Posts Tagged ‘online marketing’

More Web Design Faux Pas

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

In the last post we looked at the three most common issues that afflict websites. Today let’s delve into some simple but deadly-if-ignored, design flaws.

1. Forgetting not all of your visitors have Superman laser vision. While the Man of Steel can read tiny, badly contrasting text, most of your visitors can’t. There was a time when orange text in a 6 point serif font on a black background was common. Today, you’re probably only going to find that on gaming enthusiast sites that have been built by use good contrast on your text so it can be read easilytwelve year olds.

However, a new villain in text readability has crept into the mix. Grey text on a white background. You really must be certain that the contrast and the type font and the type size are readable by ALL visitors, not just the ones with super powers. If your visitor can’t read your web content, how do you expect to solve the problem that brought them to your website to begin with?

This goes for graphics, too. I often see graphics that create a bad contrast problem for parts of the text even if some of the page is readable. When you place an image behind the text, be sure that text can still be easily read!

Solution: Have your 90 year old grandmother check out your site. If she can read it – you’re good to go. Seriously – check every page of your site and be sure it passes the contrast test. Use black text on light backgrounds, or white text on dark backgrounds. Use a sans serif font, and unless you’re making a page like a privacy policy that no one ever reads anyway, don’t go lower than 10 points on the font size.

2. Forgetting to get out of the way of a sale. The golden rule of internet marketing is “Don’t do anything that gets in the way of the sale.” And yet I see this rule broken over and over again.

When I”m ready to buy, I want to buy NOW. I don’t want to go through a confusing or convoluted checkout process. I want to see ONE page, with a summary of what I’m purchasing, and all the details I need to enter to complete that purchase. I’ll sit still for two pages – but if you start hitting three or more, I’m outta there! As are most customers.

And boy howdy you better make sure all the links in that checkout process work! Every page, every process, every form field you throw in between the beginning and the end of the checkout process adds to the potential of a lost sale.

Solution: Use a one page checkout system whenever possible. Keep the information you’re asking the customer to fill in to a minimum. Start asking survey questions at checkout and you’ve lost the sale. Use a cart system that saves customer info so they can come back later and complete the process if they need to leave the page. CONFIRM THE SALE. Even if you send an email confirmation – and you should – have a “Thank You For Your Order” page to let them know you have successfully recorded their info and the sale. Showing a review of the order is a nice touch, but do SOMETHING to let them know you have the order.

3. Forgetting that text is text. Are you writing words? Use text. Are you displaying pictures? Use images. With the advent of CSS, designers can do almost ANYTHING with text. Images are pictures. Text is text.

Text is read by search spiders, images that say things with text are not. Image text is harder to correct. Image text adds to the size of the page as it loads. Image text is often hard to read. Use it sparingly – if at all.

Solution: Use CSS to add spiffy effects to text when needed. Save images for pictures.

4. Forgetting that not everyone loves Flash. This is probably my own number one pet peeve on the net. Flash intros are slick – and some of them are jaw dropping in design and function. But if I have already seen it once, do NOT make me watch it every time I come to your site. And don’t force me to watch it before I can get to the content.

The problem with Flash is that it can enhance a site or it can make it painful to visit. Poorly designed Flash elements get in the way of good user experience. Add to that issue the fact that not everyone is surfing on a fiber optic network or some <gasp> may not have Flash installed, or some may be using a Mac or a browser that may not support Flash.

Solution: Have an opt out button on your intro. Let me watch it if I want to or skip it if I don’t. Look at every Flash element on your site very carefully and answer question “Does this add a valuable customer experience?” for each one. If the answer is anything but a resounding YES, find another solution. Have a non Flash version of your site for your visitors to choose if they can’t or don’t want to have the Flash experience.

Tomorrow we’ll go over the last of the web design mistakes on our list, starting with the all important site navigation.

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How To Avoid the Three Biggest Mistakes in Website Design

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Ever since the long ago days when I taught budding webmasters the rudiments of web design I have been fascinated by the number of ways a website could be presented to the public. Your online presence can be a showcase for your products, inducing a visitor to purchase your goods and services, or it could become an instant turnoff.

Here are some of the most common mistakes I see in web design in the online marketing world.

1. Forgetting there are more browsers than just Internet Explorer. Microsoft in it’s infinite wisdom has always believed that their products are superior to anyone else’s in computerdom. And to reinforce that belief, they try to be sure those products do not follow the same standards every one does.

