Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Google Trends Expands - What It Means to You

When Google releases a significant new tool (or an update to an old tool), several reactions surface. Some believe it's great, some don't care, and some focus on its errors or inconsistencies, even though Google is known for releasing not-quite-ready-for-prime-time apps to gain valuable user input.

Reaction to Google Trends for Websites, however, has the added dimension of users being very upset about a perceived breach of confidence, because users assume (and have no reason not to) that Google Analytics data is one of the varied sources of input from which traffic estimates are calculated.

While Google Trends has been showing trends in keyword demand since 2006, the ability to view estimated site traffic is its biggest update so far.

At first, some people jumped the gun and believed that the data came straight from Google Analytics. This is incorrect, as Google Trends shows traffic estimates even for sites that don't use Google Analytics.

The rationale for being a little disturbed about such a tool is still understandable, especially with the growing number of sites that utilize Google Analytics. After all, signing in to your Google Analytics account requires a password, from which one can infer that preventing the "wrong" user from accessing the data is important to Google. The sudden release of information that is similar to Google Analytics data has users wondering whether that privacy really is important to Google.

On the other hand, many people have pointed out that services like Alexa, Hitwise, and comScore already offer similar traffic estimates with little or no objection from the masses. Of course, the counter to that argument is that Web sites typically provide no information directly to these third parties in the way that many of them offer analytics data to Google.


Love it or hate it, right now there's little you can do to hide your site's statistics, short of taking your site offline. Even excluding your site via robots.txt would probably do little good because Google uses "a variety of sources" to estimate traffic.

To make the tool valuable to you, the first thing you should do is contrast what Google Trends says about your site's traffic with your site's actual traffic. (If your site doesn't show up yet in Google Trends, it's because a site needs to achieve a certain, undefined threshold of visits before it will show up on the Trends radar. I hope this threshold will become lower over time.) Don't be concerned with actual numbers matching up. Instead, watch to see whether the peaks, valleys, and flat periods in Google Trends correspond to your own site's data.

If the two data sources have lines that look similar when you overlay one to another, then it becomes more likely that the data is fairly reliable. Google is very "vertically" oriented (as proven by their close monitoring of sites "related" to the sites in a Trends report), so it's likely that other sites in your vertical will have Google Trends traffic reporting that are roughly as accurate (or inaccurate) as reports for your own site.

Start watching your competitors' sites closely, including their AdWords campaigns, any on-site SEO efforts, or third-party advertising. Compare those initiatives with their Google Trends traffic reporting to see how worthwhile those efforts were for them. In addition, look closely at the "Also Searched For" list of terms, and make sure that you're integrating those into your keyword strategies, if the terms are at all applicable.


You might be unhappy about Google showing traffic data for sites, or you might not care. Regardless, it's probably not going away soon, so settle back and learn how you can make it work for your site.

Erik Dafforn is the executive vice president of Intrapromote LLC, an SEO firm headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Erik manages SEO campaigns for clients ranging from tiny to enormous and edits Intrapromote's blog, SEO Speedwagon. Prior to joining Intrapromote in 1999, Erik worked as a freelance writer and editor. He also worked in-house as a development editor for Macmillan and IDG Books. Erik has a Bachelor's degree in English from Wabash College

Friday, June 20, 2008

Are you Still CAN-SPAM Compliant?

Today's Marketing Tip: Being CAN-SPAM Compliant

As you may be aware, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently enacted new rules intended to clarify the original provisions of the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act. The supplementary ruling, which now goes into effect July 7, may have important implications for your email marketing program. Here are some of the key provisions for discussion purposes:

Mandated Simplification of Opt-out Processes. The new rules clarify the opt-out required under CAN-SPAM. You'll want to examine your opt-out process to determine if it is in compliance with this new rule, which states:

  • The opt-out may not be conditioned on the payment of any fee.
  • The recipient must not be required to provide anything more than email address and associated opt-out preferences for that email address (i.e., no password, account number, name, etc. can be required).
  • The opt-out mechanism must rely on either a reply email or a visit to a single Internet Web page and nothing more (i.e., multiple Web page opt-out processes are no longer allowed).

