Category Archives: Marketing on the Web

Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers Victimized by Website Providers

Busy Professionals Victimized by Web Charlatans

I’ve worked with doctors, dentists and lawyers who have Web sites and wonder why the  site doesn’t enhance their practices.  They  have a perfectly good-looking site, developed by people who specialize in their very field, and the site just sits there looking good!

The problem is that these busy professionals are being victimized with Web sites that look good but are built so that looking good is all that they’ll do–they won’t help grow the practice.  And the purveyors of the site won’t give you good advice in that area, either–they are more interested in booking quick, high-profit cookie cutter jobs.

If you ask about search engine traffic, you’re likely to get an answer such as “We are not an SEO company, we are a Web site company.”   That’s certainly true; these outfits are not SEO companies.  But I think they should instead say “We will give you a Web site that looks good but will never ever bring you any visitors from search engines.”

In this issue, I’ll tell you some things to look for if you’re a professional looking for the development of a new site.  I’m not an artist so don’t do site designs myself, but I do advise clients who are having a new site developed.  If you’re getting a new site you can engage me to help you through the cycle, reading and evaluating proposals, helping choose a vendor, giving them some guidelines and evaluating and testing the result.  But these guidelines will give you a good start at it.

WordPress

The first question to ask:  are they using WordPress to build the site, and can you host the site that’s built on any hosting service of your choosing?

There are many reasons why a small business site should be built with WordPress.  Most of them stem from its popularity–more of the world’s sites are hosed on WordPress than any other platform.  So you can always get someone to work on it, and if you want to add function to it, someone has probably built a plugin to do just what you want.  And because it’s free, even the best add-ons that you have to pay for are cheap.

If the developer doesn’t propose WordPress right away as their first choice, choose someone else.  You don’t want to force them into using a development platform they don’t like or aren’t  not familiar with.

Hosting Service

Usually these folks will provide hosting service for the site after it’s built.  That’s a good thing, actually, because you need hosting service, and it’ll be convenient for them to make any changes to the site you may decide you want.

However, there are two issues that you should verify about their hosting service:

HTTPS

First, Google gives an edge to sites that use HTTPS, the secure version of the Web protocol HTTP.  If you’re getting a new site, the time is ripe to start with HTTPS.  Leading edge companies are using it now.  The developer may not propose it, but they should not resist at all a request from you to implement it.  Here, too, if they don’t want to do it, don’t waste time with them–move on.

It’s worth using HTTPS just for the Google search position bump you’ll get.  But it’s also timely because it protects site visitors’ communication with the site.  The FCC is now toying with rules that may allow users’ browsing data to be sold.  In that environment. competitive factors dictate that we keep that information to ourselves through use of HTTPS.

Dedicated IP Address

Your IP address is the numeric Internet address of your site.  If your hosting service shares your IP address with other sites, then if one of those sites behaves badly, your shared IP address can end up on one of the lists of banned IP addresses that are shared among Internet service providers.  The more other sites share your IP address, and how they are connected, has a lot to do with how much risk there is.

This subject has some complexity to it.  I’ve written a post about it, that includes an easy way for you to test whether your IP address is shared by any other sites.  You can also use that same method to look at the IP address strategy of major companies.  I suggest looking at the IP address sharing strategy for IBM, GE and GM.

If your developer tells you that there’s no reason to have a dedicated IP address, then they’re not telling you the truth, and you should move on.  You may decide, after reading my post, that you don’t need a dedicated IP address.  Certainly, though, you don’t want your IP address shared by a large number of sites.  If your IP address is shared by, say, six sites, with companies all well known to the site provider, than maybe that’s OK.  But if your IP address is shared by 100 sites, then that’s an issue.

Duplicate Content

If the content of your site duplicates another site’s content, then Google will decide which is the original and not index the other.  That is, you risk getting zero referrals from Google for any of your content that’s duplicated elsewhere on the Web.

Ask your site developer whether they guarantee uniqueness of the content they will supply.  Then, when the site is delivered, check every page for uniqueness.  To make the check, copy a sequence of about 15 words from the middle of a paragraph and paste it into a plagiarism detector such as Copyscape.

If they’ve provided a significant amount of duplicate copy, after promising unique content, don’t ask them to fix it–find someone else, and don’t pay the bill.  You’ve been deceived and cheated.  They’ll cheat you again.

Reviews

Some of these site developers provide a service to help you get reviews.  Typically this is simply a request that you email to a client or patient and ask them to do a review.  However, more than one of these companies doesn’t do the extra work required to make it easy for the person who’s being surveyed to write a review on a recognized review site; instead, they offer a review that’s posted only on your own site, or is posted on a review site that they own.

You want some help in getting genuine, favorable reviews from your real clients and patients–but on a popular review site, not just your own site and not some obscure site owned by your Web site provider. Today, your prospects are searching reviews in Google, Yelp and other important review sites,  If you have 50 to 100 good reviews on these sites, they will bring people to you.  For more detail, see the post that I’ve written on this subject.

If they offer a review service, you want a live feed of reviews on your site, so that recent reviews are shown, and there are links to the reviews on the review site.  This gives the display on your site great credibility with visitors to your site.

Your developer may not offer a review service; that’s fine.  You can use my service–or another service.   But if they service they offer doesn’t meet the requirements outlined here, they’re trying to sell you something that will actually hurt you, by wasting perfectly good reviews that, if located on review sites, would be helping you.

The Bottom Line

Use the criteria I’ve given here to test what’s being offered to you.  Or, if you’d like, get in touch with me and provide me links to a couple of sites that the developer you’re considering has developed.  I’ll be happy to look at them for you and give you my opinion.  I don’t develop sites, so have no stake in which developer you choose.

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Why You Should Use AdWords

You Should Use AdWords. Here’s Why.

Yes, you’d like to rank high in organic search and get lots of traffic for free.  That’s a great objective, and achievable, too.  Over time.  But there are still some important reasons why you should use the leading pay-per-click service, Google AdWords.  Here are some of them.

