Featured in HP Newsletter: Free Website Essentials 101

I recently started web design/online marketing agency First Time Online, LLC. Our 1st motto is It’s Time to Get Online. Assuming that you’ve arrived at that same conclusion refer to our 2nd motto, It Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive In Order To Be Effective. Once you’ve made the decision to create a website, there are essential tasks that will define the overall success of your site. The best part is most of those things can be done for free!

The only reason this article exists is because of another article I wrote for HP back in January (Using WordPress To Grow Your Business). Interestingly enough, I received great visitor feedback which ultimately led me to start First Time Online, LLC. Based on popular demand, I was approached to write another article for their newsletter (which has a distribution of about 80,000+). You can also check it out on the HP Logoworks Small Business site,“Free Website Essentials 101?.

GETTING STARTED

Before you build a site, you need to register a domain name (i.e. www.MyBusiness.com) which also means the use of a personalized e-mail address. I would suggest using GoDaddy.com. It’s a tough economy which means “Coupons” and “Promo Codes” are 100% necessary. It’s easy to find coupon codes that will save you money. I found a pretty good list on FatWallet.com. Half the codes go inactive very quickly, but the forum is constantly being updated. Once you have a website name, you need to consider hosting your site securely. GoDaddy provides those services, but if you want to get a better deal I would suggest the use Blue Host, as they are affordable and you get a free domain name when you sign up with them. The key here is saving money and nothing is better than free.

SEARCH ENGINE FRIENDLY FORMAT

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the amount and quality of traffic to your site from organic searches within search engines. There’s no cost to get listed naturally in Google, Yahoo and MSN…your job is to try and rank correctly for any given search. For example, if you sell Shoes online, then when someone searches for Shoes in Google, your website would hopefully pop-up. In order for search engines to do this, they use crawlers to find pages to feed out as search results. If those crawlers have a hard time reading your websites code, then your chances of getting listed are decreased. There are free tools out there to help you optimize your website and I would highly suggest the use of Google Webmaster as a starter. I can’t stress this enough so I’ll repeat it one more time: Without good SEO, you’ll have to pay for people to find you. Your chance of selling a product to someone who is looking for you is higher than someone who is not.

UNDERSTAND YOUR TRAFFIC

Without a question, analytics is the double-edged sword of Online Marketing. The information you can collect about your visitors is extremely valuable, but the amount of information can be overwhelming. Set a benchmark for yourself and use analytics software to help define whether or not you’re reaching pre-assigned goals. Google Analytics has an internal feature to help track visitors and goal reaching. By understanding such things as, source of traffic and content-overview, you’ll be able to help your site evolve into a stronger source of business…and again, this software free.

BE CONTACT FRIENDLY

A business without a website is like an individual without a cell phone, they’re impossible to reach. If you’re a business with a website, then you should be very easy to reach. Unfortunately, that’s not always the cases. In order to increase visibility, a company should register for local listings on the major search engines. For Google, go to www.google.com/local/add and for Yahoo!, check out http://listings.local.yahoo.com/. When an individual searches for your company, your contact information will come up in the search, making it easier for them to reach you.

On another related topic, a few of my clients have expressed the fear of “e-mail spam” and have refused to lend out their contact information. There’s a very easy way around this: A “Contact-Us” page with a contact form and spam protection methods including a visual based key code that must be entered in order to send. Ask your web developer to put something like this together for you, or refer to free contact form services such as FreeContactForm.com. (Notice how it’s FREE!)

REMEMBER: EFFECTIVE ISN’T EPENSIVE

It doesn’t have to expensive in order to be effective. Your main objective is to stay focused on your goals, which by now, you should have an idea of what they are. If you’re trying to sell a product, then your goal is to direct traffic as far down the purchase process as possible. If you’re selling a service, then your goal is to get visitors to contact you. Want examples of what I mean? Take a look at Craigslist. The site serves over twenty billion page views per month, putting it in 28th place overall among web sites world-wide, and analysts value the site to be worth over $150 million. The best part is…their interface is simplistic and commonly referred to as “ugly”, BUT it’s effective.

SIMPLE METHODS TO INCREASE TRAFFIC

If you’re looking to bump up your traffic, then consider adopting some of the following trends: Company Newsletters, Blogging, Social Networking, Videos on your website and finding sponsors to host local events. Your goal is to create buzz, drive traffic and create loyal customers.