Designated Sender Rule Established. This new rule provides a framework whereby multiple advertisers that appear in the same commercial email message, each of which normally would satisfy the Act's definition of "sender," may designate a single sender among them as the sole sender of the message. If you routinely engage in list rentals or joint promotions, you will want to examine this provision closely.

P.O. Box Usage Confirmed. Businesses may publish a sender's P.O. box or private mailbox in
a commercial email message to comply with the valid physical postal address requirement.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Should You Be Using Search Engine Submission Services?

Have you heard claims about submitting your site to thousands of search engines for a small fee – claiming search engine dominance? If you've read these claims before and wondered what you might be missing by not submitting to thousands of engines daily, I can say that you are not missing a single thing!

These services are completely worthless from my perspective. Let's walk through the concept behind submitting so you can understand what I mean when I say they are a waste of time, money, and bandwidth.

1) There are not thousands of search engines. Who do you use to search? That's what most other people use as well. There are at most maybe 7 search engines with reasonably large indexes, and only 3 that anyone actually uses for searching in significant numbers.

2) Google, Yahoo, and MSN will find your site by crawling links from other sites. If you don't have at least 1 link from one other page already in the index, you won't rank well for anything, even if the submission does alert the engines that the page exists.

3) Submitting does not get your page in the index or updated any faster. If it makes you feel better to submit, then do it- it won't hurt anything. But automatically submitting monthly, weekly, or daily doesn't help.

4) Your e-mail spam will quadruple. I have tested this with unique emails and submission services- many "submission services" are merely fronts for email list marketers. You are actually paying them to sell your email address.

5) The "1000's of search engines" are often FFA pages on spam sites. (Free-for-All pages). You really don't want your site listed on these sites- it's highly doubtful it will drive useful traffic (if any) or improve your link popularity. They are often feeding grounds for email harvesting bots.

6) If your site is already in the major indexes, submitting it again doesn't help anything. Once your page is indexed, it really doesn't need to be indexed again unless you significantly change the content. Good internal linking should be enough to make sure new and updated pages are found and updated.

To many business owners with new sites, the claims of submission services sound like a reasonable answer to their web marketing needs. For much less than full SEO services, they get the "comfort" of knowing they are actively promoting their site. Many fall into the too-good-to-be-true trap, simply because they don't have time to do much research.

Often, they will gain some other links during this period that DO actually get them listed in the search engines and they start to see some traffic. Unwittingly, they attribute this "success" to their submitting service and happily continue to pay their $29 a month, while telling all their friends how well it's working for them. Thus the cycle continues and the submitting services continue to not only thrive, but replicate through the industry!

Don't Be Afraid to Turn Off the Submitting Service

I promise you, it's not helping you in the least. We recently had a poster at the High Rankings Forum who insisted he did nothing but page submissions and got great rankings. Further investigation showed that he had links to these pages from the rest of his already-indexed pages.

Several of us created pages and even domains to test the submission theory. To date, none of the submitted pages that have no other links pointing to them are in the search engine indexes of the three major engines. Yahoo seemed to take the most notice, actually sending a spider to take a look at the pages submitted, but they didn't "stick".

Submitting your Site to Directories will Help

You must submit your site to the human-reviewed directories if you want to be included in them, and an automated program can't do that for you. It can't select the proper category, fill in the various different types of fields requested for each directory, or read and input the "ransom code" (the auto-generated letters and numbers you often have to input to verify that you are a human.)

Software submission programs won't find the niche directories in your industry or locality, and they can't pay the submission fee that a lot of the higher quality directories are charging these days.

When it comes to building links, the majority of the process is still a manual one, requiring thought, strategy, and selection. Stop spending money on that bogus submission services and invest in some high-quality directory links or other form of online advertising and seo. To learn about the most important SEO strategies, visit The Webmasters Book of Secrets today.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Should You Be Building Links Including New Websites?

Today's Marketing Tip: Link Building

Your link building efforts are key to improved search engine results for your website. But who should you be getting links from? I've always believed that you need to prioritize based on Google PR. Others believe differently. Here is a great post on the subject from Justilien Gaspard of Search Engine Watch.

We've all heard it -- people don't want links from new Web sites. Why? It's assumed that new sites don't have enough quality backlinks, and haven't earned "trust" in Google to pass real value. However, if you flatly skip over links from new sites, you're losing out on immense opportunities. It's time to rethink the matter.

