Monday, April 30, 2007

Who's Buying What?

“Wealth flows from energy and ideas” -- William Feather
Now that we've made sure you have an easy to use content rich crawlable site... do you have an online marketing strategy?

Is it on paper? Do you follow it?

It's important to have an actual strategy that has been thought through and matches your business goals. With e-letters it's all about acquiring new names.

I'm a broken record, eh?

Yes, we've talked about many different ways to bring in names over the last few months... but have I mentioned that your name collection strategy and your sales strategy must overlap 100%?

If not... I am now.

As we market to the lifetime value it means bringing in not just names but names that buy your products.

For those new to the CVoD blog... "lifetime value" means bringing in names that will produce the greatest long-term benefit to the company. It means taking a name that reads your free e-letter, at a zero value, and converting it to a buyer. And then, take it up a level, and convert it to be a multi-buyer. In other words, you take a newly acquired name and get it to buy products (from your company) for years into the future - that's your goal.

Let's be honest... anyone can bring in useless names. That's easy. Crappy names are all over the Internet. The skill is bringing in good quality free names... names that you can convert into a buyer.


How do you do that? Where do you look? And how do you tell the buyers from the non-buyers on your list?

Here's a simple tip... it's more than a tip actually, it's the difference between being a successful marketer and being lost in a fog. (I'm not ashamed to admit I've been both at times.)

It's tracking.

Tracking, reporting and analysis.

Tag the source of every name that comes in to your file. When it comes in... where it comes from... the type of effort and the costs associated.

If you do this... above all things... you'll know exactly everything you need to know about your list. This information will allow you to track the dollar per name on your list per the source of where they came.

Why is this important?

With this specificity you'll be able to see what names are the most profitable and you'll be able to go back out and spend your time and money acquiring more of those high dollar worth names. AND there by staying away from the names that are worthless.

This may sounds simple - and it is.

But it all starts with correct tracking in EVERY effort.

I've seen many a so-called marketers use the same tracking code three or four times to different efforts just because of time constraints. As a result, they may bring in great names but they won't know it. They wont know where the result are coming from. Which one of the four efforts produced the stellar results?

These same marketers are than confused as to why their reports are inaccurate. And they blame the database or reporting teams. When the screw up is theirs!

It's the old saying "garbage in garbage out."

So remember tracking... it all starts there for list building. Oh, and with websites.... it's crawlability. But you all ready know that now.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Are You Google Visible?

“Beauty and brains, pleasure and usability - they should go hand in hand.” -- Donald Norman, Nielsen Norman Group
When designing a new site from scratch or redesigning your existing site to increase visibility on Google... where do you start?

People always talk about useability. It's a buzzword, I admit that, and like most buzzwords it doesn't really mean anything. BUT today CVoD is going to define it two ways...

1. Ease of use for the reader, and
2. Ease of use for Google

When you design... you must make your content easy to find by your visitors. Don't be seduced by graphics, creative visions or flash programming... make the flow simple, easy and logical.

10 designers can make 10 differ layouts and 5 of them will no doubt be good enough for the reader... (we are not taking conversion landing pages here just general template level web design) but the most important question remains...

Is the design good for Google?

The biggest mistake "so-called" designers make is not making their site navigation crawlable.

How do you do that?

You keep it simple and design the site through a Search Engine’s eyes.

Think of the mind set the Google bot has... it's not giving you points for great colors, or a flash intro... you must think like a computer. Think substance over glitter, shine or sparkle.

Practically speaking... make it pretty and organized and then view it through a text browser. By doing this you'll see your link architecture... and this is what the Google bot sees.

Here is a free browser I use to view my sites in text. Lynxview Text Browser

Pretty cool, eh?

It's like going back in a time machine to the first Internet sites. If you can get through your entire site using only a text browser, then the Goolge bot can too!

AND you'll have a crawlable design that Google will like.

This brings us to the second most important feature... a site map. I've mentioned this many time before so I'll be brief...

Create a site map so your users can navigate through your site easily. DON'T list all links in random chaos. Be organized.

The goal of this page is to help people find your best pages... it helps your readers navigate AND Google loves a well organized site map. Really.... so much so that you should make a site map of your own AND use the Google Site Map tool in addition to that.

