provides unlimited access to all the server’s assets. No competition for CPU access. When you subscribe to a dedicated hosting program you rent the whole server.

In addition, the host provides an operating system (usually Linux, Windows or some variant), ecommerce software bundles that include site building software, a secure checkout, a database and other site enhancement tools, like blog modules that you can plug in with a couple of clicks on the administrator’s console and, if the host is good, you’ll also get access to 24/7 tech support on a toll-free line. Lesser-quality hosts (that still may charge high monthly hosting fees) provide email-only access to tech support. You, the webmaster, prepare a trouble ticket that’s emailed to tech support (somewhere on this planet, but that’s an assumption) and wait for a response and a fix. When your server is down, your business is down. How long can you afford to be offline?

Who Needs Dedicated Hosting?

Not everyone. That’s why shared hosting is the best option for start-ups. The hosting costs are low, usually less than $7.00 a month, and until your business concept and execution have been proven, don’t spend extra for dedicated hosting services. It’s like driving a thumbtack with a sledgehammer. Overkill.

However, if your site has been up for a while, it’s no doubt changed with the times, with a menu of new features and increased interactivity with visitors. For example, a blog takes up disk space and bandwidth as you and your site community interact. RSS feeds, a fully-customizable content management system and other front store and behind-the curtain features all take up disk space.

And, if you’ve enjoyed retail success online, chances are your product offerings have expanded over time. You’ve added pages to your site, pushing your shared hosting space to the max. Well, a good host will sell you disk space a la carte (by the gigabyte). That’s one way to expand. Or you can take the plunge and sign on for a dedicated server.

Multiple Sites

For many site owners, once they get “the bug” and see that there’s money to be made on the W3, building additional websites takes on greater appeal. If the site owner is clearing $500 a month with one site, 10 sites should deliver a $5,000 return each month. At least in theory.

If you manage multiple sites, all of which are deep in features (you manage 12 blogs, for instance), it’s time to move to a dedicated server. You can run a number of different domains from one server, expanding your web presence. In fact, if you plan on building more than one website (and why not, it doesn’t cost any more each month), a dedicated server is a must. A simple administrator console will quickly provide access to site data and activity from many different sites.

Site Functionality

Some sites contain 20 or 30 pages of static text and a simple opt-in form. However, for enterprise-grade businesses and web retailers, a dedicated server is a must-have. Many business sites contain hundreds of pages and are employed for a variety of purposes such as email and other inter-department communications.

Remember, you can customize your dedicated server any way you want to best suit your business needs. So, you’ll get much more functionality from a dedicated server – especially important when you’re running a virtual office with employees spread out across the globe, or a company with several brick-and-mortar outlets all delivering data simultaneously.

Data Security

If your database is loaded with sensitive, personal information like customers’ names, addresses and credit card numbers, you’ve taken on the responsibility of keeping that data secure from hackers.

Using a dedicated server, you can install your own security software and hardware – multiple layers of security on top of the security the web host provides as part of its service to you.

Managed or Unmanaged Hosting?

Dedicated hosting is offered in two formats: managed and unmanaged.

With unmanaged, dedicated hosting you’re responsible for the whole shebang. So, you and your team are responsible for everything – from the installation of your customized database to the creation of customer service responders. You do it all.

The advantage of unmanaged dedicated hosting is cost savings. Since the web host doesn’t do any hand holding (except for routine trouble-shooting) you’ll pay less for an unmanaged, dedicated server. However, either you’ll have to study up on site construction and connectivity to an ever-growing web, or pay some design guru to build the site to meet your company’s needs.

Also, with unmanaged hosting you’re responsible for your server security. It’s your anti-virus software, your hard-wired firewall, your everything.

Managed dedicated hosting puts you in partnership with the web host. You work with the host techs to come up with business solutions. If you’re employing your dedicated server in a variety of ways, services have to be synced up. Storage space has to be configured and managed so inter-office emails remain secure in transit. Hackers love dedicated servers because they know that these online businesses house hacker gold – personal information and lots of it.

Managed dedicated hosting also delivers managed database services for the most popular database platforms, i.e. Oracle, MySQL, Microsoft, etc. With managed services, you’ll also receive customized, configured security that syncs up with the box’s server-side software.

Managed dedicated hosting is also necessary to create multiple, “virtual servers” for different business functions that may or may not include interaction with clients and customers. Working in tandem with the host’s on-site team of networking professionals, you’ll create the superstructure of your online business – communications, data collection and collation, accounts management, inventory management and all of the other functions of a busy and growing company.

Shopping for a Dedicated Web Host

If you opt for unmanaged dedicated hosting, you will save money. However, you should compare disk space allotted, CPU speed and other apples-to-apples comparisons to get the most for your hosting costs. It’s a simple calculation of: features + cost = value.

However, if you envision an expanding business that relies more and more on the web and the Internet ( they’re two different things) to conduct daily operations, you will pay more for managed service but the price you pay for that extra attention will deliver a site that functions as you envision.