It Reaches Prospects When They Want to Buy

Someone who is doing a Google search for your product or service is very likely doing so because they are interested in buying.  If you can put your name in front of them at the very time they are making that decision of what to buy, and bring them to your site, that’s just perfect timing.  Can you get that timing what any other advertising?

That’s why the Yellow Pages used to be so effective.  If you bought an ad in the Yellow Pages, prospects saw it when they were looking for a specific product or service because they wanted to buy.  Of course, that’s no longer the case–today, your prospects search the Web.

Small Spenders Are Welcome

Happily, there’s no minimum ad spend for AdWords.  You don’t have to commit thousands of dollars to your first trial.  In fact, you should start small and try a number of different search terms, to find out which ones bring you results, then expand your spend on the search terms that bring you business.  Don’t make the mistake of starting with a big spend before know which search terms bring you business.

Built-In Tracking

AdWords provides a variety of tracking tools.  You can track which terms bring you traffic, how long that traffic stays on your site, and continue on up through webform submissions and phone calls, if you wish.  You’ll know whether your AdWords spend is bringing you results.

A Foundation for Your Organic SEO

The tracking that you do for your AdWords campaign will also help you identify the search terms you want to seek organic search positions for.  Use your SEO dollars wisely, to go after position in search results for terms that you know bring you business.  A small experimental AdWords spend will help you sort out those search terms.

Website Improvement

Once you’re paying for people to come to the site, you’ll take a critical look at the site, considering what they see when they arrive.  It’s easy to not consider what happens to free traffic–it’s free, after all–but when you’re paying for every click, you want those bought visitors to have a great experience on your site.  Of course, you really want it for all your visitors, even the free ones, but the incentive is stronger once you’re paying for each visitor.  Site improvement is more likely to break through the clutter of things to do that all of us have when it involves making good use of money that we’re spending.

The Bottom Line

You should be using AdWords!  There’s a corollary to this, though–don’t try this at home.  AdWords looks deceptively simple but managing an effective campaign is complex and requires regular attention.  You’re better off to spend your time running your business, and leaving this complex task to someone else.  Such as me!

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Design Lessons from the Apple Store

I found a wonderful blog entry that talks about six design lessons from the Apple store. It’s an old blog–from 2004–but the message is still valuable. Store design is like Web site design, and this piece makes it clear. So here is the Web context for each of the design lessons.

The Lessons

1. Create an experience, not an artifact.
Consider your site as an experience for the visitor, so that every aspect of that experience helps convey the message you’re trying to communicate.
2. Honor Context
Think about the visitor’s point of view when organizing your site, not your point of view as a business insider. Your categories don’t matter; the visitor’s do.
3. Prioritize your messages
You can’t say everything you want to say to each Web visitor. Decide what’s most important and say that–clearly and emphatically.
Institute consistency
Use all the tools you have to convey your image. Make the site design consistent with your products, if you have products, or your offices if customers visit your offices. And be sure that all those tools are consistent with the message.
4. Design for change
Marketing is the discipline of continually changing how the company deals with a changing marketplace, and this is exactly what happens on the Web. Search engines actually give higher rank to sites that change often. So design choices need to enable change.
5. Don’t forget the human element
Remember that the next step after your site is the encounter an interested visitor will have with your people. Make sure that they also reflect the message of quality and consistency and service that you want to deliver, or your visitors will quickly discover that there’s little behind the pretty site.

The Bottom Line

There are parallels between Web site design and the design of a retail store. In both cases, every aspect of the design and how our employees behave within it should be used to convey our marketing message.

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Evolution of Marketing Style

Things Are Changing!

In the time I’ve been involved in marketing I’ve seen quite an evolution in the style of best practice marketing.  Clearly, the Web has influenced best practice in marketing, and now social media are exerting their own influences.  In this Newsletter, I outline the stages that I’ve seen as marketing has evolved.  Different commentators may characterize the evolution with different stages, but all the accounts that I’ve seen portray the same trends.  Where is your company in this evolution?

Features

In the first days of advertising, there was a focus on features.  For example, this slow cooker has two different temperature settings, “low” and “high”.  There’s a presumption that the prospect knows that the high setting will cook faster than the slow setting.

Feature selling works best if prospects are already experts in the use of the product.  For example, a commercial laundry doesn’t need to be told that bleach will make fabrics whiter.  They might like to know that this bleach doesn’t emit gases that are harmful to equipment operators, though.

Features and Benefits

The next refinement in marketing was to point out not only the features, but the benefits associated with them.  A feature would be described in enough detail that the prospect could understand how that feature would produce the associated benefit, so the claim for the benefit would be credible.

For our slow cooker example, a feature-benefit discussion might be that it has a non-stick coating on the cooking insert, making it easy to clean.

Feature-benefit selling might take the form of a table of features and associated benefits, or advertising copy could spell out features and benefits.  Either way, for feature-benefit advertising to be effective, it’s important to focus on benefits that are important to the prospect.  If you simply present long lists of irrelevant benefits you risk losing the prospect’s interest.

Solution Selling

For particularly complex products, where features and benefits selling might be difficult, such as complex IT products, suppliers began offering “solutions” to “problems”.  The technical person who accompanied the sales person  made the elegant transformation from “sales support” to “solutions architect.”

Related to solution selling is system selling, where a product is promoted as a “system”.  For example, the Rainbow Vacuum Cleaner is now the Rainbow System, thanks to “the Rainbow’s cutting edge technology and nature’s own cleaning solution: water.”

Solution selling does involve a refinement in selling beyond just changing the name of the approach.  Selling a solution requires the seller to have some understanding of the problem; that starts with a focus on what’s important to the customer, what problem the customer wants to solve.

Content Selling

The Web allows us to view a prospect not just as someone with a problem to solve but as an information seeker.  We offer information that allows the prospect to solve a problem.  We provide content that establishes ourselves as an authority on the subject.  To help establish that authority, we show testimonials on our site, showing that others endorse our authority in the area.  And we offer a newsletter, that lets a prospect subscribe to more of this useful, authoritative content to help solving the prospect’s problems.