IE does not handle web sites the same way as other browsers do. As a web designer I’ve gotten used to dropping pieces of code into pages that basically say “Figure out what browser the visitor is using and if it’s IE – do this, this and this so that visitor can actually see and use my page”.

While it has gotten better, IE will still occasionally be the ONLY browser that will work with some sites. How bad is this? Look at your server stats or Google Analytics. There will be stats and graphs detailing who is using what when viewing your site. Notice how many of your visitors are using something OTHER than IE as a browser? Do you want to lose all those visitors because your site can’t be seen correctly (or sometimes at all!) if they are using Safari, or Firefox or Google Chrome?

Solutions: TEST your site – every single page, every single form including checkout pages in IE, Safari and FireFox at the very least. Add Google Chrome, Opera, and Netscape if you want to be certain 99.9% of your visitors can see and use your website.

2. Forgetting why people are coming to your site. I can’t begin to count all the websites I’ve looked at that forgot this vital point. Your visitors don’t care about you. Honest. They are at your site for one or more of these 4 reasons:

  1. They want/need information
  2. They want/need to make a purchase / donation.
  3. They want/need to be entertained.
  4. They want/need to be part of a community.

Your web site needs to solve their problems. It doesn’t exist  just as an additionalSolve visitor problems instead of talking about youmarketing channel. It’s not there just to promote brand awareness or increase sales. It has one primary purpose and everything else is secondary. Your web site needs to exist to solve one of the four problems above.

Solution: Make a list of the pages on your site – leaving out product pages if you have more than a handful of products. Next to each page, enter the number from the above list if that page solves that problem. If you can’t put one of those numbers next to a page – rethink why that page exists and correct it.

Also count how many times the word “I” or your name appears on a page. Then compare that number to the number of times your product or service name appears. Here’s a tool that will quickly handle that chore. Keyword Density Tool

Your website isn’t about you. At least it shouldn’t be unless you’re a Hollywood star or a major sports figure. It should be all about your potential customer and how you have exactly what they need to solve their problem and ease their pain. If your name or “I” appears far more often than your solution to a visitor’s problem, you need to rewrite that page copy.

3. Forgetting that your visitor doesn’t know what your site and company are all about. We have a four second rule in site design. We have four seconds to clearly let a visitor know what the site is all about. That’s half the time of the average “bounce” – how long it takes a visitor to leave your page and move on to the next site. In short – you have 8 seconds to grab that visitor and bring them deeper into your site.

Your tagline under your logo and the first sentence or two of the home page copy needs to give a visitor a CLEAR idea of what you are all about. Your page title also comes into this mix. Many browsers show that title on the address bar.

Have someone who is unfamiliar with your site take a quick look at the first page. If you can – time them and see how long it takes before they can  answer the question “What do we sell/do/service/answer?”

Solution: Make sure you have a GOOD, unique title for each of your pages. Use a tagline under your logo that actually describes what you do. “Big Hands of Hope – It’s all about compassion” tells me NOTHING about you other than you are probably a charity of some sort. “Big Hands of Hope – Saving Africa’s Children” may not be great copy, but it at least gives me a fairly good idea of what I will be reading on this site.

Tomorrow we’ll be back with a few more design tips that will help you make the most of your internet doorway.

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Achieving Viral Content

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

In the last episode of “SEO Land” we discussed the true meaning of the phrase “viral content” and why it was important to have visitors talking to others about your site. Just as an aside here, did you know that women speak to almost 20 more people a day, on average, than men do? Seems to me that if you had a group of women passing your link around you could have instant virality.

The big question is – how do you create viral content? It’s not that difficult and you don’t have to drag a bunch of cute, cuddly animals onto your website. Remember we want to get the content talked about, not necessarily get 1 million YouTube views. While a cat playing the piano is a sure hit, it probably has nothing to do with your business unless you’re a piano tuner.

Number one – create a blog. A blog is a wonderful thing. It serves many purposes, both in SEO Land and as a source of viral content. If you think you can’t write, you’re probably wrong. You should be able to put your thoughts, feelings, tricks and tips into some semblance of written order. You don’t have to post every day, and your posts don’t have to be lengthy.

