Saturday, October 31, 2009



Web Copyright: Who Owns What?

Trying to figure out web copyright law is like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. It’s a topsy-turvy world in which media content giant Viacom (owners of cable’s Comedy Central) is suing You Tube for copyright infringement for displaying clips from Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and from “Daily Show” spin-off, “The Colbert Report.”

Interesting case with allegations flying from both well-funded complainant and defendant with accusations from You Tube owner, Google, that Viacom is posting its own clips on the site for marketing purposes. Hmmmm.

Same deal with the music industry that claims You Tube is making money off artists without paying licensing fees. You can see concert clips of music stars free on You Tube and the musicians, and their record companies, want their take even though these clips actually promote sales. You see Clapton play “Layla” in concert and you immediately open your iTunes account to download a copy. We all do it. Legally.

So, who owns what on the web and how can you, a site-owning webmaster, avoid a lawsuit for copyright infringement (as if you don’t have enough headaches).

What do you own?

If you’ve built your web site, you own an intellectual property just like a book or a movie or TV show – all intellectual properties. However, if you download rights free clip art to pepper your site with photos, you don’t own the pix. You can use them, but you don’t own them.

You own content that you wrote or paid to have written under a standard “Work for Hire” contract that you sign with a professional copywriter. (Make sure to get it in contract form.) Under these agreements, the professional gives up all rights (and there are lots of them) in exchange for payment of an agreed-upon amount.

You own your site’s URL as long as you re-up every 12 months. And you own anything that’s considered proprietary. For example, if you own the rights, license or patent on a product you sell, any images of that product are considered proprietary. You own them.

However, that doesn’t mean that other site owners can’t use these images. They can, even if you’ve copyrighted them. There are a variety of “fair use” clauses in copyright law that allow reviewers to quote from copyrighted books, or to show clips from a copyright movie. This is considered fair use of the images owned by someone else.

So, if someone writes a review of your product, they can show an image of that product under fair use statutes – as long as they don’t say anything untruthful about the product – something you and your lawyer can determine.

What you don’t own

Everything else.

If you have a great new idea for a sure-fire, can’t miss web-based business and somebody comes along and steals your thunder (and your idea) tough luck. You can’t copyright an idea.

You don’t own content from other sites, even if it’s syndicated and delivered each day by RSS feed. Again, you can use it (RSS use is a single right under a much broader umbrella of copyright protection) but you can’t claim it as your own, edit it, put your name on it or otherwise mislead the reader or viewer about the source of the content.

Play It Safe

To avoid problems, assume everything is copyrighted. The owner of an intellectual property isn’t required to add a copyright notice (©) but just because there isn’t a notice doesn’t mean it’s public domain content – content that can be used by anyone without cost or permission.

If you’re producing or displaying “Work for Hire” content on your site, it’s highly recommended that you do add a copyright notice – something like: © This work is protected under international copyright laws and may not be used without the written permission of (put your name or company name here). This won’t stop the practice, sometimes called “rip art” – intellectual property essentially stolen or appropriated without the necessary permissions of the copyright holder.

Oh, and the “I didn’t see any copyright notice” defense won’t save you. A number of site owners have tried it and the courts always side with the owner of the intellectual property, assuming that you’re smart enough to know that all content has an owner and content is an asset – something worth protecting.

Another key point: if you do use rights-free clip art, you can’t create any untruths (lies) about it. Here’s a rights free clip from the Microsoft collection available to anyone for download and use on their sites – rights free.

It’s fine to add a label that doesn’t misconstrue the intent of the photo. So, grabbing this picture from the Microsoft gallery, you could say “Busy sales executive on the go.” No problem.

What you can’t say is “Our mobile phones, like the one shown here, have the widest range of any cell on the market.” It’s a lie. Worse, you can’t say “This is just one more example of how prostitution has taken to the streets in our city.” That clearly misconstrues the intent of the photograph.

Good: A busy real estate agent has to keep in touch with her many clients.

Bad: The Acme Hands-Free headset makes driving a breeze.

Worst: This picture shows that sexually transmitted diseases affect all people. (This one could land you in court.)

Unfair Use of Meta Data

You can’t use company names trademarks, signature marks or other intellectual properties in your site’s meta data though many unknowing site owners do this. An ebiz owner selling Godiva chocolates can use Godiva in the site’s keyword and title tags. However, if the site doesn’t sell Godiva chocolates, the unethical site designer is ripping off Godiva’s good name to generate profit.

The case of Oppedahl & Larson v. Advanced Concepts, et al made it clear that even though the copyright infringement wasn’t visible, the defendants were benefiting from the use of someone else’s intellectual property.

Know Your DMCA

With the web growing like a weed in the 90s, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1998. The act takes into consideration heretofore undeveloped outlets for content, in most cases, digital outlets.

The actual DMCA is bone-dry, legal-speak but, if you’re going to be using content in any form from other sites – including rights-free pictures and text – it’s worth loading up on the caffeine and plowing through this document. The DMCA is based on a couple of international copyright treaties that countries, like China, have signed but completely ignore, pirating billions of dollars of intellectual properties every year. You can buy a DVD copy of the next summer blockbuster in Beijing before it even hits the screens in the U.S. However, if the culprit is U.S.-based, you could bring suit and follow through. If you really wanted to.