In sum, it's all about useability... helping the reader and the all-powerful omnipresent master - Google - easily find what your site has to offer. (or find what to index for that matter.)

What else? Stay tuned...


Thursday, April 26, 2007

King Of The World

"I go on working for the same reason that
a hen goes on laying eggs."

- H. L. Mencken
Welcome to Create Value or Die.

I've been traveling but I'm back in Baltimore and ready to continue our conversation on email marketing and value driven Internet marketing.

Jet lag is hard enough... but when you add in an 8 week old baby girl who does not sleep through the night and a 4 year boy who wants constant attention since he misses his Dad... you get a sleepy editor. But I digress...

Since my return to the office I spent most of my time catching up on emails and phone calls... but one thing did cross my desk that I thought would be of interest to you.

Google became King of the world!

Google Inc. recently passed Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo! Inc. to become the owner of the world's most-visited group of Web sites.

Google's sites had 528 million visitors worldwide in March, a 13 percent gain from the same month a year ago according to the research firm ComScore. Microsoft had 527 million, while Yahoo had 476.3 million.

Google already is the most-popular Internet search engine, drawing 48 percent of U.S. queries... but never before had it been number one in traffic. So it's official...

Google is our master that we must satisfy.

This is nothing new to loyal readers… I’ve been preaching marketing to satisfy Google for the last year.

AND this new traffic high should be no surprise... with the acquisition of, the launch of new services PLUS the next companies it will go after... the simple fact is Google is growing faster than both its biggest rivals.

Not to say I told you so but… do you remember my predictions issue posted December 29, 2006?

My #1 prediction was about the coming growth of Google. The direct quote that best describes Google’s dominance was… "Google is the shit. And they know it."

What can I say I have a way with words. It must have been too much New Years wine.


PS - I brought in 2,466 new e-letter readers to my list while I was away - how is your list doing?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Take Control Of Your Index

“Search is the ultimate expression of the power of the individual, using a computer, looking at the world, and finding exactly what they want.” – Eric Schmidt, Google CEO
I look up the sites I work with often on Google and Yahoo. Do you?

You should...

You need to keep track of what pages are indexed, and what isn't. Track how long it takes a new page to be indexed. Keep track of your back links and always keep a look out for errors.

My point is... it's important that you take control of what content on your site is indexed by engines.

We have talked about using a robots.txt file or the robots meta tag and we've talked about the "no follow" tag. But what if you want to remove content that's already been indexed. What's the best way to do that?

When I have questions like these I always check out the Google Webmaster Tools and blog. There you will find most of the answers to your questions... and if you can’t find the answer… write them and ask.

Google is very user friendly. Very marketing friendly. They want to help you market your site better.


Of course, it's good business. They want your site full of quality content so they can list your site or an indexed page of your site to answer the search queries for their users. The more relevant the substantial material they can rank high, the more the initial query will be answered.

Nothing is worse for both the searcher and the engine than to have a search query without an answer.

Plus, Ad Words is such a great place to find an audience... let me tell you they want you to use it as much as you can afford.

If you haven't noticed... Google has cornered the market on all things search and all things Internet marketing.

AND Ad Words is the NUMBER ONE place to do Internet marketing. BAR NONE!

It’s where Google is making it’s Billions!

So Google will help you use their services... all the way to the bank. They'll help you get traffic and help you make money on it with Google AdSense. They'll help you get names and help you raise your site rank.

...'cause they'll make more money.

Hey don't get me wrong, I love Google... it's amazing what they have done. But let's call a spade a spade.

Nonetheless, please see this great post by Goggle’s Vanessa Fox, Product Manager of Webmaster Central:

Requesting removal of content from Google's index



PS - Google's strategic placement as the place to be on the web reminds me of the scene from Ron Howard’s Cinderella Man (2005) where the great Paul Giamatti plays the fighter Jim Braddock’s manager Joe Gould and he's trying to get his next fight scheduled. He has to convince boxing promoter Jimmy Johnston, played by Bruce McGill of Animal House fame.
Joe Gould: “You got guys fighting an elimination series… over who gets a shot at Max Baer for the championship in June. John Henry Lewis, he's your number two in line. Now, he already defeated Braddock once in Frisco, correct?