They do have to connect with the reader and be more than a “puff” piece or a restatement of company policy. There’s a reason people don’t read T&C’s or Privacy statements – they’re boring. They’re pretty much all the same. You won’t see them on Facebook or being re-Tweeted. Unless you ARE  Facebook and you’ve changed privacy controls for the third time in a month and stirred up a firestorm yet again.

That brings us to one of the most overlooked elements of viral content – controversy. No matter what industry you are in, there are controversial issues surrounding it. Nothing gets passed around as quickly as content links that address industry headlines. My dad always told me to stay out of discussions about religion and politics, and in the world of social media and blogging, that holds true, too. But a well reasoned post about industry events is always a good way to be noticed and “passed around”.

Whether it’s your blog or your website, have something useful. Tips, how to’s, widgets, a good collection of useful links – these are all ways to get your site frequent repeat visitors. Did you know that the phrase “how do I” is used more often in search than any other?

If your site has the answer to “How do I…?” your url will get passed around and bookmarked more than your competitors. I have a special bookmark section that answers my most frequent questions. Things like conversion calculators – how many feet make 15 meters? BMI calculators – how tall do I have to be to support the weight I’ve gained sitting in this computer chair?  Financial calculators, a cool site that lists all the codecs for video encoding, another one that gives  a short description of CSS tags, and many more.

If you can answer the “How” or “What” or “Why” questions for your industry, do it! Set up a reference area on your site, or blog about it. Keep it simple – an ordered list of how to do something step by step. Or what to do for XYZ. Become a one stop shop for YOUR industry and your site and it’s content will become viral.

We can’t mention viral content without talking video. And with video the same points apply. Don’t just do a “look at how wonderful my product or service is” video. SHOW people how to use it! Tell viewers how to do something and they will watch.

If you can come up with a creative way of using your product – do it. The single most watched product videos are the “Will It Blend?” series from Blendtec. They are irreverent,  silly, hilarious at times and have been featured on every major news site on the net.

Think bloopers. Is there something that shouldn’t be done with your product? If it won’t create a safety hazard – do it! With the camera rolling. When you make people laugh, they remember you. They feel warm and fuzzy. And then they open their wallets. Because they feel a connection with you, when you have ENGAGED them.

These are just a few ideas to get your viral content ball rolling. Look at your industry and start thinking about how YOU can stand out from the crowd. What YOU can do for your customer above and beyond what your competition is doing. And pretty soon you will be saying “They like me! They REALLY like me!” as those talkative women begin telling the 28 people they converse with every day about your company, your site, and your content.

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SEO and Viral Content

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Have you ever looked at a video on YouTube and seen views over 1 million, or even over 2 or 3 million? If you’re a red blooded marketing person you probably drooled as your eyes turned glassy dreaming about that many visitors.

You will hear internet marketers promoting software or programs or techniques that will give you viral content. But you will NEVER see numbers even close to 10,000 by using any of these “tricks”.  You see, these techniques forget a very important fact about content.  The content has to be something someone actually wants to watch/read/listen to.

One of the masters of the viral content game is OK Go.  Their latest video features a choreographed dance with dogs. More than 6.5 million people have watched it on YouTube.

According to Ok Go’s lead singer Damian Kulash, “Content succeeds online,” he said, “because it brings people joy, it makes them smile — it’s interesting enough to be passed along to friends and family members. That’s no stunt,” he said, “it’s just a matter of making something that’s genuine and interesting.”

There’s no amount of savvy or gaming the system that is going to make people like things that are not likable.

We can expand that last statement  (which completely explains why all those programs and techniques won’t work) to read “There’s no amount of savvy or gaming the system that is going to make people like things that are not likable or useful.

Here’s the thing about the net – it’s built around people. Long ago the page rank of a site was an indicator of how many other sites found the content likable and useful. But guess what? Things have changed. Now actual real people “like” content and share it with friends, colleagues, and family. Social has overtaken the net and people, not sites, determine who has the best content. (Which is why page rank doesn’t matter nearly as much as it once did.)

Take a good hard look at your content. Does it talk about you? How great and good and wonderful you are? Be objective – is that content anyone wants to spread to their circle of people? Probably not, unless you have one of those foot long gold statues that are given out at awards ceremonies in Hollywood.

What is your content doing for your visitors? Is it educating them? Is it answering questions for them? Is it making their lives easier? Is it entertaining them?