Of course, the content we provide supports the use of our particular solutions to the problem.  However, the approach taken is different from a traditional sales pitch, which is why the prospect should choose this particular approach; rather, the approach is to provide more comprehensive information that allows the prospect to decide on their own that the offered solution is the best one.

Social Networking

Today there’s great buzz around social networking.  Sites such as Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ appear to offer the opportunity to reach prospects and engage them in conversation-like dialogues.  There is evidence that some companies have achieved a certain amount of selling success directly through social networks, although there are different views about the effectiveness of social networks for selling.

A way to use social networks in our marketing today is to consider them as support for the content approach.  That is, use contact in social networks to bring prospects to our Web site, so that they can use the content that we provide there to learn how our products and services are appropriate for them.  Used in this fashion, social networks can provide high-ranking incoming links to our Web site, which improves its position in search engine results.  And, of course, the mention of our site in a social network can also directly bring visitors to our Web site.

The Bottom Line

Think about your approach to the use of your Web site and social networks.  If you’re using your site to deliver an obsolete sales pitch, consider an upgrade.  And while it’s too early to bet the farm on social networks, it’s time now start using social networks to strengthen your Web marketing.

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Design Lessons from the Apple Store

I found a wonderful blog entry that talks about six design lessons from the Apple store.  It’s an old blog–from 2004–but the message is still valuable.  Store design is like Web site design, and this piece makes it clear.  So here is the Web context for each of the design lessons, followed by a link to the original blog about the store so that you can read it yourself.

The Lessons

1. Create an experience, not an artifact

Consider your site as an experience for the visitor, so that every aspect of that experience helps convey the message you’re trying to communicate

2. Honor Context

Think about the visitor’s point of view when organizing your site, not your point of view as a business insider.  Your categories don’t matter; the visitor’s do.

3. Prioritize your messages

You can’t say everything you want to say to each Web visitor.  Decide what’s most important and say that–clearly and emphatically.

4. Institute consistency

Use all the tools you have to convey your image.  Make the site design consistent with your products, if you have products, or your offices if customers visit your offices.  And be sure that all those tools are consistent with the message.

5. Design for change

Marketing is the discipline of continually changing how the company deals with a changing marketplace, and this is exactly what happens on the Web.  Search engines actually give higher rank to sites that change often.  So design choices need to enable change.

6. Don’t forget the human element

Remember that the next step after your site is the encounter an interested visitor will have with your people.  Make sure that they also reflect the message of quality and consistency and service that you want to deliver, or your visitors will quickly discover that there’s little behind the pretty site.

Now Read the Blog

Now you’re ready to read the blog!  Just click here.

The Bottom Line

There are parallels between Web site design and the design of a retail store.  In both cases, every aspect of the design and how our employees behave within it should be used to convey our marketing message.
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The Science of Gifting

Understanding Gifting Is Important

Retailers make much of their annual sales and most of their annual profit between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Therefore, it’s important for them to understand gifting behavior.  Fortunately, there is some science that bears on this, that can help.

Personalization

The bulk of household holiday shopping is done by women, who, surveys show, want to put meaning into the gifting process.  42% of them classify themselves as “emotional” gifters, who buy gifts to show that they “truly understand the recipient.”  These people are looking for unique gifts.  You can provide that uniqueness through personalization.  Allow the purchaser to put initials somewhere on the product, to choose product features and color, or to put special content on the package.

The simplest–and easiest–type of personalization that you can offer is a simple note to be included with the package.

Social Proof

People who are uncertain what to do tend to ask others for advice.  You can provide this advice on your site:  have tabs for product reviews.  You can ask reviewers to provide some demographic information about themselves, so that you can categorize the reviews to make them even more useful to shoppers.  The affirmation of reviews can be important.  As a side note, soon you’ll be able to offer certified reviews on your own site that have a seal from Dave’s Certified Reviews (TM).

Scarcity

Scarcity influences choice.  You can create scarcity on your Web site through limited-time offers and limited special editions of products.  Be careful, though, about offering discounts through your mailing list–if not handled with great care, you can wind up educating all of your prospects that if they wait a while there’s no need to ever pay full price for anything you sell!  Once your price list has lost credibility with your prospects you are in deep trouble.

Give Recipients Choice

If you include wish lists and registries into your site, you provide the opportunity for recipients to tell gifters what they want–such choice can improve recipient satisfaction.  A newer idea is to tell a recipient that a gift has been selected and to allow the recipient to exchange it for anything else in the store of equivalent value before it is shipped.  This new approach can save on return costs and improve recipient satisfaction at the same time.

The Bottom Line

At the holiday season, Web retailers have more to do than just add lots of holiday merchandise and conduct holiday sales.  Understanding the science of gifting–and using it for your Web retailing strategy–can help boost sales.

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Email Marketing Guidelines

Get Your Emails Delivered!

As you know, I urge you to have a newsletter to stay in touch with your prospects and build your reputation.   I’ve written several times about the sort of content to put into your newsletter and how much selling it should contain (not much).  There’s another side of using email for marketing, and that’s ensuring that your emails are delivered; that’s the topic of this issue.

Any organization, from your ISP to a specialist bulk SMTP relay company, needs to pay attention to their own reputation.  If they are seen as a source of spam, then their own emails won’t be accepted by other Internet email operators.  So those practices are reflected on you; as your mailing list grows beyond 1,000 or so, you’ll start to see more attention to these matters.  This issue tells you how to deal proactively with what’s called your sender reputation, courtesy of Dyn. 

Warm Up Your IP Address and Domain

Spammers tend to suddenly start sending a lot of emails from a new IP address or domain name.  And their patterns of sending are irregular.  So your approach should be what’s called “warming up” your IP address and domain name by sending at regular intervals, and sending a growing number of emails.  Don’t jump around in quantity of emails sent.

You’ll find as you start sending 1,000 or more emails at a time, that senders will slow up your sending operation.  As you warm up your IP address and domain, they’ll relay your email faster and faster.  For a new IP address or domain name, you may want to throttle your sends for a while until both are suitably warmed up.