Before you sign an agreement with any web host, contact the business solutions professionals on staff. Discuss your current needs and needs going forward and get a feel for how the team adapts to your thinking.

As in any business, including the web hosting business, the client or customer is always right. So look for input from professionals and follow good advice when you get it, but make sure the managed services team at a prospective host is prepared to solve your online business needs – from site migration to multi-purpose server apps – to your specifications.

Once you find the right team, with the right attitude and the understanding that their success is dependent on your site’s ability to meet all of your business objectives, you’re not just getting a dedicated server, you’re getting experience and peace of mind that your site will be right, right out of the gate.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Press Releases: Stop The Presses!

Website Press Releases:

The Latest; The Fastest

Google “press release” and the search engine will cough up 1.3 million links. “Some of them want to use you. Some of them want to be used by you.” (Annie Lennox, the Eurhythmics). But it’s true. Some of these online press release syndicators want to use you. They want your money. Others want to be used by you. Again, they want your money.

Online press release distribution is spotty at best. The PR syndicator is only as good as the extent and taxonomy of its database. And you can certainly ask the company rep for examples of recent releases sent out by the company. You can also check to see if these press releases are having the desired viral effect by using Google Analytics to see how the site performed before and after the release to the media.

This isn’t an indictment of press releases as a means of getting the word out. Indeed, well-written, informational PRs do get picked up. But here’s the thing. Newsletters are usually narrowly focused. Just a quick search of the web before writing this revealed that Alcoholics Anonymous just released a press release. So did a custom motorcycle shop that just launched its web site.

The topics of the press releases have limited interest within a very narrow vertical market, in this case recovering alcoholics and Harley lovers (or both, maybe?). So, the company releasing the press release will tell you that it’ll reach 100,000,000 web sites. However, only 150 sites will actually pick up the release and publish it. Now, that’s not bad, don’t get me wrong. That’s 150 links back to your site. You’ll also see a spike in site traffic, though it’s unlikely that they’ll be beating down the digital doors.

In any case, yes press releases should be a part of any web site marketing campaign. However, to make the biggest impact on the reader, and to encourage the reader to perform a desired action, here are some tips to make your press release stand out from the digital deluge of garbage that criss-crosses the web each day. You want to get noticed. Here’s how:

1. Use a banner to catch attention. An all-text PR already looks boring so add some eye bling at the top of the page.

2. Make the press release interactive. Be sure to include embedded links back to key pages of your site. That’s one of the reasons you distribute the press release – to drive traffic, so make it easy as a click to find you.

In fact, provide a couple of links back to your site. Place one at the top of the page so it can be seen easily by readers. Then embed a link back to your site within the corpus of the press release.

3. Provide an RSS and podcast link so that other site owners can pick up the PR as they aggregate the morning news. One click and you’re picked up by RSS aggregators for broadcast over numerous RSS feeds. Cheap marketing. Viral all the way.

4. Use quotes. NOT testimonials. We’ve talked plenty in this blog about the cheesiness of fake testimonials. Testimonials have lost whatever little credibility they had long before the creation of the W3. Testimonials have been around since you received your last copy of Look. (It was a magazine, kids.)

Quotes, on the other hand, have attribution. “Scariest book I read all year” – Stephan King, Award Winning Author. Now that has clout. If the King of the horror book genre thinks it’s scary, it must be pretty scary.

So, note the difference. Get quotes from credible sources willing to lend their names to your projects, your services or products. “ProGrow is the best protein shake I ever tasted.” Chuck Norris, movie star. That’s going to move some of the protein powder you’ve got stored in the garage.

5. Allow readers to print out your press release by offering a printer friendly version. Make the file available in Word doc and Adobe pdf files. The doc will eliminate non-essential images (you decide) while the pdf version is a snapshot of your newsletter, suitable for framing, or at least posting on the office bulletin board.

6. Enable readers to leave comments. This converts (somewhat) your press release into a blog post. A simple cut and paste lets the blogmaster post your PR and allows others to comment on your opinions or other content.

The whole point is to have the release read by as many people in as many different formats as possible – from directly through a browser on the computer monitor to a print out on the refrigerator of a million homes. The more accessible the press release, the more it will be accessed and USED.

7. Let yourself get pinged. Social book marking sites like,, and other user-reviewer sites can take a ho-hum press release and quickly turn it into a web phenomenon. Go to and take a look at the number of pings (viewer or reader approvals) the topmost articles receive. It’s not unusual for an article to get pinged hundreds, thousands of times.

Readers visit digg and other social book marking sites to find the best (or at least most read) content on a variety of topics. To be “pingable,” you need iconic links back to the book marking site. Then, with a click, a reader can digg your press release, encouraging others to take a peek.

8. Add a tag cloud to your press release. A tag cloud reveals how readers describe your article in terms of content. A press release from mainframe maker IBM might contain the following in its tag cloud: mainframe, IBM, American business, business solutions, mainframe, mainframe software….and so on.

