Filed under: 2008 Election, Advice for Startups, Blogging, Connect Magazine, Internet Marketing Tactics, Search Engine Optimization
Some people are born with great names and others have great names thrust upon them. In the 1960s when I was given the name “Paul Allen” it was an ordinary name. But thanks to the dynamic duo of Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the name is now famous.
But what do you do if you want to be found online, but you can’t possibly stand out like the rich and famous person with the same name? Or what do you do if you have a name like “John Smith” that is so common that it can’t possibly stand out?
The Wall Street Journal Center for Entrepreneurs published an article today by Elva Ramirez that may give entrepreneurs a few ideas about how to stand out in the search engines and how to elevate your search engine rankings. One key is blogging. Another is giving yourself a unique online persona, like Phil Burns did.
I was interviewed for the article as was Phil Burns, aka Phil801, founder of TagJungle.com.
I mentioned in the interview that it’s hard to compete in search engine rankings with the Microsoft Paul Allen. He used to have the first fifty or so search results in Google. But since I’ve been blogging fairly consistently for more than three years, and have posted about 800-900 times, I’ve attracted hundreds of incoming links that have given my paulallen.net web site a decent ranking on the search phrase “paul allen.”
I’m still known as Paul Allen the Lesser, and will likely stay that way forever both in reputation and in Google rank, unless I outlive the Greater and do something so marvelous (like bring about world peace through blogging) that my web page someday outranks his Wikipedia article. Not likely, I know. I’ll settle for third or fifth and be happy as a clam.
But when you name your company, or purchase your domain name, or name your product or service, do something to make it unique and easy to find, or do something to attract so much attention that you get the search engine rankings that you need to be found.
It often takes a ton of quality content (either company published or user generated) to generate enough incoming links to get high rankings on various keywords. But I’ve seen in done over and over and over again by SEO savvy entrepeneurs and internet marketers.
It pays great dividends to generate content that is worth linking to, because search engine rankings can make the difference between success and failure of an online business. I tried to calculate the value of high search engine rankings in an article published in December 2004 by Connect Magazine last year.
In the mid 90s, it mattered a great deal that your company name started with an “A” or better yet a number like “10x” since so many directories were alphabetically sorted. As better sorting algorithms were developed, that became less important. (But even now, in Google Book Search, the book vendors are listed in alphabetically order, meaning that Abe Books and Alibris show up ahead of Amazon.com whenever you want to purchase a book.)
How do you think names will affect the 2008 Presidential Campaign?
I think Hilary or is it Hillary Clinton has a pretty big problem. People don’t know how to spell her name. About 1/4th or 1/3rd seem to spell it wrong according to a Google Trends Report on both spellings. Her first name has two l’s.
I think Rudy Giuliani has an even bigger problem. It’s hard to find someone online when you can’t spell their name correctly. It’s taken me several searches for me to become comfortable with the spelling of his last name. The first few times I got it wrong.
Barack Hussein Obama will have the problem of getting people to spell his first name correctly (I think I typed two “r”s initially), but worse still, the Hussein might bring up all kinds of search engine results that may turn people off. Good thing for him that his last name has a “b” in it rather than an “s.”
People may wonder if you spell Mitt Romney with one or two t’s, so I think John Edwards and John McCane have the edge here in “ease of use.” Just kidding, I know it’s McCain, but I wonder if everyone else knows that as well. So may Edwards actually has the advantage.
At least I thought he did, until I did a search on Google for “John Edwards” and after the first three hits came up I saw something I’ve never seen before, a line separating the first three results from the next set of results, followed by a message:
“See results for John Edward”
Then below that were a bunch of websites dealing with a musician named John Edward.
I have never before seen Google take a plural word query (Edwards) and offer search results for a singular version of the name (Edward) partway down the page.
Can someone tell me what’s going on here? Does someone at Google not like John Edwards?
(Just kidding, I totally believe what happens at Google is algorithmically based. But John Edwards just happens to be caught in a bad spot with regards to this particular algorithm. Instead of “hanging chads” determining the outcome of the 2008 Election, maybe it will be a tweaked google algorithm.)
I wonder how many of the campaigns will try to purchase domains or build sites that include the misspelled versions of their opponents names. Would that be a base tactic in politics?
