Archive for September, 2010

Writing Your Way to the Top of Google

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

It’s been said that Content is King on the net.  This truism is just as important today as it was ten years ago. Written content is the single best way to get to the top of Google and stay there. It’s also a good bet written content will get you to the top of Bing, too.

The content writing is just the beginning. You can’t write beautifully constructed prose and then wait for visitors to beat a path to your online door. You must “get the word out” byPost to your blog and other blogs, too. submitting your articles and press releases and hitting the social media circuit.

Here are some of the types of written content that help rankings:

  • articles
  • press releases
  • blog posts
  • social media posts
  • content pages

All of this written content must be optimized for your keyterms. In other words, you need to use those keyterms in the titles and the body of each piece of content.

Let’s take a fast look at each content type.

Articles – There are a zillion article directories all over the net. The directory takes your well written article and posts it for other webmasters to come along and use on their own sites. It’s free for them to use, but they MUST include your author information and the url link back to your site.

Well written, content heavy articles are a good way to get two or more backlinks. One from the directory itself and one from each of the other webmasters who post your article on their site.

Please do not send the same article to 100 directories This creates duplicate content and many of the best article directories will NOT accept an article that appears elsewhere. I know this is a popular idea with supposed search engine experts, but it’s a bad idea. Google knows it and doesn’t even count any links coming from the vast majority of those directories. They DO count ones from good, trusted directories like eZineArticles.com. Concentrate on the top 5 or 10 GOOD directories and don’t go over to the dark side of article spam.

Press Releases – while it is very doubtful your press release will be picked up by online or offline news agencies, even though this is a claim put forth by the same “experts” who spam 1000 article directories, PR sites give nice backlinks. There is an art to writing a good press release, and you should study the suggestions at sites like PR Web to become familiar with how to write an effective Press Release.

Blog Posts – we’re not just talking about the blog on your own site. There are many other blogs out there and you can make your own posts to some of them. You should also put your article on pages at sites like Squidoo and HubPages.

Social Media Posts – Facebook Fan pages, Twitter, and other social media sites are becoming a big part of Google search. They are looking to these sites for the fresh content they crave and you need to be sure you are providing that content with frequent keyword rich posts and tweets.

Content Pages – you should have good, content laden, keyword rich pages on your site. While these pages don’t have to be updated that often, they should be well written and should have your keywords well represented.

Producing good written content is time consuming. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that you can offshore content writing and forgetting that it serves as a representative of your company as well as a backlink. If you do contract for this task, be prepared to pay well for good, well written articles. Paying minimum wage will get you minimal copy that is mostly pure fluff. Good articles and blog posts run in the $25-$75 range – per article. You get what you pay for, and hiring someone for $2.50 an hour will get you some pretty awful content.

If you’re serious about moving up in the rankings, you need to commit to a good written content strategy. Well written articles and Press Releases for long term results, well written Facebook posts, and several daily Tweets for that “fresh” content that is becoming so important.

With a well thought out and well scheduled strategy you CAN write your way to the top.

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Are You Missing the Ka-Ching?

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Store software and content management systems have come a long way in the last few years. There is a wide array to choose from and no matter what your needs, or how many or how few products or services you showcase, there’s a program tailored for you.

But how well are you using your storefront software? There’s one vital area that is often Improve your product descriptions to improve your salesoverlooked and it causes more lost sales and more search rankings that end up in the basement than any other part of the website.

Product titles and descriptions. Just as we learned that webpage titles and descriptions are vital to search engine optimization efforts, product titles and descriptions are vital to both SEO and consumer purchasing.

Here’s a short list of Don’ts for writing product descripts and titles:

Don’t offshore this. If your customers are English speakers, bite the bullet and have a native English speaker write the descriptions. If you don’t, your descripts will range from totally laughable (and incomprehensible) to subtly odd. Either way you’ll lose sales.

Don’t write for search engines. Yes – you absolutely want to get your keyword in there, but remember – these are for people. Those pesky bots just don’t carry wallets or credit cards.

Don’t write one line descripts. Think about your customers – they can’t see your product. They can’t touch it, or smell it, or turn it over in their hand. Your words must paint a picture for them. Even more than jsut describing that product your words must make them want to BUY that product. One liner descripts are lazy. They do nothing to help sales. They make your customer feel that you don’t care about them.