A tag cloud performs a couple of important functions. First, it helps you refine your keyword list by getting direct marketing data from PR readers. Second, it provides links to other content, some of which may be contained in your site’s article archives, driving more traffic.

This also introduces you to the latest terms, buzz words, jargon and other ephemeral data that you can employ until the next buzz word starts making the rounds.

9. Provide complete contact information at both the beginning and end of the release including: contact name and title, telephone, email address, website address, physical address, Skype user name and any other useful information that enables web reporters quick access to quick answers.

Often, a press release won’t run as a press release. It may be rewritten by a web reporter (perfectly legal) and run as an article or blog post somewhere. If you provide complete contact information for these web reporters, you stand a much better chance of still getting a mention or even an embedded text link so keep in touch.

10. Indicate the release date of the press release. It’s not uncommon for press releases to reach a webmaster’s desk several weeks before the anticipated release date. This gives site owners a heads-up to save some space for this new content to be released two weeks hence.

There are other things you can do. Add pictures throughout, even though many people won’t be able to see them with their browsers set the way they are. Those pictures will show up as a pdf download, that’s for sure.

Edit the content so it doesn’t sound like a sell piece. Create an informational press release that just happens to mention your web site or company name six times.

Get the darn thing proofread. Ask your spouse, your kid, your coworker or hire a professional proofreader. Nothing says a lack of quality control than a press release loaded with typos and poor grammar.

As you might imagine, the list goes on but these are the key points to get maximum return for the cost of distributing the piece.

One final suggestion. Be sure to add a couple of “test” sites to the syndicator’s database to make sure you actually receive your own newsletter. Any company can say “Reach 1,000,000 readers in 24 hours” but can they prove it?

No. And that’s why you have to be very careful if you plan to shell out a few thousand to a press release syndicator that makes promises it can’t keep.

Life is hard enough for the start-up or small site owner without a bunch of grey-hats providing sub-par services for lots of money, so ask questions. If your own database is large enough, self-syndicate. This way you know who’s getting the release.

Then, build a press release with eye appeal, quality information, multiple formats and links back to your site.

That’s a press release that’s going to do what it’s supposed to. Draw attention to you, your products and your website.

Hey, if you don't know a good press release from pressed ham, drop me a line. Don't waste your money flaring content spam. Quality counts, especially in press releases, so get picked up. It ain't rocket science.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Investing in Domains? If You Get Lucky...


Domain Investing:

The Next “Real Estate” Boom?

A website domain is very much like a piece of property. It is owned by someone. It can be bought and sold, traded or transferred. And just as we’ve all witnessed a nice run up in housing prices over the past few years, good domain names appreciate and can (maybe) fetch enough to put your kid through college – if you know what you’re doing and how to maximize your ROI.

Get Reach Quick? Hardly.

If you Google “domain investing” you’ll see that every Tom, Dick and Louise has written the definitive text on how to make billions trading domain names. Oh, yea? Well, if these guys know how to make money trading domain names, why in the world would they tell you – at any price!

Skip the “get rich quick” approach for a couple of reasons. First, every really great domain name has already been thought of and registered. Okay, maybe there are one or two yet to be created but the chances of you coming up with the next big thing are like zero. It’s just not going to happen.

However, there are ways to make money in domain investing. Let’s look at a couple of investment opportunities designed for aggressive investors. Please, don’t bet the farm on a domain name.

Know the Market

Would you buy a stock without doing some background research? What if you didn’t understand how the stock market functions? It’s tough enough to make money in domain investing without adding market ignorance to the mix. Tag several domain trading websites and track them until you get a feel for what sells for what. Really good names can bring some nice money your way. One example: a domain that was purchased in 2000 for $10,000 recently sold for $65,000. That’s a very nice ROI in any investment arena. Of course, it’s the exception to the rule, which is why it got so much media play.

It can happen, but it might take some time. You’re more likely to make $50 on a domain name trade but it’s fun and it is fifty bucks. Just keep it in perspective and only invest what you can afford to lose.

Buying and Appraising the Quality of Domain Names

There are plenty of sites where domain investors buy and sell names with legs, that is, domains that already have a business attached to them. These are attractive to entrepreneurial types interested in building web-based businesses.

Or, sometimes, you’ll find a great domain name, perfect for your on-line venture, for sale on these domain investing and trading websites. No business attached. You’re just buying the You may have to bid your way to ownership, or make an outright purchase if it really is the perfect domain name.

Either way, you can hire a domain name appraiser – yes, they really exist – who will run all kinds of diagnostics on the name to see how it would do if you bought it. Or, if you aren’t interested in the name for your own use, you can simply take your chances, register one or a bunch of domains for very little and post (it) them for sale or lease.

Building Cyber Equity

Another way to make some cash through domain investing is to register a “good” domain name and then actually generate some revenue through actual sales, Adwords or some other steady income from the website. You are, in fact, building cyber equity, adding value to the domain name by also delivering a functioning website and even some web traffic.