What if you get ripped off?

Well, it’s not quite tough toenails, but darned close. There are treaties and laws, acts, agreements, roundtables with bunches of legal experts from around the world – but there’s very little enforcement. Other than you.

There is no Web Police (wait for it) so if you find your well-written article on some other guy’s site you’ll have to take the initial action, and most times you’ll discover that any lawyer who’s up-to-speed on web copyright law is going to cost like a thousand bucks an hour, making it uneconomical to pursue legal action. Especially if the (alleged) perp lives in Timbuktu. Good luck in finding any court that’ll hear the case. And even if you do and you prove your case in court, how are you going to collect for damages? You may end up getting paid off in goats, if you collect anything.

The best thing to do if you find your intellectual property has been ripped is to contact the site owner (there’s usually a contact form, telephone number or some type of contact information) to inform the offending rip artist that s/he’s using your intellectual property and would s/he kindly remove it from the site.

Most site owners don’t want to hassle with copyright infringement cases, so the piece is likely to be removed.

And Now Back to Our Show: The You Tube-Viacom Smackdown

You Tube claims that it’s very protective of the intellectual property rights of others and that when informed that a copyrighted piece has been posted without permission, the company removes the post immediately.

Hard to say. Even with the battle of these two content titans in the headlines, there were plenty of clips from the “Daily Show,” the “Colbert Report” and other TV shows posted on You Tube today, along with movie trailers, music videos and a lot of content that has a big © right there on the screen. So you have to wonder.

The point is, recognize your exposure to risk. You can be sued for misappropriating someone else’s intellectual property. Is it likely to happen? Not today.

But is it really something you want to take to court? You, no doubt, have better things to do, so play it straight, get your signed use-permissions in place, and breathe a little easier because you’ve eliminated one more risk from your online venture.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


"Are you people total idiots, or what?"

Oh yeah, she'll be back.

Controlling Customer Objections On Line:

It Ain't Like Main Street

If you work in the world of commerce (you do, that's why you're reading this) you most certainly encounter customer objections - reasons the customer or client gives for NOT buying your products or services.

Now, in the 3-D, Main Street world, you hear these objections and address them as they arise. Face to face. That's what sales and marketing are all about. But, if you own a web-based business, there's no face time. So how do you address customer objections?

Anticipation. Preparation. Transparency. Trust. Your site text, the design, the look and feel - all of these should be targeted to address anticipated customer objections. The "push-back" as it's sometimes called on car lots. (Lots of face time, there.)

So, get ready for 'NO, THANKS' and a bounce rate high enough to cause a nose bleed. How do you handle the objections of site visitors? Well, if you know what you're doing, if you know your buyers' needs and expectations, it's not rocket science.

Check it out.

If you’ve built a career in sales you know all about customer objections. Objections are the reasons prospective customers give for NOT buying a product or service. It’s too expensive. It’s too complicated. I don’t really need it. These are common customer objections whether we’re talking about buying a new car or whatever it is you sell on your web site.

Even if you sell the best products or provide A-1 services, and even if you have the lowest prices on the entire web, you’ll encounter objections. Problem is, you won’t encounter them face to face in the world of e-commerce, which means you won’t have the opportunity to address objections face to face. Therefore, controlling objections must take place in the content of your website.

Additionally, in the real world, managing objections is reactive. The customer objects. The salesperson reacts with a counter to the objection. In the impersonal marketplace of the W3, managing customer objections must be proactive. Assume you will encounter objections and address them before the visitor clicks off to another site.

What Objections Will You Get?

Depending on what you’re selling, objections will differ. For example, most customers won’t be concerned with a long-term warranty on a $15 calculator. If it dies, buy a new one. On the other hand, if you’re selling $2,000 laptops, your customers are going to be looking at your warranties, guaranties, return policies – anything and everything that protects them from being ripped off.

And as a good citizen of the web community, you should have no problem posting warranties and return policies where they can be easily found and easily read! (Wouldn’t you like to get your hands on the guy who invented fine print?)

So what objections are you likely to encounter?

It costs too much money.

I saw it for a lower price.

I don’t have the money right now.

My old one is good enough.

It looks confusing.

I don’t understand how it works.

I don’t understand the guaranty.

I don’t (really) need it.

My (insert relation’s name here) would kill me.

Maybe another time.

There are plenty more. I’ve already got one; I want something with more features or fewer features (usually not the same consumer, btw); I don’t like the color, shape, size, design, feng shui or some other aspect of the product. The list is as varied as the customers who visit your web site.

And you better know what objections visitors will raise and proactively address them in your site’s content.

How Do I Address A Customer Objection?

Once you’ve determined which objections you’ll most likely encounter from site visitors you develop a strategy to address the objection before it even becomes an objection.

Example #1: It’s too complicated.

Okay, take a look at this 3-minute Flash demo that’ll show you how to assemble the (whatever it is you sell). You’re not addressing the objection with a long body of text explaining how to assemble your gizmo. You’re providing a clip that actually shows each step of assembly with text burns identifying key steps and just where Tab A is.