Are you providing a place for lively discussion of ideas on your Facebook page, your blog, or your forum? Have you built into your site or your social media efforts an engine that will allow more and more content to be built up over time? A repository of useful information in your field?

Or is your site like the millions of others on the net –

  • page one – welcome to my site
  • pages two through 1000 – here are my great products with a one line description and a fuzzy, out of focus product image
  • page three – all about me
  • page four – contact me

This yawner formula is certain to make you a part of the thundering herd of similar sites and prevent you from ever “going viral”.

You see what works on YouTube – the basics – entertain, impart USEFUL knowledge, provide LIKABLE content, works with search engines as well as with people. The more likable content you have, the more the engines will visit and the higher you will climb in the rankings, bringing more and more visitors to your site. Those visitors are asked a ton of questions every single day that begin with “Where do I find…”

This is what viral truly means. When the answer to that question is YOUR site, and YOUR URL gets passed around in FaceBook, Twitter, eMail, and Smart Phone conversations – you’ve GONE VIRAL.

Your site will never achieve the Holy Grail of Viralizm unless you have that likable content in place.

How do you create likable content? Stay tuned and tomorrow I’ll go into the nuts and bolts of how to create that likable content.

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Internet Marketing By The Numbers

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

I am a stats junky. I have gotten my addiction to statistics as they involve internet marketing under control to the point that I no longer run desktop tickers with traffic numbers. I have to admit I still sneak off a few times a day to check Google Analytics, an SEO ranking report or two, and sometimes peek a glance at a beautiful PPC campaign graph.

You don’t have to share my love of stats to keep your finger on the pulse of your online marketing efforts. And if you aren’t into the crisp, clean truthiness (thank you Stephen Colbert) of stats, don’t worry. Watching just two numbers will give you a good overview of your campaigns.

For all my love of stats there are only two numbers that I really keep my eye on. The first is the number at the end of the month that represents what went into my bank account.  I don’t care how many programs there are that will track everything related to sales and internet marketing efforts, at the end of the day the only number that matters is the bank account balance. Traffic might improve that number. A better call to action, professional copy, better site navigation, a one click checkout – all of these can contribute to better conversions and a higher bank balance.

But the one tried and true, absolute best way to know if my internet marketing efforts, my search optimization, and my conversion programs are working is the increase in money I can deposit from one month to the next.

The second number I look at is the cost of acquiring those sales. Your accountant probably calls this Cost of Acquisition.  There are several ways of acquiring a customer and each one has it’s own cost.

You’ve probably heard of PPC or Pay Per Click advertising. Here’s how the process works.

You research and choose the keywords that will bring your perfect prospect to your website. You write a three line text advertisement or have a banner or video or some other rich media ad made for you. Then you bid on those keywords to place your ad. Bid high enough and it will be seen on the first page of every search for the keyword phrase that ad targets.

If you use Google, you will often be looking at $5 or more to achieve that good ad spot. The more competition you have for your keyphrase, the higher the PPC cost. So if your ad cost $5 per click, and it took 50 clicks to produce one sale, your TRUE cost of acquisition for PPC is $50. You have to  count the cost of kissing the frogs who clicked but didn’t buy. If your “ad spend” is higher than your sales numbers, you need to go back to the drawing board and revamp your PPC campaign.

Another way of acquiring a new customer is CPA – or Cost Per Action. You place your ad on other sites, or pay other people – affiliates – to send you customers. To put your ad into a CPA network is similar to a PPC campaign but the customer must take action. Fill out a form, enter an application, place a phone call – some sort of prospect action needs to occur before payment is made. The cost for this action is often a percentage of the product price. CPA cost of acquisition can range from 3% to 75% of each sale depending on the product. If this number is higher than the cost of making your products and keeping your doors open, you need to lower your CPA percentage.

With the advent of social sites, you can do a campaign that rewards things such as “likes” on Facebook. The cost to acquire a “like” is currently running between $1-$5.  This is NOT a sale, but a potential customer via the friend network of social sites. Since you don’t know when or if these new found friends will purchase, this cost of acquisition can be difficult to measure against sales.

Last, but certainly not least is organic traffic. Organic search traffic is NOT free. It takes time to research the keywords, set up and implement the linking strategy, the right source code changes, the compelling copy. But in the overall scheme of things, organic traffic can be the best “bang for your buck”.