Don’t use the same title and description for similar products. Google does have a duplicate page policy. If you have two products that only vary due to color or size, change up that title and description so the page is “different”.  Google will remove one of the pages from their index if you don’t.

Better yet create one page with a really good description and use your software to allow the shopper to choose color, size, flavor, etc. all from that one page.

Don’t stick with the same software you bought 10 years ago. There have been a ton of improvements to CMS (content management system) software over the years. I’m a firm believer in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of software buying. But if your CMS or shopping cart system has limitations that are annoying you, especially if it only allows for a very short description area, become a shopper yourself – for an updated shopping cart.

Don’t worry too much about your existing product database. It is very rare to find that you can’t move your product and customer database to another system. You may have to hire a database expert to accomplish the task, but even a massive database with thousands of products and tens of thousands of customers can be moved with no data loss.

Don’t forget to target your ideal shopper. Before you rewrite those titles and descriptions, think about the customer you want to attract. In many cases they will be the same as the ones who make up your current customer list. But now is the time to target new markets with your carefully written titles and descriptions.

Don’t keep it short. Describe the features and benefits of each product. Go into detail, lots of detail. The more detail a prospect has, the more likely they will complete the purchase.  Make them “see” themselves using that product. Paint a picture with words. Include EVERYTHING they may need to know – specs, dosages, available colors – everything!

It can be a monumental task to update your online titles and descriptions for all your products, but it is well worth the effort. You will increase your rankings and you will increase your sales to new customers as those rankings climb. Your well written titles and descriptions will help you stand out from your competition and get the sale without having to resort to slashing prices.

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Are you Ready for Tomorrow’s Customer?

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Web 3.0 and the Evolution of the Internet MarketingYesterday I rambled on about Web 3.0 and the evolution of the net. But what about tomorrow’s shopper? There’s some pretty exciting changes for them just around the corner, and anything that changes a customer’s experience is going to change how business owners must deal with that customer.

Back in the old Web 1.0 days it was a  common belief that all you had to do was toss up a web site, built by your neighbor’s nephew’s son for a 6 pack of Snickers, enter your products and you were done. Customers would come in and buy and you’d never have to deal with them again. Until they whipped out their wallet and bought again of course.

Customer service is important and many companies seemed to think it was totally unnecessary for online shoppers. Boy were they in for a surprise! Not only did the web sites who offered really good followup and proved to shoppers that they would still love them in the morning thrive against their larger and better funded competitors, Web 2.0 came along and demanded transparency on all levels.

Web 2.0 is the great water cooler of the internet. People gather around and make comments, share their experiences and recommend (or trash) companies and products. You can’t hide behind a corporate image or do business as usual with cleverly spun releases when something goes wrong.

I was going to take a flight to Cleveland – and yes I have family there because that’s pretty much the only reason people will put up with the incredible hassle of flying to Cleveland. I was checking Twitter to find out about an airline I hadn’t flown before when I caught a conversation from a disgruntled flyer. Lost bags, late flight, missed connections – the whole ball of wax. But someone at that airline company had their head wrapped around what Web 2.0 is all about. They responded in a courteous, friendly manner at the Twitter water cooler. They made the angry customer feel that he was being listened to and corrected his problem, along with a generous apology and a hefty flight voucher.

I flew that airline, even though there were others that had more positive consumer comments in other parts of the Web 2.0 arena. I did it because Twitter gave me a glimpse behind the curtain, because I could see their customer service in action. And yes that impressed me far more than the other airline’s boring corp speak tweets that merely mouthed slogans and read like ad copy.

Web 1.0 was the primordial first steps from the ooze of college Univac systems. The novelty, the “wow” factor. An awful lot of people didn’t get it. (Remember all those startup companies that crashed and burned?) Web 2.0 is the great block party. Neighbors meeting neighbors, sharing their lives, in excruciating detail at times. Sharing their opinions of companies, products, services.

Now let’s think about the next part of the shopping experience. If I want to find a restaurant all I have to do is hit a smart phone and I can see everything I want to know about them. Directions, comments from customers, all the things I need to make up my mind where to dine at that moment.