I typed in familsearch.com the other day (accidentally missed the “y”) and I found that I got redirected to the Ancestry.com web site presumably because an affiliate bought that typo version of a popular domain name and took advantage of the typo. In internet marketing this happens all the time. Some companies own thousands of domains with misspellings and typos that can redirect traffic from their competitors’ sites.
So what do you do to stand out online? And why do you think it matters?
And what advice would you give the 2008 Presidential Campaigns as they try to stand out online? Who has an inherent advantage because of his/her name, and who has a disadvantage? Which tactics should they embrace, and which should they avoid, because they might backfire? Which candidate will write the blog with the best content (hopefully not ghost-written, but genuine) and attract the most incoming links in order to get more incoming traffic and higher search engine rankings.
For a lot of reasons, including the impact of names on a candidate’s ability to be found online, it will be an interesting race to watch.
Filed under: Internet Marketing Tactics, Search Engine Optimization
Thanks to SoloSEO.com, a new web-based search engine marketing project management system, for pointing me to this excellent post from a Seattle SEO firm about how to get more incoming links. I have used some of these ideas before, but this post describes a more comprehensive and useful approach than any internal search strategy my teams have employed to get links. I highly recommend this.
Backlinks are the #1 most important factor in search engine rankings. So everyone needs them. But there are legitimate natural ways to attract links and then there are short-cut ways, which in the long run won’t give you much credit.
For example, many web sites will sell text links for SEO purposes. If your company is considering buying text links from any of the networks that have popped up, you should read this excellent Matt Cutts post from December 2005 that reveals that Google is getting very good at identifying purchased text links. Matt Cutts works at Google with the team that tries to identify and stamp out SEO spam; at the same time he gives wonderful advice about how to legitimately design your web site to be search engine friendly.
Filed under: Email Marketing, Internet Marketing Tactics
Chris’s main point is that a very important part of internet marketing is capturing email addresses from customers so that you can follow up with them with useful information and offers. He kept saying, “the fortune is in the followup.”
He is an excellent internet marketer who combines traditional marketing with internet marketing in some very novel ways. For example, some of his work has involved using direct mail (postcards) sent to targeted recipients to bring them to a very unique web site that plays an audio file and encourages people to sign up for a series of e-mails that lead them to purchasing a service that they need. Check out his web site and some of the projects that he has done for clients.
Many of his landing pages have only one purpose–to capture an email address from a prospect. One example is www.specialagentqa.com. He likes using auto-playing audio. He has discovered that adding navigational links to these pages actually decreases the conversion rate, so he doesn’t put any other links on the page. The only thing a web visitor can do on these pages is sign up by entering their email address for free information, or exit the site.
When it comes to email marketing, one of the challenges is getting the emails that you send to prospects and customers to actually get to their inbox. Since ISPs and email providers are trying to block spam, many legitimate email messages get blocked by the spam filters for various reasons.
There are blacklists and whitelists that email marketers need to understand.
Some companies instruct their email subscribers to add them to their “whitelist” so that emails from them will make it through. Here is a real estate company that teaches users of AOL, Earthlink, Hotmail, Yahoo, MSN, NetZero and various anti-spam products how to add them to their email whitelist.
Chris said he uses E-filtrate to make sure his legitimate email campaigns won’t create a false positive in spam filters (based on the copy) and get blocked.
One member of the Academy who has done a lot of email marketing has found that many emails get blocked because the domain name and IP address of the sender don’t match in the email header. He does custom php coding for companies to make sure that the domain name and IP address do match. (I’m not totally certain that I’ve captured this correctly. I welcome readers who can clarify the point the Academy member was trying to make.)
Chris told us that he typically increased the email capture rates by 40% by adding audio to the landing page, and even more when he uses video.
He told us that one way to get people to sign up for your email offer is to use an “ethical bribe,” meaning, give them something valueable and free if they will give you their email address. One example he shared was by offering an email series called “9 steps to weight loss” which people can get for free when they give you their email address. You can find this on 9stepstoweightloss.com
Chris says teleseminars work great for high-ticket items. For example, if you want people to attend an expensive real world seminar, you may want to offer a free teleseminar to generate leads for the actual event. On the teleseminar you can have interviews with the speakers who are going to be giving the actual seminar.
