Barnett Takes 2nd Turn vs. Google

November 7, 2006

November 06, 2006
By Brian Morrissey

NEW YORK Jim Barnett knows the perils of competing with Google. He saw firsthand how the company’s mastery of search vanquished early leaders like AltaVista (where he was CEO) and Excite.

Now, he’s striving to take on Google in the online advertising realm, where the Big G boasts the Internet’s largest ad network via AdSense, a system that puts links and banner ads on thousands of Web sites.
Despite AdSense’s success, Barnett believes the system has plenty of flaws, and he’s betting his new venture, Turn, will be able to take advantage of those weaknesses.

“It’s exhilarating,” Barnett said of the upcoming fight against Google. “They’re very good competition.”

San Mateo, Calif.-based Turn in recent months has attracted $18 million in venture backing from Norwest Venture Partners, Trident Capital and Shasta Ventures. Turn has about 1,000 advertisers in its system, which displays ads on approximately 30 sites.

Unlike Google, which charges advertisers on a per-click basis, Turn relies on a cost-per-action scheme. It charges advertisers only if users take desired actions, such as filling out registration forms or closing on sales. (A marketer such as Starwood, for example, could bid $20 for each hotel night booked, $3 for every e-mail sign-up and 75 cents for each site visit.)

Turn hopes to appeal to advertisers unhappy with poor conversion rates from their contextual campaigns and frustrated by the complexity of compiling keyword lists.

Turn has another key point of differentiation: It analyzes 60 factors to decide which ads to show users, weighing variables such as past behavior, publisher demographics, copy contents and brand quality. The system shows either text listings or display ads, choosing the option likely to yield the most revenue, Barnett said.

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14 Tactics to Make Your Website Work Harder Right Now: Tactic 14 – A Web Marketing Pep Talk

November 7, 2006

Posted by Karri Flatla November 03, 2006
A tactical overview of what it takes to rock the web would not be complete without a pep talk from yours truly, would it?

The Coles Notes Version: You shouldn’t slap up a website and wait for the checks to come in any more than you should build a restaurant on a deserted freeway and wait for the hungry crowds to bang the doors down at dinner hour.

The Lecture: Internet gold is out there if you want it badly enough. But I would say that about any endeavor for profit you might pursue in the free world. Yet for some reason there persists this idea that creating wealth on the web is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. As if optics and trickery will somehow cause the Google gods to make it rain money on your business. It’s a silly notion, but it’s a pervasive one. It’s pervasive because, at any moment in time, all of the world and none of the world is just one click away. We hunger for multiplicity, and then when we have it, we feel lost, overwhelmed, and empty. How does one ever know if they are going in the right direction when there are infinite directions to go in?

Of course, at a purely tactical level, you can never know for sure in business, can you? It’s just that online the lifespan of each success and failure is very, very short. So if you’re not paying attention, you never climb the learning curve. You just keep spinning your wheels over and over again.

I’ve always held that brilliance has little to with entrepreneurial success. What matters is a willingness to invest time and effort in the small wins, the humble victories that make the journey so very worthwhile. We’re all here to learn something, and what you do each day as an online business person is no exception. Keep putting your knowledge to the test and you’re guaranteed success.

But this is a blog post, not a dissertation, so I’ll not wax philosophic any longer.

The Bottom Line for All Business on the Web: If you are an entrepreneur at heart, the juxtaposition of opportunity and obstacle—of simplicity and complexity—that is the Internet should spur you on to be a better business person, not a lesser one. How two-dimensional to think that a digital brochure will build a business! In fact, the Internet is multi-dimensional and thus presents myriad opportunities for ambitious, talented, and yes, just plain hard working folk to make a living at something they might not otherwise be able to.