Establish a Rhythm

Spammers have erratic sending patterns.  If you establish a regular routine, sending similar numbers of messages each month with a similar schedule, your mailer will be more likely to believe that you are not a spammer.  In particular, don’t have lengthy pauses between sending emails.

A regular rhythm of sending also gets readers accustomed to when they will hear from you, so you’ll have fewer unsubscribes and fewer spam complaints.  Of course, you’ll also be more effective at accomplishing the business goals for your emails as well.

Maintain Your List

Your email sender’s own reputation is at risk if there are a lot of bounces of your emails or if there are a lot of spam complaints.  Dyn recommends goals of no more than .03% spam complaints and a 2% threshold on bounces.  Be sure that unsubscribes are removed, and remove bounces after 2 or 3 successive bounces.

You may be tempted to purchase a list.  This is often the best way to destroy your sender reputation!  Most companies who use email marketing find that in-house lists, that are built over time, are much more effective than purchased lists.

Send Quality Content

This seems obvious, but it’s worth noting that the quality of what you send impacts your sender reputation, because it affects the number of complaints.  Be sure what you send is carefully reviewed and that the messages are relevant to what you’re doing and to your recipients’ interests.   Avoid more than 20% selling content in email communications, and don’t bombard your recipients with communications that are too frequent.

The Bottom Line

For effective use of email in marketing, as you build your list, also pay attention to building your sender reputation.

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Easy Ways to Find Topics to Write About

Content Is King!

Or so they tell us, as we are exhorted to write for a Web site, for a blog, for Facebook, for LinkedIn, for Twitter.  Good grief!  How can you get any work done while writing all of this stuff?  And how do you find topics to write about, anyway?  This issue gives you a method for finding a number of topic suggestions that are in current discussion.

Amazon is a Great Indicator of Current-Ness

Amazon sells an uncountable number of books, so they know exactly which books in each field are most popular.  What’s very nice about Amazon is that they even make this information available to you–for free!  And you can find it through a search.  In just a few moments you have a number of topic suggestions.

First, Find a Popular Book

Do a search on the Amazon site for the topic of interest.  Suppose your company has a software product that’s intended for property managers.  So you’d like to write some advice for property managers, to interest them in coming to your site and looking at your software product.  So do a search on “Property Management” in Amazon.  Here’s what the top result was for me:

If you click on the title and scroll down, you’ll come to this listing:

This tells us that this book is the ninth best seller in books on real estate!  I’d guess that the first books might be about investing in real estate and selling real estate, and this is likely the top book on property management.  But you don’t have to guess, just click on Real Estate and you’ll see the list of top-selling books on real estate!  And then you’ll find that this one is, indeed, the top one on  property management.

Now look back at the book cover.  It says you can look inside–so take a look inside.  The table of contents lists the topics that are covered by this book that’s today one of the top sellers in its field!  These are the topics that property managers want to hear about.  If you look at the list, and you’re in the field, no doubt you’ll find plenty of things you can write about.

Another Approach

You’ll notice that our search in Amazon led to a book in the Dummies series as the best-selling book for property managers.  The companies who publish these books–that sell lots and lots of copies–have an uncanny knack for finding book topics of interest and, within them, the questions of the day.  So, instead of using Amazon, you could go directly to the Dummies home page and look at their books that are relevant to your writing topic.  Here, too, you would use the tables of contents to suggest subjects to write about.  Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from buying a book or two, and even using the content of the book to inform your writing.  What you’re not allowed to do is to copy the text of the book word for word, but ideas are not copyrighted, and there’s nothing wrong with using a book to provide inspiration for your own writing.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know how to find lots of great, popular title with current “buzz”, you have no excuse to not provide all that great, compelling content that your Web site, your newsletter and your blog are thirsting for!  It’s time to get to work!

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Kiva and Microlending

What’s Kiva?

We depart from Web marketing today for a discussion of my favorite charity, Kiva, and a chance for you to help someone at no cost to you.  It’s a good thing.  Kiva lets each of us make micro-loans to entrepreneurs in third world countries, helping them provide better lives for themselves and their families by building their businesses.  The loans are typically $1,000 or so but Kiva breaks them into $25 pieces that we can contribute.  But, as I said, you can make a loan without contributing anything.

My Own Experience

I’ve been lending for a few years now.  As an existing loan is repaid, those funds come back to your account.  You can withdraw them or relend them.  Typically when I get about $20 accumulated, I’ll make a new $25 loan and add $5 or so.  Over time, I’ve lent $1,500, with most of that recycled.  I’ve had only one loan go bad; all the others have been repaid so far.  Here is my experience and how it stacks up with the typical Kiva lender:

What You Can Do

Kiva has a donor who is willing to fund new lenders for a $25 loan at no charge to them!  So this gives you the chance to make a loan to an entrepreneur in another country in about 5 minutes of your time, at no cost to you.  And the loan you’re making is a load that wouldn’t happen without your participation–you will really be helping someone, and it won’t cost you a cent.

All you have to do is click on this link, enroll as a Kiva lender and you’re in!  You’ll get to make a $25 loan at no cost to you, and so will I, once you’ve done it.

http://www.kiva.org/invitedby/davidc9359

The Bottom Line

First, please forgive the departure from Web marketing today!  But, please, visit the Kiva site and make a loan to a third-world entrepreneur.  You’ll find the photos and stories behind the loans that are offered to be fascinating.  These people who are running their businesses in third world countries are really inspiring.

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Wallow in the Problem!

Wallow in the Problem!

This issue of the Newsletter talks about a copywriting problem that occurs frequently–not spending enough time on the prospect’s problem.  To describe what the right behavior feels like to a solution provider who is writing copy of developing a sales pitch, I coined the term “wallow in the problem” to describe the emphasis to be given to the problem in the copy or presentation.  Or Webinar.