Let’s say a site redesign with a top notch copy writer and SEO expert involved in every step costs $5,000. In six months time you get 50,000 visitors and a conversion rate of 40%.  your cost of acquisition works out to $4. If your product or service sells at even $5 – you’ve made a very tidy $95,000 profit!

So there you have it – your bank balance and the Cost of Acquisition are the stats that can quickly tell you the effectiveness of your online marketing strategy.


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When Online Marketing Consultants Are Like Bad Mechanics

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

I have had an ongoing adventure over the past two months that has me frustrated, annoyed and ready to tear my hair out. Last night as I was thinking about the latest wrinkle in the situation it suddenly dawned on me that my offline experience was probably pretty similar to many site owners online experiences.

I have an older truck that has been a cherished member of the family for several years. She has one bad habit – she eats starter motors for breakfast. So when her latest one gave up the ghost, and being 1100 miles away from my favorite mechanic, I hopped online to order a new one. I wasn’t willing to pay the sky high prices at the local Auto Zone, so I got a “bargain” online. It arrived and was the wrong part. It looked about the size to power a Yugo, and was definitely not going to do an F350 much good.

So off to the net I go, and order from another company, while jumping through the phone calls and RMA process with the first company. Second part arrives, it looks much better, but it too is incorrect. By this time I am getting annoyed, and have the old part in hand. I march down to the Auto Zone and pay their sky high prices for the correct part. Installed and finally back on the road again. Life is good!

Ummm NOT. Next day my poor truck is not healthy. I now have three choices. Call in yet another mechanic to come out and see what’s wrong. Call a tow truck and have it towed many miles to the ONLY mechanic I know in the area who might do a decent job. Find the issue and fix it myself.

Armed with some online books and a shred of common sense, I did find the problem and will be fixng it soon. It was in a “jury rigged” battery cable repair made years ago by a less than sober, but very cheap, mechanic. It is also probably why I’ve been eating up starter motors. And boy howdy did the whole experience make me miss my favorite expert mechanic!

So here I am waiting for several hundred dollars to make it’s way back to my credit card. Out the shipping costs of sending the wrong parts back. And wasn’t able to go play in the traffic for almost two months.

Think about it. Haven’t you gone through the same thing with SEO experts, or internet marketing consultants orDon't monkey around when it comes to an online marketing expert even online marketing products? Your site isn’t converting well anymore, it’s a little long in the tooth, so you decide to hire someone to refurbish it. Or you need more traffic so you look around for a search engine optimization company.

You find that prices for SEO work and conversion specialists and site designers is certainly NOT minimum wage level. But your receptionist has a boy friend who “does a lot of stuff online” and he’ll help ya out for just a few bucks. Or maybe you look around online and find the sites that match online job seekers with online employers. Hey even better! Minimum wage in THEIR country is a lot less than minimum wage in America!

And then the fun begins. Your results are less than stellar. Your traffic goes into the basement. Your rankings are no where to be found. You’re banned from You Tube for duplicate content. And the good article sites won’t let you back in because they say you spammed them. And your new site design is tiny orange letters on a black background that is readable only by a 12 year old gamer.

Bottom line here? Whether you’re fixing the biggest truck Ford ever made for non commercial use, or a 1000 page online retail site, paying for expert help saves time, aggravation and money. The mail room boy isn’t going to be able to design your site so it converts. He doesn’t have the time to keep up with industry changes or hone his skills. Your cousin’s wife’s brother-in-law isn’t going to be able to optimize your site while working the night shift at 7/11. He too can’t keep up with the ever changing search landscape.

And that guy writing your articles for $5 a pop? You know, the one sitting in that country with the monsoons and landslides? His articles may read ok in his native language, but they sure do lose something in the translation to English!

I’m going to have my truck on the road, as soon as I find the time to replace that bad cable. And the first thing I”m going to do is drive it to the expert mechanic 15 miles away and have it checked out. I want to make sure there isn’t anything else “jury rigged” by that inexpensive mechanic that will rise up and keep me off the highway. I learned from my mistake.

Is it time for you to have your site checked out by a real online marketing or seo expert?

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How To Win The Internet Marketing Game

Friday, October 8th, 2010

I feel incredibly fortunate to have lived through the beginnings of the biggest revolution our society has ever witnessed.

The Internet.

It may be called the Electronic Revolution, it may be called the Digital Divide, but make no mistake. Computers, smart phones, and electronics all have on thing in common – the Net. In less than two decades it has swept just about every corner of the world, changing our lives and how we view ourselves and others forever.