Chris mentioned that Virtual Seminar Week recently had 49 speakers who gave presentations. Each speaker emailed their own lists and told them about the Virtual Seminar Week, which had educational content about dozens of important topics. Pooling lists in this way and combining forces to present a great online educational value is a win-win for the conference organizers and for the individual speakers. The individual speakers who sign up the most subscribers get the majority of the revenue from their own efforts.
(I recently subscribed to eComXpo, so that I can listed to the 175 presentations that have been given by ecommerce experts and internet marketers. I think this model of bringing together experts and selling subscriptions to the archives is an excellent one.)
Chris’s wife runs jenmagazine.com, a fashion and culture site for LDS teens and young adult women. The site traffic and email list is growing fast. By adding a “tell a friend” feature to the site the list started growing 40% faster.
Chris says marketers should try to participate in trade shows and events where you get the entire database of attendees if you are an exhibitor or sponsor. At one major trade show, every exhibitor got the entire database of attendees, but only about 5-10% of the companies even used the list afterwards. He again emphasized that the fortune is in the followup, and that emailing or mailing the trade show attendees after the trade show is over is a gold mine, but many companies overlook that. They come away with whatever sales they made at the show, but don’t do anything afterwards. Chris mentioned one popular entrepreneur speaker who will not agree to speak at a conference unless she gets access to all of the attendees.
Chris says there are many companies who compile mailing lists, and that virtually any type of list can be used in your marketing campaigns. I think traditional direct marketers and list brokers are far more sophisticated in their targeting than internet marketers, partly because there is far more public data available (every US address, credit card data connected to people and households, subscribers to thousands of magazines, etc) to offline marketers than to online marketers. And since it is so much more expensive to use direct mail, marketers have to use more careful selections.
One of his clients offered a space pen with insignias for each branch of the U.S. Military and then mailed an offer to every retired officer. They were able to rent a list of all retired military officers, which branch they served in, and how long they served for.
One publicly traded company that offers an unbelievable rich database of US consumers and businesses is InfoUSA.
You can select any custom list from over 200 million U.S. consumers. The web site lets you design your list before purchasing it. Try the InfoUSA list selection tool right now if you have never done this before.
I also like Melissadata.com, which offers all kinds of data for marketers.
Other sites Chris mentioned:
1shoppingcart.com: he loves this shopping cart, which integrates auto responder and email list management capabilities with its ecommerce transaction services. In other words, you don’t need an ecommerce site plus an email management system like aweber.com or getresponse.com. It all comes with 1shoppingcart.com.
tellafriendking.com: one of my BYU student marketing teams used a trial recently and found that this is effective in generating word of mouth referrals.
Like Chris Loch, I believe strongly in creating an in-house opt-in email database of customers and prospective customers. At MyFamily.com, we were able to build an inhouse database containing millions of names. It was extremely valuable. At 10x Marketing, we once had a client ask us to build them a 1-million name house email list in 90 days, before the launch of their new book title. We contacted some co-registration networks (where you pay a small amount of money for each person who registers for your newsletter). We rolled out our opt-in and double opt-in email signup forms across the co-registration network, and within a few weeks we were collecting 10-15,000 email addresses per day. I was amazed. We would have reached the 1 million name goal, but at a cost of about $0.30 per name, the client decided not to keep spending.
We ended up with about 350,000 or so names. When they launched their book title and many other products, they were able to easily recover the cost of building the list, and as far as I know, they are still monetizing the list to this day.
Remember, these were legitimate opt-in and double opt-in offers that attracted opportunity seekers who were interested in their products.
A question for my readers: what is the best email list building strategy that you have tried or seen? Please share….
Filed under: Advertising, Audio and Video, Internet Marketing Tactics, Video
From E-Commerce Times:
Spending on online video advertising will soar throughout this decade with sales predicted to break the billion dollar barrier in 2008, according to a report released this month by research aggregator eMarketer.
This year’s outlay for Net-based video ads grew more than 82 percent over 2005, to some US$410 million. The forecast for next year’s growth is even higher: 89 percent, to $775 million, prevised the report, a copy of which was obtained by the E-Commerce Times.
It showed growth peaking in 2007, but sales continuing to climb for the rest of the decade, reaching $2.9 billion by 2010.