"Say you put Braddock back in the game against Lewis. Lewis wins, you get your revenge on Braddock... and your boy has gotten a topflight tune-up... with full publicity before Lasky, and what happens?

"You make more money.

"Now, say on the other hand, by some minute, infinitesimal chance... God forbid, Braddock beats Lewis. Now you got a sentimental favorite to go up… and lose against Lasky, and what happens?

"You'll make more money.

"James, either way... you're a richer man with Braddock back in the ring than if he's not.

"Come on, don't be foolish. We both know the name of this game. And it sure as hell ain't pugilism.”

Jimmy Johnston: “They ought to put your mouth in a circus.”

Sunday, April 15, 2007

This Is Taxing

The difference between death and taxes is death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets. -- Will Rogers
We are off doing taxes... business and personal. And I'm not happy about the US tax system. Why can't we just have a 15% flat tax?

Ugh... Come back Wednesday and we'll talk marketing.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Gemeinschaft Building

German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies in 1887 discussed the difference between the terms "community" (Gemeinschaft) and "society" (Gesellschaft). He argued that "community" is perceived to be a tighter and more cohesive social entity within the context of the larger society, due to the presence of a "unity of will."

He added that family and kinship were the perfect expressions of community, but that other shared characteristics, such as place or belief, could also result in gemeinschaft.

What the Fah?

Isn't this a blog about online marketing?

Yep... I'm the guy who uses the phrase "Create Value or Die". In other words, your online business must give value at every opportunity. But you know that... I've said it a hundred times.

So here is something new... don't use your sales copy as editorial in your e-letter. Let the well-written editorial content alone sell them.

Adverts, dedicated sales letters and Ed mentions are used for sales - not your editorial. Don't publish sales pitches. Publish content driven articles. If the essay is nothing but a sales pitch... pitch it in the trash OR save it for a dedicated sales letter. BUT don't confuse the two. Your e-letter is all about good writing and good content. End of story.

This will work... but only if you... work to the personal level.

In other words... as you build their trust with your e-letter your free names will move closer to purchasing something from you. Remember my motto.. "Don't just build a business, and build a community".

It's all about Gemeinschaft Building!

Let's go back to the beginning..

The Web is filled with thousands of websites... very bad websites. The so-called web designers and the marketers might not know it but their sites are really bad, untested and under performing. The e-letters associated with these sites are little more than advertisements, if not actual advertisements. The sites draw little or no traffic, and the e-letters do not generate revenue.

Why is this?

They didn't ask the important questions...
How can you make your site and e-letter different?
How do you get visitors to stay?
How can you get them to return?
How can you close sales?
Simply put… one must create value for an Internet business. You can do this by focusing on a clear purpose, and being entertaining, interactive, informative, current, AND most importantly – giving away value.

Then if you can reach your readers on a personal level… creating an exchange of ideas, opinions and facts, you'll have a solid relationship built on trust. That's when they read your e-letter everyday, read the ads everyday and buy when you ask them to. You'll have something special. You can convert the free name to a paid "front end" buyer and the more involved the community the higher the conversion rate.

You don't reach readers if they think you are just writing to sell them a pub.

Holding back the name of a profitable stock in your editoral does not build trust. Giving it away free does.

Just like you wouldn't charge a neighbor for borrowing a cup a sugar, right?

Well, not if you’re a member of a Gemeinschaft.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

This Buzz Makes Money

"Try not to become a man of success
but rather try to become a man of value."

- Albert Einstein
Oh, I like that... even better if you apply it to your Internet business.

Me personally?

Yep... I've successfully been able to "Create Value or Die" on the web. Time and time again. It works. I've made these work too...

"Give them more than they asked for. Give them more than they expected" and

"Don't just build a business, build a community".

These are not silly useless buzz word phrases. They are quotes that set forth my model of Internet marketing that is proven and makes millions. It’s been developed, tested and improved on over the past 7 years. I can apply to any online business successfully.

But what does it really mean?

It means… lots of stuff. It means what it says... that an Internet business must create value for clients.