The faceless, nameless millions who work, play, shop and hang out online are really not so faceless. There is a real live human being behind every keystroke, behind every post, every sale, every tweet. And yet we tend to forget that those real people exist.

When I put my first site online back in ’98, a community site that in it’s own way was a precursor of the socialReal people are behind internet marketingmedia world we know today, I was stunned. I sat there in all my geekiness watching stats. OH someone from Germany just paid a visit! How cool!. Hey there’s a person from Norway! Oh and look – East Bofunk is hooked in, too!

I sat at my computer into the wee hours of the morning watching people coming to my site from all over the world, people I didn’t know, had never met, people who were mere wisps of electronic signal. I visualized these people, they were more than just dots or numbers, they were real people reaching out to me across thousands of miles and THEY WERE BUYING my services – without my having to do a single thing.

This was heady stuff! And then these people started conversations on my forums. They exchanged information with each other, they talked about the net and their own lives. They were real people, there was flesh and blood behind those electronic signals. A hundred sites, then ten thousand, and today 10 billion are serving these people in ways never imagined. An integral part of their lives, a place some call home. A social revolution undreamed of just a short time ago.

Today, 92% of babies born have their picture online before they are 6 months old. Today, smart phone carriers breeze through a living maze in minutes thanks to Google Earth maps. Today, we have a front row seat to every event happening anywhere in the world (except maybe China) whether it’s a flood in Pakistan, a political upheaval in Iran or the new Fall line of a major fashion house. Today, 1 in 3 products is bought online.

Are you a part of this revolution? Are you engaging your audience on Twitter and Facebook and chat boards? Or are you still waiting for a flesh and blood person to walk through your door? Even if they DO walk through your door, they will be changed. They will be better informed, thanks to their online research. They may ask you why you have negative reviews about your shipping process. They may ask you what your Facebook Page address is in case they have questions after the sale.

You see, no matter how much things have changed, no matter how much online marketing and social networking have become a part of the sales process, your customer is STILL real. They are still flesh and blood, they still respond to the same sales process, just in a different media.

Have you embraced the social revolution or are you being trampled by it? If you don’t understand it, if you don’t engage in it, you’re not hanging out where your customers can be found. And you’re losing prospects and sales.

It’s easy to jump in. Just remember that those faceless people are real. The way you speak to them when they walk into your establishment, or call you on the phone works just as well in online marketing as it does offline. No matter how far reaching, or how pervasive the revolution, one thing has NOT changed. REAL people are sitting at that keyboard. The same people who used to walk in or call your business.

The only difference is now you can reach a LOT more of them, and they won’t be your real life friends and neighbors. Make them your digital friends and neighbors and you’ve won the internet marketing game.

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Online Marketing Lowlifes

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

In the brick and mortar world you know when someone is going to try to rip you off. They often have a mask and carry weapons of individual destruction. In the online world it’s different. Your business can be robbed and you won’t be seeing a person in front of you demanding that you empty the cash register, but the results can be asDigital burglars cause more trouble than real world ones bad or worse online.

Most of our clients will forward emails they receive about some of these scams, for which I am eternally grateful. I stand as a the guardian at the gate for our clients on a wide range of these scams. Some are easy to spot and block, others not so easy. With all my years online, with all the scam knowledge I have achieved, I’ve been scammed and badly burned myself and lost a promising business in the process. Here’s two of the latest nefarious schemes making headlines in my part of the online world.

Let’s say you get a link request from a company for an unnamed web site wanting to link to you. They offer to pay you to include that person’s link on your website. Sounds good -right? Ummm maybe.

First be aware that Google frowns on paid linking, although paid ads are ok. There can be a fine line between links and advertisements.

Who is this unknown website? What neighborhood do they inhabit? Are they an adult site in disguise? I will not submit a client video to some of the video sharing sites because they will end up cheek by umm other body parts with scantily clad women doing some pretty incredible exercises with other people that you won’t find on the cover of self improvement magazines. I don’t believe you want your video on the features and benefits of your company hanging around that neighborhood.

Link trades can put you into the same neighborhoods and your new link to unsavory neighbors can have lasting repercussions.