Now let’s expand that a little. I’m in a grocery store, wandering down the aisle with my iPad. I hit the bar code and suddenly I have the ingredient’s list for that product, comparisons to similar products, consumer contributed recipes that use that product, a coupon for it, store prices for it within x miles of my current location, recall notices, everything and anything I could want to know about it right there in front of me. That’s one tiny example of the driving force behind Web 3.0 – personalization on a grand scale.

Look at your web site. Do you describe your products and services in great detail? Or are you content to say “Blue Widget – great for kids” ? Do you engage and interact with your clients and customers – beyond the testimonials in your side bar “Bob is the greatest guru on the planet. U r in rt place” ? Is your site written in corp speak? “John is dedicated to providing differential experience levels to all Yak herders in the homogeneous arid and semi arid caverns of Iolo.”

As internet marketers and search experts, we will be challenged by the companies who do not “get” Web 2.0 yet, let alone Web 3.0. Those who don’t realize that  they MUST engage their audience to prosper. If these business owners haven’t wrapped themselves around the community aspects of Web 2.0, it’s doubtful they will be prepared to enter the uber personal world of Web 3.0.

I well remember arguing with clients about using the word Best. Online the consumer determines who is “best” in the field, no matter what the owner may think! The wise owner does not become enraged at negative comments, but engages the customer and uses those comments to improve, while letting the world of the web see what they are doing. Those companies are well equipped, with the right mindset, to enter the super personalized world of Web 3.0. They know that there are millions of buyers out there, and they need to engage, educate and constantly win their hearts and wallets.

Remember – your competition is only one tiny mouse click away. With Web 3.0 odds are good they’ll be sharing the same screen with you. Are you prepared to get personal?

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Are You Ready for Web 3.0?

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

Back when I lived in Wyoming one of my favorite events was the weekly trip to the feed mill. Saturday morning found it filled with farmers and ranchers, and we’d all stand around in our weathered cowboy hats and scuffed boots with our big pickups growling in the lot. We’d talk what was going on in our world, what had happened with the weather, livestock prices, politics that affected the agricultural livelihood. And most of all what was going to happen next season.

Here in Phoenix we have a similar gathering, but now I’m surrounded by fellow geeks from Intel, GoDaddy, Cable One and other internet companies. The other day we were sitting at lunch talking net trash and got on the subject of Web 2.0. What was it – really? When did it make it’s true appearance? What was in store for the coming year in Web 2.0 land?

In the corner one of the quietest members of our little group said, “Who cares about Web 2.0 – Web 3.0 is almost here.” There was a dead silence then we all started firing questions at him.

By the end of our luncheon we’d pretty well defined Web 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. Here’s what we came up with.

Back in the early days of the net website provided information. You couldn’t add comments, you had little interaction. Marketing was limited to banner ads for the most part. You went to a site, digested information, and moved on.

Along came Web 2.0. Ah now we have social networks, Facebook, Twitter, every site seems to have user reviews, comments, user generated content. Social media has taken over the net in a big way. Connecting with people is the focus of vast amounts of time spent online.Ready for Web 3.0 search and marketing?

Web 3.0 will become a virtual world. There is (and has been for many years) software that will allow you to “walk” into an online store and browse the shelves. Search engines will be smarter. For all my tongue in cheek poking at Google Instant, it IS the forerunner of what will be. What it is now may only be the first baby steps, but what it will become is a very important part of Web 3.0.

Our little group concluded that Smart Search will be the backbone of Web 3.0.  No longer will you conduct separate searches for airline tickets and local dining places in the destination city. You’ll have everything you would be looking for in that destination area on one page of results. Those results would be determined by your search patterns and online shopping habits. You might have burger joints and sports equipment stores on your page, while I might have Chinese restaurants and computer stores on mine.

Look at the subtle changes at Google as they prepare for Web 3.0. Google Places are the first thing you see for many search terms. What you see is way different than what I see unless you’re secretly living around the block from me. Google has an ENORMOUS amount of data on your own personal search and surfing habits. The results I get back for a term are very likely not the same as the ones you get back, because my location and my habits are different than yours.