Site Upgrading…

November 3, 2006

14 Tactics to Make Your Website Work Harder Right Now: Tactic 11 – Cross Your “T”s and Dot Your “I”s

November 2, 2006

Posted by Karri Flatla November 01, 2006
If you want your visitors to take you seriously, then you have to get serious about your image. The fact is, people DO judge a book by its cover (or a website by its appearance). In other words, if your site was going to a job interview, would the interviewer cross it off the list as a candidate because of sloppy appearance? No matter how qualified you are for “the job,” you won’t make the short list if it looks like you don’t care. Sometimes, success is in the details. A few that are worth attending to:

-> Have someone proof your site for typos and obvious grammatical errors. You don’t need an editor to do this either. Anyone with a command of the English language will do. It’s amazing what a second set of eyes can see!

-> Have a few more people look at your color scheme. Even if they are not in your target market (although that would be best), you need to know if your colors are simply “off.” Approximately 8% of the population is color blind, and most of those people are men, my husband included. And you wouldn’t believe the color combos he thinks look good.

-> This one is easy: Check your site for bad or broken links. Every time someone clicks on a link within your website they are handing you a little piece of their time, their trust, and their belief in what you have to offer. Don’t waste clicks!

-> Test your site for cross-browser compatibility. Don’t use the latest and greatest versions of your favorite browsers to do this either. Not everyone is using those. Instead, check out one of the free browser tests online. Browsershots.org has a nice one.

There are really no excuses for not performing these routine checks. And if you don’t have time or really can’t stand dealing with fussy details, hire a Virtual Assistant!


Secrets of a Professional Link Builder Part 1: It’s the Keywords, stupid

November 1, 2006

Posted by Lisa Stewart October 25, 2006
Actually, we are all right. Copy, structure and inbound links all work together to create the magic search engine mojo that gets your site to the top. Without a well structured site that allows crawlers to index your great content written by a copy writer that is so fantastic everyone just naturally wants to link to -you won’t get competitive rankings. The common thread that holds it all together is the number one most important factor to your entire link building efforts- the keywords. Your keywords and keyword research is the cornerstone to it all. You have to make time to do this- if you can’t do it then hire some one who can. It is necessary investment to create a successful online presence.

Your keywords are used in menus, navigation links, meta data and anchor text. Your keywords and keyword phrases are the terms you will use every day in online ads, directory submissions, press releases, blog posts and bios. Pay careful attention. Do NOT guess what they are. Do not glance at your web stats or web logs to see how people found you and use the most popular terms and call it a day.

Yes, go through your web stats. The terms people are using to find your site are useful. These terms can be expanded. Your most popular terms might just be popular because no one else is using them – this is often the case because you rank high for your own business name. People come to me all the time telling me their nephew (or best friend or cousin …) got them to rank #1 in all the search engines and isn’t that great. Depends. If your business is “Stan’s Wichita Widgets” and you rank #1 for “ Stan’s Wichita Widgets” I won’t be impressed. Chances are not many people are competing against you using the terms “ Stan’s Wichita Widgets”. You will probably also rank pretty well for “Stan’s Widgets” If you rank #1 for “Wichita widgets” you’d have my attention. If you’re ranking #1 for “Widgets” I’d tell you to forget about me and hire your nephew.

With a reasonably well designed site and basic optimized meta data you should be able to rank for your own name. Looking at your logs and webstats will tell you how people are all ready finding you- we want to grab those people who are looking for what you sell but are not finding you. People searching for : orange widgets, travel widgets, gift widgets, hard to find widgets, cheap widgets, collectors widgets and even misspelled wigits.

How can you tell if some one is looking for you but never found you? Keyword research. I have used Word Tracker for several years and like it a lot. Many SEO professionals swear by Keyword Discovery. Google Suggest can also give you some ideas for your initial research . All of them have pretty good online tutorials- take some time to play with these tools and learn how to use them. The effort will pay off. Any money you spend on keywords you “think” (guess) people are using will be wasted.