This can be achieved many different ways. But I propose whatever your business creates that you give a portion of it away free. Don't focus on the short term sale, look to the long term. Use it to build a relationship, a community of people, most importantly use it to build an audience of e-letter subscribers.

And then you’re on the path to have more than a business… you'll have higher sales, higher renewals, you’ll have loyalty, trust, and commitment to your operation.

Sounds great, sounds easy, but it’s not. The key, as in most businesses, is the execution. Calling yourself an "online community" and having one surrounding your business is two different things.

How do you do it?

Let’s start with the aforementioned e-letter. You need a regular correspondence with your targeted audience that will introduce them to your company, your expertise, your mission – your community.

I’m not talking about starting an e-letter so you can run out, buy names and then try to sell them stuff. That is not a community. I propose that you find an audience and give them value. (Right now the largest audience is on Google, so I start there!)

Give them something of value to sign up AND give them a value nugget in every broadcast.

You are a publisher now... and you must give them a reason to read your letter - a reason to look forward to it. Otherwise you're just wasting your time. There is too much competition off and online for their attention.

I don’t care how good a writer you think you are... you CAN'T build a community around just sending sales letters or teasers for your products that are made to look like valuable editorial.

It is not reasonable to expect a reader to look forward to transparent sales essays.

A teaser is just that, a teaser. Sales copy is sales copy. Nothing wrong with it - a time and place exists for it. But don’t say that it’s value nor pawn it off to your readers as value. They can see right through it and although they may click through at a higher rate to your faux editorial teaser they'll certainly wise up soon… and then leave.

Again, we are marketing to the long term here - right?

You need to give away real value. Tips, recommendations, secrets, entertainment, etc. The value can be a good story. It just can't be transparent sales copy. Of course you will link to a promotion after the essay - we're still a business, right?

Just make sure the essay is not the sales promotion. Or you don’t withhold a name until they pay up. Yikes...

Extortion is such a short term idea... and it's not valuable to anyone.

Lastly, ask your writers and editors to write. Tell them to stay above the dirty world of online marketing. They should only write about their expertise, AND hook the reader with good content.

I think the worst thing you can have is a reader saying, "...your e-letter is just a teaser for sales."

What you want to hear is, "...Wow, great article. I think I'll buy his pub to get more access" or better yet "I like you…"

That my friends... is success.

More thoughts about this Thursday…

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Testing To The Right Road

"What's the use of running if you are not on the right road?,"
- asks an old German proverb.
Great news!

Just this week, Google released from Beta its Website Optimizer multivariate testing tool.

That's right, today everyone on Google AdWords can do multi variable testing on their PPC landing pages for free.

This is huge!

Money is no longer an issue... let me repeat - Google's Website Optimizer is free.

Well... the use of the software is free but the multivariate testing still costs your time and effort that you'd be spending on other things. BUT this is time well spent. Assign someone in your firm to champion this testing.

It's that important.

They will need to develop multiple versions of your content and add the requisite Google script. The online directions are really easy.

The down side? Privacy.

Just like with the free Google Analytics, it's a trade off. Gaining access to free technology in exchange for giving Google an inside look at your business. With multivariate testing Google will learn what works best to sell your product, how much you are selling, plus the combination of variables on your site and/or landing page that works best.

Some cynical commentators have called this equal to letting, "...a fox in the hen house."

Yeah, I guess that's true. I'd never give a vendor such access to my list run results.

But... do it anyway.

Trust me on this... the benefits of the testing on this level out weights any information Google will learn about your marketing efforts.

Now of course, if you are Coke, or some other big multinational corp... you can afford the independent software and thus, you'll be able to keep every decision and landing page test private. (Making this all moot, right?)

But I don't have their marketing budget... most of us don't. So rather than retreat with a low conversion rate... I'd rather learn as much as I can, make better pages, convert more free names to buyers. If I have to give up some privacy, I think it's worth it.

So...stop reading and start right now!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Feedback In The Here & Now

"There is no failure. Only feedback."
~Robert Allen
I had the pleasure of working with Bill Bonner for the past 7 years and one of the things that stuck with me was this repeated phrase,

" Fail... and fail quickly."

It's all about testing... do it often, and learn from it before you lose too much money!