If you manage to do all of this, there’s no doubt that success will follow. Somehow “free” just smells, looks and tastes better!

Posted under Blogs, E-Mail, Online Marketing, Online Video, SEO/SEM, Social Networks, Viral Marketing

This post was written by Joshua Russak on June 16, 2009

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Internet Marketing 101: Stages of Customer Engagement

online-marketing-pyramid

Introduction to SEO/PPC, Banner Ads, E-Mail, Social Media (Web2.0) & Analytics

New to the online space? Not sure where to start marketing your business, or even how? Well that’s okay…because you’re not alone. This article is geared towards small business new to online space, bringing them up to speed on what’s out there and how they can take full advantage everything .

Unlike traditional marketing, the internet broadens the reach between businesses and consumers. Lower costs, mass distribution and instant responses are but a few benefits to taking your campaigns online. The beauty of the internet is that it provides many unique ways of capturing your audience by tying together both the creative and technical aspects of design and development. Below you will find a basic introduction to the many forms Online Marketing and what you should take advantage of. If you’re business is not online, you should look into testing some of the practices introduced below. For those of you familiar with the online space, consider this a refresher.

SETTINGS GOALS

Online marketing takes goal setting very seriously. Without a goal, how can you measure success? There’s so much information you can collect about your website users: Hits, Clicks, Views, Purchases, etc…but which of those are most important to you must be defined before you begin a campaign. For example, let’s assume you’re trying to sell shoes. If your site generates 1,000 hits a day, and you didn’t sell a shoe, then you weren’t successful. Now, let’s assume your website is an online newspaper and your goal is to get readers. In that case, a 1,000 hits a day is a great thing. Everything is relative. Set your goals early on so as to not get distracted.

SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING (SEM)

As the internet became more popular in the 90’s, search engines were created to help individuals locate information more efficiently on the internet. Considering the amount of new information published daily, search engines were relied more heavily upon in order to help direct traffic. Using “spiders” and “crawlers” sent into cyberspace, search engines were/are able to categorize websites and rank them. If you go to a search engine and type in “CAMERA”, what comes up is probably the most “relevant” result to that word. Unfortunately there are millions of sites competing to get to the top of that list. This is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes into play.  In what could be an entire article in itself, SEO is the process of improving the amount and quality of traffic to your site from organic searches within search engines. There’s no cost to get listed naturally in Google, Yahoo and MSN and your goal should be to rank high for any relevant searches. There are free tools out there to help you optimize your website and I would highly suggest using Google Webmaster as a starter.

Search Engine Optimization allows you to drive customers to your website simply by showing up in their searches.  However, there is another route you can take to drive traffic to your website, but you’ll have to pay for it.  Pay-Per-Click advertising was instituded by search engines to drive revenue on their sites. Businesses and individuals could sponsor links at the top of search results in order to increase the chance of someone clicking their link, and they would pay for every click. Yahoo! Search Marketing and Google AdWords are two popular examples of this type of marketing. This became the primary business model and source of income for search engines.

BANNER ADS

Another more traditional form of marketing is banner ads. Similar to driving down the freeway and passing oversized billboards, these ads are very visual and in-your-face. Located either at the top or on the sides of websites (aka: Skyscraper Ads), these ads follow both Pay-Per-Click and the more traditional Pay-Per-View models. With the advances in online technologies, these ads have been increasing the way audiences interact with them. For those of you who have seen the “click the monkey to win a FREE I-POD”, you know exactly what I mean. Not every banner ad is interactive, but there are many variations and the options are nearly endless.

E-MAIL MARKETING

If you are considering direct-marketing or have experience using snail-mail in some form, E-mail marketing is the electronic approach. Companies can benefit from e-mail marketing in many different ways:

  • Low Cost- 1,000 e-mails costs a lot cheaper than 1,000 envelopes+stamps+paper
  • Fast- Will arrive in their inbox within 30 seconds, depending on the service
  • Mass Distribution- Global Reach
  • ROI Tracking- You can track successful delivery’s, who opened the e-mails and what links they clicked
  • “It’s Eco-Friendly- No trees will be harmed in spreading your message (as with this post!)” – Sam Shron, Acxiom Digital.

