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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Coming Soon To Facebook: “USERNAMES”

According to the facebook blog, users will finally have the chance to create usernames for their profiles:

“From the beginning of Facebook, people have used their real names to share and connect with the people they know. This authenticity helps to create a trusted environment because you know the identity of the people and things on Facebook. The one place, though, where your identity wasn’t reflected was in the Web address for your profile or the Facebook Pages you administer. The URL was just a randomly assigned number like “id=592952074.” That soon will change.

We’re planning to offer Facebook usernames to make it easier for people to find and connect with you. When your friends, family members or co-workers visit your profile or Pages on Facebook, they will be able to enter your username as part of the URL in their browser. This way people will have an easy-to-remember way to find you. We expect to offer even more ways to use your Facebook username in the future.”

How will this change everything?

This really follows the whole idea of making the internet a more “Search Friendly” (ie: SEO Friendly) environment to help users find their way through all the crap being added daily. My question is WHY THE HELL HAS IT TAKEN THEM THIS LONG? LinkedIn and Twitter have been doing this for ages. In fact, most social networks adhere to the “user-name”.  Now, browsing for the correct user URL will be that much easier:

Room For Concern…

I am a bit concerned about the ‘you get 1 chance’ rule. They warn users to “think carefully about the username you choose. Once it’s been selected, you won’t be able to change or transfer it.” Now that’s just not fair! Why not step up their game and find a way to make it so you can choose multiple user names. Like “Keyword” for SEO, this will help expand the searchability of each individual.

Either way, this is a great move for Facebook and will definitely help them out in terms of increasing traffic and overall ease of use. Good job! As usual, I look forward to seeing a “We Hate Facebook Usernames” facebook group…though in this case, I’m not sure that will happen (though I wouldn’t be surprised).

Posted under Blogs, SEO/SEM, Social Networks

This post was written by Joshua Russak on June 9, 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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MarketingBlog.NET Ranks #1 in Yahoo!

I recently installed “Rank Checker“, a free Search Engine Ranking checking tool (by SEO Tools). I ran it for the first time today, and to my surprise,  MarketingBlog.NET ranks #1 in Yahoo for the keyword “Marketing Blog”:

yahooranking

Having been up for less than a year, this website is significantly growing.  Ranking higher than TopRankBlog.com (aka: MarketingBlog.com), I find this to be one of my first noteworthy accomplishments. For the same keyword in Google, I rank #21 (SERP #3).

But there’s even more good news. For the keyword “Online Marketing Blog”, I find myself on PAGE #1 of Google and Yahoo!, so not bad for a hobby 😉 Thanks for your support and if you have any suggestions as to how I can improve this site, please let me know.I hope this #1 Ranking continues. Feel free to check in on Yahoo! ranking by clicking “Marketing Blog  – Yahoo! Keyword Search” to see if I’m still up there. If I’m not, it must mean someone didn’t like what they saw on this blog post. BRING IT!

Posted under Blogs, Online Marketing, SEO/SEM

Slideshare’s Smart Approach To Link Building

slideshare

I recently used Slideshare software to embed Guy Kawasaki’s Twitter Power Point presentation in my article (Twitter As A Tool For Social Media) last week. Similar to the concept video monetization, you upload and share your presentations and documents on SlideShare, and in turn, you can embed those presentations on your own website. You think Slideshare would be happy with the branding and occasional traffic from your site, but they go a step further…

Slideshare’s Smart Thinking

I got 2 e-mails from them last week. The first was titled “Congratulations! Your presentation is being featured on the SlideShare homepage”. At the end of the e-mail, after signing their names, I found a PS note that read the following: “p.s. Why not blog/twitter this and let the world know about this awesome masterpiece you have created? ” — Ingenious! Make me feel awesome about making the home-page and have me blog about Slideshare. Well as you can see, it worked! But I didn’t give in that easily…

I got a 2nd e-mail last week “Congratulations! Your presentation is currently being showcased on the ‘Technology’ page on SlideShare” and to make sure I got the point they added “It’s likely to remain there for the next 16-20 hours… “. Now this got me thinking “Maybe I should blog about that?”…and before I got in another thought I noticed a new and improved PS at the bottom: “p.s. Why not blog/twitter this and let the world know about your awesome creation? This might just get you some new readers (or additional pageviews) while the spotlight is on :-).” Now the pressure is really on! And to make things better, they even threw in the “T” word (Twitter).

Well, I’ve finally gotten around to blogging about my success and wouldn’t you know, I’m no longer on the homepage. But I somehow remain on the Technology page with a healthy 425 views and a few embeds. Not bad!

The Moral of This Story…

So what did we learn today? Think outside of the box. Don’t just settle. I give Slideshare credit for feeding my ego by giving me “home-page” status. In return for that value, I gave them a few additional hits and a good review. (At least, I hope it comes off that way.) I’m not going to come up with an equation…just follow Slideshare’s example and find a way to make it work for you. Oh…and don’t forget to link to this blog post!


Posted under SEO/SEM

This post was written by Joshua Russak on March 30, 2009

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