Does anyone know if there are any upcoming conferences that will focus on online video advertising, such as how to produce and place ads effectively? Who are the individual experts (speakers, bloggers) that we should be learning from?
Filed under: Internet Marketing Tactics, Utah Entrepreneurship, Utah Events
Tomorrow (Thursday, November 15th) I’ve invited 6 excellent internet marketers to do a rapid-fire 90 minute panel discussion on internet marketing tactics that work. I’ll throw out a tactic (I have scores of tactics to choose from) and then ask if they have ever tried this tactic and if so, how successful it was. We’re going to record the program, and, if they give permission, we may create a transcript of it and make it available online.
This will be held in Provo at 4 pm. It will be for Provo Labs Academy members only (and for the students in my BYU internet marketing class.) If you need more information about it, please contact Pat Sheranian at Provo Labs Academy, 373-6565, or email me at paul “at” provolabs.com.
Filed under: Internet Marketing Tactics, Provo Labs Academy, Utah Entrepreneurship
Every Friday at noon, our Provo Labs Academy members get together to discuss all the latest internet marketing news. I have promised to read MarketingVOX every day and to visit all the new web sites and try the new tools that affect internet marketing. Then I’ll lead a discussion about each one, we’ll talk about who is going to test the various new channels and report back on them in a subsequent meeting.
Today we discussed Turn.com‘s new CPA network, Marchex’s new PPC network that operates on 200,000 domains that they own (they claim a higher conversion rate from direct navigation traffic than from keyword searches on search engines), Amazon’s ClickRiver PPC network (in beta), Like.com‘s amazing visual search engine, which hopefully will someday accept data feeds like Froogle does (we also discussed Froogle), and finally, we turned some attention to Google’s foray into radio advertising vs. what Bid4Spots.com is already doing with a reverse auction than 2,200 stations already participate in.
It was an incredibly fun session. Every week, we’ll have a similar discussion about all the latest news. We should start podcasting it in a week or two also. This podcast will likely be a key part of the Academy for Entrepreneurs that we hope to roll out nationally, probably next year.
We signed up two new members to the Academy today, including one who has sold two very successful internet companies and is working on a very cool new idea. Having some veterans around in addition to the first time entrepreneurs provides an excellent diversity and variety of opinions. We probably still have room for about 15 more members, although there are 4 more that appear ready to sign up.
In addition to the Friday “what’s new in internet marketing” discussion, we’ll have meetings at noon on Monday (search engine training), Tuesday (email marketing), Wednesday (web site design and conversion rate). We may also have a 4 pm brainstorm session once a week and a 9 pm session occasionally.
I’ve decided that in addition to the $200-500 memberships that most of our Academy members have been signing up for, that we are going to start a new program, a Corporate Membership, that will provide one seat at all of our training and brainstorm events that can be shared by different individuals within a single company. This will cost $1,000 per month, with a 12-month commitment.
So any company that has several employees that it wants to learn internet marketing, search engine marketing, email marketing, affiliate marketing, subscription marketing, web design usability and conversion rate marketing, analytics, Web 2.0 technology, and mobile application development (we are sending two key employees to a major mobile app development conference this month) can rotate its staff through our weekly meetings, so that over time many employees will be exposed to powerful internet marketing tactics and a new way of thinking and looking for new opportunities.
We will probably limit this to about 10 companies, since our major emphasis at the Academy is on helping startup companies.
If you are interested email me or call Pat at 801-373-6565 on Monday to inquire.
Filed under: Advice for Startups, Internet Marketing Tactics, Web Analytics
For years I’ve been setting up daily metrics spreadsheets for companies that I own or consult for. I have learned how critical it is to 1) set goals, 2) track results every day, 3) look for new channels continually, 4) and test new creative regularly.
When a startup company looks at a mature internet company’s analytics and daily spreadsheets, it can be overwhelming.
I want to advise all internet startups to start simple. Track spending and new customers. Don’t get overwhelmed at first with all the complex details of a mature analytics program. Start at a high level and drill down later.
But first, just track simple things like daily spending, new customers, and cost to acquire a new customer.
If you focus on acquiring new customers through internet marketing and make sure that the campaigns you are running are acquiring new customers at a reasonable level, then you can increase the volume and optimize the campaigns with time.
But if you don’t even know your cost to acquire a new customer there is no way you can make good decisions about internet marketing.