Likewise you could be enticing your site visitors to click on a link that could install malware or take them somewhere they really shouldn’t be visiting. Every time I see an email with a cash offer attached to a link my “bad guy” radar goes up.  There ARE some places that do this for a living and they ARE reputable and they perform a much needed service. But it pays to ask questions and check things out before jumping into any deal with anyone. You wouldn’t open the door of your house to just anyone, you shouldn’t open the door of your website to just anyone either.

Now that Google Places has really taken off, the bandits are in full swing with a hostage scam that’s been around since Google Maps first started years ago.  Several people have shown up in the Google Places Help Forum recently reporting a similar dilemma. Case in point was a limo business owner who posted

My business has a couple address that are both listed and claimed in google maps. However, if you do a search of my domain name, you will see three pages of results, all but two of which are wrong.

The wrong listings have a bad phone number, random business name, and random address, but it does list my company domain. These listings have already been “Claimed by owner” so we cannot go in and fix them.

This was brought to our attention today by a phone call from a “marketing expert” who pointed out this problem and how it could get us banned from google. When we refused to pay him to correct the problem, he threatened to flag our real listings and get them removed/penalized if we didn’t pay him. This person obviously created about 25 fake listings with my domain in another Google Places account before calling to point out this “problem” and is holding the ability to delete them hostage… There is no way for us to correct the listing.

So the slimeballs hijack your address, put a bunch of phony info and multiple listings in there which can hurt your business, then demand money to restore it to you – the rightful owner.

Google SHOULD be issuing a warning about this practice – but they aren’t. Google SHOULD be making it easier to correct this – but they haven’t.

There is NO way any single person, no matter how vigilant, can be aware of the internet scams popping up every hour of every day on the net. There is no digital lock that will prevent all of these lowlifes from attacking you.

Vigilance and common sense will go a long way. If it sounds too good to be true – it is. If you don’t throughly investigate a situation, you’re asking to be fleeced. If you don’t listen to the tiny voice inside you, you’ll be sorry probably for a very long time. If you don’t think you’re a target – you’re wrong. If you think the bad guys just hang out on Facebook, think again.

The net is a wonderful place to do business. It’s the great social watering hole, bringing together an incredible mass of interesting people. And unfortunately, some of those people are from the dark side.

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How Much Traffic Will I Get From My SEO Efforts?

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Just about every day I hear business owners talk about SEO efforts. And one of the first questions they tend to ask is “How Much Will My Traffic Increase?” There are two answers that should be given to these owners by a reputable SEO expert.

1. It depends

2. That measurement is not really relevant to your business

In the real world of Internet SEO Land we rarely give those answers or if we do, they aren’t worded quite that bluntly. Here’s the WHY behind those all important answers that you, as a business owner need to understand.

SEO is not a one size fits all. There are many details and strategies that go into an SEO campaign. There are 100 interlocking pieces that come into play, and that’s before the engines decide to change how they look at those efforts.

Here are just a few of the elements that need to be considered and assessed way before the first keyword report is even run:

How well constructed is your site? Is the page code clean, compliant with modern browser regs, and stripped to it’s bare necessity? Or is it bloated with useless comments, script calls, lengthy ways of handling menu buttons, with real content – spider food – not beginning until code line 1500?

Search engines like nice clean code with page content starting as soon as possible in the page source code. To be successful with your SEO you need to make life easy for the search spiders. Convoluted code makes their job harder, and guess what? There’s a bunch of sites within hailing distance that are easier to read. Spiders won’t spend forever on your site – if they can’t read it in their language quickly enough, they move on to a more welcome place.

Do you have a social marketing strategy with frequent Facebook and blog posts, daily Tweets, well described videos on video sharing sites, social group involvement and mentions in bookmarking sites? Google likes content. Google likes links. Google likes FRESH, updated content linked to your site from a variety of sources.

These links and posts can have a great bearing on your SEO efforts, as well as adding to your traffic. Target your keywords to your ideal customer

And finally – how much traffic is available? Yes there are millions of people searching for millions of things – but how many people are actually, realistically searching for what you sell? If 1000 people a day are searching for your blue wooly mammoth blankets, you can’t expect to get 10,000 visitors a day from your search efforts. And if you ARE getting that many visitors, that brings us to question number 2.

HOW much traffic you receive is not what you can take to the bank. How much traffic you CONVERT to sales is the most important metric to track. A search campaign that sends the wrong visitors to your site WILL boost traffic numbers, but it will also boost the number of visitors leaving your page very quickly – called the bounce rate. And those departing visitors won’t be adding money to your bottom line.