Think of it this way. There are people who make a lot of money “flipping” real estate. They buy a house that needs fixing up, they fix it up and resell at a profit. Or, so the flipper hopes.

Same deal here. You register the domain name, which shouldn’t cost more than a few bucks, you spend a few Sundays getting hooked up with a PPC or affiliate program (or why not 10 PPC and affiliate programs) and you’ve got cash flow that immediately increases the value of the domain name.

A higher page rank will also increase the value of a domain name, so some SEO work may pay off big time when the sale is finally made. If you buy a domain name and simply park it on some host’s server, you aren’t taking full advantage of your investment, even if it’s only a $2.95 domain registration fee. Put the domain to work for you and chances are, you’ll increase its value at the time of sale. And make some extra bucks while waiting for sale day.

Buy Domain Names in Bulk

Once again, take a little time to learn about domain name registrations. There are plenty of sites that’ll give you a significant break on registration when you register in bulk. Some players in this market register 1000s of domain names at a time for maybe a buck or two per registration. Then, they market their inventory. Very risky and not for the faint of heart.

Know What You Need to Know

So, if you don’t know much about domain name investing, take the time to learn – to learn how to construct a simple website, to generate income from sources other than direct sales, although if you do have access to a useful product or service, why not use the site for direct sales as well. It only increases the value of your domain name when you can show you’re making $50 bucks a week as an affiliate site for the XYZ company and $100 a week selling products.

Is Cyber Realty In Your Future?

It is if your expectations are reasonable, you don’t invest more than you can afford to lose and, most importantly, you learn the rules of the game – everything from how the market operates to how to build equity in a domain name.

If you think of a domain as a “place” just like a home, the market dynamics are similar. The difference? People need a home. They don’t need to spend $5,000 on your really cool domain name. In other words, domain investing isn’t a needs-driven marketplace.

Remember Beanie Babies?

Basic economics 101: a market is only strong as long as its investors believe in the market’s ability to make a profit. Just a few years back, people were buying up Beanie Babies for investment, spending hundreds and even thousands of dollars for a stuffed toy! Visit eBay today to see what Beanie Babies are selling for. The market in plush collectables lost faith in its ability to generate a profit and the bottom fell out. Overnight!

Anything, including a domain name, is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. And in the case of domain names, supply far outstrips demand so you better have a good product. Preferably one that’s earning some income.

And if you get an attractive offer, take it. It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll find another buyer willing to pay bigger bucks for that domain.

It is a market – domain names – but it’s a fickle market, it isn’t needs-driven and there’s always more supply than demand. Still, by taking a few simple steps, you can add value to a domain name and actually make a few hundred bucks.

No, it won’t get your kid through college, but it might pay the air fare to get her there.

There are lots of ways to make money on the W3. Even more ways to lose money. Get in touch. Let's talk about your vision for your web-based business. Then, let's do it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why Sell Yourself? Let Your Customers Do It For You!

User Reviews:

Let Your Buyers Sell Your Products

Mom always said don’t accept candy from strangers, but what about advice? How reliable is it? Well, when it comes to product reviews, advice from previous buyers helps a lot – assuming the product (and services you provide) live up to expectations.

Amazon has been encouraging reviews from buyers for years and it’s apparently been working fine for them – even if the product is trashed, which it often is. But, consider what Amazon gets. Happier buyers (even if they grumble, they aren’t grumbling about Amazon, they’re trashing the product), fewer returns from buyers warned off one product over another, invaluable marketing data straight from buyers who bought the product and, the cherry on top – it’s user generated content, meaning it doesn’t cost anything to produce. That’s a big plus.

Stats and Facts

Site owners eat stats and facts for breakfast. We want that empirical proof that numbers provide so here are a few to catch your attention from the nice folks over at

Question: Do you use customer reviews before making a purchase?

Always: 22%

Most of the time: 43%

Some of the time: 24%

Occasionally: 9%

Never: 2%

Get that? 65% of online buyers use consumer-generated reviews in making a buying decision. That should get you to sit up and take notice. It’s some pretty powerful evidence that consumer reviews are useful in (1) making the right sale and (2) identifying products the buyer doesn’t want. Either way, as a site owner, you’re ahead – ahead on sales motivated by user reviews and ahead with fewer returns from dissatisfied consumers who bought a different product or brand based on customer reviews. Either way, you win.

How many reviews do you read before making a purchase?

Just 1% relied on a single review. It took two or three reviews for 28% of buyers to make a decision, four to seven reviews for 46% of buyers to make a buying decisions and eight to 15 reviews to convince exceedingly cautious buyers to make a purchase.

The number of reviews required to make a purchase is correlated to the price of the item. A buyer will purchase a $49 off-brand MP3 player after reading a single review but it’ll probably take five to 10 positive reviews to convince that same buyer to purchase his or her next car. The cost factor plays a big role.