You are looking for that “sweet spot” – a just right combination mixture of solid keywords and no competition. Keywords Your competition is not using in their anchor text and yet people ( no- potential customers!) are typing them in search engine forms over and over again. These phrases are also called “niche keywords”. A more evolved term for niche words is “long tail searches- buts that another part in this series) You may have hundreds, if not thousands of widget companies all using “Widgets” and “ Buy Widgets” and “ Online Widgets” in their keyword strategy. You can actually see in Google who is using what keywords by typing in the phrase “allinanchor:KEYWORD” . Try it and see. If you sell widgets try “allinanchor:widgets” . all those companies have used “widgets” as anchor text. Probably 80% everyone selling widgets are using ONLY these terms, and they are the hardest to achieve rankings. All those people spending all that energy on a handful of phrases and there are only 10 top spots. The other 20% have done their keyword research and looking for alternative ways for people find their services. They are going after expanded keywords phrases they discovered in their keyword research.

Where to start? Write down all the keywords you THINK people are using. Ask your friends and family what words that they might use to try and find your business/product/service. You might be surprised. Sometimes when you are in the business you lean heavily on industry terms not many lay people would use. Having a fresh ear can sometimes help you discover new terms. Do away with pre-conceived ideas of what terms you THINK you should be ranking for. The list a client hands me at first meeting is very different then the list I hand back to them after several hours of keyword research- rarely do the twain meet.

Go to your logs. You can use trial version of click track and analyze your raw logs easily. You can also try Google Analytics, you need an AdWords account but it doesn’t take long to set up and , hey- its free. I prefer ClickTracks but many small businesses are perfectly happy using Google Analytics or even the info their web hosting company provides.

You should have a pretty long list of words and phrases at the end of this. Now the fun part- going to your Keyword research tool of choice and crunching the terms and seeing what comes out. Try the free trial of both Keyword Discovery and Word Tracker. See which one you are most comfortable with- look for the phrases that will be your “niche keywords” . Words people are searching with and not a lot of sites a competing for those terms.

What to do with those keywords? Stay tuned for Secrets of a Professional Link Builder, Part 2 : Anchor Text Away!

I will write about my number one pet peeve that I see time and time again when it comes to anchor text and link building. I will also discuss long tail search and its power.


Secrets of a Professional Link Builder, Part 2: Anchor Text Away!

November 1, 2006

Posted by Lisa Stewart October 31, 2006
Last night I was at a “spooky” Halloween campout with my homeschooling group. One of the parents asked me about domain names and choosing name for her business and what was best in terms of being able to be found. I get asked this question ALOT.

To many it may seem basic and obvious- I often think it doesn’t need pointing out but I see it over and over and over again and get asked constantly.

Anchor text can be a very powerful tool when looking to get higher rankings in the search engines. Time and time again well meaning site owners will make the effort to find link placements and then inadvertently diminish the power of the link placement.

What are they doing? It’s the use of keywords- or rather NOT using keywords. When submitting your site info to a directory, issuing a press release or putting together a bio for article you can really make the name of your site work for you.

Many times your name all ready has pretty good keywords worked in all ready; like “Flo’s Beauty and Spa”, or “Hamilton Plumbers and Roto- rooters”. Sometimes your name doesn’t tell your potential clients what you are offering. For example- I have 2 different sets of friends with businesses called Three Sisters. Cute name but what do they do? (One is bakery and one is a florist. The name itself doesn’t give a clue as to what they are selling.

If you are just starting out the easiest thing to do is come up with a name that uses keywords in it all ready.

If you are an established business or looking to brand your name then couple your name with keywords. So YOUR NAME + Keyword phrase. Three Sisters Bakery. Three Sisters + Wedding Cakes and so on. Even better- try using 2 keyword phrases. Same amount of effort and more bang for your buck- and not just twice as much bang- but will increase exponentially.

