Monday, November 22, 2010

Site Visitors Don't Care About You. Sorry.

“What’s In It For Me?”
That’s All Site Visitors Want To Know

As a site designer, SEO, copywriter or some other someone working in the web world, chances are you have clients – clients who have objectives.

Umm, they don't care about you.
Some want to sell something, or lots of different things. Some want opt-ins for a FREE special report. Others want visitors to subscribe to their insightful newsletters or fill out a form. These are the objectives of the site owner – your client and person with the checkbook.

Naturally, these clients want their sites to meet their objectives. If the client is selling a vitamin supplement, her objective is to sell more jars of the product. If the author of a newsletter on precious metals publishes an “insider’s report,” he wants more subscribers.

If the site is soliciting donations, the objective is obvious – more donors, repeat donors, generous donors. Therefore, the site copy on the home page and landing pages is usually written to meet the objectives of the site owner and not the site visitor.

And the fact is, the objectives of site owners and visitors are distinct and, at times, even contradictory. The fact is that site visitors don’t give a whit about your clients, their web sites, their problems or their clever turn of a phrase. They want the answer to one very simple question:

What’s in it for me?

Let’s look at a couple of examples of site text with snarky, visitor comments inserted:

Acme Pest Control is a family-owned business (who cares, I got bugs) with deep roots in the Tri-City Area. (I said I don’t care. Bugs are eating my house.) We offer a variety of services to manage your pest problems (Can you get rid of my bugs?) safely, effectively and completely. (Umm, okay.)

We offer the latest in pest control technology (Huh?) and we guarantee our work. (OK, that part’s good.)

Out technicians are trained in the latest pest control technology, they’re certified and they’re friendly. (I don’t care if he looks like Quasimodo, I just want somebody so get rid of termites. Now.)

That little snippet of text is all about Acme Pest Control and closing another sale. Naturally, that’s the company’s objective, but it’s not necessarily the site visitor’s objective, which is to find a solution to a termite problem.

So, posture the text to meet the objectives of the visitor, NOT the site owner.

Got bug problems? (Why, yes, yes I do.) Want to get rid of them today? (That’d be great?) Want to keep your family and pets safe? (Well, of course. I hadn’t even thought of that.)

Tired of calling around trying to find a solution to your pest problems? (Oh, man, I’m so tired. Can you help?) We solve all of your pest problems quickly, safely and now. (How do I reach you?) You want to solve a pest problem, call us at (123) 555-1234. (I’m dialing, I’m dialing!)

We’ll be there today to help you. Guaranteed. (“Hello, Acme Pest Control…”)

In this case, the site text isn’t about the company (your client) it’s all about the visitor – solving their problems and serving their needs.

Unfortunately, even gigantic, global conglomerates use site text that’s designed to meet their global conglomerate objectives, not the objectives of the site visitor. I’ll bet you 99.9% of all 122 million web sites are designed to meet the site owner’s objectives. And that’s why so many sites crash and burn.

It’s blunt but true: site visitors don’t care about you, your site, your corporate history or you cool new headquarters. Those are the objectives of the site owners – to brag a little bit and “sell” the site visitor.

Forget selling. Provide solutions in your site text, focus on the visitors objectives not your objectives or the client’s objectives (this may take a little explanation and diplomacy on your part) but the results will be there in higher conversion ratios.

Don’t design a site to meet the site owner’s objectives. They’re different from the objectives of site visitors. Instead, write copy the simplifies achieving visitor’s goals and the site will convert, the client will make money and parades will be scheduled in you honor.

Friday, November 5, 2010

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.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

If You're Slinging Web Words, These Tools Help

6 Cool Tools Every Web Writer Needs

Once you’ve started to see an increase in demand for your writing, you’ll want to add some money-saving and time-saving tools to your kit bag. Check out the following. Some cost a few bucks, some are free or shareware. But all develop added value to your clients and that makes you a more valuable asset.

1. Skype. Today’s web writers have clients around the world and talking to a client 12 time zones to the east is going to cost a bundle using your cell or land line.

Skype allows you to use VoIP free or nearly free. You can call Skype to Skype at no cost, meaning you can talk to your client in Adelaide, Australia for an hour at no cost.
If the client doesn’t happen to be a Skype subscriber, that call down under will cost you .026 a minute so an hour chat will set you back about $US1.50.

Open your account with a $5.00 purchase of Skype minutes. This service also provides voice recording, call block, caller ID and even a separate Skype telephone number so you’re always in contact cheap.

2. I love Freemind’s Mind Map software. It’s a great tool for organizing lots of information from lots of different sources into a mind map – a visual tool that shows you how Tab A fits into Slot B.

It’s excellent for organizing longer pieces. It’s also a great tool for creating site maps for clients and you so you both understand what’s going to be done and by whom.

Very flexible shareware. (Pay what you can.)

3. SEO Elite. This software will set you back $US169 or so but you’ll get it back on your first gig. This software performs a variety of analyses on existing web sites, allowing you to spy on your clients’ competitors, see which keywords are working, how many in-bound links the site has and from whom – all good background when preparing your content for the client site.

No sense reinventing the wheel.

4. Conference calling. There are lots of free and low cost services that enable you to talk to Bob in San Francisco while you’ve got Rick on the same line in London. In fact, you can invite a crowd.

You’ll receive a call number and access code that invitees enter. Services are usually tiered so if you also want to share a Power Point presentation or get some face time, it’ll cost you something in the neighborhood of $0.036 a minute for the additional bandwidth.

Google “tele-conferencing services” and open an account.

5. Lead generation and marketing your services is time consuming. Sites like deliver leads to your inbox – even invitations from job posters asking you to bid.