Now, how do user reviews stack up against other promotional efforts. Quite well, according to emarketer. In fact, user reviews influence the buying decisions of a whopping 64% of online shoppers. That’s two-thirds of all buyers – all buying based on the reviews of previous buyers.

Compare that to other promos:

  • Special offers and coupons: 61%

  • Product and price comparison tools: 59%

  • Consumer testimonials: 49% (these testimonials have lost any credibility since many are fabrications of some copywriter’s not-so-vivid imagination)

  • Product videos: 44% (usually demonstrating the benefits of the product)

  • RSS alerts: 39%

  • Blogs and forums: 39%

  • Questionnaires: 29%

Web Research

More and more web users turn to product reviews to find the perfect fit – but not all reviews are given equal credence. User reviews are believed by 55% of comparison shoppers. And, when skimming through consumer reviews, it’s easy to tell the psychopathic malcontent from the thoughtful reviewer who’s actually trying to help.

Comparison charts are another useful sales tool. 21% of online window shoppers use these list-formatted tools to compare apples to apples, features to features. This format is a terrific means of delivering a lot of useful information in a simple-to-evaluate format.

Expert reviews – the kind you often see in specialty periodicals – carry less weight than reviews written by actual buyers of a product. Why? The consumer-reviewer doesn’t have an axe to grind, making the opinion more reliable. A review by a professional may have an ulterior motive behind it – like the product manufacturer is a big advertiser, or the review is a cut-and-paste job from the manufacturer’s promotional literature.

The reason customer reviews work is they have validity. “I bought it and I love it,” when unsolicited, is as good as a recommendation from a friend. Same with “I bought it and it blew out every circuit in my house.” Now that’s a product you shy away from.

The Ethics of User Reviews

As a site owner, you have god-like powers. Post anything. It’s your site. But what about the ethicacy of user reviews? How do you handle this kind of input?

Consider the site owner who writes his or her own buyer reviews to move more junk out the door. After a while, this tactic is going to come back and bite you in your assets as more and more dissatisfied buyers return products, taking up more of your time and costing money.

And how do you handle the disgruntled buyer who slams one of your best selling products? Is it unethical to remove negative product posts? You bet it is. An occasional slam increases the credibility of all of those positive reviews. If every review sings the praises of the product, well, the reviews become less credible.

Also, if you receive numerous slams on a product or brand, consider dropping the item. Let the buyers tell you what they want – then give it to them.

The tools you use to promote products are often expensive and time consuming to create. A Google AdWords campaign can bust the bank in six months – and you have to write the little blocks of text.

User-generated product reviews have credibility and the nut jobs are easy to spot and ignore. So, give your buyers a place to tell you and other site visitors what they think about their purchases.

Then, watch sales increase as “friend” recommends to “friend.” It’s powerful promotion and, even better, it’s free.

Need some advice on converting those site visitors to buyers. It ain't brain surgery. In fact, it's pretty basic stuff so drop me a line or give me a call and let's let buyers give you the data we need to reach profitability.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Disappearing Web Biz: Presto! Your Site Disappears Overnight.



How’s this for a nightmare scenario:

You take the plunge, register a domain and begin your on-line business. You work hard and you’re finally starting to see a profit. Then one day, you log on and your site has disappeared! What happened? What happened to all of your hard work? It could be as simple as a clerical error or technical glitch, or it could be that you’ve registered your domain with a low-ball registrar. Think it can’t happen to you? One of the leading web hosts and domain registrars recently removed a client website for an on-line security agency from one of its server. Gone. The website (and the business) had been deleted.

And if it happens to you what have you lost? Much more than just your website. You also lose access to your site’s databases – databases filled with invaluable customer information. You also lose inbound links, critical to higher page rank. Even worse, you disappear from search engines altogether. You can see how this nightmare can go on to the point where you’ve lost it all – and who knows where your web host is. Maybe he graduated from high school.

There are lots of horror stories about deleted domains – websites that have been zapped simply because the owners forgot to pay the annual domain registration fee, for instance. If you’re the forgetful type, you don’t want to work with a host that deletes your livelihood over a $4.95 charge – but it’s happened.

What are the domain registrar’s responsibilities?

There is some law and order on the W3. A consortium called ICANN oversees the relationships between web hosts and site owners. You can access the agency’s rules and regs on-line to see what your “legal” options are when you encounter a problem with your web host. Any reliable hosting company is going to adhere to ICANN guidelines. Look for some kind of sign that a potential web host is ICANN-savvy.

Next, before you sign up for an expensive, long-term subscription for hosting services, read the TOS – the Terms of Service. And not just the big text, either. Before you sign up with any web host, read the entire TOS – even the finest of fine print. Know how a given host deals with deleted accounts and what steps the hosting company takes to provide access to databases and other critical information if your domain is deleted, and what steps it takes to rectify the problem if technically feasible. All of this will be laid out in the TOS. Read it very, very carefully.