Considering most internet users check or send e-mails every single day, this is a highly effective form of reaching mass audience effectively. BEWARE!! This form of marketing is also highly controversial and must be done the right way or not at all. Please refer over to the CAN SPAM ACT OF 2003. The list of requirements are very specific including an unsubscribe button, who you send it to, how you send it and more. As a result, many businesses use Agency’s to handle their e-mail marketing efforts.

SOCIAL MEDIA (WEB2.0)

The popularity of social media created an entirely new type of effective marketing that has been increasingly growing stronger year by year. Why? Well, for one, considering the amount of personal information that users put online, advertisers are able to better understand who they’re advertising to and what is more likely to be effective. Within social media, you’ll find a vast amount of options:

Your campaign can go from zero to hero all because one individual liked the ad and sent it to all of his friends. Just take a look at the recent Susan Boyle video which has gained global success, with over 145,000,000+ views online. The video was featured on blogs and social networks and it was all FREE marketing. That’s the power of the internet and Social Media. But it doesn’t stop there. You can use the social networks to interact with potential customers and gain insights unlike ever before. I highly suggest you research this type of marketing and get involved any way you can. Your efforts will be pay off and the results could be endless!

ANALYTICS

As I stressed in my last article for HP, Free Website Essentials 101: The information you can collect about your visitors is extremely valuable. The only downside is the amount of information can be overwhelming. Without a question, analytics is the double-edged sword of Online Marketing. Set a benchmark for yourself and use analytics software to help define whether or not you’re reaching pre-assigned goals. Google Analytics has an internal feature to help track visitors and goal reaching. By understanding such things as, source of traffic and content-overview, you’ll be able to help your site evolve into a stronger source of business…and again, this software free, so there’s no reason to pass it up.

Posted under Blogs, E-Mail, Online Marketing, Online Video, SEO/SEM, Social Networks, Tech2.0, Viral Marketing

This post was written by Joshua Russak on May 28, 2009

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Online Marketing Revenue Models

silverdollarI was recently invited to present in front of a panel at the Ultra Light Startups in January. I’ve been to these meetups in the past (ie Open Source CMS),  but this is one is different. I’ve been selected among 5 other presenters to the Revenue Model Workshop. At this event they selected 5 startups to give a brief presentation of their business, focusing on their revenue model. A panel of experts will provide insights, suggestions, and helpful alternatives for the entrepreneur to consider as methods to generate more revenue from their business more efficiently.

This is a great chance for me to learn how to monetize it RezRedo.com (advertisement to the left of this blog). VC Fred Wilson said on his blog, “Most web apps will be monetized with some kind of media model. Don’t think banner ads when I say that. Think of all the various ways that an audience that is paying attention to your service can be paid for by companies and people who want some of that attention.” The question is which model to choose?

Chris Anderson of Wired.com, put together a strong Media Business Model list of revenue models you can find in the media industry, all based around a core of free or almost-free content:

  • CPM ads (“cost per thousand views”; banner ads online and regular ads in print, TV and radio)
  • CPC ads (“cost per click”; think Google ads)
  • CPA ads (“cost per action”; pay only if the customer performs a certain action)
  • CPT ads (“cost per transaction”; you pay only if the customer brought to you from a media sites becomes a paying customer.)
  • Lead generation (you pay for qualified names of potential customers)
  • Subscription revenues
  • Affiliate revenues (think: Amazon Associates)
  • Rental of subscriber lists
  • Sale of information (selling data about users–aggregate/statistical or individual–to third parties)
  • Licensing of brand (people pay to use a media brand as implied endorsement)
  • Licensing of content (syndication)
  • Getting the users to create something of value for free and applying any of the above to monetize it. (Like Digg or our own Reddit)
  • Upgraded service/content (ed: aka “freemium”)
  • Alternate output (pdf; print/print-on-demand; customized Shared Book style; etc.)
  • Custom services/feeds
  • Live events
  • “Souvenirs”/”Merchandise”
  • Co-branded spinoff
  • Cost Per Install (popular with top Facebook apps who can help others get installs)
  • E-commerce (selling stuff directly on your website)
  • Sponsorships (ads of some sort that are sold based on time, not on the number of impressions)
  • Listings (paying a time based amount to list something like a job or real estate on your website)
  • Paid Inclusion (a form of CPC advertising where an advertiser pays to be included in a search result)
  • Streaming Audio Advertising (like radio advertising delivered in the audio stream after a certain amount of audio content has been delivered)
  • Streaming Video Advertising (like streaming audio but in video)
  • API Fees (charging third parties to access your API)

A lot of your revenue model choices depend on B2B vs. B2C. Some work for both, while others are particular to the type of regular transactions that will be taking place. At this point, I have narrowed down my choices based off of this list and I hope this helped you do the same.