Example #2: It’s too expensive.

How will the product improve productivity or quality of life? Let’s say you’re selling hot tubs. You point out the benefits to the consumer. Forget product features. The “too-expensive” buyer must see personal benefit(s) in order for you to manage the objection.

“You come home from a stressful day, hop into the heated, soothing water, turn on the relaxing massage jets and feel the cares of the day melt away.” The buyer who believes “it’s” too expensive doesn’t care about the 15hp motor, the 18 water jets and the automated chlor-tab release. S/he needs to see personal benefit. Once that’s established, move on to features in you sales copy.

Example #3: I saw it for less at

If you can’t beat the competition on price – and many times you won’t be able to compete with big box store prices – time to highlight the quality of your service, your easy return policy and the fact that there’s no re-stocking fee. (Wouldn’t you like to get your hands on the guy who invented the restocking fee?)

Some sites offer a “Beat any legitimate price” guarantee. You can, too. Even if your price is a bit higher, most visitors won’t take the time to find the lowest of the low and if they do, you’ve lost a few bucks but have a happy customer – one who’ll be back to buy the accessories.

Example #4: I don’t want to buy a (fill in the blank) on the web.

Would you buy a $4,000 diamond engagement ring online? From a site you never heard of? Not many people would. Too many risks. For all the buyer knows, you’re selling “diamacroids” as real diamonds. And if you’re half way around the world, the buyer has no recourse.

Establish trust be establishing verifiable credentials. Member of the online BBB, certified by the Diamond Sellers Association of the World, graduate of the School of Gemology, 140 years in business, etc. You’d buy a diamond online from Tiffany’s because the trust factor is built in. Not so for – no matter how low Bill’s prices.

You get the idea. To successfully convert a visitor into a buyer requires that all objections be addressed in site content using a variety of media to get the job done. A Flash demo, an audio clip and picture of you, a picture of your factory, a virtual 360° tour, a step-by-step, idiot-proof assembly guide, 24-hour tech support – whatever works best to counter the objection.

All kinds of people will stop by your web site and each will come with his or her own expectations and objections. Meet those expectations and counter those objections right from the start. It’ll do wonders for your conversion ratio.

It’ll also keep your repeat buyer list growing. Why? No objections.

Call me.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Park It:

What Is Domain Parking and Why Do I Need It?

Once you’ve come up with the perfect domain name for your online business, the next step is to register the name through a registrar – in many cases the hosting service you’ve chosen. Once registered, you’re still not hooked up to the I-net, i.e. you lack any presence on the w3.

To show up at all, you have to park your domain. Parking simply means your domain is registered and has a route to and from the web. People can find you by typing in The point of parking a domain name? Several.

Search Engine Recognition

When you park your domain on a web host server, it is there. It exists. It’s real, even though there’s no website behind it. Just a few bytes for a single page. However, the simple step of parking a domain will make your domain recognizable to search engines. That’s a good thing. Even though there’s no content, the SE spiders will know your site is there. And being discovered by SE spiders can take time so park it ASAP and get the recognition process underway.

Generate Traffic

You won’t get any traffic through the natural results of search engine indexing because there’s no content or anything useful to the search engine user – yet. But you can tell all your friends and family to visit your site and start generating some traffic before your website is even started. In the world of ecommerce, every little bit helps – especially when you’re just starting out.

Domain For Sale

A registered domain name is a commodity. Domains are bought, sold and traded everyday – thousands of them. In fact, there are many domain brokers who will list your site and even put the name up for auction. A lot of people register domain names just to park them and put out the ‘For Sale’ sign.

If you’re interested in domain ‘homesteading’ – registering domains for fun and profit - use the services of a low-cost domain registration service, often associated with low-cost hosting companies. Many of these web hosts will register domains in bulk for as little as $2.95 per.

Do the math. Register 100 exceedingly clever domain names at $2.95 per and your registration costs are under $300. Your potential return, which of course depends on buyers’ interest, is significantly higher than your outlay. Good domain names are hard to find with more and more being registered daily so businesses are willing to pay big bucks for a good one.

Here’s an example. In 1996 a Denver-based publishing company registered the domain name for the release of a new publication. When the publisher finished with the promotion, he kept the domain name on the off chance that someone might want to buy it.

Offers trickled in at first, usually in the $50 to $100 range. At last check, the publisher had been offered $2,000 for And he’s holding out for more. The fact is, he’ll get it because it’s a good name for a number of online businesses.

Free Parking

Obviously, the homesteading model falls to pieces if you have to pay monthly hosting fees – even really, really low hosting fees. Those 100 domain names you registered in bulk could easily end up costing you $600 to $700 a month if you have to pay for server space.

Make sure you get free parking for all domains registered through the host/registrar. Good hosts will let you park them for free so shop around and don’t pay anything for the tiny bit of server space your parked domain takes up.

Provide Contact Information

In the case of a ‘For Sale’ domain, parked on a host server, it’s helpful to provide at least a short form that potential buyers can complete. Good web hosts provide free tools and applications to create a simple, secure online form. Again, never pay for parking or site apps.