Google already returns some results from my “friends” and contacts. While these are currently shown at the bottom of the page, as my network grows and Google evolves, I’m pretty sure they won’t stay at the bottom for long. Those articles, websites and comments from my friends and contacts will end up right under Google Maps I’m betting.

Evolution, even in net time, is not an explosive event. Changes are ushered in quietly, with baby steps until all of a sudden we realize we are looking at something that is operating in new way – the next iteration of the web.

Those changes are upon us, we just haven’t seen the end result – yet. Google Instant is merely a harbinger of what’s to come – highly personalized, incredibly relevant search results that eliminate the need for sifting through massive amounts of irrelevant search results. (Hear that spammers? Your days are numbered!)

This is the Holy Grail for Google – delivering the most relevant, useful content to each user as quickly as possible. It’s the path they have been on since the first day Sergey 1 and 2 moved out of their garage.

Are you ready? Is your site ready? Is your marketing and SEO team ready? The net isn’t built on the “Big Bang” theory, it’s more like the “Big Burp” evolution. There is a progression towards a defining moment, a “Burp” in the landscape that quickly separates the winners from the losers as the “new” technology is embraced by those billions of netizens.

So fasten your seatbelts, the next “Big Burp” is coming.

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A New Game Takes SEO by Storm

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

There’s a new game that is quietly beginning to take the internet by storm. It could become bigger than Farmville! It may even have more secret users than World of Warcraft. And the best thing about it is you will ALWAYS look like you’re working, even when you are playing the Google Instant Game.

Here’s how it works. With the new Google Instant Search trying to predict what you will actually want to see after each letter you type in the search box, watching Google think for you is really fun. Give it a try.Play to win the Google Instant Search game

For example, typing the letter “w” will instantly give you local weather results.

Most other single letter results produce stores: Best Buy, JCPenney, Netflix, Sears.

Walmart must be seriously bummed to have begun its corporate identity with one of the few letters that people want something other than commerce. You should have planned for Google Instant, Walmart! I bet you feel silly now. You have to type two letters to get Walmart.

But the REAL fun comes when you type something like “How do I”. How gets “How to tie a tie” Say what???? You’re not dialed into my brain too tightly there Google!

How do returns How Do I Get a Passport and How Does Fushigi work . Ah let the games begin! What the heck is fushigi? I must find out! If Google thinks it’s important enough to be the second entry on “How Do”, then I MUST plug this gap in my knowledge! Off I go – trying to find out all I can about fushigi.

Now where was I? Oh yeah I need to enter I.  Oh let’s try something else – Where is  Chuck Norris???? Why would I want to find an aging action actor? Oh yeah this is a game – I forgot. He’s hiding out in The Barrens chat room of World of Warcraft – so I know that answer – I can try something else!

What is yields what is love?

Who is gives me boycotting Arizona – ah ha local results based on my IP. So you could take this game on the road and you’d get constantly changing answers! How fun is that?

Here’s the thing. Google announced Instant Search – which has actually been around for quite a while just not in the form you are seeing now. The ONLY truly Instant thing about it were the instant progams and strategies that popped up – you guessed it – instantly – to help you – the site owner overcome this change.

I have actually seen some SEO “experts” immediately telling clients they have to optimize for one, two and three letters.  Yup I’m sure that if I optimize for “how” – I’ll move up ahead of to tie a tie in no time! EXACTLY where I want to be! NOT!

Here’s the facts. Google is not about to change search habits with Instant Search. It truly is a fun game – because of the silly results, but people will STILL enter the full phrases they are looking for because the instant results are so far off the mark. It may affect PPC results – we don’t know that yet. But for a normal site, relying on organic traffic the following holds true.

If your site is properly optimized for the keyterms people use to find your products and services

If your foundation is solid

If you have followed best practices

Google Instant will have little or no effect on your rankings or your traffic. Just like most other Google changes don’t affect you, neither will this one.

But it sure makes for a fun, addictive game! When is my birthday???? Wow they really are into my brain!

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The Internet Never Sleeps

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The Internet never sleeps - it's always collecting and presenting more infoNew York City used to have a tagline – The City That Never Sleeps”. People knew that if you went to NY there was a different energy, an under current of excitement, a pulse that was fast, ever moving and overwhelming. I believe all cities have their own unseen energy, their own pulse and movement. So too does the Internet. And as internet marketers we get caught up in this maelstrom  of activity and movement and must either sink or swim with that current.