Posted under Events, Online Marketing, Social Networks, Ultra Light Startups, Viral Marketing

Online Agency’s “X-Rated” Ad Campaigns

I  was reading Search Marketing Standard magazine last night, the winter 08/09 issue, and happened to notice 2 ad campagins that used sexual inuendo/images to push their product. I’m 100% serious! On page 53, Online Marketing Agency StickyEyes.com (with a name like that, you have to be careful!) posted a rather funny ad. Stickyeyes is one of the UK’s leading internet marketing agencies and I consider this a rather “bold approach”. The headline read “PERFORMANCE ENHANCEMENT“. Above the headline they showed a magnifying glass hovering over a pack of sperm and one of them had a Jet-Pack strapped to it! If you go to StickyEyes home page, you’ll see a similar image (as shown below) with the headline “GIVE YOURSELF AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE“:

StickyEyes.com Ad Campaign

StickyEyes.com Ad Campaign

I can understand how and why they would call themselves StickyEyes, but to then go ahead with a sperm related ad-campaign? I guess the UK see’s things a little differently.

You would think that SMS would stop there…WRONG! It gets better! On the back-cover, Texas based SEO Agency, Zunch, takes the cake. Picture this: An older couple, maybe in their 50’s, sitting side by side. The wife leans on her husband affectionately and the caption below them reads, “It was Connie’s idea for us to zunch. I’m glad we did. Bigger really is better.” Is this an ad for male enhancement? You’d think Enzite would be a client of theirs!

I was able to find to find an original ad-copy on the web. Guess where I found out? On the website of David Wilkie, Co-founder and EVP of creative for Zunch from 1999-2005. He’s now a freelance creative designer and overall talent artist (GreenHammock.com) and I sent him an e-mail saying “Thank you!” He left the original document floating on the web for me to find (click here to see it):

Zunch.com's "Bigger Is Better" Ad

Zunch.com's "Bigger is Better" Ad

At the end of the day, these ads work! Whether or not they are more effective with their X-Rated twist is another question…which I don’t know the answer to. I leave it to you for feedback and I leave it to myself to find out.

***I found another one posted by Cheezehead.com: Careerbuilder’s ‘dirty skanks’ ad campaign, where CareerBuilder put an ad on CollegeHumor.com that read: After you’re done watching dirty skanks, find a better job.

Posted under Online Marketing

Online Marketing “A-Z” For Small Businesses

SearchEngineLand recently published “a list of things that small businesses can be thankful for — one for each letter of the alphabet — this Thanksgiving. These are things that can make the difficult challenge of online marketing a little easier for any small business.” I’ve went through the list and find it a great resource for small business owners. You can find the exact list, word-for-word (as found on SEL’s blog) below:



A: Analytics – It wasn’t too long ago that a full-featured analytics package was out of budgetary reach for a lot of small businesses. But thanks to Google Analytics (and, hopefully, Yahoo Web Analytics when it launches publicly), small business owners now have access to the type of data that only their deep-pocketed competition could previously afford.

B: Blogs – Have you noticed in my ongoing “Small Business Success Stories” series here on Search Engine Land how often a blog plays a major role in a successful online marketing campaign? Element One Photography, real estate agent Teresa Boardman, and Avante Gardens are just three examples of successful small business blogs.

C: Common Craft – “Explanations in plain English” is the tagline for this video-making company that takes somewhat complicated ideas/services/tools and brings them to the masses. RSS in Plain English is their most popular work so far, and a great primer for small businesses who don’t quite “get” why RSS is so great.

D: DomainTools.com – It’s not the best place to brainstorm domain ideas for your small business, but DomainTools is the best place to do competitive research on domains that have already been registered.

E: Education – From Search Engine Land to Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Guide, and the countless other excellent web marketing sites, getting an online education is pretty easy. Is there another industry in which the best in the business consistently share their wisdom so openly?

F: Firefox – Any small business owner wanting to become a do-it-yourself search marketer can thank the Firefox web browser and its countless plug-ins that put a wealth of SEO data at your fingertips.