At the very least, include an email link so any potential buyer can contact you with an offer.

Under Construction

The most common use of domain parking is for sites under construction. If your site is simple and straightforward, you can be up and running in a few hours. No need for a “Coming Soon” sign.

On the other hand, if you’re creating a complex, deep site with lots of product offerings and a detailed back office, it could take several weeks to get everything just right before you launch. But that doesn’t mean you have to remain invisible to the public or to search engines. Go public with your site even as you’re building it.

This is a good idea because you can actually generate “type-in” traffic, SE acknowledgement and public curiosity. You may not get 10,000 hits a day while your site is in development, but you’ll get some. More importantly, you’ll be picked up by search engine spiders faster – before you launch.

Remember, look for a host that registers domain names in bulk at a low per registration price. Shop around. You’ll find registrars who will register a domain for one year for as little as $2.95. Some even offer FREE domain registration when you sign up for hosting services for 12 months. It saves a few bucks.

Your web host should also provide free parking for your domains registered through that host. If the host you’re considering charges a parking fee, keep looking. You can get it free.

If you’re domain homesteading, provide contact information on each of your parked sites so buyers can reach you to discuss terms. Find a host that gives you free tools and applications to create a contact information page for each site on the block.

And look for other hosting services and features. You want security to protect your digital realty, 24/7 tech support and lots of freebies. The hosting industry is hard-edged competitive so companies have to offer more for less all of the time.

So, take your time to find the right host, even if you’re just parking.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Words, Inc.

Words, Inc.

Posted using ShareThis

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Script Functionality:


Scripts, also called languages, come in lots of formats used for different web-based purposes. Some popular scripts include CGI, ASP, Perl, PHP, HTML and other programming languages intended to create the look of your web site and define how the web site interacts with the site visitor. Indeed, interactivity is a two-way street. Visitors don’t just interact with web sites. Web sites interact with visitors in many ways from both the server- and client-side of web communication, and using the right script to encourage the most desired response from visitors will set your site apart.

PHP: Creating Personalized Pages For Your Best Customers

Your best customers are the ones who come back a second, third and forth time. Repeat buyers. And each time they access your site, you learn more about the interests of individual buyers.

PHP scripting is a server side, HTML scripting language that allows you to create personalized, dynamic site pages. Dynamic? Yep, pages that are different for each visitor. Amazon uses dynamic PHP scripting to maximum advantage. When you log on (as a repeat buyer) you’re greeted by name and suggested items for purchase are offered. And when your best friend logs on to the same dynamic site page, s/he will see a different page with different recommendations for purchase.

PHP is open source software and is built to sync up with site building templates, equipping even the novice user to create personalized pages based on visitor information stored in the site’s database. That’s how Amazon knows you’re a fan of spy novels or baroque music. All of your buying history is stored in Amazon’s database and when you log on, information is pulled from the d-base for presentation on the site skin. PHP style.

This is just one example of how sites interact with visitors, offering a personalized welcome, personalized page appearance and other dynamic, on-the-fly information.

ASP Design and Object Oriented Programs

ASP stands for active server pages which, in many ways, are similar to PHP scripted site pages. ASP is a Microsoft, server-side script that employs built-in or embedded “objects” to create dynamic (changing) web pages.

An object is one unit of run time data storage – run time defining the actual operation of a specific computer program from its launch to completion. Object oriented programs (OOPs) are written using various run time data storage methodologies that enable the program designer to write code in which objects interact with each other to create the dynamics of an interactive site page.

A typical computer program is simply a list of commands or instructions “telling” the computer to first do this, next do this and so on down the line until the entire program has completed its run time.

Unlike more traditional forms of programming, objects embedded in programs are able to send and receive messages from other objects. Each object can receive, process and send data to other objects. This enables these programs to access database information to create the personalized interactivity found on many of today’s user-friendly web sites.

Each object created by a site programmer can be thought of as a little part of a larger machine, with all parts interacting to create a function – the thing the machine does, i.e. the function of a lawn mower is to cut grass, but to perform that function the lawn mower must have all its parts properly situated and operating together as a single machine. The more objects (machine parts) the more complex the function of the machine, or in the case of web site design, the more interactive and user friendly the web site.

Perl – Processing Faster and Smoother

Perl stands for practical extraction and report language. Like PHP and ASP, it’s a server side OSS used in the creation of web scripts that speed up interactivity between site visitor and host server.

As the public grows more web savvy, the expectations of web users increase. Perl scripting is not embedded within HTML (hyper text markup language), the most common web site scripting language employed today. Perl scripting is not downloaded to the user’s browser but, instead, remains on the host server. This cuts download times and improves site performance. Perl scripting is activated by commands embedded in the underlying HTML code that defines everything from the look of the web site to its functionality – from simple to extremely complex.

Perl is used primarily for processing text and, as such, is often employed in the creation of CGI scripts.

CGI Scripting

Without CGI programming, we wouldn’t be able to “communicate” with a web site’s host server. CGI stands for common gateway interface. A CGI is a web protocol used to receive server commands and deliver data on demand to the user’s browser. For example, when you complete an online form for submission, you’re activating a CGI program and utilizing an effective means of running programs within your browser, i.e. on your computer.