Our Focus

As providers of a service or product or information, we are focused on what we provide.  It’s a solution to a problem.  We are proud of our solution–we spend all day working on it.  We want our prospects to know about and to appreciate all the great ways our solution will solve their problems.

What the Prospect Sees

However, the first thing the prospect wants to know is not all about our solution, but have we aimed our solution at her problem?  Do we really understand her problem?   I spent a lot of my career as a buyer and not a seller, and again and again I saw people who offered solutions who spent all their time talking about their solution–logical to them!–but never demonstrating to me that they really understood my problem.

When we get into describing the solution before we have paid a lot of respect to the problem, we appear to be “pushy,” to be pressing our solution on the prospect before we’ve understood the problem.  We don’t care what the problem is, just buy our solution!  The prospect would like to say “wait a minute now, let’s talk about my problem” but most prospects won’t do that.  They’ll just buy elsewhere or not at all.

Wallowing

It’s OK to take some time and space to deal with the problem.  If you’re a house painter, describe what a house needing paint looks like.  How it can be embarrassing.  How the neighbors think you’re down on your luck.  How damage can develop over time if it’s not painted.  And how about your own pride and self-confidence?  I’m sure you get the point.  It’s not just replacing the faded paint.  It’s much more.  Show that you understand everything that’s involved in the problem and you’ll be the chosen provider.

The Bottom Line

I like to focus on a good wallow in the prospect’s problem as the start of copy or a presentation.  It’s also a good way to put yourself into the mind of your prospect, so that you can understand where she is coming from.  If you’ve thought through all aspects of the problem and given a somewhat drawn-out description of them, you’ll find that you’ve gone a long way toward making the sale before you even mention the wonderful solution that you’re offering!

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Three Terrible Link-Building Strategies

Don’t Do This

We all know the importance of incoming links to search engine results position, so we are all conditioned to seek incoming links.  However, the recent changes by Google–and their announced intent–has made some favorite strategies for getting links downright dangerous.  Here are three of them that you’ll do well to avoid.

Spammy Directories

There are a lot of poor-quality directories that are just lists of Web sites organized topically in some fashion.  This is not the way to stand out in your field.  If you can get listed in a directory of sites in your field, preferably with some comments other than just a listing, then that can have value by brining visitors from the directory as well as the value of the link.

Forums

Conversational forums are a great way to get an incoming link.  But there are so many listings.  However, the link that you include in your comment may be moderated out of your comment.  Forums are often updated so often that your single posting will just be swamped by the volume of updates.  Incoming links from forums are an example of the sort of links that may be targets of future Google updates.

Spammy Blog Comments

There are lots of blogs and comments in the blogs provide you with links.  However, here, too, the moderator may decide to mark your link no follow, so that you don’t get help with your search engine position.  There are high quality blogs that are authoritative in your discipline, and links from them will help you.  But go for quality and authority.

The Bottom Line–Do Do This

Relevance and authoritativeness triumph.  Participate in relevant, authoritative directories and blogs.  Do things that look real to the search engines because they are real.

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New Ideas

A New Beginning

If you’ve been a reader of this newsletter for any length of time, then you know something about me.  I’m an IT pro (computer science and ee degrees) who is fascinated by the Internet (teach Internet protocols in grad school).  I’ve also been successful at selling and marketing technical products.  About a year ago I retired from job 1 in IT, and now focus on my Web marketing business and teaching.  And enjoying being considerably less busy.

I’ve been doing Web marketing for ten years.  But as a part-time job, although I learned a lot about it, I wasn’t particularly systematic about it, and approached each engagement independently.  Since the business is now a bigger focus for me, I’ve been working lately on professionalizing my offerings.  There were two areas of particular interest:  tools that could help me and help keep my clients informed of the status of their Web marketing, and the role of social networks in Web marketing.

I also found it difficult to give a quick answer to the question “Tell me just what you will do for me?’  that would be asked by a prospect.  I needed a better way to tell the story other than saying “I’ll coach your staff and your Webmaster so that you’ll get the benefit you should from your Web site.”

That effort is now about complete, and I’m already beginning to apply some of the new techniques, tools and ideas from this period of research.  You’ll be seeing some different ideas in this newsletter as I explain some of the new ideas that I’ve learned.

Tools

Today the Web is very important in marketing–you’ve seen the impressive and rapidly growing sales figures for direct sales over the Web.  Not as precisely measured but even more important is the great importance of Web research in every purchase decision.  Because of the wide recognition of the importance of Web marketing, there are many many tools on the market that purport to help the Web marketer, to allow anyone with a site to self-market.  I finally decided that there were far too many tools for me to even evaluate!  Of those that I did evaluate, I found most of them to be of marginal value.  Sadly, I can’t share the names of the tools that I’ve chosen, since they will provide much of my competitive edge.  But they do these jobs:

1. Provide my clients with a quantitative report on the status of their Web marketing efforts, on a monthly basis.  This was the tool that was hardest to find, since I had to try a large number of tools and learn them well enough to know that I could or could not do what I needed with them.  As I get clients et up, each of them will get an understandable, quantitative summary of the status of the Web marketing effort every month.  The tool set I chose also does a nice job of identifying opportunities for gains in several areas.
2. Find useful keywords.  Keyword research is a tricky area.  It needs to cover frequency of use, relevance, and the amount of competition on that term.  I have located several tools for this purpose, including one that looks in real time at site traffic and uses some very good methods to find new terms to exploit.
3. Run the mailing list and conduct surveys.  I have identified the best tools to manage a mailing list and to conduct surveys to the mailing list.  I’ll be talking more about the growing importance of the mailing list and list-building in future issues.
4. Provide each client with a tailored Web marketing plan.  Every one of my clients will receive a client marketing plan that explains all the actions that I’ll take, why they will be undertaken, and the expected results and deliverables.  This required me to develop a template plan that will be a starting point both for customization for each client, and also for evolution of the business as I evolve and introduce new approaches.
There are a few other tools as well, but these are used to help with very specific tasks.  Some I’ve used for years, and there are a couple of new ones as well.  But the ones listed above are the most important new tools that I’ve adopted.