A successful SEO campaign is NOT about sending traffic. It is ALL about sending TARGETED traffic through your sales funnel. Once your ideal customer is defined, it is far easier to set a realistic traffic goal. And here’s a tip to discovering how well you’re doing in numbers that really count.

Watch your competitors. If you are on target – using the right keyterms for your target audience, your traffic numbers will be going up. In most cases, you will be taking visitors away from your competition, or getting to them before competing websites do.  Their traffic numbers will start going DOWN.

You can see their traffic numbers at Compete.com as well as your own numbers.

Keyword research is not the first step or the most important step in an SEO campaign. Targeting and reaching the right visitor is. And until that step has been accomplished and tested, answering “How much traffic…” is just crystal ball gazing using a totally fogged up glass sphere.

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Three More Ways to Fail Online

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

In yesterday’s post I wrote about failing online by becoming just one of the millions of unremarkable sites in the internet landscape.

Here’s another way to fail. Copy others. Think back to some memorable ads. “Where’s the beef?”, “Got Milk?”, “Ladies, your man can’t BE me but he can SMELL like me”. These ads have been copied and lampooned and even years later are still a part of our lexicon. Do you remember the knockoffs? I’m pretty sure there isn’t a product, idea, or service that hasn’t been spun as a takeoff on “Got Milk?”.  Can you remember even ONE of those?

The “Will It Blend” series on YouTube is memorable. I get a giggle every time I watch one of those. It’s original, it’s funny, it’s silly and it’s for a product I will NEVER be in the market for, yet I still go out of my way to watch new episodes. It’s the internet version of “Where’s the beef?”, sure to be around for years to come.

Are you having fun in your business? I can guarantee that if you’re stuck in the corporate think world, and you’re not having fun, you won’t be creating memorable sites, ads, articles or much of anything else that will stick out from the crowd. You’ll look, sound and feel just like everyone else, because you’re copying everyone else. How do you see YOURSELF? Are you the VP of Systems Analysis and Technical Development? Or are you secretly Chief Cook and Bottle Washer? If you see yourself as the latter, I’ll bet you’re a creative dynamo just waiting to explode.

Listen to the wrong people. The net has lead to lies and misconceptions being repeated over and over again until they become accepted as truths. Adolph Hitler was many things, most of them pretty bad. But he was also a consummate marketer, a shaper of minds. And he knew that telling a lie often enough, authoritatively enough  would make that lie become perceived as truth.

Reading the same thing on a zillion different websites doesn’t make it true. Online anyone can be anything. They can put the title “Dr.” or “expert” or whatever else they want with their name and it may only mean they took an online course in herbology.

Dig inside yourself – trust your own warning bells. Does the strategy, product claims, or anything else ring true? Is it logical? WHO is saying it? What are THEIR credentials in the field?

One of the oft repeated things I have heard in Internet Marketing circles is “well, he MUST know what he’s doing. He’s a millionaire!” Puleeze! He’s a millionaire because he got a million people to pay $1 for a useless ebook. He’s a master of human sheep shearing, not an SEO or online marketing expert!

Forget to target your ideal customer. This is a biggy. If you don’t know who you want to attract, who is a good fit for your products or services, how are you ever going to be able to satisfy their wants and needs? Don’t just say “well, my market is stay at home moms”. Hoy boy is that an over generalization!

Answer the important questions about that prospect.

WHY are they at home? Because they can’t find a job after college? Because they are married to a Neanderthal who won’t’ let them work outside the home? Because they made the choice to leave corporate life and raise a family? VASTLY different reasons mean VASTLY different consumers and mindsets.

What are they looking for from your product? Christmas money? A steady income? A move up in lifestyle?

Where are they? Living in concrete caves with millions of others? Watching the deer and antelope play in the hinterlands? Painting cuddly forest creatures on the shores of Gitchee Goomee?

Until you can answer everything there is to know about your IDEAL customer, you will fail trying to reach them with your message. You won’t really be answering the all important “WHO” you are trying to reach. And if you don’t know Who, you surely can’t answer the bottom line How Do I Get THAT Customer?

So there you have it – 3 certain steps to online marketing failure. Copy others. Listen to the wrong people. And don’t target your ideal customer.

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