Some of the most common programs activated by CGI scripting include Java applets, Java scripts (programs) and Active X, used to run animations and even create web-based games for entertainment. Collectively, these programs are called client-side applications because they run directly within the user’s browser rather than server-side apps that run from the web site’s host server.

One common complaint about CGI scripting is that each time the user activates a CGI program, a new process or function is started. This won’t cause a problem for smaller, simpler and less frequented sites. However, because CGI scripting operates on the client side, it’s cumbersome for busy websites and may well degrade site performance because of all of that extra download time required to download and install the CGI script within the user’s browser.

Does All of This Confuse You?

Fortunately, you don’t need to know a thing about scripting languages and defining site functionality thanks to the creation of template-based modules that simply hook up with the HTML code that defines your web site.

For example, quality web hosting companies provide PHP modules such as phppgadmin to oversee the operation of your site from an easy-to understand, console-like interface. Want to add a bulletin board for quick postings? phpBB is designed to plug directly into your HTML code or, if you aren’t writing HTML code from scratch, phpBB plugs in to your web site design template with a click.

To create dynamic site pages that greet return visitors by name, a quality web host will provide both the database, MySQL Server, for example, and PHP interface that allows you to immediately access d-base information for display within the visitor’s browser.

The point is, if you’re just starting out on the web, you may be put off by the alphabet soup of scripting languages (HTML, XML, PHP, CGI, ASP, etc.) but you can relax by selecting a hosting company that provides PHP modules and CGI wizards – pre-programmed solutions that enable even a novice to create more friendly, faster functioning web sites – even if you don’t know a thing about writing script or embedding objects.

Look for a web host that offers an expansive tool kit and 24/7 tech support if you’re making your first foray into the world of e-commerce. You’ll save a ton of money on site design, you’ll be able to change and update your site as newer versions of scripting languages become available (saving more money) and you’ll be able to create a fully dynamic, interactive site that works with site visitors to encourage sales, speed up downloads and enhance the on-site experience regardless of what browser is employed by the visitor.

It may sound like a lot of geek-speak, but if you can click a mouse, you can design a site that rivals the most up-to-date, interactive, feature-rich sites on the W3.

And no one will know you’re a beginner. In fact, you’ll look like a pro from the get-go.

Ready to pump up your web site? That's what SEO JUICE is all about. Call me. It ain't rocket science.


Friday, October 23, 2009





Five Can’t Miss Web Writing Tips

Writing for the web is a little different from writing for the local newspaper or writing your autobiography. Different things are important to both search engine spiders and to site visitors.

As a web writer, you have less than 10 seconds (6.4 seconds according to one study) to capture the attention of a site visitor before s/he bounces – that is, leaves without exploring the site further. So, your headlines better be attention grabbers. And remember, not all visitors will enter a site through the home page. Almost any site page can be the entry way in to a site so each page has to have an attention grabbing something – headline, picture, chart – something that keeps the visitor on site.

So, in no particular order, if you’re writing for the web, take these tips to heart.

1. Write like you talk. Even the best web writers miss this one.

You don’t say “I will go in to the kitchen to cook supper.” Too stiff. Instead, you and everyone else would say, “I’ll go cook up something for supper.” More casual.

Use contractions to make your writing more engaging and “listenable.” Getting rid of that stiff ‘writers’ tone is easy if you just say the words in your head and type what comes out, i.e. write like you talk.

2. Feed the beast, aka search engines. Your web writing not only has to maintain the interest of human eyeballs, it also has to appeal to search engine spiders. So, some of the ways to do this include:

- using keywords in headers (but no header stuffing, please. All things in moderation.)

- embed text links to other site pages to provide spiders with a clear path to all pages of

your client’s site

- keep keyword density to no more than 5%, i.e. within every 100 words of text use five

keywords. Work them in naturally so that humans don’t find the text awkward.

- make sure on-site and HTML keywords synch up. If it doesn’t make sense to a spider

(dumber than dirt) you won’t be indexed, or properly indexed, within the search engine

taxonomy (sorting system).

3. Use a lot of bullet points (see #2 above). Think about it. You don’t read big chunks of text on line. Bullet lists of everything from product specs to service features are more easily scanned than detailed, paragraphs of product descriptions.

4. Don’t use abbreviations. When describing a place, spell out the state name. Not NY but New York. Same with lbs, in, km, etc. Bots aren’t real good at figuring out abbreviations, though they are getting better.

5. Every word you write is sales text. If you’re writing a piece on using a hearing aid, you sell the concept of a hearing aid purchase. Cars, health insurance, divorce mediation – whatever the topic, you’re selling something in a subtle way.

This is also true of site text. Typically, you’ll write an About Us page, a Contact page and other “administrative” pages within a web site. Don’t waste these opportunities to sell the product, service or company. For example, which is better:

Contact Us:

XYZ Manufacturing

123 main Street

Anywhere, Vermont, 12345

((802) 555-1234


At XYZ Industries, we’re here to help you in any way we can. You can reach us in different ways so getting answers to your questions or placing an order is a call or click away.