Elance takes an 8.75% bite but if you figure that into your bid price, the client pays. You can log on at any time and find 300 leads. Bid on those projects at which you can succeed.

6. Great security software – FREE. You can schedule scans, isolate cookies, viruses and other malware and clean up all of that garbage with a couple of clicks.

If you’re running your business off your hard drive you need solid security on the system side. AVG’s freeware is popular and effective. This one’s a no brainer.

There are other tools. Twitter is great for announcing posts to a blog or a newsletter you just blasted across the W3. There are free organizational tools, free communication apps, posting apps (got a blog, get Feedburner) and other tools worth downloading and installing to make your day more productive and more financially rewarding.


Thursday, August 12, 2010


Managing Customer Care:
“It’s easier to keep a client 
than find a new one.”

Yeah, it’s an old cliché, but it’s a cliché because it’s true. The key to long-term site success is an expanding customer/client base – repeat buyers of your goods or services.

Keeping the customer satisfied, especially for web-based businesses, isn’t a walk in the park but there are things you, as webmaster, can do to manage client care, keeping the customer satisfied and coming back for more.

1. Maintain an accurate order tracking system.  If you use a delivery service like FedEx or UPS, you’ll get tracking software with your account. But, if you’re trucking 37 ceramic figurines to the post office every day, you’ll need an order tracking system – preferably one that can identify “downstream” problems like: “Hey, you’re going to run out of hula girl bobble heads next Thursday. Time to reorder.”

2. Stay involved. You may be using a drop shipper to manage inventory storage, shipping and handling, and it’s not always easy during the rush of the day to check tracking data – even if you’re shipping out of a spare room. Track all problem orders yourself.

3. Provide updates to the buyer. An auto-responder as soon as the problem is identified with an opt out box to cancel the sale. You may lose that one, but your straightforwardness and ease of use will make a positive impression.

Federal law requires that orders must be filled within 30 days, after which the buyer is no longer obligated to pay. Don’t ship without renewed buyer approval.

4. Provide US-based customer support 24/7. In this global marketplace, someone is always buying, and someone always has a question. Also, empower telephone reps to accept returns with the customer’s receipts. This saves on call-backs and significantly lowers buyers’ stress levels.

5. Use dynamic pages designed specifically for each visitor.  Best example? Amazon. My home page is different from your home page based on our past buying histories. All of this data is stored in Amazon’s database and when I log on, I’m bombarded with recommendations based on items purchased five years ago.

But Amazon stills calls me by my first name. That’s nice.

6. Last key point. Overdeliver. If prudent, drop a personalized email or even make a telephone call. People are really pleasant when the company CEO calls and promises satisfaction.

The whole point of quality customer care is to create word of mouth (WOM) viral marketing. Treat your customers or clients right, and viral WOM will do the rest in growing that client base bigger and bigger.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Right Words Convert Visitors to Buyers

Support the Writers On Strike by DraconianOne.

If we don't write it, who will?

Web Writing:
Know Your Demographic

If you’ve been writing professionally for more than two weeks you know what the demographic is. For the rest of you, the demographic is the sweet spot of your client’s market. It’s your target audience.

And the better you understand that target the more effective your writing. It’s all about pushing the right buttons to compel the site visitor to perform the MDA – the most desired action.

The Target Demographic
Believe it or not, many of your clients won’t be able to describe their target audience. Let’s say you’re hired to write website content for a brick-and-mortar hearing aid retail outlet somewhere in Montana. (It could happen.)

The owner of the store may have had a lock on a 25 square mile service area – the only hearing aid dispenser in the region. So, dropping a quarter page advert in the local newspaper was all it took to create a profitable business. And the store owner never gave more than a thought to who she was trying to reach.

So, during the discovery phase you ask, “What’s the target demographic?” Your likely to get an incomplete answer: “People who need hearing aids.” However, that’s a broad demographic so a little research might produce a better return for your client.

Research the Demographic
Hearing aids. So you’re likely to immediately think of the over-50 crowd. Probably right. Nerve deafness goes hand-in-hand with aging so trying to hit that over-50, Baby Boomer demographic bubble may be just the way to go.

But, what do you know about this particular group, other than what you know about your grandparents and the 60-year-old neighbor next door? These people don’t make up a large enough group to actually define the needs and preferences of people over 50.

For example, a little research reveals that the over-50 crowd:

  • Are less likely to use computers at home
  • Are less likely to comparison shop for products on line
  • Don’t make as many on-line purchases
  • Are less familiar with local search engine options
  • Scroll less than their younger counterparts
  • Spend less time on line altogether
  • Are not as tech savvy as younger computer users

All of these factors create a clearer picture of who you’re targeting with your writing. For example, if you know that seniors don’t scroll as much as younger people, all of the important stuff must be at the top of the page.

Use the Language of the Target Demographic. Jargon Sells!
What do these people want and need? What information do they require to make an intelligent buying choice? How do they talk to each other? Your writing should use the language of the target demographic.

Let’s say you’re writing a user manual for a mainframe computer company. (It could happen.) You better know what a trouble ticket is and what downstream consequences are. You can quickly learn the insider jargon by visiting websites that sell mainframes or service them.

There’s jargon in every profession. It’s a form of shorthand. But it’s also exclusionary, keeping out those who are NOT members of the gang. So, the use of the demographic jargon (1) enables you to present information in shorthand form and (2) makes you a member of the exclusive group of mainframe computer administrators.

The best place to look for industry-specific jargon is on websites and blogs designed to provide solutions to the specific demographic. These sites detail what the demographic wants so to cut down on research time, cut to the chase and go hang out with the people you’re trying to reach.

