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 Ask.com) 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, del.icio.us, 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.

Deviantart.com 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.

Urbis.com 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.

Yelp.com 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!

Realestatevoices.com 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 BakeSpace.com. 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.

WebMD.com 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 imbee.com. 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 Helium.com. 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.