However, if you’re reaching for a copy of your host’s TOS, chances are you already have a problem and you’re looking for the host’s contractually-binding responsibilities. So, even if you’ve been zapped contrary to ICANN guidelines or even the TOS of your web host, there’s not much you can do about it. It would cost much more to litigate and even then, getting payment is going to be difficult if not impossible. (And don’t think the unscrupulous web hosts don’t know this. They count on it!)

It all comes down to the way web hosts treat their clients and fulfill the legal requirements of a client subscription. Some web hosts operate out of a spare bedroom (or even a closet) and just don’t have the time to oversee simple, administrative chores like automatic domain renewal for their clients. If you’re working with an unreliable or uninvolved hosting company, you may get deleted, along with an auto-responder in your inbox.

On the other hand, working with an engaged web host – one that provides the tools you need to build a site to success – eliminates a lot of uncertainty and sleepless nights. It’s all about the quality of the hosting services you receive.

The quality of hosting

How do you know your site won’t be vaporized overnight without so much as a heads up from your hosting company? Fly-by-night web hosts disappear all of the time, taking with them their subscribers’ money and all of that hard work. It’s a fact, not all web hosts provide the same level of service, or the range of services, that better web hosts do. That’s why it pays to shop around.

As you’re comparison shopping look for signs of reliability. Does the host’s site look good? Is the text professionally written or is it just some kid working out of his dorm room hosting a few hundred clients on a shared server? It doesn’t take much to call yourself a web host. A small investment in server hardware, administration software and the ability to take credit card payments are about all you need to call yourself a web host company.

However, it takes much more to call yourself a good web host. Think of your web host as a silent but critical partner in your on-line endeavor because, in fact, that’s just what a web host is. Why? Because if you lose access to the world wide web, you lose access to your customers or clients and you aren’t making any sales during downtime. So you want reliability – even if it costs a few bucks more each year.

What are the “signs” of quality web hosting?

Does the host offer an automatic renewal service? If it does, it’s a sign that the host is involved in the success of its clients.

Does the site display any logos – the ICANN logo, the on-line Better Business Bureau or some other affiliation that instills confidence? Look. Ask.

Are the TOS clear, simple and straight up? It’s in the best interests of a quality hosting company that clients not have any misunderstandings before buying hosting services.

Does the host offer 24/7, US-based tech support? If your site has suddenly disappeared you want to talk to someone who can fix the problem – now!

You also want to look for a host that’s been around for a while. Now, this is no guarantee that your site won’t be deleted for some infraction (or for no reason at all). The nightmare scenario described above involved a huge domain registrar with a long-time, web presence.

Is the web host involved in the success of its clients? The good ones are because it’s easier to keep a client than find a new one so quality web hosts build their client bases by delivering quality services, near-perfect uptime, tools and applications required to build and launch a website and grow it to profitability. The more freebies a web host offers the better. That’s a great measurement of how the web host sees its responsibility in your partnership.

So, scour the blogs, read the reviews and visit each potential web host’s site for a thorough evaluation. Read the TOS agreement from top to bottom so you understand just what you’re getting and for how long. Finally, look for a web host that wants to partner with you for mutual success.

Websites will still disappear and the horror stories will continue to make the rounds on the web. But if you go with a hosting company that delivers, has a track record and a commitment to your site’s success, the likelihood that your site will be deleted are greatly diminished.

Need some help finding the right web host for your new e-biz. Piece of cake. Call or click and let's get started in the fastest growing marketplace in the history of marketplaces.


Sunday, July 19, 2009


Six Stumbling Blocks to Making That Sale:

Why Make It Harder to Sell?

What if you went to your favorite clothing boutique and discovered the door was locked? A note on the door states “Please enter your access code to enter.” Access code? Never mind, I’ll just go across the street to buy a new tie.

In the real-world retail sector, merchandising is a science. Makers of your favorite breakfast cereal fight for shelf position at the supermarket. They all want the eye-level shelf because that’s where most shoppers look first. The boxes of cereal on the top and bottom shelves don’t move as fast because of shelf placement.

And how about those displays of soda and hot dog buns you see at the end of each supermarket aisle. This is prime selling floor real estate and food makers pay the store for these prized locations. Same with all the gum, candy and other “impulse” items by the checkout. Those products are there because people waiting to get checked out buy them on impulse. “Oh, I deserve a treat,” so a Mr. Goodbar gets tossed into the shopping cart along with this week’s fabulous edition of The National Enquirer. The buying activities of store shoppers are studied, critiqued, focus-grouped-to-death, analyzed, utilized and ultimately, the entire store is arranged to generate more sales.

Well, the same principles apply to website design. The design of your website can make it easier or harder for a visitor to make a purchase. Here are six stumbling blocks you can remove from your site today to see your conversion ratios improve in a matter of days. Really.