I admit to having encouraged this line of thinking by telling people to go after links from old, trusted sites. Going after high-value targets is just one strategy. Even with that strategy, you cannot skip over new sites without any analysis.

That would be like a stockbroker refusing to consider a stock that hasn't been around for at least 20 years, or an employer refusing to look at resumes from people who haven't been in the workforce at least 15 years.

Today's new site could be tomorrow's rock star. Most successful companies start small. Cisco Systems was started in a garage by a married couple. GE was started in a barn. Starbucks started as a single coffee store in a public market. The same holds true of Web sites. Most sites, just as traditional businesses, start small unless a large corporation develops it.

If a large corporation is developing the new site, go after the link because the site has a greater likelihood of success. Usually such sites will have a superb promotional budget -- not to mention links from the corporation's site(s) to jumpstart it.

What to look for?

Usually, you can easily sift through sites by learning how they're handling promotions. Look for those sites with marketing budgets, as those will be the safest bet. Be careful of sites that think they're the "best" and expect the world to magically discover them. We all know the type and have heard the pitch.

Advertising Campaigns

Find out what type of advertising the site is doing. It might just surprise you to find out they have a targeted advertising program going after specific demographics. Most will gladly share with you what magazines, journals, newspapers, television and other media outlets they're advertising with. Also, find out if they're running a PPC campaign.

The Real PR (Public Relations)

Find out what type of PR campaigns they're running. This might be in-house, or through an agency. Discover where they're trying to get publicity. They may already have several mentions in mainstream media.

Quality of Backlinks

Examining the site's backlinks can tell you a great deal about the quality of the promotions. If it looks like they're gaining links from quality sites, then they're on the right track and worth your time. Are there links from the media or industry sites? Go for it! If all their links are from blog comments, template links in blog themes, or low-value link trades, move on.

Serial Entrepreneur?

Is the site being developed by a company that has a record of successful Web sites? There are many large and small publishers who have a solid history of developing and promoting Internet properties. They've learned from their previous successes and failures. These types of sites generally will provide much more value over time than the new Webmasters that still operate under the fallacy, "build it and they will come."

The point is not to skip over link opportunities just because a site is new. Instead, find out if they're doing a notable job of promotions. The more they promote their site, the more valuable links from it will become over time. Think of it as investing in the stock market. Look for undervalued, or unnoticed, sites that have a high likelihood of rising in popularity.

So there you have it. Link building that includes "new" sites may pay dividends - opportunity or risk? You decide.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Really About Consumption

Today's Marketing Tip: Traffic + Conversion = Customers

Increasing traffic to your site and focusing on conversions generates revenue. In fact, focusing on bothy sides of the equation can result in consistent growth for your business.

But what if you could do more? Sell more, more consistently and for a much longer time?

Yes! Sell a lot more to the same people without much more effort, time and especially money? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have your bottom line profit increase by as much as 20%, 100%, 500% or even more?

There is one more significant factor for the equation above that can lead to more sales and more customers over a longer time, for more frequent and multiple purchases, and higher-price, back-end for exponential profits.

It’s the strategy of CONSUMPTION.

Consumption can be defined as your customers actually using what they buy from you and experiencing the benefits of what you offer.

Think what the perceived value of your product or service is if it is never used, consumed, experienced or shared with others.

What if the majority of the market place was made up of:

  • Golfers not using their special training devices to improve their swing
  • Gardeners storing that special weeding tool in their sheds
  • Dieters failing to cook up your recipes or implementing your exercise regime to shed those extra pounds, or Personal development seekers never actually opening
    up the box of CDs or DVDs delivered to their house!

Consumption leads to you being able to:

  • Reduce buyer’s remorse
  • Lower your refund rate
  • Brings additional purchases
  • Track your most successful offers (to repeat them)
  • Encourage greater loyalty
  • Inspire more testimonials (you can use
    to further increase sales, right!?
  • Get more referrals by your current clients
  • Demonstrate value and a tangible asset to
    possible buyers of your company
  • Conserve on your future sales and marketing costs
  • Stabilize your income and stop those dreaded
    ‘feast or famine’ cycles

If you can’t get your customers to consume, use, try, implement, play with, work with or turn on your ’stuff’ then you haven’t yet transformed them from ‘customers ’into ‘consumers.’ Think about and consider your own personal consumption strategy.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Using Social Media to Optimize Your Blog or Website

Web 2.0 is here to stay. Using content sharing and social bookmarking is the way to optimize your website ad drive more traffic.