New Ideas

I’ll be taking a new approach to Web marketing, that has list-building as a central feature.  It’s still important to do all the things to the site that were done when we just established a Web site and waited for the money to roll in.  However, now there’s a lot of competition that can also take those same steps, so it’s crucial that we take the advantage of the opportunity to do more.
Social networks provide that opportunity; however, they can’t be used in the same way for every business.  Different social networks have different membership populations and different conventions for use.  It’s important to adopt a social networking strategy that will provide maximum benefit to the business at a reasonable cost in effort.  I’ll be talking about these issues in future issues of this newsletter.
Reviews are a part of the social networking scene, but for many businesses they are so important that they deserve special attention.  Review sites can be sources of high-authority links, and they also are frequently checked as part of pre-purchase research.  So they provide a double potential benefit.  With some risk.  Reviews will be talked about in future issues of the newsletter.  I was not able to find a satisfactory tool to allow my clients to host credible reviews on their sites, so I’m considering launching a service that i would own that would provide reviews of guaranteed credibility.

The Bottom Line

I have some new understandings of the current best practices in Web marketing, and will be sharing the key ideas with you in this newsletter.  And my clients will see the direct benefits of this intensive research that I’ve completed.
If you like this newsletter, please check out Web Marketing 101 , our guide to Web marketing.
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Three Phases of Web Marketing

I’ve been looking for a long time for a framework that can be used to organize and discuss all the activities that make up Web marketing, and a newsletter from Marketo (June 18, 2012) provides just that organizing framework.  So with a few modifications, here is that framework.  I’ve provided an infographic that tells the story.

This contemporary view of Web marketing would characterize the goals of the three phases as:

1. Pre-Click:  bring the visitor to the site

2. Post-Click:  get the visitor to provide identifying and contact information (“convert”)

3. Post-Conversion:  make the prospect familiar and comfortable with the company and its offerings, so that the prospect becomes a customer.

The Bottom Line

Give attention to all of these activities in your marketing plan.  It’s a sound practice to have a simple marketing plan in written form that briefly describes what you intend to do in each of these areas.

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Must-Watch Video

You Must See This

This video has nothing to do with Web marketing!  Instead, it’s about robotics research, and what’s been accomplished by a swarm of flying autonomous robots.

The research has been done at one of my alma maters, the University of Pennsylvania.  I think you’ll find this video amazing, as the swarm plays the James Bond theme.  It provides a fascinating peek into the future of this technology, which is promising and scary at the same time.

Robot Swarm

The Bottom Line

Imagine what this technology can mean to any sort of surveillance or monitoring application!

If you like this newsletter, please check out Web Marketing 101 , our guide to Web marketing.

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Future of the Internet

The Internet of Things

The concept of the Internet of Things brings together forecasts about electronics technology as well as developments in the Internet. I gave a talk on the subject to my course on Internet protocols recently, and thought that you might find it interesting. The talk is an attachment to this Newsletter. So that everyone can see it, it’s a PDF. Just open it and follow the dialogue.

Electronics Technology

We all know how the capabilities of our electronics continues to increase. Processing capabilities of computer chips are increasing; but as this happens they get smaller and the same job can be done with less power. And power sources themselves keep getting smaller and lighter. Sensor technologies keep increasing in capabilities and getting smaller and lighter too. You can get an HD video camera that can be powered by a AA cell within the barrel of a pin.

GPS

GPS technology is central to many developments. As the electronics trends develop, a smaller and smaller device, using its own power, will be able to know exactly where it is at all times. We see telephones and cameras with GPS sensors today; but the devices that know where they are all the time will keep getting smaller and lighter.

Networks

The Internet keeps getting faster, more reliable, and cheaper. Wireless networks keep getting more and more capable. So these tiny devices that can know where they are and sense their environment in many ways can also communicate as they need with all the computers in the world. Each of these devices can have exactly the information it needs to do its job, and can share results anywhere in the world at any time.

The Bottom Line

All of these capabilities add up to some fascinating new products that work with the Internet in new ways. Take a look at the attached presentation for more specifics. As always, I’d love to hear your comments.
If you like this newsletter, please check out Web Marketing 101 , our guide to Web marketing.

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Which customer groups can you reach through the Web?

Does Anyone Use the Web to Look for ….?

Over the ten years that I’ve been doing Web marketing, several times I’ve been in conversations about which populations of prospects can be reached through the Internet. One of the first was about extremely high-end customers who, ten years ago, would spend $3,000 a night or more for a vacation rental. More recently it’s been asked about people seeking surgery, people who are not at all wealthy, for people looking for expert consultants to advise insurance companies about settlements, and so on.

Ask the Right Question

The question to ask is not whether the population you want to reach uses the Internet–the real question is whether you can reach them through the Internet. For example, Matt Lauer likely doesn’t spend a lot of time surfing the Internet–he has someone to do it for him. And, as it turned out, for the high-end vacation rentals, the Web was a great way to reach them. Because they had assistants to surf for them. And even call for the reservation and make all the arrangements for their trip.
Today the question is largely moot, although it is still asked. At one end of the income scale, prospects have help to surf the Internet. At the other end, if your prospects don’t have Internet access, a friend may do it for them. Of course, there’s no guarantee that everything can be sold on the Internet. However, every time I’ve seen the question asked, in many many different situations, where the answer was not obvious, it’s always been the same–yes, we could reach that group of prospects.
With marketing, it’s important to try new things constantly, and keep measuring them to see what works. So if you wonder whether your prospects can be reached through the Web, build a site and give it a try. But until you’re sure that you can get the business results you seek, go small. Invest less than you might in your first Web site, try a small-scale Adwords campaign to get traffic quickly, and see how things develop.

The Bottom Line

The answer to “Can I reach my prospects on the Web?” is most likely “Yes!” But you’ll never know until you try. So try on a small scale, keeping costs down until you’re sure you can reach your prospects on the Web. But do try, the opportunity to acquire customers at such a low marginal costs doesn’t exist anywhere else.

