Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Business Building

Today I'd like to recommend an eletter.

It's something I read... and I've learned alot from over the years.

www.earlytorise.com, ETR, is an daily eletter develop by Michael Masterson. He's a self-made millionaire, he's run dozens of successful businesses and he's a brilliant thinker. Not to mention the fact that he mentors more than 160,000 success-oriented individuals to help them achieve their financial goals.

Masterson is one of the smartest businessmen I've had the pleasure to work with and I, without reservation, recommend that you sign up for this missive.

Below is an article taken from a recent issue. Guest columnist Terry Brock writes about business building - I think you'll enjoy it.

Build Your Business by Building Your Contact List
By Terry Brock
Origninally published 01/27/2007

As you may already know, reading ETR can be an indispensable part of your business-growth process. It certainly has been for me. And with what I learned at ETR’s Info-Marketing Bootcamp, I’m going to help my business continue to grow.

Out of all the good information presented during the Bootcamp, what really paid for the conference for me was the panel discussion with marketing experts Andrew Palmer, Sandy Franks, and John Phillips.

One point they stressed was the importance of measuring your company’s "vital signs." That includes metrics like dollars per e-mail name on your contact list; the number of qualified, active visitors to your website; the number of conversions (when visitors become paying customers); and the number of visitors who leave your site without buying (and where they go when they do).

They also stressed the importance of maintaining regular, personal contact with the buyers and potential buyers on your list. You want your website to be the resource they look to - not only for products but also for information on ways to help fulfill their needs and solve problems they may have. So you want to provide them with more than just another e-mail ad.

Here’s some of what I learned from them that can help you do that:

1. Get the Names of Customers and Cherish Them

Build a database of meaningful, actionable information about your customers. You don’t want only their names and addresses. You want to know what they like and don’t like. When did they first visit your site? When did they sign up? What products, if any, have they purchased?

Make it your personal mission to get to know more and more about your customers and their preferences. That way, you can start to tailor your e-mail messages to their needs. The more relevant information you have about them, the more you’ll be able fulfill their needs.

Another way to create more meaningful communication with your customers is to observe their interests. What kind of information did they originally request from you? If you have a product or service that is closely related to that original request, let them know about it. They are very likely to respond favorably and order it.

Today’s e-mail programs allow you to create smaller segments within a larger e-mail list based on a customer’s interests, either expressed ("Send me information on this") or implied (by the type of information they click on at your website or in your e-mails). You can, for example, segment out customers who are interested in Chilean wine vs. those interested in sparkling wine from California. Then you can direct specific promotions to each group.

Increasing the level of personalization and customization in your communications with your customers enhances the value you provide to them and builds loyalty … which, in turn, strengthens your contact list.

2. Provide Unique, Compelling Content in Your E-Mail Messages

The e-mail magazine you send to your customers should answer questions, solve problems, and provide them with helpful information they can’t easily find elsewhere.

Use your creativity to make the information more interesting - maybe by providing some of it via audio and video. You can do much more with video than you ever could with mere words on a page. For example, you can show how your products work and let customers see new uses for them.

Since I offer professional speaking services, using audio and video is a natural way for me to reach potential customers. It also creates a strong bond with potential buyers and shows them that they are dealing with a real person.

There are always new technologies available - but just because they’re new doesn’t mean they are relevant to your customers. So examine the mix of options available to you and test various ways to get your message across. ETR, for example, uses mainly e-mail, Web, and print and gets great results. Find the combination that works best for you, and continue to explore new possibilities as technological changes make options more affordable and easier to deliver. (But before you utilize a new technology, make sure the majority of your customers will be able to access those messages.

Remember that your customers and potential customers don’t just need more information. With the Internet, we all have WAY too much information already. What they need and want is solid, practical, timely, profit-making advice from respected, expert sources. Pay the price by becoming an expert yourself. Build your customer list with people who want the information you can uniquely contribute.

3. Bring in People Who Want to Be There

Not only is it illegal (under the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003) to send your e-mails to people who don’t want them, it doesn’t make any marketing sense. If they’re not interested in what you’re offering, don’t send it in the first place.
Keep building your list with people who want to be there by providing information that’s relevant to your target market. And make it easy for those who don’t want to be there to unsubscribe (opt out of receiving your messages).