1. Eliminate the member log-in from the home page. You see this a lot and you wonder what the site designer was thinking. When most visitors see a log-in box, they know they’re giving up their email addresses to gain access to the goodies on your site. And they expect the back sell – the sell that takes place once a visitor opts in.

But it makes no sense to place the opt in log-in on the home page because visitors don’t even know what their opting for yet. Instead, use the home page to entice the visitor deeper into the site. Show visitors that by opting in they get a valuable service or good information – free. In other words, prove the worthiness of site information before making the pitch for an opt-in.

2. Provide good information free. And plenty of it. Articles, stories, pictures of products in use embedded in informational content lends credibility to you, the site and the product.

Often times, buyers don’t know what they don’t know. They’re trying to learn as they window shop and you’re going to teach them by providing good informational content about product pros and cons. You want the buyer to purchase the right product. It saves time, money and the hassles of returns so teach and sell on your site. It’s a potent combination. And it works, too.

3. Make it easy to find the right item. There are two ways to do this. Use both.

There’s a web design dictum: The fewer the number of clicks the more sales. Absolutely true. The easier it is to make a purchase the more purchases will be made so making it easy to find a specific item, or to browse items, is essential.

Most sites use a “Products” link off the navigation bar, which works fine if you only sell a few items. This drill down screen can also be used as a product category directory with links taking the visitor to a specific product ‘section’ of the site. This is especially useful for companies that market diverse inventory.

However, even this drill-down design requires some discretionary thought on the part of the site visitor, and if seems like a hassle, a lot of visitors will get tired of endless clicks and move on to a simpler site.

The second option – and frankly a must-have in this era of site interactivity – is a ‘Site Search’ feature. By far the fastest way to find a specific item by name, by make, model number or any number of other search criteria. A ‘site search’ feature contributes to the reason most web shoppers shop online – convenience.

Everything – everything – about your site should point to ease of use, accessibility, functionality and moving the visitor through the purchase cycle without so much as a blip.

4. Add shopping cart convenience. Even if you sell a limited number of items, offer visitors the opportunity to place items in their digital shopping carts – even if it’s one item.

The shopping cart should allow the visitor to:

  • Review items purchased.
  • Change quantities.
  • Delete items.
  • See the total cost of items in the cart.
  • See the shipping and handling costs for the items in the cart.

Also, throughout the purchase cycle, reassure the buyer by providing prompts on each page. A perfect example: a link to the “Check-Out” on every page – prominently displayed. Easy, easy, easy. Shoppers want convenience and reassurance that “they’re doing it right.”

5. Check out your checkout. Remember that number of clicks axiom from above? This is doubly true during the checkout sequence. Simplify the process for first-time buyers by limiting the number of pages (clicks) required to “get outta here.”

Simultaneously, provide reassurances that the buyer is doing it right. If a piece of information hasn’t been entered properly, return to the form page and tell the visitor what needs changing. Don’t make them figure out what they did incorrectly. Tell them so they can fix it and get outta here.

Provide a final review page of all order information as entered by the buyer. Even the most seasoned web buyer sits at the monitor reviewing everything – name, address, credit card number, quantities and so on. It’s so much easier to get it right the first time than to hassle with returns or unfulfilled orders because of some confusion.

Finally, there needs to be some trust building going on during the checkout sequence. Knowledgeable buyers look for security logos from companies like VeriSign. They also look at the address box of their browser to make sure there’s an ‘s’ in ‘https’ indicating a secure site. Provide buyers with assurances that all is secure just before they click the ‘Submit Order’ button.

6. Deliver an immediate order confirmation. As part of the checkout sequence, buyers provided an email address. Once the buyer has made the purchase an auto-responder should be generated describing all details of the purchase, including tracking information. This assures buyers, cuts down on customer care calls and enables quick resolution of any customer complaint. (Good customer care is a basic building block of any retail business, online or in the real world.)

It’s simple, or at least it should be. The first time buyers are gently guided through the purchase cycle, reassured at every stage and in control, and regulars should have the convenience of providing all information required for a one-click checkout. Ship it here. You’ve got my credit card. I’ve got other things to do. Convenience. That’s what today’s web buyers want.

Think of it this way: a confused customer is a gone customer.

Need some suggestions for removing those stumbling blocks and encourgaing site visitors to make that purchase. You know where to go - 100% Good For You.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Subliminal Website Text: Don't Hit 'em Over The Head

Plant the seeds. Orders will follow organically.

Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, advertisers and movie makers gave subliminal advertising a bad name. It worked like this. Standard movie film runs at 32 frames per second. So if very few minutes you replaced one frame, 1/32 of a second, with an advert for soda or popcorn, concession sales would increase. And subliminal advertising worked. The problem was, lawmakers thought it was intrusive and passed a bunch of legislation to prevent advertisers from using subliminal adverts.

That doesn’t make it a bad idea. Just an idea that you can’t use in films and TV. But what about web sites? Well, since no one had heard of a web site back when these anti-subliminal ad laws were enacted, web sites can use subliminal advertising – not for illicit or unethical selling campaigns, but to boost sales in subtle ways.