The nature of Social Media Optimization is such that it could be considered form of guerrilla marketing. Website owners and blog owners have the choice of either investing money or their own skills and time in order to generate traffic from social sites. As long as your efforts are directed appropriately, the more work you put in the more reward you will reap.

Using Social Media Optimization For Link Building

Social optimization also has a happy side effect - it helps to build your link profile so you will usually gain search engine traffic in the long term. Becoming a part of an online community is essential to your social optimization and this, in turn, will naturally provide links to your website. The links will usually be from relevant pages based on a similar topic to that of your own page. The more popular social sites are also given a lot of weight by certain search engines.

Optimize Your Existing Site Using Social Media

Create genuinely interesting, intriguing, or informative pages. Includes images, links, video, and collaborative tools so that visitors really get involved when they do visit your site. Social media optimization is basically digital word-of-mouth and if your website doesn't offer some kind of appealing experience to your visitors, then it simply won't attract the positive word-of-mouth that you want.

Add new pages, if necessary, so that you can include more information. However, don't just add pages for the sake of it - ensure that each page really does have something unique to offer. A website still needs to be well structured.

Develop A Blog

Add a blog. Every website has potential blog posts in it so find yours and start blogging regularly. Blog posts tend to attract links from other blog posts and those in turn will spread the word of your website. The more popular your blog becomes, the more value it is perceived to offer and the more visitors you will continue to get.

Be active in those blogs that are within your industry and use your link where permitted and relevant. Don't spam because that will lose you more friends than it will make but if you offer relevant information and a forum or blog allows you to link to it, then offer an insightful comment and provide a link.

Some Social Sites To Join

You really do reap what you sow in terms of social media optimization. Determine the sites that are most suitable to your website, join them, and become an active member. Choose some broad topic sites as well as some that are specific to those interested in the industry in which you operate or topic that you cover. Look at social news submission sites, content sharing sites, bookmarking, and networking sites and try to get a broad coverage of all of them. Here are just a few of the sites you should seriously consider using:

Social News/Media Sharing Websites

* Reddit - Reddit is a very popular social news website that boasts a lot of subscribers and covers a wide range of topics.
* Digg - Initially, Digg was reserved to technology and related topics but is now a broad topic news site that again has a lot of subscribers and regular readers.
* Newsvine - Not as popular as the two above but offering a slightly more formal tone to its content. Again, a good range of topics are covered.

Social Networking Sites

* MySpace - It may be largely riddled with spam but there are still too many genuine users for you to ignore MySpace. You don't have to be an unsigned band to take advantage either.
* Facebook - Has caused quite a stir and offers users the chance to create and distribute their own applications as well as content. Another very popular site. * LinkedIn - LinkedIn is a social networking site dedicated to professionals and businesses. It can really help to build a huge network of partners, customers, and other useful contacts in a business network.

Social Bookmarking Websites

* - Register, store bookmarks that you find useful, and include a bookmark to your own website and use a public profile.
* Stumble Upon - Same again. Alternatively you can add a Stumble icon to each of your pages, blog posts, and other media and let your readers do the walking for you.

Buttons For Your Pages

Many social websites offer a button that your readers or visitors can use to automatically add a page. Bookmarking and content sharing sites, in particular, have these buttons and if you've ever read a website or an article site then you will have seen the Digg This and Stumble buttons at the bottom of each entry. Users registered with these sites can click the button and quickly add your page. The most popular websites are usually displayed on the high traffic home pages delivering yet more visitors to your site.

About the Author: WebWiseWords is a web content writer offering appealing and professional web content. Whether you are looking to implement an SEO or social media optimization campaign, or you want to improve your visitor's experience while on your website WebWiseWords can create the content you need.