At XYZ, you’re always first in line.

XYZ Manufacturing

123 main Street

Anywhere, Vermont, 12345

((802) 555-1234

Web writers take note. It takes a good storyteller to keep a reader on site. So tell your clients’ stories. Keep it casual, cut the hyperbole and engage your reader like an old friend.

Why? Because that’s what you want your readers to become – old friends.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Do You Need a Merchant Account For Your Site?

Not Really, Though It Might Help

When first-time, online entrepreneurs start to put together a budget they often overlook what will almost certainly be a significant expense – the cost of a merchant account. A merchant account is simply an account with a credit card company or companies that allows you to accept credit card orders. Without a merchant account, no credit cards please.

Now, credit cards are the most popular way to pay for items or on-line services, but check out some of the merchant account providers – resellers of merchant accounts that assume some of the risk of granting you credit. (In effect, that’s what a merchant account does. It grants you, the site owner, credit which you then pass on to your buying customers.)

These merchant account resellers often require you to sign a one- or two-year contract that means you’re going to pay a monthly fee of $30 or more for 24 months even if your site closes after two months. And that monthly ‘service charge’ never goes away. Not a problem for active, profitable sites, but a $30 bite each month might actually mean the difference between success and failure for a pushcart, start-up site selling a single ebook download and hoping to generate AdWords revenues to put the kids through college.

You’ll also get dinged a ‘per transaction fee’ (anywhere from 25 cents to 75 cents) and pay the merchant account provider a percentage of each sale on a sliding scale. Those online commercial sites that process thousands of orders daily pay the least – maybe 0.5% of each transaction. Online businesses that only process a few orders each day may pay as much as 3% of each order’s total.

So add it up. Monthly fee = $30 minimum. 25-75 cents per transaction. Plus 0.5 – 3% of the total order. Those fees, expenses and percentages are certainly going to nibble away at your bottom line, even though they don’t sound too bad. But let’s say you’re operating at a 24% margin on a small number of monthly sales. Merchant account fees can decrease your margins by as much as 20%, and that’s a big hit when you’re just starting out.

Don’t forget to add merchant account cost to your line item site budget.

And one more thing: no matter how much the merchant account reseller charges, you still may not be able to get an account – especially if you have a less-than-stellar credit history. Also, even though the merchant account will be set up in the name of your online business, you are personally responsible for all business activities and payments, whether you make a single sale or not. You pay.

It actually might make sense to skip the merchant account altogether, at least for the first few months until you start to see actual incoming revenue.

But then, how is the buyer going to pay for services rendered or goods shipped without a credit card?

Alternative Payment Methods

There are, of course, alternatives to the credit card and, with some creative copywriting on your part you can turn a negative into a positive using these alternative payment methods.

Let’s start with good, old-fashioned snail mail. Mail in a check for the order amount (six business days), wait for the check to clear (three business days) and snail mail order delivery (add another seven business days to account for handling at the warehouse). You could easily forget the order before it even arrives it takes so long to get to you. Especially in this age of one-click shopping and free overnight delivery. Using snail mail is one possibility, but you won’t get rich depending on your letter carrier’s daily visit.

However, there are web-based payment gateways that most knowledgeable web users recognize and accept. And if you construct your checkout to “highlight” the benefits of these alternative payment methods, you might actually convince a few buyers to make that first purchase.

One alternative payment method is 2checkout. Low fees, no long term contracts and available to even those whose credit records look like a disaster in the making. 2checkout, like other gateways, doesn’t actually extend credit to you or your buyer. It is simply a processing service for individuals who already have credit cards. So, because the risk is lessened, so, too, are the costs.

Another option is payQuake, another order processing service with more merchant account features that 2checkout. payQuake offers tiered services depending on the size of your online enterprise – from lite (perfect for small established sites and start-ups) all the way up to the PRO version, perfect for online businesses that process lots of orders and generate a pile of revenue. payQuake, as its website states, “[provides] merchant controlled payment processing solutions…[payQuake] is a Real Merchant Account.”

payQuake offers complete ecommerce accounts, swiped card accounts for brick and mortar outlets, international accounts, specialty merchant accounts for high risk (read high end) transactions and electronic checking.

Finally, you’ll want to open a account. PayPal, which is owned by eBay, enables buyers to charge purchases on their own credit cards or to pay by direct transfer from their checking or saving accounts. PayPal is the most recognized name in cash transferal services – one most buyers will recognize immediately. And one that most buyers will have confidence in.

Turning a Negative Into a Positive


Now that’ll grab a lot of eyeballs. Since when do e-tailors NOT want credit card numbers. When they want to protect the sensitive data of their customers or clients.

Make a point to remind customers about online credit card fraud and the risks they take whenever they give out a credit card number online. You don’t want to put your valuable customers at risk so you don’t accept credit card information directly – only through processing services like payQuake and PayPal.

Further, point out that buyers can eliminate credit card charges and over-limit fees by using PayPal to electronically transfer funds directly from the buyer’s checking or savings account into your business account. No numbers exchange hands. Just the payment. Many people prefer this method of purchase. It doesn’t run up large credit card bills and actually prevents the buyer from over-spending because, if the money isn’t in the account, the transaction won’t be made.