Subliminal Web Site Messaging

The key to any subliminal messaging is that the viewer or customer isn’t aware of it. Visitors don’t realize that they’re being persuaded. That’s the danger and the beauty of this kind of advertising. It’s effective and intrusive.

So, what are the subliminal responses visitors have to your web site? It’s usually the first response, the most natural response. The visitor isn’t aware of your site’s subliminal messaging but it’s there on every page of the site. It’s persuasion by instinct or intuition. Today, some people call it a gut feeling, but you can deliver persuasive, motivational messages and your visitors won’t even recognize you’re selling.

The Elements of Subliminal Web Site Messaging

Text and graphics. That’s the way it’s always been and always will be. You must have text that stimulates those subliminal urges. The words you choose should be exciting, captivating and written in everyday English. Words should also indicate action. Examples:

discover (the world of ocean sailing)

uncover (the wealth in your attic)

save (money, time, gasoline – just save something!)

enjoy (the benefits of working at home)

Upbeat, lively words lead to upbeat lively buyers.

Graphics are just as important, maybe even more so, when your graphic artist is also doing the layout of your web site. Some general rules on selecting graphics that deliver a subliminal message to the astute site visitor.

Color scheme should be neutral with a splash of color, especially on links. Text should be easy to read against its background and the type font shouldn’t be too fancy.

Links, Buttons and Other Navigation Tools

Which has more prominence in the mind of a visitor – a text link embedded in a long paragraph or a graphic “button” labeled “Click Here for More Information.” You might not think about it (or your graphic artist not think about it) but there’s a hierarchy of site conventions that provide subliminal clues as to which is the most important content and main pathway through the site.

For example, a small graphic link is more important than a mouseover link from a list. A large button with text is higher up in navigation hierarchy than a small button. And if the large button has a call to action like “Click Now & Save $654.32 on your automobile insurance costs” the click rate will improve accordingly.

Web Site Images and Positioning

The top half of your web-site’s home page is the single-most valuable space on your entire site. It’s what most people see when they first reach your site and if, for any reason, it doesn’t capture the visitor’s attention in six seconds, you’ll get a bounce, a visitor who never gets past the homepage, because something wasn’t right about it.

Another important point about image use and placement: images can’t be read by search engine spiders and that includes gifs, jpgs, bitmaps and Flash animation, so if you have key text tucked away in a spiffy, expensive Flash opening, not only do you slow download times (not a good subliminal message), you lose any search engine benefit from the text within the graphic.

Use the top half of the homepage to make your biggest, strongest pitch:

If you don’t use our Scratch Out scratch remover

You’re wasting thousands of $$$ when you resell your car.

This headline would appear in a simple 24 point, bolded text. That indicates a high level of importance when given such prominent display. And both visitors and spiders understand that. Larger text is given more importance than smaller text by humans and spiders.

Image Quality

And speaking of images, if you’re just starting up, chances are you’ll have to use some free clip art which, subliminally, many people recognize as a cost-cutting measure and consequently, subliminally diminishes the value of your service or product to some visitors.

If you can afford to take some nice product pictures (ask a neighbor or friend with some camera experience) your site makes a better, intuitive, subliminal first impression..

Using Subliminal Web Site Messaging For Good

There’s nothing illegal or immoral about using subliminal messaging – messaging that hides its intent between the lines and pictures of your web site. People may not be aware that they’re being influenced by the shape or color of a button graphic link, but they are. Buttons are more important than text links, at least at the subliminal level.

With this in mind, your main site arteries should be button links off the home page, or if that isn’t feasible, tabs at the top of the page – another indicator of importance and priority of navigational tools.

Direct your visitor with hierarchical links, with mouseover text links at the low end of the scale and a big banner across the home page at the top. Search engines won’t get it but visitors will.

If you saw a banner that said “Save $10,000 on the sale of your home” would you click on it – especially if you were thinking of selling. On the other hand, if you see a text link in a list of other text links promising the exact same savings, you’re much less likely to make that click because it’s just a text link.

Everything Counts

Everything! Color combinations, the type face you select, the pictures and images you choose and where they’re placed on a page, the size, shape and selection of navigation buttons, the ease of use of the navigation bar – all of these and more send subliminal messages to your visitors and if visitors don’t land on a page that looks and feels right (for that particular demographic) bounce, bounce, bounce. You have less than seven seconds to impress a first time visitor.

Subliminal messages to visitors may make or break your site. Give everything careful thought; don’t decide on a whim. Identify the needs of your target market and use words that have positive connotations: health, wealth building, family and about a million more connotative words that will keep first-time visitors interested.

It’s subtle (that’s good) and an effective means of keeping a low advertising profile so it doesn’t look or sound like you’re hawking your wares.

Hit your market’s subliminal hot buttons with the right words and the right pictures and you’ll achieve the site success you envision.