For more on social media related optimization and marketing, visit Marketing Articles.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Keeping Your Customers Long-Term

When acquiring customers, you want to find people who will buy from you and stay for a long time. In many cases, it is hard to make a profit from consumers who buy once and never again. In fact, many marketers don't consider a one-time buyer to be a customer at all — customers are those who have purchased from you two or more times.

So what should you offer to consumers to convert them into long-term loyal customers? It seems to me that there are five basic ideas that you should convey to them:

First, that you have a superior product or service. Consumers want to know why your product is the best for them. What special features can they take pride in owning? How was it made or how do you use it to produce great results? Product differentiation has always been a goal of successful advertising. This is why there are a dozen brands of laundry detergent still on the market today with loyal followings.

Second, that your company stands for something. Brand is still popular with consumers. People like to identify with a brand — my BMW, my Crest toothpaste, my Kraft Crystal Light. Brand building is worth it, if you use it to acquire long-term loyal customers.

Third, that you have excellent customer service. Today companies have not just toll-free numbers but Web sites that accept comments and e-mails. Who would want to buy insurance, or deal with a bank or phone company that did not have really good and accessible service?

Fourth, that millions of others are buying your product. People like to think that they have made the right decision in buying from you. There is always the herd instinct. If you can get across to consumers that they are not alone in choosing your product, you have won half the battle.

Lastly, express that you are constantly improving to keep up with the times. Do you have an R&D program? Tell consumers about it. Tell them the new features that you have added recently. People like to feel that they are modern and up to date. They buy the latest products with the latest features — from a long-established, reputable company.

So how can you get these messages across? Mass marketing messages work, if you are big enough to afford it. If you are not, we now have the Internet. One of the most powerful communication methods today is the personalized promotional e-mail. Companies today are building customer marketing databases to which they append scores of fields of relevant data. Using those data, you can create segments and design marketing strategies for each segment.

When customers become one-time buyers, you get them to provide their e-mail, with permission to contact them about your products and services. At this point, you can put them into segments, and send to consumers in each segment communications that speak to their lifestyle and interests. Now is the time to explain your five basic ideas. Your messages to seniors will be different from those sent to college students, or to families with young children.

You can run tests to see which messages are opened, clicked and result in conversions or downloads. You can learn within a day or two which messages work best. You can build a relationship with these consumers that will convert them into long-term, loyal customers.

This post provided by Arthur Middleton Hughes, Vice President of KnowledgeBase Marketing

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

7 Strategies for Improving Website Stickiness

Making the most of your website visitors is essential to long-term success. In addition to building traffic to your website, focus on engaging users and making them loyal customers.

Engagement doesn’t end with an individual browser reading content or clicking on an ad. Rather, engagement is an ongoing process that results in loyal customers who come back again and again, becoming more vested in your web site. So, how can you make sure you’re engaging and keeping customers?

In order to create a loyal following, there are some basic principles you need to consider. From first impressions to life-long membership, put yourself in the shoes of your browsers and make their experience a valuable one.

1. Reduce Clutter. How many times have you visited a website only to be overwhelmed and confused? What is this site about you may have asked yourself. Or perhaps you found yourself asking, ‘Where is the information I’m looking for?’ Don’t ask your browsers or potential customers to figure this out. Make your site clutter free and create a visual priority that emphasizes the information, resources, or actions your browsers want. By reducing obstacles you build trust among new web site visitors and allow for simple decision making – which benefits everyone.

2. Make Navigation Intuitive. There are many ways to navigate a web page but intuition rules the day. Don’t try to get fancy with your navigation or overuse java script. Basic navigation that follows current convention is the best way to lead individuals through your web site to the information they’re looking for.

3. Make The Initial Site Interaction Relevant. When a browser reaches your web site, you have less than seven seconds to get them engaged. Making your initial site interaction relevant to what individuals are looking for is essential for keeping them interacting long term. If you are promoting your web site with Google Adwords, or any pay per click advertising for that matter, be sure to create customer landing pages that are truly relevant to the individual who clicks-through your ad. Once you’ve established relevancy, you can move them deeper into your content, tools, and resources.

4. Ensure That Your Content Is Up-to-date. Web site content that isn’t up to date does not serve your audience and browsers are likely to move on. One way to ensure that information is timely is by providing a feed of relevant news or information. If including static text on your web pages, try not to include specific dates. However, if you must publish dates, be sure to update this information on a regular basis.