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Load Speed

Speed to Load

There’s a lot of discussion that the typical first-time a visitor gives your home page just five seconds to demonstrate that your site has information that’s of interest.  We all know that.  But how about the time it takes your home page to load?  Does that matter?

Current Assessment

There’s been a gradual improvement in the speed of interactive access, and as speed improves, user expectations become greater.  The early time-sharing systems found that they had user problems if their response took longer than 10 seconds.  However, ten seconds, or even five seconds, just won’t cut it today.

Today’s Web user is becoming more and more demanding.  Engineers from Google and Microsoft who specialize in performance were quoted in a recent   Economic Times article on the subject.  For search, even 400 milliseconds–that’s right 4 tenths of a second–will cause people to search less.

The important number today is 250 milliseconds, a quarter of a second.  People will visit a news or ecommerce site more often than a competitor’s if it loads pages 250 milliseconds faster than the competition.

The Bottom Line

Take out your stopwatch and time the loading of a few of your Web pages.  If your site consistently takes longer than a quarter second to load a page over a high-speed connection, then talk to your Webmaster about improving performance.

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The Zero Moment of Truth

How the Web Has Changed Markets:  The Zero Moment of Truth

Marketers have traditionally thought of three “moments” in the marketing experience:

  1. The “stimulus,” where the prospect is presented some information, such as through advertising, that arouses interest in purchasing
  2. The “first moment,” where the prospect selects the product from the shelf or the store, and
  3. The “second moment,” when the product is taken home and is used
Today the Web has introduced a fourth “moment,” between the stimulus and first moment, called the “zero moment of truth” by Google and others.  The zero moment is the prospect’s search for information between the stimulus and the first moment.  That search may take place with friends, on social sites such as Facebook, on the Web by adding the term “reviews” to the product name and searching.  Of course, there’s always radio, television and print advertising that can provide relevant information. 
Recent research shows that the average shopper uses 10.4 sources of information to make a purchase decision today!  That’s an increase of almost 100% over one year ago. 

What Does This Mean?

Previous advertising, sometimes called Interruption Advertising, interrupted a prospect’s reading or radio listening or television watching to present a sales proposition.  The hope was that someone would pay attention to these interruptions and come to the store.

Today we must realize that these other 10.7 sources of information are going to be consulted, and we need to put ourselves into those sources as much as we can.  We need to be on Facebook and have a lot of fans.  We need to pay attention to those Yelp ratings.  We need to be reading blogs about our business areas and make sure that we are reflected there.

And the devices are changing as well.  A mobile device, a laptop or tablet or even a telephone is increasingly a zero moment device!  If you’ve seen people in stores scanning product codes with their phones to get information–and competitive prices–are bringing the mobile zero moment into the store.

There is a new challenge here, and also a new opportunity.  There’s the opportunity for us to travel with our customers through their entire product evaluation journey and provide them helpful information all along that journey.

What do we do about negative information that inevitably gets out there?  The balanced reader who is using a lot of sources of information won’t be scared off by just one item, particularly if we have joined that dialogue constructively. 

The Bottom Line

Marketing has changed.  Today we must understand what’s happening during the zero moment.  We  can’t just have a single Web site or even a few Web sites.  We must consider all the sources of information that our customers use, and be sure that we are represented constructively in all those places.

For more information take a look at zeromomenoftruth.com.

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Landing Pages Enhance Persuasiveness

Use Landing Pages to Improve Your Site’s Effectiveness

Landing pages give your site the ability to meet a visitor who has a specific interest with a page tailored exactly to that visitor’s interest.  This is a great way to move a visitor closer to becoming a customer.  Landing pages can help the performance of paid search and organic search campaigns.

What’s a Landing Page?

A landing page is not part of the site navigation that you see on every page.  If you enter the site from the home page, it’s not easy to find the landing pages–because they are not intended for the general visitor.  Landing pages look like other pages on the site, but they are linked to only by the site map that lists all the pages of the site. 

Landing pages are designed for two purposes:  to provide a tailored welcome for a visitor who has used a certain search term, and to get good position in search engine results for that search term.

Each landing page is written around a narrow topic that’s of concern for your site.  If your site sells athletic shoes, for example, you might be interested in increasing the business you do for ranking on Air Jordan shoes from Nike.  The landing page has three elements:
  1. The title:  use the term itself.  In the example, it would be Air Jordan by Nike
  2. Understanding the need:  Describe the need that brings the prospect to the site, in one or two paragraphs.  In the case of shoes, the need is simple, so one paragraph does the job.  In the case of a medical problem the statement of need would show an understanding of the problem and how uncomfortable it is.  In the example, something like “You want to have great-looking shoes that you know will help your performance on the court.  You want to have shoes that come from the greatest name in basketball.  And you want shoes from the leading athletic shoe manufacturer.”
  3. Fulfilling the need:  Now take a couple of paragraphs to describe how the product meets the need.  For the example, you could talk about the appearance of the shoe in detail, all its parts and how they work together to provide top performance and how Michael Jordan personally tests and endorses them and wears them to play.  Be sure to completely cover the needs you’ve described in Step 2.
  4. Call to action:  Here you tell the reader just what to do in order to fulfill that need.  What do you want them to do?  You might even have two possible actions–“Call and make an appointment and sign up for the newsletter to keep abreast of what we’re doing, for example.  Or “Come to your local Shoe World shop to try out the latest Air Jordans on a real basketball court, and leave your email address so that we can tell you about special deals.”  Mke it easy to do what you want–provide a “contact us” button and a “newsletter” button.  And make sure that a “contact us” has a “subscribe to our newsletter” box that’s already checked when it’s opened.
In order to help get good search engine position for the key term, be sure to use it to start the title meta tag and use it in the description meta tag.  Use it as the first and last words of the text on the page, and use it six additional times in the discussion.
For paid search, use the URL of this page instead of your home page as the destination URL in AdWords and any other paid search providers you use for this term.
To identify which terms to use for landing pages, analyzing the site log will tell you which terms bring visitors who read the highest number of pages.  Target those people.