The right people (potential buyers) will be attracted to your site and your business. Focus on providing them with quality service and value.

4. Focus on Buyers

Not everyone is going to like what you have to offer. That’s not a problem. There are plenty who will. Your job as an entrepreneur is to focus on those who are willing to give you their hard-earned money in exchange for your products and services. It is to your benefit to filter out those who are not good customers for you.

One of the beauties of doing business on the Internet is that you can market to large groups of people and, at the same time, learn who your smaller, motivated customers are within that larger list.. You can then concentrate your efforts on those who have demonstrated the willingness to purchase from you.

5. Measure Your Responses

Marketing decisions no longer have to be made by "gut feelings." As with standard direct mail, response to the information you send out via e-mail is measurable. Use tools like Google Analytics to track how much of what you’re sending is (likely) being read.

Think of your market as a bucket of water with a hole in it. Depending on the size of the hole in the bottom of that bucket, you will have to keep adding a certain amount of new water (new customers) to keep on growing your customer list.. Provide both new and old customers with relevant, timely content in your e-mail messages and the leak will become practically nonexistent … and the capacity of your bucket will keep on growing.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I Don’t Care… It’s Spooky

You build a web site with valuable content and a strategy to acquire traffic... and you’re on the way to a successful online business.

Simple… yes. Easy…no.

I believe in constant review. See where you are today and where you need to be tomorrow. Web site metrics will provide valuable data to examine how you are progressing.

Study your page views… and average time spent on the site per visitor. Imagine if thousands of people came to your site each day and left within: 30 seconds… yikes that can’t be good for business. Not much of a community exists I’d say.

If this is what your current site stats look like… you are in trouble.

Your site is not engaging the visitor. Perhaps the content is not dynamic… or hasn’t been updated in some time. (Both common mistakes.) You’ll never convert visitors to buyers if your site doesn’t pass the “blink” test.

So what can you do?

Improve the content, keeping the site fresh and current… use engaging headlines, special offers… use video… or what about Site Pal's speaking animated characters or avatars?

I’m sure you’ve seen these talking heads, right?

They seem to be all over the web so they must be working…

In fact, yes, these animated characters have been tested throughout the Internet and generally speaking have shown impressive results.

In the A/B testing I’ve seen… the avatar is added to a site and opens with a short welcoming message to the visitor - between 20 and 25 seconds.

What happens?

Dose this engage the visitor to stay and read more or do they click out in fear?

Surprisingly, Site Pal increased both the page views per visitor and the average time on site in most cases.

And not slightly but a full one minute increase in site time!


The set up is really simple and Site Pal’s allows you to build a host… or avatar based on your choosing. The list of specifics includes the shape and color of the face, hair, lips, nose, age, clothing, and background setting.

A one-year account is just over $100.

The Site Pal characters can also respond to visitor questions and if you use geo-targeting, messages can be varied by geographical location of the visitor.

Conceptually you are personalizing each visitor's experience, and that results in a longer and more involved session. What’s not to like, right?

I don’t like it.

I think it’s spooky. The interaction is contrived and disingenuous. Most importantly… it’s the credibility factor. This kills it.

Does a pre-programmed animated face build your credibility or take away from it?

I think it hurts it.

Your voice needs its own face… your face. This gimmick will only distract from the thematic voice and personality your building.

Test it, because that is what we do, and then let me know your results.

I’m going to pass and I know that is wrong.

I don’t care… it’s too spooky.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Which Source Do You Satisfy?

An SEM Question...

Should you focus your search campaign on Google and just Google? ... or try to optimize for all the engines?

I lean towards ranking well in Google first... after all it is the 400 lbs. gorilla of the engines. So work to please their algorithm and the rest be damned?

That's not want I am saying. Let's take a step back. What is working on your site?

Look to your metrics... where is the traffic coming from?

What is converting the highest?

Regardless of the medium, be it search engines or social media communities or affiliate marketing, first follow the traffic. Look at the Search Engine Referrals. If you get your traffic mainly from Yahoo... then you need to push your optimization just for Yahoo and the rest be damned?