5. Start An Interaction With Your Users. Each time a browser views your web page, you have an opportunity to interact with them. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. One great way to interact is to offer something of value at no cost. This can be a white paper, access to an exclusive list, or simply a 30 day free trial. Be sure to capture an individual’s valid email address and include them on your mailing list. An auto-responder is best if you wish to engage these individuals on an ongoing basis.

6. Provide Plenty Of Support. Don’t hesitate to offer support right from your home page. Prominently display your 800 number, support email address, and additional information for your prospects and customers such as mailing address. This information is viewed favorably by search engines and also creates a sense of legitimacy. Contact information builds trust among prospects and elicits interest in your company.

7. Make Sharing Easy. Once you’ve made your web site easy to use, don’t hesitate to offer browsers the ability to share your web site with others. This can be in the form of a simple widget that allows users to bookmark your page, subscribe to an Rss feed, or submit your content to popular news sites like Individuals are much more likely to visit a web site based on a friend’s recommendation versus some other type of marketing initiative. Leverage the power of viral marketing with easy sharing tools.

Your web site can be your greatest asset. Unfortunately, many marketers and website owners are so focused on increasing traffic that they lose site of the audience that’s already visiting their web pages but are simply not converting.

Don’t make the same mistake. Improve the quality of you site through relevant content that is up-to-date and easy to find. Once you’ve engaged users, encourage them to share. Doing so will make your site perform better, increase conversions, and deliver value for all involved.

Visit for more helpful web site development tips and helpful marketing articles.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Using Data Analysis To Increase Website Sales

By analyzing web site data and making personal recommendations, you can increase sales to your existing customers. According to a recent article on VentureBeat, attributes 35% of its product sales to recommendations.

While that may seem exclusive to one of the world's largest online retailers, even small businesses can take advantage of the resources used by Amazon. It's not as difficult or expensive as you might think. Data-driven marketing applications are now affordable, easy to use, and something your must consider as part of your marketing mix.

What does your customer data say? In order to create personalized recommendations and maximize the value of your current customers, you must perform a thorough analysis of your existing database. To do so, organize and review your current customer list. Perform additional analysis to predict customer tendencies in terms of clusters, and other data modeled groupings.

Doing this will help to determine the type of message or offer to send to each group based on past behavior. Then you're ready to leverage your data and analysis in order to move your best customers to higher purchase levels. This might take the form of making a specific set of cross-sell or up-sell recommendations to individual sets or cluster of customers.

If your current customer files are not in the condition necessary to take advantage of some of these types of analyses, make it a priority to clean up your data so you can maximize your ability to harvest your own greatest asset.

What about recommendation systems? The idea is that customers are not all the same so why would you treat them that way? Amazon was the first to really utilize the, “Customers who purchased this also were interested in the following items”, technique. But you can use the same approach (and even improve on it, as Amazon clearly does not always get it right) for your own Web site.

In the movie rental arena, Netflix, Blockbuster and have used recommendation systems successfully, and Netflix is even running a $1 million contest offering programmers the chance to beat the current Netflix system by more than 10% and win the big prize. They are doing this because a better system will drive incremental sales well above $1 million over the life of its implementation.

Personalized recommendation systems can cost well over $100,000 for companies with a large number of product offerings. But for companies with a smaller amount of products costs can be less than $50,000 for set-up, and monthly maintenance charges can be tied to performance.

An added benefit is that creating a truly personal shopping experience for your customers engenders increased customer loyalty. Even though its suggestions may not always be on the mark, we return to Amazon again and again when looking for items for ourselves and gifts for friends and relatives.

The friendly service seems to know us — it certainly recognizes us — and it appears to have been waiting patiently for our return. Why not create a “My-store,” “wish-list,” e-mail alert, or an intelligent search function on your site and make your customers' shopping experience truly unique? Today's shoppers want to feel that they are in control of their shopping “experience” and affording them choices to make (but not too many) is a key to success.

Whether it is in print, on your Web site, or both, data-driven applications offer your precious customers new products, destinations and experiences — and provide you with stronger income opportunities.

As the saying goes, "In God we trust, all others bring data."

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