I often talk to business owners who are frustrated. They have hired a consultant or a company to improve their online presence and the project results never seem to match the expectations. These people walk away shaking their heads, thinking they were “fleeced”. In actual fact they probably weren’t. They were the victim of change.

It’s said that the amount of information on the internet doubles every 6 weeks. I’ve seen other numbers, but the time span doesn’t really matter. The internet is constantly growing and changing and there is an enormous amount of information to absorb and implement. Even if the net stopped right this minute, it would take several lifetimes to catch up on even a small portion of that information. This is mind boggling. This is game changing. This is why it’s very difficult to hire the right internet marketing or search optimization firm. They could be very knowledgeable – using last week’s best info. But by next week how much of that has changed?

I spend on average 30 hours a week in an almost futile attempt to keep up with my areas of interest. It’s a full time job in and of itself just so I can do my real full time job! And I could easily spend double that time and STILL miss a new technique or the beginning of a new delivery system or a new source of good traffic.

When I started online back in the late 90’s it was easy. No one really knew how things were supposed to be done so we improvised and made up our own ways of attracting customers, presenting products, getting traffic. It was a heady time much like wandering down a pristine white beach and picking up gold nuggets along the way. And then only picking up the ones that were easy to reach or were of a specific size and color. A lot of people made a LOT of money back then, they merely had to be on that beach. If they haven’t grown as the net has grown, they probably aren’t doing so well today.

In a little more than a decade things have changed dramatically. I can no longer run a successful online marketing campaign by myself. With all the areas of knowledge I have, with all the years I’ve spent “doing it all” – I no longer can do it all myself. A very painful admission I assure you!

Today I need a team.

I need a video wizard who is well versed in many different editing and special effects programs.

I need a marketing expert who has their finger on the pulse of social media – aware of the latest changes occurring almost daily on a wide variety of social sites.

I can’t even just drop into my favorite HTML editor – my constant companion of the past 12 years – and toss together a site. It doesn’t do HTML 5.0 and all new sites need to be done in that iteration of the language. It only surfaced a few scant months ago and already Bing and IE 9 are making headlines by giving it “favored” status.

No matter where I look, no matter what part of my marketing, advertising, site optimization, design or implementation, I need a specialist. Someone who concentrates on just one area of the internet and is constantly aware of the changes, of the new methods, the new technology, the new procedures.

But at the same time they need to have a solid grounding in the basics. Because oddly enough, no matter what area of online marketing you look at, the basics still haven’t changed. A solid foundation is needed to optimize a site. No matter how many new things Google has added, without that foundation, built with new tools and new methods to be sure, you will not weather the storm of new search algorithms.

Without knowing your customer, and their habits – even though those habits change every few months – you won’t be talking WITH your prospective customer, engaging them and working them into the sales funnel. “What’s in it for me?” has NOT changed. It’s still the driving force behind any type of sales page.

The path to that sale still hasn’t changed.

  1. Get the eyeballs, grab their attention.
  2. Get them to come to your site. Get that click!
  3. Convert them from a “looker” to a buyer.

Even though I mourn the passing of the “good old days” when I could do it all myself and didn’t need a bevy of experts to be successful, I take comfort in knowing that the basics, the rock solid foundation of each and every exchange of money hasn’t changed. The delivery will always evolve. The implementation will change with the rapid advancement of technology. But in the end – I’m still talking to another person on the other side of that keyboard. Or touch screen, or smart phone. And that will never change.

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If These Librarians Can Do It You Can Too!

Monday, September 20th, 2010

I couldn’t help myself. I saw this video and thought of all the people who are afraid to start doing their own videos and just had to post it here.

Come on people if a LIBRARIAN can do this – YOU can get in front of the camera too!
Seriously – check this out – it proves you can get your point across with video no matter what that point is! If a library facing budget cuts is turning to YouTube, isn’t it time your business was there?

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Video Marketing – The Last Step

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

You have your finished video masterpiece “in the can”. But now what do you do with it? How do you use it to drive traffic, leads and sales to your site?