That’s the best way to learn the lingo. And deomographic wants and needs, as well.

What Does Your Target Demographic Want or Need?
Increased productivity? Faster shipping? A baby-soft maternity gift? If you don’t know what the target market wants or needs you can’t push the right buttons to induce the site visitor into taking the MDA. In other words, your text missed the mark.

Before you write a single word, know to whom you’re writing. Know how they talk then talk right to them.

Know what they need or want. Then meet those needs and wants.

Don’t rely on your client to give you the goods on the target demographic. Most of these people are focused on business matters. It’s up to you to hit that bull’s-eye sweet spot with your writing.

And if you do, guess what? You just added a regular to your client base – a buyer who will come back for more without any effort on your part.

And repeat buyers are the basis of success for any freelance web writer. So know to whom you’re speaking when you write. Take aim at that bull’s-eye and fire away.

The more times you hit the mark, the more of the client’s problems are solved. And the bigger your client base grows.

Friday, March 26, 2010


   wall of spam by chotda.
Content Spam 2.0:
What This Means to SEO

Weird email requests lately.

One guy wanted a bid on 1,000 articles – all about apartments. I doubt there are 1,000 things you could even say about apartments, much less write 1,000 articles on the subject. And if tasked with such an assignment, any self-respecting copywriter would gouge out her eyes with a spork after a day or two. Tops.

Another request wanted a price for a weekly newsletter on work-at-home jobs. Didn’t care what I wrote as long as it contained this list of 25 long-tail keywords. This isn’t writing. It’s a jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces are gray.

The move to content-driven sites, and the endless need for green content, has been good for word grinders who can crank it out by the pound. But there’s something in the ether-sphere. A change in the digital wind. Lots for Cheap
I’ve been getting writing assignments through Elance for a little more than four years. And in that time there’s been a rather dramatic shift in what buyers in the writing and translation category want.

“500 articles on pig farming. Willing to go as high as $1 per article.”

“200-page ebook download on FOREX strategies – Budget > $500”

“30 press releases; various technical topics – Budget > $250”

Occasionally, buyers are actually more concerned with quality than quantity but those buyers are a shrinking pool. And this despite Elance’s behind-the-scenes efforts to improve the quality of its job posters.

Still, those cr@pfests of work get bids – out sourced to word factories where text by the kilo is produced by (1) machines (virtually unreadable) or (2) non-native English speakers who get paid in canned goods (humorously unreadable). A client sent one of these outsourced pieces for review and in it was the following quote: “American corporations are up to the business of the monkey.”

I read that 10 times before my wife figured out that the writer (or machine) had interpreted “monkey business” as “business of the monkey.” So, the sentence, when reconstructed would read: “American corporations are up to monkey business” and even that totally sucks.

Content Spam 1.0
Sure, this kind of junk has been around for years and there have been bottom feeders on Elance since the site started operations. So, admittedly, the use of content spam has been around since search engines (1994).

But early content spam was simplistic. Cram the words sex and porn into every keyword tag and you’d show up. Keyword dense gibberish (“Can you give me a 40% keyword density across the site?”) could be ground out like hash (and not the good kind).

But now, because search engine algorithms have gotten more sophisticated, content spam has taken on a new look.

Content Spam 2.0
The days of stuffing “blue pill” in between real text are over (except for that guy in the Philippines, and I’ll get you, you bastard!). Today, search engines want solid, informational content – something of substance, of use to the search engine user. The problem for copywriters is simple. Search engines know informational content. But they don’t know good content from a steaming pile of verbs and nouns.

This limitation has led to a huge number of posts on Elance and other freelance sites for words by the pound. Quality doesn’t get any extra credit. It’s sheer volume and plenty of it.

The Impact on SEO
This content spam 2.0 is used by site owners and SEOs to create sign posts that point back to the mother site – the center of the marketing bull’s eye. So the content ends up on blogs, on content syndication sites, on content-based sites, on sub-domains – it’s like putting up posters on construction site walls in New York City.

And though SEO has always involved creating identifiable targets for bots and eyeballs, this off-site aspect of SEO seems to be growing in importance. Why else would some guy want 1,000 pages on apartments? He’s going to place that content spam every place he can – or you are.

Based on the number of requests for content spam posted on Elance and showing up in my inbox, I suggest that SEO is going to employ a great deal more off-site activity in the future.

Anybody know anything about apartments?

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Got Something To Say?
How About a Webinar?

The growing popularity of webinars in recent months indicates two things: (1) they work and (2) you should be holding them regularly.

Webinar, the word,  is a back formation of web-based seminar. It’s broadcast over the web, and webinars come with lots of different looks, varying production values and information that generates leads and sales. A webinar can be a one-person presentation, a lecture, a work shop, discussion group or seminar, and available topics are limitless.

What’s On Your Mind?
Webinars differ from webcasts. Webcasts are one-way streets. The webcast runs, the viewer watches. The end. With a webinar you add the element of interaction. Your viewers can comment and ask questions, they can bring up new topics and bring a lively energy to even the dullest topics.

These “give-and-takes” are a great way to build a site community and brand recognition.

Preparing Your Webinar
First, decide on the topic. It can be a narrow focus or once-over-lightly discussion on the area of your expertise. If you’re a stock broker, you can produce a webinar on the basics of investing, Investing 101, or you can discuss the advantages of moving existing assets into cash flow instruments. Just remember, know your audience and know your stuff.

Now, who to invite? You can limit the number of invitees or throw the doors open to the world. Webinars that actually provide useful information are often broadcast from subscriber-based sites. Sign up for $499 and talk to your industry leader for an hour a month.