That is not what I'm saying either.

Traffic is great, but conversions are better. What manes are converting the best?

That is what your campaign should go after. And don't obsess about individual ranking on its face. In other words, you might have great top 5 ranking on Yahoo but what if your MSN ranking of #24 brings in twice as many names or paid subs? Smarter to then optimize for MSN, right?

I always say "..the answers are in the numbers."

You need to review your logs and go with what your goals are... be it traffic, free names or sales.

Generally speaking... in most cases Google is King. Google is the webs most used engine so it's probably going to be Google that you need to optimize pages for.

But I hate relying on just one source... so I suggest mixing it up a bit. Optimize some pages for Yahoo, some for MSN & some for Google. And then check your web logs and see the results - they may surprise you.

Some are afraid to test their optimization techniques in fear that it might work moderately well in Yahoo & MSN - but push them down to the mid-hundreds in the cash cow Google. But that is why we test, right?

Heck, if it brings in twice as many names... who cares! It's not about ego of ranking its about achieving your conversion goals.


You never know for sure until you test it. In fact you just might find an even better way to optimize!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Video Redux

So have you created the next great viral effort for the web?


Well, what about testing a viral effort with video?

Video is a great content driver. It's viral by nature, and can be one of the most effective tools to spread your brand, product, or campaign far and wide in an instant.

Of course just posting a video on your site isn’t enough… and if you’re doing it regularly it’s probably costing you a fortune, eh?

So what to do?


If you want to make video work for you, and want it to catch the “viral buzz”, you need to apply organic search principles.

AND… if you do, just as with organic “content” optimization, the engines will help bring eyes to your video. That’s step one – SEM.

Step two – Create Value. No surprise, right?

It’s up to the content of the video, as well as the current events of the day, and what's hot in the media/pop culture that will determine it’s viral success.

Smart marketers understand this and are the ones currently using the engines to market their videos to drive brand recognition, traffic and revenues.

Keep in mind that this video web thing is still very new… and unfortunately, or rather fortunately for you, most marketers are still doing little to no optimization.

So if you can just applying the basics search techniques to your video then the time spent will produce results far ahead of the field.

Wait… here it comes…

“But I’m too busy already…”

Ugh… too busy to do it, or too busy to do it correctly?

If you are already invested in video, and not getting the most out of it... I'm not suggesting you stop...not yet. But I would ask you to just implement one step for me, please.

Publish ASAP a video site map.

Excluding the home page, we can all agree that the most important page your site can have for the engines is a site map. The strength of the site map is to raise your contextual rankings; the same applies to a video site map. It will put your video efforts at the top of the class.

Conceptually, you’re not just optimizing a single video for the engines but showing the engines, in this case both the video and content engines, that you have a wealth of video material for indexing. AND most importantly, the video site map encourages and makes it easy for the engines to come back and index more.

“Yeah… video sounds great but the costs scare me.”

Me too.

Listen… no one wants to invest thousands into video from day one without evidence that it will work for your business, right?

So don’t.

Don’t spend money on a production team... use someone else’s. In other words, develop a partnership with another web site that has already invested in the infrastructure. Look for a site in your niche and make sure they understand how to market video via search.

Odds are they would love to publish your companies content as video on their site… and you can get your feet wet. You’ll learn the ins and outs and hopefully start a buzz.

I think this is definitely worth making time for.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Blocking the Blockers

Pop-up ads by their very nature are difficult to ignore or overlook, and historically have been more effective than any other type of Internet ad for name collection.

Technically speaking a web page delivers a pop-up window by writing a command into the page that is triggered when requested… So simply speaking, a blocker just looks for that command and prevents it.

To avoid the blocker… avoid using that command. Simple.

Just use something else...

Like what?

Flash... Some marketers are using pop-ups generated using Adobe Flash. Since the pop-up blockers are not looking to stop a Flash command it bypasses the pop-up blocker.

Others make the new window appear as a Microsoft browser window rather than an ad. You do this via writing the command in JavaScript or DHTML within the Web page.