Let’s look at two F.E.A.R. factors. F.E.A.R. stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. In other words those nasty little “facts” that circulate the interwebz and are repeated often enough untilPost production posting is how to get visitors from the video to your sitethey become accepted as real.

F.E.A.R. #1 – Putting your video on YouTube will drive a ton of traffic to your door. Umm no. You might get lucky – you might have a really cool video of gorillas playing in traffic (get it – traffic guerrilla?) that gets picked up by the major news sites and the super popular blogs. This is called “going viral”. And yes IF you can hit this state of nirvana, you will have millions of views and probably a good number of visitors IF you remembered to put a call to action at the end of your vid, and IF you have your YouTube channel set up correctly so people can find your website.

Let’s deal with the more likely scenario. You tell your mom and your uncles and aunts and cousins about your neat new vid and they come look at it for a total view count of 10. ( Getting this view count up on YouTube is a whole other series – there are quite a few things you can do to improve those views.) But the real value of YouTube is not in the views.  We often don’t even care if anyone on YouTube ever looks at that video.

Say what??? The real value of YouTube is not in the number of visitors you get to your site from people viewing, then clicking on your vid. Those visitors are the gravy, not the meal. The real value is that page one listing you can often get from Google. Video results for a search term are shown on the first page – if there are other videos in that category and if Google isn’t changing SERP layouts that week. And they can get there fast – sometimes in hours.

If you make sure to Tweet your video, add it to your Facebook page, your Blog and other social sites you’ll start getting better rankings and more clicks.

Post your video EVERYWHERE you can. Don’t just limit yourself to YouTube! Go to Viddler, Vimeo, eBaum’s World, and others. Set up an account and get that video in wherever it can go. Word of warning – some sites make their money from adult material shown on their site so check them out first if you don’t want your vid snuggling up next to a pole dancing competition.

The second F.E.A.R. factor – Just changing the title and format or running length lets you put the same video up multiple times. Don’t do this. Please save yourself the aggravation and think this “strategy” through. Do you really think that Google, who owns YouTube wants 10 copies of the same video in the same channel? Does this help their value to viewers and advertisers?

Yes, videos are reposted all over YouTube. You can see the same shots of the same political interview all over hundreds of channels. But these are DIFFERENT channels. And therein lies the flaw in the logic behind this scheme. Having the same video in different versions on different channels is one animal. Having the same video in different versions on the SAME channel (yours) is a horse of another color.

I tested this on over a dozen video sharing sites. There were a few of them that banned my account in a matter of days, two in a matter of hours! They were NOT amused! It takes some pretty serious bandwidth to show a video to a viewer and some pretty serious incoming ad dollars to support that bandwidth. Spamming a video site is going to cost them money and the site owners no matter how big they are, have no sense of humor when it comes to losing money.

And if that isn’t enough to keep you from this practice think about your own image. Your potential customer comes to your YouTube channel and sees you have 150 vids. Wow! This guy must be pretty good to have so many info packed videos posted! Then they start watching and discover, “hey I just SAW this one, what gives?” They move to the next – same video, different title. How do you think they feel about you now? Does “ripped off” and “not trusted” run through their mind? For your own sake – just say no to video posting spam. But DO post your video (one time) to every place you can find.

That wraps up our video series. I hope you were able to take away some useful information and most of all I hope you will now stop procrastinating and jump right into the video marketing waters. It’s a truly great place to be.

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Video Software

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

The next step in your video marketing efforts is editing and producing your video. The number and variety of software for video post production can be incredibly confusing and runs the gamut from free to thousands of dollars.  Let’s cut through some of the confusion.

If you’re doing live action video, there are only four pieces of software that you need and you probably already have all of those pieces.

  1. software to export the raw footage from your camera to your computer
  2. software to edit that raw footage and cut out the bad parts
  3. software to edit and enhance your audio track
  4. software to produce your finished video into a format easily viewed on the net or a cell phone

Your camera probably came with a program that will take the raw footage from your camera and

Essential video production software

put it on your desktop. If not, there are many programs, often free, that can be found online merely by searching for your camera model and adding the word software to the search. You’ll also need a firewire or USB cable that runs from your camera to your computer.