Other webinars are open to anyone who wants to log on and participate. As the leader of the group, it’s up to you to keep order. Fortunately, webinar software allows you to toss out malcontents and keep things moving smoothly.

Whether your webinar is invite only or wide open, make sure attendees have access to pre-webinar information. You can email invitees directly or provide a download from your site about an upcoming webinar. Obviously, you want to include the date and time the webinar will take place but also provide an agenda – the topic or topics that’ll be covered. This way, attendees have a context for your presentation and they can prepare questions for you to answer.

Remember, those in attendance will be able to talk to you in real time so a lot of hemming and hawing won’t deliver the knowledgeable, confident persona you want to project. So prepare notes. Have some facts and stats to back up your key points and think about questions that might come your way.

The fact is, you’re the teacher the viewers are your students. So have a lesson plan or topic list to keep the flow flowing.

Production Values
Production values are simply how good the webinar looks and sounds. They include everything from lighting to quality sound (use a good mike) to the backdrop behind you. These things may or may not count depending on your audience.

For example, if you’re an 18-year-old stock picking whiz,  a computer-mounted camera showing your dorm room is acceptable. However, if you’re talking to potential business associates or partners in the corporate sphere, the production values should be much higher.

In this case, hire a video shooter with a hi-res cam. Use a lapel mike to cut down on “room tone” (that echo-y sound you hear when a live mike goes dead) and use an attractive office setting – even if you have to rent studio space. Your audience will have certain expectations whether you’re broadcasting from the spare room or a spacious office conference room. Know what those expectations are and exceed them. If someone has paid $999 to participate in your webinar, they aren’t going to be overly impressed when you appear in a stained, seedy bathrobe.

Who Should Use Webinars and Why?
Webinars are low- to no-cost productions, guaranteeing a positive return on your investment. Your prep time will be your biggest “expense.” So, low costs make webinars attractive to site owners on tight budgets.

A picture is worth a thousand words and a webinar is worth more than that amount of verbiage. Webinars are ideal for training and explaining complex tasks or systems. For example, if your business model is complex, it’s simple to prepare a PowerPoint presentation that explains these complexities visually with charts, graphs and other illustrations. This makes webinars the perfect solution for distance learning.

In many cases, workers are required to earn a certain number of continuing education units or CEUs. For example, private detectives and security guards must accumulate a certain number of CEUs each year. So, there are lots of websites that offer webinars that can be applied toward the participant’s annual CEU count. In fact, there are many CEU-based sites that charge for webinar access on a class by class basis. This provides the flexibility workers prefer when selecting which webinars to view and which have no relevance to their work.

In today’s world economy, many companies have employees around the world. Webinars are a great way to get some face time with employees working 10 time zones away. This is a great morale booster and a terrific way to illustrate new products and procedures in house. The fact is, webinars are a great way to keep in touch, disseminate new information and to close a sale.

One recommendation: Participate in a few webinars before you plan one for your own subscribers. Once you see how effective these tools can be, you’ll find new and better ways to make them work for you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Guru gorado / gourou gaché by kikriaturas.

The Five Steps to Becoming a Guru:
Are You the Next Peter Lynch, Dan Kennedy or Skip McGrath?

Gurus, good ones anyway, are hard to find these days. Oh sure, the word gets thrown around quite a bit. “He’s an SEO guru.” “She’s the best marketing guru ever to walk the halls of this office.” “This guy is a penny stock guru. You can’t miss if you follow his picks.”

You know, anyone can become a guru on the web, regardless of subject of expertise, or any expertise at all. Google “Life Coach” and see how many hits you get. Today, it was 68,900,000 “gurus” on the amorphous topic of life coaching. That’s a lot of gurus all in one place. Now conduct s search for “Job Coach.”  Not as many hits as life coach (more narrow topic) but Google still delivers 39,900,000 links to job coaches – gurus who are going to help you climb the ladder of corporate success.

Life coach, job coach, stock picker, SEO expert, health and wellness insider – you can’t swing a dead personal development coach without hitting the next guru wannabe. In effect, becoming a guru is nothing more than good marketing and, with apologizes to Dan Kennedy, sales letter guru, there are better, so you don’t even have to be the best if you create the online persona of guru.

Here are five tips to start you down the yellow brick road (solid gold) to gurudom.

1. Take a different road. One-of-a kind explanations for common phenomenon set you apart, whether were talking about baking the best scones ever or building the perfect website.

Don’t rehash the rehash. Take a different tact from the rest of the pack and find that new slant. Peter Lynch, ex of the Fidelity Magellan Fund, used to listen to his kids for good stock picks. If the kids and all of their friends were going to the all-natural salon in the mall every Saturday, Lynch would do the spade work, find the corporate owner and take a position. It was a completely different take on fundamental versus chart (technical) stock analysis and Lynch made a whole lot of money listening to his kids and their friends.

2. Present different tips and tricks for putting in to place common procedures. The whole world might know how the procedure or model works, but if you come in with a unique way of analyzing a topic and presenting very specific strategies for improving your readers’ lives, gurudom is just around the corner.

How-to advice is a good place to start. Let’s say your claim to the title of guru is based on your uncanny ability to pick penny stocks just before they become dollar stocks. Bingo. You’re a penny stock buying guru and people will pay you a lot of money for your sage counsel.

3. Present both sides of the discussion. Gurus aren’t totalitarian cult figures. They have that inner calm and self confidence to present the other side of their position with self-assurance that their position is the correct one.

Get together a room full of SEO experts and you’ll hear every possible SEO strategy that ever appeared on the web. (If there’s an open bar, there’ll probably be some imbibing but you know how those SEOs are.) A guru – a good one – listens to all sides with absolute confidence that s/he is correct. And these gurus are getting $5,000 a head for their well-booked seminars.