For example...a successful method used today is a “hover ad” which can best be described as a combination of a banner ad and a popup window. It uses DHTML to appear in front of the browser screen.

JavaScript allows for you ad to be superimposed over a webpage in a transparent layer. I use a Java "post it note" very effectively to collect names.

I also like a JavaScript that looks like advert breaking through the clicked on promotion to expose my free name offer underneath. ooh...

If you don't have time to learn and or use these scripts… all is not lost. You can still get around the blocker and get your free offer viewed.

Use a sidebar. Put your pop up copy in a side bar, make it stand out with color or bolding in the promotion and all will see it. Simple... you want eyes to see your offer and the side bar woks without any delution in sales. Plus... it's less annoying than a traditional pop up and you'll get just as many sign ups.

Ok… maybe not the same amount of sign ups… seems as though the numbers are starting to fall. But nonetheless, it will keep you in business.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Is The Pop-Up Dead?

Busy, busy, busy... but I'm back.

Back to name collection...

A great way to find names in your niche is to rent insert and dedicated space on similar and like-minded sites. You can "sponsor" their existing eletter list for a fee. For more eyes, and more money, you can pay for a sole sales letter... I call it a "dedicated letter."

For some small business owners or first time entrepreneurs... this may just be too expensive. But I've always believed it was worth it and I've tested thousands of lists over the past 8 years.

Online list rental, just like in direct mail, is a great opportunity because you can reach tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands, of targeted subscribers instantly for only a few hundred dollars. Well, something it's a few thousand.

Publishers are often eager to work with people who pay in advance for advertising. But I don't like that. I don't trust anyone. ;-)

When at all possible, I prefer to pay after I can see the run dropped.

I generically call these names acquired via online list rentals as “pop-up” names. That is because of the use of the pop-up accompanying the promotion. Let me explain...

You rent the list and run a paid pub... the reader clicks in and reads the promotion. Upon exit, whether or not they've bought or not. I don't care... that's because you include an exit pop that come up on screen and offers the free eletter.

We want a sale, or a free name. Either is a success. Why pop on exit?

I hate pop-ups. Most people do... but they are a necessary evil and I believe in the exit pop because it’s less objectionable.

We use the paid offer up front versus the free offer because it works better. Much better. More people will click into the paid promo because of a perception of value that the paid pub offer gives.

After the online lead reads the promotion - if they don't buy - the free offer says "...here is a something in exchange for spending the time clicking in and reading." The reader feels good because they can take something away from the time spent. You feel good... you've got an email address.

The "pop-up" names acquired from online list rental will typically be the most valuable out of all name collection tactics. Historically that has been true.

But with the pop-up blocker... is the pop-up dead?

Ummm... yeah.

The pop-up is not going to bring in 80% of what it used to... but don't give up hope on list rental as a name collection method.

There is a solution... several actually.

Stay tuned...

Friday, January 05, 2007

Optimizing Video Content on the Web

Before we talk more about list building - a quick aside re Video on the web.

Some say it's the next big thing while others scoff. Well... all I know is video took YouTube.com from an idea about sharing party photos into a $1.65 billion sale to Google.  And have you seen all the TV commercials AOL is running for it's video engine? They are spending major marketing dollars to acquire stie traffic and indexed videos but... is it worthwhile for your site?

Hmmmm.... perhaps if you could optimize these videos for the search engines then it would be worth doing, right?

Wait a second... you can.

"Video search" is new and for the proper aesthetic it's extremely expensive. The problem is it's dependent on the viewer's browsers and ISP that it's viewed on, as such it can still be slow and garbled.  Nonetheless, there are so called "Video search engines" that you can use for indexing/ranking/acquiring traffic just like the traditional content search engines.

Each of the popular video engines are different and have different requirements for indexing. Learn the rules... and submit. Your ranking and success will be dictated by your familiarity.  Just like the traditional search engines you must keep up with the changes. Remain dynamic in your approach. A static strategy is a waste of your resources.

What are the best "video engines?"

Yahoo Video, YouTube.com, AOL Video, Google Video and Singingfish.com

Are you interested? Then jump in now... before everyone else does. Be first in your niche to own the video search terms on the engines.