Now that you have your raw footage on your desktop, you’ll need to edit it. Your computer very probably came with the software to do that. iMovie for the Mac imports, edits film and audio, adds special effects and text titles and produces the finished video in H:264 .mov format, one of the best if not the best formats there is for online viewing.

Movie Maker for the PC performs the same functions, although not quite as efficiently or elegantly as iMovie. It produces movies in the MP4 format – the second best format for net viewing.

Both are easy to use and both will yield decent results. If you want something a little more robust, check out Final Cut for the Mac, Camtasia for both Mac and PC or Pinnacle Studio for the Mac and PC. All of these programs add additional functionality to your editing and some pretty slick special effects. They also have decent audio editing, or you can go with Audacity – a great, free, open source audio editor.

If you’re producing one of the other types of videos we discussed earlier in this video marketing series, you’ll need screen capture software to allow you to capture the on-screen action. Camtasia is probably the best choice for screen capture.  Easy to use, great results, and this powerful editing package has all the tools you need to edit and produce any type of video you’re likely to want. It also allows you to automatically upload your finished vid to YouTube or store it for private or public viewing on the Screencast platform.

These are all the software pieces you need to produce and edit your videos from start to finish. Video making is not really that difficult. Shoot it or capture it, edit out the bad bits, clean up the sound, produce it in a web friendly format and you’re done. This process will produce some decent videos for an effective video or SEO/SEM campaign taht will help you rise in the rankings and drive more traffic and leads to your site.

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Live Video Essentials

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Yesterday we learned that a gorilla suit is not a required element of producing a live action video. However there are some other pieces of equipment that are essential. And the first piece of equipment is free.

Before you even start up the camera or turn on a light, you need to plan your video and make a checklist. You need to include the following items on this video production checklist:

  • Your script or at least the talking points
  • The location details
  • If you are changing locations at various parts of your script be sure to mark these changes on the script
  • Lights, extension cords, backdrops, or other elements for indoor shooting
  • Any props you may need
  • Any “extras” or other people who will have either in the video or behind the scenes
  • Your equipment – camera, tripod, microphone, etc.

There is nothing more frustrating than getting to the  location and finding you have left some vitalMake a list and check it twice for your live action video piece back home in your den.

The next most important piece of equipment is the microphone. Test your camera if it comes with a built in mic. Some are adequate, others are sound distortion generators that give tinny or garbled results. If your camera’s internal mic is inadequate but it has an external mic jack, test different microphones. Some electronics stores will allow you to bring your camera and do some test runs with various mic solutions.

If you will be filming outdoors, be aware that even a gentle breeze can produce some pretty bad  noise as it blows across the mic. Use a noise reduction cover for an external mic or be sure your built in microphone has noise reduction capabilities.

One other tip on background noise – record about 10 seconds of “dead air” at the beginning and end of your video. This allows a “noise sample” to be present. Audio editing software can “sample” the background noise in the dead space and then remove it from the entire video.

The camera itself is important of course. But you don’t need an expensive camera to shoot a good video. Video cameras have come a long way and even the Flip Cam can give pretty decent results. The one weak point with the Flip is the audio. The built in mic in some models is barely adequate and often gives poor results. The Kodak Zi8 is a good alternative. But odds are if you’ve purchased your video camera in the past two or three years it will do a fine job creating a live action video.

A tripod is a definite must for videos or parts of videos with little action. If you’re sitting at your desk, or standing in front of a backdrop, don’t try to balance your camera in a set of books. Use an adjustable tripod. They are inexpensive and invaluable when it comes to keeping you within the frame and eliminating any “wobble” that may arise from other solutions.

If you are moving about, be sure that whoever is holding the camera is not going crazy with the zoom and pan features. Transitions should be smooth and slow. You should always be well framed in the shot, showing all of your head, not cut off at the eyebrows or neck. The entire footage should flow naturally and smoothly and not be jerky or have abrupt changes.

The software that came with your camera will allow you to export it to your desktop. From there, a wide range of editing tools are available some of which you probably already have. iMovie for the Mac or MS Movie Maker for the PC are probably sitting on your hard drive right now.

There are other things you could add to this list, of course, but these are the essentials.

  1. Checklist
  2. Good microphone
  3. Camera
  4. Tripod
  5. Editing software

So grab your essentials and go make a video this weekend!

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