4. Criticize. Warren Buffet, the Oracle (even better than a guru) of Omaha (and a true stock picking genius) constantly speaks to audiences on investment strategies that work and Mr. Buffet has made many shareholders of Berkshire-Hathaway millionaires.  

Back in the ‘90s, when everybody was hopping on this new web marketplace thing and buying anything with a dot com after its name, Buffet was buying steel, concrete, construction companies – the basic, nuts-and-bolts of our infrastructure. He spent years criticizing those brokers and faux gurus who were pushing their clients into these online startups and, if anyone can remember the Spring of ’01, we saw the dot com bubble implode.

On the other hand, Berkshire-Hathaway (Buffet) weathered the storm just fine. Don’t be a follower. Gurus don’t follow they lead.

5. Create controversy. Ultra-conservative and barely watchable, Ann Coulter has made a whole pile of cash with her controversial criticism of 9/11 widows, Democrats, cancer-victim Elizabeth Edwards, wife of candidate John Edwards, claiming that Ms Edwards, who is fighting a courageous battle against cancer, is using her disease to raise the sympathy vote, and while Ms. Coulter’s comments are reprehensible to even conservative Republicans, controversy sells – a lot.

The web is crawling with experts – cruise ship gurus, gold bugs, retail poo-bahs and other so-called experts. It’s actually pretty easy to make a name for yourself within a particular field because of the speed at which information moves across the web. The key is to find something that sets you apart from the crowd.

If all you’re doing is playing the same game that a thousand other gurus are playing you won’t stand out. Change the rules, provide utile information, don’t follow the pack and create controversy.

It’ll only be a matter of time before you’re asked to appear on Oprah. That’s how you know you’ve become a guru. So pick your topic. Health and wellness, weight loss painlessly, investment advice, marketing advice – whatever your area of expertise, you can become the next guru to be recognized on the web.

Next stop? The book tour. Oh, and the percentages that come with publishing a best seller.

The world is waiting for you. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


world wide web by alles-schlumpf.

Business and Website Synergies:
Real World Meets Virtual World

There are plenty of brick-and-mortar business owners who don’t recognize the value of a store web site. They’re doing well, lots of foot traffic, improved margins every year – so why take on the headache and expense of a web site? It’s just one more thing to worry about, right? Wrong.

A web site that promotes your real world store can not only boost profits, it can eliminate routine chores that currently eat up a lot of time. When you own your own business, time is money.

The Costs

The cost of a fully functional, secure, commercial web site aren’t what you think they are. With a little help (actually you can do it all by yourself) you can have a web site up and running in just a few hours – a web site complete with a secure checkout, a blog, product pix and all of the other bells and whistles you expect from today’s web sites.

The costs are surprisingly low if you go with the right web host – the company that will rent server (computer) space that’ll hook you in to the world wide web. Prices as low as $7.00 a month get you plenty of disc server space and a box full of free site building tools – free. So, for less than $100 a year, you can have a web site open 24/7 selling your goods and services. Cost should not be a factor when deciding on whether to build a site or not.

Saving Time

Working in your store each day takes up a certain amount of time for administrative chores. You process credit card orders, make deposits at the bank, keep track of inventory and expenses – all activities that take away from the one thing you should be doing and that is taking care of your customers.

With a web site, payment collection is automated, order print outs can be printed for fulfillment, deposits to the business account are automatic – it’s not exactly passive income, but it certainly won’t double your real world workload. It’ll save time.

For example, let’s say you plan a “special customers” sale available to your most highly-prized clients. A computer can help you get the word out quickly and inexpensively. That’s what auto-responders do. They notify customers by e-mail of this special sale or special event. No postage, no running to the post office and no expensive ad in the local newspaper. Instead, you send out a personalized invitation to your best customers to notify them of the impending sale.

Save time and money through the automation of many administrative functions. On-line purchases can be completely automated so that purchase price is deposited into your business account, a shipping bill and label are printed automatically and, if you use drop shippers to handle order fulfillment, all necessary information to process the order is sent to the shipper. You don’t have to do a thing.

Saving time by automating routine functions via a web site is a great way to improve your margins – additional sales without additional labor.

Using Your Website to Promote Your Business

The critical factor, here, is to create synergies between your store and your web site. And there are lots of them.

Use your web site to conduct polls and surveys to see what your real-world customers like and don’t like about their shopping experiences. Low cost promo with high end potential. After all, real world or virtual world – the customer is always right.

Develop sales leads using an on-line form. If someone in town is looking for a good price on a new furnace, you’d want to know about it, right? Well, a web site can give you name, address, telephone number and even the customer’s needs. How convenient is that?!

Use give-aways to collect e-mail addresses. These are called “opt-ins.” You give the site visitor a free pamphlet, a downloadable e-book or a printable 20% off coupon and all the visitor has to do is give you his or her e-mail address. As your e-mail list grows, so, too, does your potential customer base. Each one of these opt-ins has a relationship with you and you can stay in touch with auto-responders, keeping your company’s name and services in front of the customers.

Promote special sales and events on your site’s home page. Provide “how-to” information to keep customers coming back. The possibilities are endless. Think of a web site as a salesperson who never sleeps, never calls in sick and never complains about your management style. And all of that for less than $7.00 a month? Talk about a bargain.

Use Your Business to Promote Your Website

A web site has a certain cachet – it’s an indication that the store owners are sharp business people. And because the cost of building and operating a web site are so low, a web site is a low-cost, badge of prestige and you want as many people as possible to know you’re on-line.