I think this is the first key metric that internet marketers should track.
I think it is the key metric that good direct marketers have been focused on for almost 100 years.
In the late 90s it seems that internet entrepreneurs had a sort of arrogance. We classified people as getting it or not getting it. All you had to say about someone is “he doesn’t get it” and that communicated volumes.
We thought we were the first advertisers/marketers in history who understood how to track the results of our spending and make sure that all of our advertising was actually profitable. We knew that web analytics made this possible, whether we used home grown systems or third party systems. Unlike most advertisers who knew that half of their advertising worked, they just didn’t know which half, we could track our spending on a daily basis at the campaign level. We knew what worked and what didn’t. Or at least we thought we did. (Even when spending millions a year on online advertising and analytics, we were always plagued at MyFamily.com with a very large “other” bucket.)
When I discovered the book “Scientific Advertising” by Charles Hopkins, published in the 1920s, and learned that he had pioneered couponing and all kinds of direct response tracking, I was humbled by how brilliant some of the pre-internet marketers really were. Even now, direct mail and direct response gurus exist who generate millions of dollars of trackable spending. They really are scientific about their work. Unfortunately, there are still many “brand marketers” who are creative but really don’t know how to generate revenue. They hide behind the fact that much of their advertising spending can’t directly connect to revenue.
I remember how incredibly disappointing the $10 million MyFamily.com TV advertising campaign was back in 1999-2000. Deutsch did the creative and millions were spent with almost no impact. But in a pre-IPO situation that we were in, venture backed companies were encouraged to spend money like crazy to build a brand. (I personally preferred Mary Meeker’s advice on branding–forget branding and spend money to acquire new customers–that is really how to build a brand.)
As I introduce analytics to my students and Academy members, I worry about overwhelming them. After all, Omniture can generate hundreds of thousands of reports.
So I’ve been thinking back to my first months in online marketing and the simplest and most important daily reports that I required.
It comes from asking two simple questions: “How much did we spend today online” and “how many new customers did we get.”
With those two numbers, you can calculate the cost per acquisition number. Track that over time. See if it is going up or down. Set a target and have a flexible budget that says as long as we are acquiring customers for this target amount or less, we can keep spending more money.
Once you have this simple number and track it over time, then the web analytics can help you divide all your marketing efforts into different channels, which you can start tracking separately. Again, you should do it on a daily basis.
So your overall numbers might be:
Costs New Customers Cost Per Customer
11/5 $250 10 $25.00
11/6 $275 15 $18.33
11/7 $300 12 $25.00
Then, you want to start tracking individual marketing channels (Google vs Yahoo vs MSN, each email campaign that you run) to see what the CPA is for each one.
If your CPA is good, then run more and more campaigns. If your CPA is not good enough, test new ads and landing pages until you can get a good enough CPA.
The holy grail for internet marketers is to have a low enough CPA and a high enough gross margin that each new customer you acquire actually generates profits to the bottom line.
If that happens, then follow what I call the “blank check approach to internet marketing.” Spend as much money as you can on any marketing program that brings you new customers that generate a profit on the first order.
If you lose a little money on your initial order (most ecommerce companies do), then you have to hope for repeat orders in order to generate a long-term profit on your marketing campaigns. You can start developing a “life-time value” model that tries to predict how much you can spend to get a customer, knowing that over time the repeat orders will help you turn a profit.
I’m hoping to set up a public Google shared spreadsheet that internet marketers can use as a model for their own daily CPA tracking.
I have several, but I’m afraid they are too complex. I’m looking for a simple one that I can share as a template.
If you know of one and are willing to share, please let me know.
Filed under: Affiliate Marketing, Internet Marketing Tactics, Pay Per Click Marketing, Search Engine News
I’m in Hawaii on business, and don’t have time for any thoughtful posts, but here are a few items that I will be exploring more in depth later:
- Amazon is introducing a pay-per-click network called ClickRiver. Internet marketers need to try this, but it’s in beta right now.
- Turn.com, a venture funded CPA network is launching today at an O’Reilly Web 2.0 conference, along with 12 other companies. I will definitely ask my portfolio companies to sign up as advertisers and see how well this CPA network works. CPA stands for “cost per action”, so unlike Google where you pay per click, with Turn you pay per lead or pay per sale. Turn, in effect, will be a powerful affiliate for any ecommerce company or other web site. Turn has raised about $18 million, I think, from VCs.