The Bottom Line

Landing pages can increase the persuasive power of your site.  They are easy to construct and worth the effort.
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Write for Prospects and Customers, Not Yourself

bottle_man-161x300Write for Your Prospects and Customers

There’s an old saying in marketing that “It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle.” The image at the left, which is from grok.com, illustrates the point well. The man trapped in this bottle may not even know that’s a sauvignon blanc bottle!

Everyone who has a Web site faces the same issue, that I call the “insider-outsider” problem. People within a business have their own vocabulary, that lets them make all the fine distinctions that they need to make about their products and services. The typical prospect, though, isn’t sensitive to those distinctions and may not even understand insider language.

It’s important that the copy on your Web site be written using language that your prospects and customers use to refer to your offerings, and not the words that you use in the business every day.

How can you avoid this trap? By paying close attention to the terms your customers use to talk about your offerings, and making sure that your Web site reflects that language.

The Bottom Line

On your Web site, be careful to write for your prospects and customers, not yourself and your employees.

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Website Cost

How Much Should a Website cost?

My clients occasionally ask how much they should pay for various aspects of developing a Website or some of the associated other marketing tools that are usually developed.  Unfortunately, the answer I give is one of the two answers that consultants give–“That depends.”  (The other answer they give is “You’ll need to give me more money.”)  The current November 2011 issue of Website magazine presents the results of a survey of their readership, so now at last I can give a better answer to the question.

Outsourcing

A freelance Web designer working overseas might charge as little as $20 an hour, while a freelance US designer will typically charge $50 per hour.  To engage a US freelance designer, one way to locate someone is to do a Google search for a Web designer in your area, then study a few designers’ portfolios.  If you do plan to use overseas outsourcing, be sure to allow for careful review of what’s produced so that you can identify and rectify anything due to cultural differences. 

A small firm is likely to be willing to develop your site for a fixed price, and you’ll have the benefit of inputs from more than one person, at what is usually a higher total price.  A larger, more estalblished firm is also likely to work on a fixed price, but a higher fixed price than the smaller firm.

Costs

Here is what the Website Magazine poll produced:

 

Typical Website Costs
Logo
Students/Offshore $100-$250+
Freelance/Professional $250-$1,000
Brochure Website
Students/Offshore $500-$1,000+
Freelance/Professional $1,500-$5,000+
E-Commerce Website
Outsourced Designers $1,000-$5,000+
Design Firms $2,000-$10,000+
Custom Database
or
Interactive Website
Outsourced Designers $1,500-$15,000
Design Firms: $2,500-$25,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bottom Line

These benchmarks can give you some idea of what you might pay.  Be very specific about what you ask for and make sure you understand how many reviews are expected before you enter into a fixed price arrangement.

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Web Demographics

Does Anyone Use the Web to Look for ….?

Over the ten years that I’ve been doing Web marketing, several times I’ve been in conversations about which populations of prospects can be reached through the Internet. One of the first was about extremely high-end customers who, ten years ago, would spend $3,000 a night or more for a vacation rental. More recently it’s been asked about people seeking surgery, people who are not at all wealthy, for people looking for expert consultants to advise insurance companies about settlements, and so on.

Ask the Right Question

The question to ask is not whether the population you want to reach uses the Internet–the real question is whether you can reach them through the Internet. For example, Matt Lauer likely doesn’t spend a lot of time surfing the Internet–he has someone to do it for him. And, as it turned out, for the high-end vacation rentals, the Web was a great way to reach them. Because they had assistants to surf for them. And even call for the reservation and make all the arrangements for their trip.

Today the question is largely moot, although it is still asked. At one end of the income scale, prospects have help to surf the Internet. At the other end, if your prospects don’t have Internet access, a friend may do it for them. Of course, there’s no guarantee that everything can be sold on the Internet. However, every time I’ve seen the question asked, in many many different situations, where the answer was not obvious, it’s always been the same–yes, we could reach that group of prospects.

With marketing, it’s important to try new things constantly, and keep measuring them to see what works. So if you wonder whether your prospects can be reached through the Web, build a site and give it a try. But until you’re sure that you can get the business results you seek, go small. Invest less than you might in your first Web site, try a small-scale Adwords campaign to get traffic quickly, and see how things develop.

The Bottom Line

The answer to “Can I reach my prospects on the Web?” is most likely “Yes!” But you’ll never know until you try. So try on a small scale, keeping costs down until you’re sure you can reach your prospects on the Web. But do try, the opportunity to acquire customers at such a low marginal costs doesn’t exist anywhere else.

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Reverse Advertising

Danny Sullivan, one of the first search marketing experts, coined the term “reverse advertising” to describe the promotional process using Web search.

“Non-Reverse” Advertising

First consider advertising that’s not reversed, and let’s use print advertising as an example. You pay to put together copy and graphics, and then you pay for ink and paper and the labor to put the ink onto the paper–usually a lot of copies, so a lot of ink and paper. Then you pay a lot to distribute many, many copies of the paper carrying your ink, and you hope that somehow, some way, it gets seen by someone who is interested in what you’re offering.

Or consider broadcast advertising, where you pay to interrupt thousands of people who are listening to or watching a program. You hope that one of these people you’ve annoyed is interested in what you have to offer, actually pays attention to your ad, and even acts on it, even though it disappears quickly.

In both cases, with “forward advertising” you pay a lot to put your offer in front of a lot of people in hopes that you reach someone who is interested.

Reverse Advertising

Now consider promoting your offerings on the Web using search marketing. In this case, the prospect has already indicated an interest in what you offer by entering a query. In response to this query, either because you’ve paid or not, the search engine presents a summary of your offer. Then the prospect takes a second action and clicks on your listing!

Now the prospect has come to your Web site, after having already–twice–indicated interest in your offer. Here you’re not making many copies of a description of your offer or broadcasting to thousands of people in hopes of finding someone who’s interested–instead, they’ve indicated an interest–twice!!–and come to you.

 

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