Once your site is functional and all of the bugs have been worked out (pretty easy to do) it’s time to use your business to promote your web site, developing synergies that lead to sales.

First, make sure your web site URL (address) appears on all business stationery from letterhead to business cards and from invoices to adverts in local, traditional media. By telling people where to find more information about your business, your web site becomes an on-line billboard along that ‘Information Highway’. Customers who see your URL in a newspaper ad may choose to make a purchase on-line rather than drive clear across town or across state.

Design an on-line campaign to drive more people to your web site. Announce in your local newspaper advert that customers will receive a printable coupon for 15% off when they visit your web site. Of course, while they’re on-line visiting your site, entice them to make an on-line purchase, as well.

And don’t forget giveaways. T-shirts, bumper stickers, pens and other free stuff that display your web site’s URL will all generate more site traffic and, therefore, greater business efficiencies.

Explain to real-world customers that all transactions can take place on line or in person. Your web site should be a seamless extension of your actual business, enabling buyers to make purchases and payments, ask questions and even process returns. There’s plenty of software that will enable you to do this – free checkouts, free inventory managers, free shipping software – it’s all there making your job and your customers’ buying experiences easy.

Another reason to maintain a web site? Let’s say you run a local deli offering specials of the day. Your regulars will appreciate the ability to log on and see “what’s cookin’” today. Web sites are very easy to update, so use your site to keep customers up to date on daily specials, menu changes, new product lines and other helpful information. If your URL appears on all business-related paperwork, more and more people will find their way to your site. And, if they find useful information on the site, they’re more likely to visit your store one town over.

Selling Pizza in Zimbabwe?

A web site provides a world-wide presence so if you run a pizza place in Dayton, you won’t have much interest in orders from Zimbabwe – even if they want the super-deluxe special. How are you going to get it there in 30 minutes or less?

If you’re business is strictly local (it doesn’t have to be, by the way) you can use various search engine filters so that only people within a certain range will actually visit your web site, which will cut down on questions from Zimbabwe regarding the status of their order.

Localize your listings with Google and Yahoo so you’re reaching those customers who might actually visit your store or order something because they’ve been to the store before and know they can count on your quality and service.

However, don’t rule out expanding your little enterprise globally. Let’s say you run a small town hardware store. Most of your business comes from local residents looking to buy a wheelbarrow or a hammer. That doesn’t mean that you can’t ship a hammer to Zimbabwe. In fact, that’s one of the coolest things about having a web site.

One web user was looking for those plastic cases used to protect baseball cards. They’re called “screw downs” in case you didn’t know. So, instead of driving from one sports memorabilia store to the next, the buyer Goggled “screw downs” and found just what he was looking for eight states away. The buyer never would have even heard of Ed’s Sports Collectibles, or made the purchase, if old Ed hadn’t built a web site.

So, a web site can save time by automating routine tasks – everything from processing sales to answering FAQs. This frees up your time to devote to in-store customer care.

Next, you can build marketing and promotion synergies between your brick-and-mortar and your virtual on-line store, using one to promote the other.

Finally, you can do all of this for very little money. You don’t need a big, fancy expensive web site design firm and the cost of hosting a feature-rich web site are low – often less than $7.00 a month.

Now the question is – what are you waiting for? Promote your business and your products around the corner and around the world by building synergies between real and virtual worlds. You’ll be amazed at the jump in sales and  just how easy it is to do.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Mushroom Grave by MrBobDobolina.

The Agonizingly Slow Death 
of Keyword Density:
What Worked Yesterday Won’t Work Today

If you’re about to launch a new website, there’s something you should know right now. Search engine marketing – in fact the entire online marketplace – is evolving so quickly that the marketing strategy you developed yesterday is out of date.

Keywords Are Born
Prior to the mid-90s, we were all stumbling around the web. There was no map. No address book. So, if you wanted to buy an elephant online the only way you’d find one is if the local elephant franchise posted their URL (universal resource locator, your web address) in a flyer or newspaper ad.

Then, the folks at Yahoo (not much more than a good idea back then) came up with the idea of a search engine – a small piece of programming, comprised primarily of a simple mathematical formula called an algorithm, that would assess web sites and sort them into categories (the search engine taxonomy) so that, if you typed in ‘elephant,’ you got links to various elephant retailers. Cool. It was like the sun came up in Webville, or at least we had a flashlight!

Keyword Abuse
That primitive search engine relied, primarily, on reading letter strings. And the more a particular letter string was repeated on the web page, the easier it was to index the web site back at search engine headquarters.

Well, it didn’t take site owners long to discover the inner workings of Yahoo’s search engine and the Dark Ages of search engine marketing descended upon the virtual landscape.

Keywords were scattered all over a site – along with keywords that had nothing to do with the site’s subject. So, lots of site owners started adding keywords like “sex” and “porn” to their site text – even if the text was invisible to the human eye. (White text against a white background is invisible to humans but search engines can read it just fine.) The site could be selling dietary supplements but the owner (or search engine optimizer) could add a bunch of other words to the site text. No problem.

And what the search engine user saw amounted to keyword babble. Just a bunch of keywords (letter strings) designed to fool search engines, not to help site visitors.

Other abuses followed as technology marched on until we entered the era in which we now function online – an era of SEOs trying to anticipate what Yahoo, Google and Inktomi programmers are hatching and those programmers trying to stay one step ahead of keyword abuse and subterfuge. Why? The purpose of the search engine is to deliver relevant results to the user. If site owners undermine the process through the use of keyword abuse, the relevance of search engines diminishes.

Other forms of keyword abuse included (and still include) keyword stuffing – stuffing the HTML keyword tag with every word in your kid’s dictionary. At one time, these keyword tags were given significant weight by search engines. Today, they’re considered much less important because of the on-going practice of keyword stuffing.