- Last week MarketingSherpa was acquired by MEC Labs which publishes MarketingExperiments.com. I’ve been telling my Provo Labs Academy members that these are the two most important newsletters for them to read. And now they are under one roof.
- Comscore has released its first analysis of mobile phone internet access in the U.S. and Europe.
- The Utah Jazz are 4-0, one of only 3 undefeated teams in the NBA. BYU’s football team broke into the Top 25 for the first time in years. I think they are going to run the table. The sports gods are smiling on Utah. This is turning out to be a very good year for us.
Filed under: Blogging, Internet Marketing Tactics, Search Engine Optimization
Okay, I’m just keyword stuffing my blog post, to see how many visitors I get by using these keywords in my title. These are all very hot keywords according to Google Trends.
Here are the trends for MySpace, YouTube, and Wikipedia.
But the title wouldn’t be complete without including “free” and “download.” I can’t seem to find any search terms on Google Trends that get more searches than they do. I compare “free” and “download” to “yahoo”, “google”, and “myspace.” Interesting results.
Anyone searching on Technorati, Feedster, Ice Rocket, or Google Blog Search for any of these keywords will find this post, at least for the next few minutes until others post entries that also have these keywords in them. I wonder if I’ll see a spike in traffic.
I don’t believe in keyword stuffing. I’m doing this just to make a point. (I did blog about an effect press release that I saw the other day that used keyword stuffing to drive traffic to its site.)
But I do believe in careful keyword selection. Every time you post a blog entry, write a news article, or create a title for a web page, you really ought to make sure that your title does make sense, both to readers and to searchers.
Make sure that the keywords you are choosing are actually popular keywords. They should also actually match the content of your post, unlike my poor example here.
I really do check Google Trends most of the time before posting. For example, yesterday I wondered if “online marketing” or “internet marketing” would make a better title.
Clearly, internet marketing won easily.
My title was “Next 3 days: free online conference on internet marketing”
I checked “3″ vs “three” and “online conference” vs several other options.
So, with a 1-2 minute check of Google Trends, I’m guessing that I increased the odds that anyone using a blog search engine would find that post by about 50-100%.
My traffic has been going up lately, but I can’t tell if it is because I’m posting more frequently or if my post titles are better. But I’m going to keep using Google Trends to do this, because I think it will make a really big difference long term on my site traffic.
When the bloggers in our world history blogger network all start taking an extra minute or two before each post to check their keyword selection, I believe that the traffic there will increase dramatically.
I actually hope someone will create a WordPress plug-in that will access Google Trends within the interface. Maybe it could grade my headline while I’m writing my article, and then return some alternatives (by checking a thesaurus in the background as well as querying Google Trends) and then let me know the best ones before I finalize my post.
What do you think about keyword stuffing and careful keyword selection? Do you know any journalists or newspapers or online publishers that train their writers to do this? And if so, are their tools out there that get into the daily workflow?
Filed under: E-Commerce, Events, Free stuff for entrepreneurs, Internet Marketing Tactics, Personal Knowledge Management
If you can afford to stop working for part or all of the next three days, you can hear from dozens of the most successful online marketers in the industry–for free and from the convenience of your own home or office.
(Or you can sign up for $99.95 and get access to more than 175 online presentations–that’s one a day for the next 6 months.)
ecomXpo starts today (Oct. 24th), with free sessions over the next 3 days from key employees at Google, Yahoo, eBay, Microsoft AdCenter, LinkShare, Searchfeed, iHispanic, Performics, and MarketingSherpa, and many others.
Utah affiliate guru Jeremy Palmer (Quityourdayjob.com) will also be presenting, as will one of my favorite authors, John Battelle, who wrote “The Search” (how Google changed the search industry.) His SearchBlog is the best coverage of the search engine industry.
I highly recommend that you budget time every day to stay sharp in internet marketing. My own personal knowledge plan has included reading MarketingSherpa every week and all the daily newsletters that come from MarketingVOX. After learning about eComXpo from Brad Pace, internet marketing specialist at Provo Labs, I’m now planning to subscribe to ecomXpo University so that I can hear these presentations over the next several months.