Here are some best practices tips:

Name your video files as you would landing pages and optimize with keywords. Use keywords in the titles and descriptions.

Optimize the content on the web page that launches your video. For example... the keyword "Financial Video" - optimize for it.  

Don't forget to use your RSS feed.

Since the competition is few, you can really own the niche within your niche.  Get "grandfathered" in now on all your themes and keywords.

In addition to optimizing each individual video, make sure to optimize them all in a "video site map."

With a video site map you can get indexed in both the video and content engines. Heck you can own the term "Video Site Map"... why not?

Do whatever you can to show off that you have videos on multiple subjects. A site map will help your rank for the videos as it does with your content.

Publish your video with a keyword rich abstract and I suggest publishing it along side an optimized transcript. This will allow your landing page to capture more spider attention, and you'll increase the odds to beat the competition to the index, both video and content.

What about paid search for video?

Do it.  (or rather, test it) Again... what works with content works with video.

It can be a fast and effective way show the engines and the public that you are a valuable resource. A value driven site for the spoken word as well as the written.

Paid search can be most effective for news oriented sites. It will allow your site to enter the ever competitive news cycle... and compete with the big boys. Your PPC offering can be posted for searchers less than 24 hours. This is access to more impressions then some cable news networks can achieve. That's good business, eh?

I've heard rumors  that more people searching for 'video' than for 'news' '.... interesting. I'd like to believe it. But I can't substantiate it. But I can tell you that more and more videos are showing up in regular search results. And if you have invested in video technology - that is a good thing, eh?

What about Protection? Always important...

Watermark and/or brand your content. You want it to go viral but what good is that if no one knows who made the video, who the commentators are, or what the brand is.

Can you use video to bring in names? Why not?

Make sure that you push the sign up to your eletter in the video and on the landing page.  Also remember to push your eletter in the video site map.  As I've said many times... when building a site you should have every page lead to an eletter sign up.  So why would video be different?

It shouldn't be.

Also don't forget to include a call to action...  "sign up here", "send to a friend," or "visit this site"  They won't come if you don't ask... and if you don't give them a benefit for visiting, right?

Now... where is that special report I was going to give away for free?  (use it to get them to sign up)

But can we make any money with video?  Hmmm...

Well, if you collect names you are collecting future money right?  But make money up front? Yikes... I don't think that is wise.

Stick with the free business model... give away valuable content, build a relationship. (Lather, rinse, repeat)

Did you know in Direct Mail most would agree that a picture of the author generally increases conversion?  It puts a face on the publication, builds trust and credibility.  Well just imagine what video does!

Unless, of course, you can't speak intelligently and you come off like a buffoon. AND if that is the case, I assume you've stopped reading long ago.

So call the engines, build a relationship with them, learn the rules, and submit your video. The engines want your content... make it valuable and be indexed.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Create a Free Report and Acquire Names

Happy New Year! Hello 2007!

Hung over... or still drunk?

My son wants to have a New Years party every night. We'll keep up the Friday night dance party but - ugh - no thanks. Of course, when your 4 years old... isn't every night New Years Eve?

Let's get back to name collection...

You are giving away value with a free eletter. (Good for you) Your content is great... and in exchange for that content the reader gives up an email address… a great deal on both sides right?


But if you want to increase your collection conversion rate... and I know you do... then give away a free report to get leads to subscribe. Yep that's right, a free report AND a free content rich eletter for that ever valuable email address.

It's worth it!

Giving away free reports always works in direct mail, and via the web for sales, so why wouldn't it work with free name collection? I've tested it and yes it works.

Your report will have a high perceived value especially if it addresses a hot current topic or idea, and thus, bring in more names than the free eletter offer alone. The more current the topic the greater the name collection. Just make sure the report is relevant to the eletter otherwise you’ll still get names, but they won’t convert into buyers later. The best case scenario would have the eletter editor writing your free report.

So you have a great new report… you can sell it for $29.99 or give it away with a free subscription to your eletter... what do you do?

Don't get suckered in with the up-front dollar signs... concentrate on the long-term benefit to the business. Give it free.

The money is in the name - go get it!