Then, finally, we come to keyword density – a loathsome concept to copywriters, search engine programmers and web site visitors. Simply put, keyword density is simply the number of times a keyword or set of keywords appears in a body of text. Example:

The Ski Hut carries the latest in skis, ski gear and ski wear. Snow skis from around the world, along with ski boots, ski poles, ski goggles and ski outerwear line the aisles at The Ski Hut where, if it has to do with skiing, we sell it.

Can anyone guess what the Ski Hut sells? Hands please? That’s right, they sell skis and, in this example, the keyword density is about 22%, i.e. out of the 48 words in the example, 11 mention skis, skiing and other ski word keywords. Unfortunately, with a keyword density of 22% the text isn’t much more that a continuous letter string of ski ski ski.

The Evolution of the Search Engine
Yahoo’s algorithm builders gradually developed increasingly sophisticated search engine algorithms to thwart keyword abuse, adding numerous other criteria to assess the nature and quality of each spidered site. And, when Google came along with an even more sophisticated algorithm the flood gates opened and the search engine wars began. Yahoo, Google and Inktomi (used by MSN and many other search engines), along with My Simon, Ask Jeeves (now just plain and a bunch of other search engines, big and small, all went at search engine building a little differently.

Some, like My Simon and Ask Jeeves, focused on retail sites. Type in wristwatches and the SE would delivered sites and pictures of wristwatches. (That picture thing is making a comeback, btw.) Other search engines, like Google, focused on sheer size, spidering and indexing literally billions and billions and billions of web pages so no matter what a user enters as a key word or phrase, something will show up.

Keywords Now
Yes, they’re still marginally relevant. HTML code still allows for a keyword tag and spiders still count up letter strings so, yes, selecting keywords that count is a critical part of the optimization process.

But keywords ain’t what they used to be. Fact is, contemporary search engine algorithms are designed to detect keyword stuffing and abusive keyword density so their users don’t have to plow through page after page of repetitive, nonsensical keyword garbage. So, choose your keywords carefully. They still count.

As far as keyword density is concerned, cut it out! Different search engine marketing professionals will tell you a 5% keyword density (5 keywords per 100 words of site text) is still acceptable but the majority of SEOs recommend a keyword density of 2% to 3% to keep search engine spiders from slamming a site for abuse.

The Agonizing Slow Death of Keywords
There are still site owners, and even SEO experts, who believe that keywords are the end all to be all. Soooo not true.

Keywords are great for delivering organic traffic to a site – organic traffic being the links on the left side of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). These are sites that the programmed-to-be-impartial search engine has determined will be relevant to the user. Organic SERP traffic is rock solid. It’s a good thing. But think about your own search engine habits.

How often do you look beyond the first or second page of Yahoo’s SERPs. Occasionally? And how often do you search for a site on page 145 of Google’s SERPs? Never. SERPs are sorted by relevance to the user’s query (keywords) so anything on page 145 is going to have much less relevance than links that appear on page one of Google’s SERPs.

And, bottom line? The chances of you creating a page one SERP site are pretty remote (though don’t give up. It happens everyday).

Today, search engine algorithms are much more sophisticated, looking for fresh, informational content, non-reciprocal inbound links, interactivity between site and visitor and other criteria, again giving some, but not much, weight to keywords that appear in the HTML keyword tag, or how many times you can stuff the word ‘kumquat’ into the text of your kumquat site.

And, it’s only a matter of time before site-owner-selected keywords will finally fade away altogether. Search engine spiders will assess and sort each site according to growingly sophisticated and expansive criteria.

It’s only a matter of time and that time can’t come soon enough. Kumquat.

Monday, February 1, 2010


My last minute entry by SharkeyinColo.
Think Small:
Grow Big

Your Site May Appear on Digg
But So What If No One Diggs You Except Your Mom? Hi, Mom! I'm on the WEB!"

photo courtesy sharkyinColo 
Print media – newspaper, magazines, catalogs and such – are losing relevance in the digital world in which news is up to the minute – with videos. You can read all about it in tomorrow’s newspaper – minus the video, of course.

With the proliferation of social search engines like Digg and Reddit, the future of dailies, weeklies and monthlies seems pretty bleak, unless…

…with the advent of more and more sophisticated RSS aggregators and bigger pipes, many print outlets are turning to the web to stay afloat – but just barely at the moment. The NewYork Times, the grand dame of national newspapers, is stuffing RSS feeds with content, changing their tag line from “All the News That’s Fit To Print” to “All the News That Fits We Click.” Time marches on.

But if the NYTs, Washington Post, LA Times, Boston Herald and other information powerhouses are giving it away for free, what chance do you, owner of Fred’s Newsletter, against such formidable competition.

Think Small Web Communities
If you have something worthwhile to say, worthwhile people will listen if we can just hook up writer and reader. But if the humongous social search engines like Digg,, Stumbleupon, citulike, Reddit, Spurlnet and other social SE’s are growing bigger and accessing content from reliable sources like The LA Times, what chance have you got to have your daily news and views picked up and, yes, actually read.

Simple. Think niche.

The big, egalitarian search engines collect feeds from readers interested in everything from taxidermy to tax shelters. Not so with the smaller, more focused site comminutes with search engines powered by the people.

Getting Noticed Small Time
There are three steps involved in getting your news picked up by smaller socially-driven search engines – and they’re all free, which in itself makes the strategy appealing to the new site owner with a very limited marketing budget.

Step one: Identify your reader. What segments of the web community would actually be interested in your thoughts from Squirrel News Today? Well, you’d be surprised. People who feed the squirrels,  watch their antics in the park, companies that eliminate squirrels from the attack (you know, Squirrel Be Gone), nature lovers, hikers – just use your imagination.