I know to some it sounds nuts, but think about it. We learn from mistakes... we learn by trying something new. The only way to improve is to keep getting up after failing down. AND if you have a success, incorporate it... and test something else.

In the online publishing world this creates super copy, amazing promotions and a multi million dollar business. Bonner's Agora Publishing is on the cutting edge of Internet marketing because they have applied this direct mail principle to the web. I should know. ;-)

The basic form of testing is the A/B test, where you test two versions of a package, changing one thing at a time, to see which version creates more response. Direct marketers use small test mailings to decide between version A and version B before they mail the winner to the whole list.

Now let's be honest... testing one thing at a time takes time. But that is how you know where the increased sales came from. It's that one thing you changed in version B. If you changed more than one variable - how would you know what made the difference?

I preach this type of testing.

But there is another kind of testing which I love even more... multivariate testing.

It's the brainchild of Japanese engineer Genichi Taguchi who showed how you can test several marketing variables at the same time by carefully selecting different combinations so that the total test reveals which version of each variable will give the best results.

In other words, you can test four versions of your headline and four versions of order copy or image on your landing page, using different combinations of each so that you can test all 16 combinations at the same time.

Much faster results then an A/B split test, eh?

The software available to do this today is very expensive but will allow you to test hundreds - no thousands - of combinations in days!

I would often say "So many tests but so little time..." but with multivariate testing you don't need time. You have the present... the here and now. The challenge is to come up with every conceivable landing page variable to test, and the software will give you the control combination.

That is if your company could afford it... until now.

Yes... we all, as of today, have access to the here and now.

Stay turned...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Clarity, Not Chaos

"This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it."
- HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Ugh... That's exactly how I feel when I hear another e-letter is launching in html.

Html vs. Text... which one do you use?

I've been using text for years in the e-letters I've published and I've brought in millions of dollars. Not bad, eh?

Does that mean I don't like html in e-letters?

Ummm, Yeah... actually that is exactly what it means. Surprised?

You see most html e-letters are created with bad code and bad design. These letters lack the strategic focus it takes to run in html successfully. In most cases, there is no reason they are html other than some blow hard publisher says, "let's publish in html!"

"But why?"

"Because everyone else is doing it!" or they'll rationalize, "...because it looks more professional" or some other nonsensical reasoning.

The fact is they have no clue...

Oh, and if they say it's for the "open rate" try and explain to them calmly how it's a useless metric and full of false positives AND false negatives. (Who wants logic when you can have a monarchy!)?

Let me back up a bit.

I'm not against all html... I often run html stand-alone dedicated sales letters AND they are quite successful thank you. I just don't like sending in html for the sake of html. If you have a legit business reason to send in html then I am all for it.

If your e-letter needs pictures to sell real estate or must insert candlestick charts to explain sell signals - that is legit. Thus, you MUST broadcast in html and you would hurt your business if you did otherwise. Just do me the favor and spend the extra time to code it professionally, (no DreamWeaver or WYSWYG).

Without a business reason, sending in html is a waste of time. It hurts delivery, and doesn't improve daily sponsorship sales. The worst is e-letters that run in html that is designed to look like text! AHHHH!

Just run in text!

I believe in keeping your email layout simple. And nothing is more simple than sending in text. It takes no time to create, it doesn't give you negative points in a spam assassin test, and nearly any browser can read it in the intended format.

Unlike html, which can take hours to create, gives you the aforementioned negative points (not to mention it's the language most used in spam) and the layout will not be consistent. In other words, the visual look, (what the reader sees), is dependent on the individual browser. Some readers will see your images others won't. Some will view your design in whole others will see a distorted version.

Nothing standard is guaranteed.

And with more people are reading email on Blackberries and Palm Pilots - yikes.

These mini browsers won't come close to rendering the scripting as your desktop email program does. Some html e-letters won't even open... that's because there is just too much code and the device doesn't know how to interpret it.

Are you sure you want to send html?

Sure it's sexy - if they can read it - but I vote for simplicity. My content is so good on my e-letter that I don't need the bolding or the fancy template. I want ease, clarity, not chaos.

So I create value... and I know with 100% certainty that when I hit "send" my message arrives as intended. It's readable, content driven and ultimately leads to sale. It's the power of simple text. Try it you may like it.