In other words, describe the benefits of using PayPal, payQuake and 2checkout. Lower costs (We pass the savings on to you!) and less likelihood of credit card fraud because the buyer’s credit card numbers are all stored in one place instead of dozens of big and small online sites. Buyers have confidence in PayPal and similar services because of their amazing, trouble-free histories.

So, skip the merchant account until you determine that (1) you need one and (2) that you can afford one. As a start up, every entrepreneurial penny should go into building an attractive site and promoting that site. Keep cash close at hand and hold on to every cent until you see whether this thing is actually going to fly.

You may someday decide to get a merchant account. You’ve heard many pundits state that the more payment gateways you offer, the more sales you generate. That may be true – at some point. But on the day you launch your site you may not see a single visitor. They don’t know you’re there yet. So why pay $30 a month to accept a Visa purchase that never takes place.

Wait to see how things go. You’ll know soon enough whether a merchant account is something you want or need. And, if you go with a web host that’s established and reliable, you may be able to get a break on some of those merchant account charges through your web host (and merchant account reseller, but one that actually cares that your site be successful.)

Ready to launch? Drop me a line or give me a call before you do. Don't screw this up.

Later, young entrepreneurs,

Monday, October 19, 2009


Is Your Blog Worthy?

Getting the Most from Your Post

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

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

Post Your Thoughts on Topic-Related Sites

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

Blog Archives

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

Stay Focused

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

Keep It Unique

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

Make it Attractive

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

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

Perform Regular Blog Analysis

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

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

Write Like You Talk

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

Blogs as Linkbait

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

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

Use High Traffic Days to Build Your Reputation

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

Don’t Hide Your Blog

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

Don’t Host Your Blog on a Separate Domain

Some site owners do this to keep things simple. Business side. Blog side. But they’re missing a critical benefit of maintaining a blog (in a subfolder) as a sub-section of their primary domain. Blogs attract all kinds of good stuff. Links, improved PR, “buzz,” new readers and customers (showing up as more traffic in SERPs) offers to contribute to other blogs and so on. Maintain your blog as a section of your main domain to get all of the benefits that come with maintaining a blog.

Start the Conversation

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

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

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

Sunday, October 18, 2009




The Top 10 Dumbest Site Design Practices:

Be Smart. Web Success Is Hard Enough

Despite some of the posts on, site optimization is NOT a science. Science requires accurate, contestable data. No metrics or analytics deliver empirical data so it ain’t no science. SEO Pros don’t even agree on which weighting factors have the most impact on PR and TR.

However, it doesn’t take rock solid numbers to identify dumb design decisions – decisions that prevent access, make buying difficult and make site navigation a wonderland of surprises.

Thus, I offer the 10 Dumbest Design Practices IMHO.

10. Flyouts or drop down menus that cover site text. Umm, yes I want to navigate to that page but that flyout covers home page content that I want to read. Dumber still? No way to close the flyout. Duh.

9. Limited payment gateways. DIY site owners happily launch with PayPal as their only payment gateway. A lot of buyers have never even heard of PayPal, they don’t have an account and they’re not going to the trouble to open one.

The more payment gateways, the more orders you’ll receive. Get a merchant account.

8. Spamglish. Yep, it’s still out there on critical pages that, ostensibly, are designed for humans. Keyword density, as a factor in PR and TR is losing significance so why stuff pages with keywords.

7. Critical site information in graphics. Bots can’t read graphics, so important indexing data may be lost, tucked in a bitmap somewhere.

6. No telephone number. This one is a poser. As a site owner, you went to a great deal of trouble, time and money to get that visitor on site. Wouldn’t it be great to have a telephone number (toll free) so visitors could call with questions or, better yet, orders?

5. Ambiguous navigation. The assumption, here, is that site visitors know what a link labeled “Damsels” means – kinda like those rest room signs in theme restaurants, i.e. “Buoys and Gulls.”

4. No site map. Come on, you guys. You can buy a site map generator for less than $25. And, in creating this remarkable map, you help visitors and bots find their ways around.

3. Dated, duplicate content. We’ve all encountered the entrepreneur who wants a low-ball site populated with public domain and syndicated content and 1,200 affiliate links. The site is dated the day it launches.

2. The long-form sales letter. I’m sure Dan Kennedy meant no harm but these endless pages of mixed type faces, heaps of hype and the never ending (literally) PS, PPS and PPPS bonuses are insulting to the intelligent of a chimp.

1. Home page opt ins. Are you nuts? I don’t even know what I’m opting for (or against). If I have to give you my email address knowing that you’re going to back sell me to the grave, I want to know what I’m getting.

Why place this HUGE stumbling block on page uno. I’m bouncing.

Start counting clicks. How many clicks are required for the site visitor to perform the most desired action or MDA. The fewer clicks, the more MDAs. Call me to discuss your site performance. beleive me, this ain't brain surgery.


There are dozens (100s) of mistakes that even experienced site designers make - especially the designer who's cranking out the sausage 24/7. Know what makes a high-functioning site. Then tell your programmer how to build it.