Step Two: Give the reader something of value. A free subscription works great if the quality of your squirrel news isn’t pure nuts and berries. Squirrel aficionados want their rodent updates straight up, without a lot of editorial opinion.

Step Three: Add an open blog to your feed and let the readers post their own squirrelly thoughts. This builds a community, provides unusual perspectives (From squirrel lovers? Who’d a thunk it?) and expands your publication’s name and reputation, making Squirrel News Today the #1 online publication among the (growing?) ranks of squirrel lovers.

Popular Niche Communities
Squirrel lovers or not, these are the people you have to reach to be heard. So, let’s look at some of the more popular niche communities. Hmmm. Not a squirrel-loving bunch among them. caters to the artistic community with exhibitions and an outlet for would-be artists. Some of the posts are pretty good. Some look like they were done on black velvet, but there’s no accounting for taste. If your feed caters to the coffee house crowd, get hooked up and get noticed. is another arty site – avant garde to old guard, but if you’re a struggling artist or graphic designer, and you want some exposure within the art community, these subscribers and readers are the people you want to meet. is the site for business travelers. There’s information on cool restaurants, city sights, how to get around, the night life, spas – all there delivered to the subscribers’ RSS reader each morning. How sweet is that? It’s free marketing, people. FREE! employs the Digg “reader votes” model, only instead of covering all the news, this social search engine focuses on – you guessed it – real estate. So, if you’re an agent, a professional investor, a contractor, rehabber or flipper, you’ll want to get caught up on the land business over morning coffee. And your feed is right there to read with the java.

Personally, I like It’s a great feed for swapping recipes and, yes, the search engine is growing. There are more recipes for three bean salad on this one spot than in all of Mongolia, which either says something about three bean salad or Mongolia. Not sure. is a well known web brand, and, like many other large sites, they maintain a community zone where visitors can pick up the latest on what bug is making the rounds in schools and where. Good information when you kid comes down with the sniffles.

And speaking of kids, check out Think of it as MySpace for the younger crowd. Now, if this is part of your market, or their parents are, this is a great place to feed in to. It’s a teeny-tiny community of teeny-tiny readers.

Finally, for the serious news junkie, visit If you have something newsworthy, or happen to glance out the window and see a CAT 5 tornado heading your way, snap a picture, add it to your Helium feed and you’re a reporter. (P.S. After taking the twister shot, head for the basement. You’re about to lose the roof.)

No, you might not get the exposure you’re looking for on Digg. My best post has been dugg six times in six months so the chances of you finding it are about zero. But take heart.

Make your views, news and cookie recipes heard by feeding to smaller sites looking for information on niche topics. Who knows, you could become the next Lenny Slobotnik, publisher of Squirrel News Today and recognized authority on rabies vaccinations.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Website_Map by Veribatim.

It’s What A Web Site Is All About

Accessibility, when discussing web sites, includes a number of factors: easy navigation, understandable site text, no dead ends requiring a browser back click to escape (lots of users don’t even know browsers HAVE a back click).

Let’s start with the bottom line- yours: the easier it is for a site visitor to perform the most desired action (MDA), the more times that MDA will be performed.

Let’s Start With Navigation
Whether you go with a navigation bar at the top of the screen or a menu list in the first column far left, your navigation must be:

  • simple
  • unambiguous
  • truthful
  • always available
  • always in the same location

Avoid numerous tabs, drop-down or flyout menus. Keep it simple. If visitors are faced with too many choices too soon on arriving at the site, chances are they’ll bounce.

Keep the navigation unambiguous. It’s routine to have a "Contact Us” page on a web site. If you label the contact link “Company Authority,” visitors are going to be totally confused. And again, bounce.

Truthful is just what it says. If the link says “Product Descriptions,” don’t make the visitor read through another landing page of sell copy. Deliver what the link says and go directly to the products.

Always available is an aspect of keeping visitors on site longer, and the longer they stick around, the more likely they are to perform the MDA. So, the navigation bar or menu should be available from every page so the visitor can surf at will, unencumbered by what YOU think the visitor wants to know.

Finally, keep the nav tabs in the same place. Don’t move them from bar to menu and back to bar. The last thing you want is a visitor trying to figure out how to return to the contact page to make contact.

Keep it simple. The fewer clicks required to get the visitor to perform the MDA, the better. So, go through the process and eliminate every unnecessary side road, dead end and yet another landing page.

Accessible Content
If your client site is for a professional medical dispenser, you can assume that the visitors have some knowledge of the subject, i.e. you don’t have to start from square one. But you still have to stay on target pointing out the benefits of buying the client’s medical products.

On the other hand, if you’re writing text for a hearing aid retail outlet, accessible text is understandable by the reader. So first, toss the thesaurus. Find the simplest, shortest way to say what needs to be said about products and services.

Be helpful and supportive to the new visitor. Make things simple to find, simple to learn and simple to bookmark. Returning visitors are gold. Eventually they buy something so earning a bookmark is a very good thing.

Skip the hype. Educate the visitor using simple terms, no jargon and listing benefits rather than features. This is the stuff site visitors want to know.

Finally, lay out the text so it can be scanned rather than read. No big, long paragraphs. Visitors scan from upper left to lower right so put your most important info upper left on the screen.

The easier it is to buy something, opt-in for a newsletter, or to complete a form, the more often those MDAs are performed. So make it as simple as possible (why do you think Amazon offers a one-click checkout? How easy can it be?).

Accessibility benefits both site owner and site visitor – a win-win. Also a no brainer.