For Example:

“Three Sisters Bakery and Wedding Cakes”
“Three Sisters Homemade Pies and Cakes”
“Three Sisters Organic Bakery and Desserts”

OR

Three Sisters Christmas Flowers and Holiday Plants Three Sisters Bridal Flowers and Wedding Bouquets

When you use anchor text you have optimized for all the words in the phrase. So you have optimized for “Three Sisters”, “Three Sisters Bridal” “Bridal Flowers”, “Three Sisters Flowers”, “Flowers and Wedding”, “Flower Bouquets”, and so on.

It is also basic SEO- but vary your anchor text often, mix it up a little. I will pick terms that I am “close” to ranking for. If through my research I see a company is ranking on page 3 for one phrase and page 5 for another I will attack the higher ranking phrase-it will be the easier one to rank for and get the fastest results. I won’t forget about the second phrase- I will just be more aggressive with the higher ranking phrase.

Of course- don’t even attempt to start an active link, building campaign without doing keyword research.I did go over basic keyword research in Secrets of a Professional Link Builder Part 1: It’s the Keywords, stupid

Using well researched keywords you are well armed to create powerful anchor text that will work for you and ultimately help your rankings and targeted traffic.

In Secrets of a Professional Link Builder Part 3: Content , Content, Content I will talk about link bait and longtail search.


Opening Sentences That Close the Sale

November 1, 2006

By Karon Thackston – October 31, 2006

It’s one of the best pieces of copywriting advice I’ve ever been given. “As often as possible, start your paragraphs with sentences that hook readers and drive them deeper into the copy.” Why? Because — after the headline — the first sentence in any paragraph is what gets read most often. After that point, customers usually skip to the next section unless they feel compelled to keep reading. That means your job, as the copywriter, is to entice them into each segment so they will consume as much of your copy as possible.

Take your cue from Reader’s Digest. They crank out — issue after issue — exceptional opening lines for their articles that engage then hook readers. What happens next? The reader is pulled into the story full force. Here are some examples.

It was a horrific display of irreverence.

By the way she dressed, you would have never guessed she was only 14.

As he reached into the box, something inside it moved.

See? Those sentences boost your curiosity. They make you wonder what happens next. They cause you to visualize a scene that might be taking place. You can do the same thing from a marketing perspective when you write your copy.

For instance, rather than starting the copy for an email to Australian hotels like this:

“You may be aware of http://www._______.com – we are an Australian-owned and -managed online hotel booking service.”

Really capture their attention with an opening sentence that is specific to them like this:

“Now you have the opportunity to affordably position your hotel in front of approximately 6,000 travelers every day that are looking for accommodations exclusively in Australia.”

For an Australian hotel that depends on the Internet to generate reservations, that sentence gives them many reasons to keep reading.

Here are some other before-and-after examples of opening sentences.

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BEFORE: Hello and welcome to our website. If you are looking for [enter product name here], you are at the right site. (In this case, the example is from a wedding photographer’s site.)

AFTER: We don’t take pictures. We capture precious memories that you can enjoy for a lifetime.

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BEFORE: Our site has been online since 2000, and this marks our 6th year online providing designer-inspired sunglasses.

AFTER: How do you get the latest designer-inspired looks without paying outrageous prices?

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BEFORE: Our cruise website offers unbeatable rates and a diverse array of travel services guaranteed to satisfy even the most discriminating vacationer.

AFTER: Just imagine yourself on the white sand beaches of Honolulu, hiking through the balmy rainforests of Belize or whisking down a powdery, snow-covered mountain in Aspen… all at up to 50% off!

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BEFORE: Thank you for shopping for your corporate gifts at _________.com. We hope your shopping experience is delightful.

AFTER: When you truly impress your clients with distinctive corporate gifts, they remember you longer, feel a closer relationship and are more likely to reward you with increased sales.

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See the difference? The “before” sentences are dull, average and unflattering. The “after” sentences are intriguing, imaginative and enticing.

Don’t stop after you create inviting headlines. Keep the momentum going by writing intriguing opening sentences, too. When you do, you’ll help convert more site visitors into paying customers.