G: Geotargeting – There are almost 20 cities named Columbus in the USA. Those dentists in Columbus, Ohio, sure don’t want their ads being clicked on by searchers in Arkansas, North Dakota, and Texas. We overlook it, but the ability to geotarget ads is a real blessing for small business owners.

H: HitTail – It’s not the only analytics-type service you should use, but with almost-real time tracking of sites and keywords that send visitors to your site, HitTail is a great complement to your primary web stats program.

I: iStockphoto – A great photo or image can dramatically improve any piece of content, no matter how well written it is. iStockphoto offers an amazing collection of images, many of which can be purchased for web, blog, e-book, or similar uses for just a couple dollars.

J: Junk Mail Filters – Be glad that you can filter away all those “Submit your web site to 5,000 directories” and “We’ll put you at #1 on Google for $49.95 per month” emails. They’re useless and should be ignored at all costs.

K: Keyword Research Tools – Whether it’s Keyword Discovery, WordTracker, or one of the many others, keyword research tools seem to get more powerful every year while still staying affordable for small business owners.

L: Local Search – All three main search engines offer local search business listings, and countless other local/social directory sites bring value to small businesses, too. Add it all up, and local search is the best way for local businesses to connect with local customers.

M: Matt Cutts – You may not like all of Google’s policies, but give credit where it’s due. Small business owners can be thankful that Matt’s blog offers a direct window into Google’s anti-spam and search quality efforts.

N: Networking – When you start a new small business, the first piece of advice you’ll get is to join the Chamber of Commerce. Why? Networking. It’s how you meet local people who might become customers or business partners and help you grow your business. Small business owners can also network online thanks to social media sites with local networking opportunities.

O: Onebox – Thanks to Google’s local search onebox, a small business now has an extra ten chances to show up on page one of Google’s SERPs.

P: PPC – For many small businesses, there’s no better and faster way to get search engine visibility than a well-planned PPC campaign. Pay-per-click advertising can bring in targeted traffic while you’re waiting out those weeks or months for your SEO campaign to bring results.

Q: Quality Over Quantity – Small businesses can be thankful that, when it comes to content and links and competing in local search, it really is about quality over quantity. With a few exceptions, you probably don’t need to go out and find hundreds or thousands of links; a few high-quality links should be enough.

R: Reviews – No small business owner likes getting bad reviews, but progressive small business owners know that it’s smart to embrace online reviews and encourage happy customers to write reviews. Searchers rely on reviews to make buying decisions, and local search algorithms look at ratings when determining rank order.

S: Social Media – Many small business owners don’t quite understand social media, but there are numerous ways for any small business to succeed with social media.

T: Tools – Using the right SEO toolbox can give any small business a big advantage over the competition. But it’s important to remember that tools can’t make decisions for you; that’s your job.

U: Unleashed – Geared specifically to small business owners, the Small Business Marketing “Unleashed” conference has quickly become a must-attend event for both its educational and networking opportunities.

V: Video – Video used to be something that only Big Companies could afford, but today there are numerous companies bringing affordable video marketing to the small business sector. And with blended search results becoming more widespread, videos can be an effective tool for attracting new traffic and customers.

W: Webmaster Central – It’s not just the tools and data you get from having a Google Webmaster Central account that matters; equally important is the fact that GWC provides a direct line of communication between small businesses and their primary source of natural search traffic. The communication aspect is highly underrated, but something to be very thankful for.

X: Xenu – Give thanks to Xenu Link Sleuth, which advertises itself as a tool for checking broken links, but really provides so much more link information than that.

Y: Yahoo Site Explorer – With Google and MSN both neutering their public link reporting tools, Yahoo Site Explorer offers the best free, straight-from-a-search-engine snapshot of a site’s indexing and inbound links.

Z: Zappos – Any small business that thinks social media, and Twitter especially, are useless as business/marketing tools need only look at what Zappos is doing. They’ve become the poster child for how to connect with customers online.

©2008 Third Door Media, Inc.


Have a happy thanksgiving and thanks again to SearchEngineLand for providing me with great content and an easy way out of having to blog pre-thanksgiving. For more about SearchEngineLand, check out their parent company ThirdDoorMedia.com, creators of SMX, Sphinn and SearchMarketingNow.

Posted under Blogs, Social Networks, Ultra Light Startups