Have fun,

Friday, October 16, 2009




Mobi or Web:

Who Wins the Mobile Search War?

Mobile search is being touted as the next major, digital battleground with both the powerhouse players in communications (Verizon, ATT, etc.) pitted against the titans of Silicon Valley and points west such as Google and Yahoo!

The winner stands to reap billions in mobile search ad revenues, and if you run an online business or a brick-and-mortar, some of those revenues are going to come out of your bottom line. However, you’ll also see a nice revenue boost in your commercial establishment in the mall.

The Battle Lines Have Been Drawn

He who controls mobile search controls the world.

Okay, that’s not true but whoever wins this battle for mobile search supremacy is going to make some big bucks. Why? Because a user can search for the closest shoe repair place and even see a map providing directions on how to get there.

No big deal, right? You can do that when you download Google Earth with maps showing how to get from here to there. Mapquest and other similar sites offer the same service. Enter whatever it is you’re looking for – an address or the name of a commercial establishment – and GPS and some digital gymnastics does the rest.

The technology to direct buyers to retailers exists on both sides of the trenches. Telecom offers the advantage of an in-place infrastructure. Cell towers are now being placed in church steeples to hide them from the public eye. (Thankfully.)

On the other hand, the web has the power of knowledge with literally billions of web pages indexed in Google, Yahoo, Inktomi and 4,000 other online search engines. So, telecom has the means to deliver the information where needed. The web giants have the information that users are going to want – like where to get a pizza in the next 10 minutes.

One Giant Leap

With cells functioning as sales devices literally pointing buyers in the direction of paying advertisers, mobile search is the most dynamic interface since the appearance of the touchtone key pad back sometime before most of us were born. This ability to deliver, on demand, advertising in the form of street directions changes everything. The cell phone is no longer simply a communications device. Or a device that can capture pix and video or play downloads – all user-driven activities.

The cell phone becomes an extremely effective outlet for advertisers and that means ker-ching for whichever side wins this war of wheres.

Revenue Rivers

Forget revenue streams. This new technology is going to generate revenue rivers of ad dollars for the companies delivering the information. And where’s this cash flood coming from? Click to call on the web side; pay per call on the telecom side.

With improved localization of search engine results, how far are we from an online ad for John’s Best Pizza that connects you VoIP to John’s to place your order. Dominoes already offers online ordering. The tsunami is coming.

On the telecom side of “no man’s land” is pay per call (PPC). Using GPS technology, cell phones become maps and with a click, you can call John’s Best Pizza and have it piping hot when you arrive.

The numbers are enough to make any e-commerce professional sit up and take notice.

By 2010 there will be close to one billion mobile search users around the world. That’s up from 300 million today – a 300%+ increase in people looking for your business via their souped up cells.

More numbers? Ad revenues in five years will exceed $2.4 billion dollars for mobile search. Right now, that number is a little over $7 million dollars.

In the U.S. alone, the ad revenues will go from the current 2.1 million to over $700 million in the next few years. And you’re going to want that access to new customers. You know what else, you’ll be willing to pay for it. Why?

Mobile searchers are NOT browsers. They’re buyers. They’re looking for a place to buy a dinner or a new couch right now, whether researching the local web or using their cells to find the closest furniture outlet. These buyers are needs-driven and those are the best buyers you can have. They need what you’re selling.

So, How Will This Play Out?

You’ll be surprised to know that for such a major shift in communications, not many experts can answer that question though a couple of points are obvious.

1. The telecom industry will become more desperate for content in the years ahead. That’s good for writers, syndicators, news outlets (CNN, e.g.) the town newspaper and other content sources. Telecom will pay for the content (they already are) to keep up with the flood of web content that hits the W3 every day.

And on the web side of things? Well, how does a Googlephone sound? Or a Yahoo phone or an AOL phone. Portals and search engines will be moving in the other direction, looking for ways to get that massive mass of content out to cell users. Don’t be surprised if you see the Gphone from Google in the next few years. It’s virtually inevitable, and one of the major cash highways still open to Google.

And Finally, There’s You

The little guy trying to get a little recognition on the cell, the web or in the yellow pages of the telephone book. (Wonder if they’ll still have those in 10 years…).

That means that your advertising budget will increase, but so will your business. It will mean that you’ll have to allocate online/telecom advertising dollars based on your own research (a simple A-B test).

And it’s going to lead to a new advertising design industry – one that leaves behind the archaic advertising dinosaurs like buyer loyalty and building trust. If you’re driving in your Hummer and you’ve got a hankerin’ for a tofu salad, you can toss customer loyalty right out the window. You’re going to the closest tofu place that shows up on your cell or your installed GPS.

This is a major shift. It can’t be stopped, it never sleeps and it has one mission (kinda like The Terminator huh?). And that is to win the mobile search war by offering business owners (you) more services for less dollars.

That’s the fun side of competition and this is going to be a competition like nothing we’ve seen to date. We’re still at the baby step stage but in a few years, it’s iron man time.

Be ready.

Got your own Blackberry app, or just want to hawk your goods or services via cells and PDAs? call me. Don't limit yourself to folks @ computers. Go mobi, babe.