Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Does Your Website Need a Magic Act?

In preparation for an initial meeting with a new client, we were asked to preview their website to see if we could come-up with some ideas for re-branding the company, and invigorating product sales.

The client was suitably impressed with our thoughts but there was one problem, the product line that we stressed was not the focus of the company. The client explained that despite the fact most of their current website was devoted to a particular product line, it was not the product that differentiated them from the competition, nor was it the product that made them the most money. Once this was explained our entire focus shifted, and we were able to develop a website concept, and webmedia presentation that focused attention where it belonged.

The experience drove home the fact that many websites confuse potential customers by inadvertently leading audiences down the wrong path, hindering profitable sales rather than promoting them.

Pick A Card, Any Card

Most companies sell a variety of products or services, but they are not all created equal, some are more important, and more profitable than others. At the heart of any website design project is the underlying goal of attracting attention, and directing that attention to the product, service, or concept that is being marketed. In that regard, an effective website sales presentation is a lot like a magic act.

The PsyBlog, Understand Your Mind, recently published an article entitled, "Psychology of Magic: 3 Critical Techniques," in which they reported that the Association for Scientific Study of Consciousness held a conference called "The Magic of Consciousness Symposium" where cognitive neuroscientists and psychologists heard an enlightening series of well-known magicians explain the psychology and techniques behind magic acts.

What cognitive scientists have come to realize is that after hundreds of years of experimentation before live audiences, magicians have mastered a series of highly effective cognitive techniques that need to be studied, a realization that should not elude any serious marketing manager, since the essence of any effective sales presentation is cognitive learning, defined by MedicineNet.com as "the process of being aware, knowing, thinking, learning and judging."

Psychological Mind-bending Techniques

In simple terms, magicians use a series of psychological mind-bending techniques, to convince audiences to believe in something that is simply not possible; so imagine how powerful and persuasive a sales presentation could be by using these same techniques to deliver a presentation where the product or service actually performs as advertised.

We are not talking about cheating people, or misrepresenting products, but rather teaching people the benefits of an offering by focusing attention, sharpening awareness, and altering perception, the three main ingredients in any convincing magic act, and any effective sales presentation.

Focusing Attention, Sharpening Awareness, Altering Perception

The problem of attention is three-fold: people are impatient due to lifestyle demands, socialization, and neural hardwiring. Business pressure and modern life-styles put a premium on the amount of time people will invest in learning what you have to say.

Web audiences have been raised on quick-cut music videos, action movies and video games, and as a result are socialized at an early age to make snap-decisions on minimum input.

At the same time our brains employ a hardwired, leap-of-logic, pattern recognition survival mechanism that induces quick decisions on what is important and what is seemingly irrelevant.

With an audience predisposed to hair-trigger decision-making, the ability to attract, hold, and direct attention is vital to effective Web presentation, a skill-set refined by magicians over years of practice.

One of the three techniques mentioned in the article "Psychology of Magic: 3 Critical Techniques" is 'psychological misdirection, a technique illustrated in an illusion called the 'vanishing ball trick,' performed by Dr. Gustav Kuhn of York University.

The 'Vanishing Ball Trick'

A ball is tossed into the air and caught with one hand while the magician follows the flight of the ball with his eyes. The movement is repeated several times establishing the trajectory of the ball, then on the final toss the magician doesn't let go of the ball but repeats the same arm motion and eye movement, following the imagined flight of the non existent ball. What the brain registers is the ball disappearing in mid flight.

Evidently there is a tenth of a second delay between what the eye physically sees and what the brain registers. This could be a fatal human flaw if what is in front of us is a hungry tiger rather than a magician. That tenth of a second lag could mean the difference between life and death.

As a consequence the brain has developed a sophisticated pattern recognition process that fills in the blanks. We recognize a series of events and leap to the conclusion that something is going to happen. In this case that something is the flight of a ball, a cognitive pattern established by the magicians repetitive arm and eye movements.

Sales Presentations Are Exercises In Teaching New Behaviors

A sales presentation is nothing more than an effort to teach an audience a new learned behavior - buying the product, service or concept being presented. This can only be achieved if a presentation focuses viewer attention on a single concept, and repeats that concept so that it becomes a recognized pattern.

A sale's audience like a magician's audience must be sold on the presentation. Each audience starts off being both cynical and resistant, but a good magician like a good salesman will repeat the presentation several times, each time varying it slightly in order to overcome each potential objection, what magicians call 'closing the doors' and what advertisers call a marketing campaign.

The ad nauseam repetition of television commercials is nothing more than an attempt to teach the viewing audience a new set of behaviors, so that they will recognize the pattern and respond in the right circumstances - we are all network television's version of Pavlov's dogs.

Entertaining Clients is Serious Business

The best commercials are the ones that are based on a thematic series (the Mac commercials are a great example), with each spot over-coming a single objection, ultimately teaching the audience a new learned purchasing behavior. Your website is your communication channel, capable of delivering programming content that alters behavior, and forms new purchasing patterns.

The trick is to keep your audience interested long enough to establish the new intended pattern of behavior. Business owners have to get past the notion that entertaining presentations are somehow non-functional. Entertaining clients is serious business.

Website presentations must attract, focus, and hold viewer attention by delivering an entertaining series of performances that establish patterns of behavior by clever repetition that overcome objections using verbal and visual repetition.


The psychological principles employed by magicians are very similar to the ones used in effective sales presentations. The Internet is capable of delivering the kind of compelling video and audio webmedia that changes audience behavior and purchasing patterns. Business must get rid of the digital flip charts and start communicating effective, meaningful presentations that deliver magical results.

About The Author

Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design firm that specializes in Web-audio and Web-video. Visit MRPwebmedia.com, 136Words.com and SonicPersonality.com. Contact at info@mrpwebmedia.com or telephone (905) 764-1246.

The Evolution of Online Advertising Technology - More Targeting, Less Privacy (Part 2)

Even with the cookie-type behavioral advertising technology, there was a way for users to prevent these ads from targeting them. They could set their machines not to accept any cookies at all by setting their browser security setting to high. This solved the privacy issue, although many websites would (intentionally or not) render improperly with this setting on.

In recent news on the behavioral advertising technology front, Microsoft announced that its newest Internet Explorer, version 8, would have a mode called "InPrivate Blocking" that would prevent cookies from being placed on any machine. At first glance, it would seem that either:

A. Microsoft is genuinely concerned about online privacy, to the point that the company would allow users to block ads that come from the Microsoft network as well, or

B. Microsoft realized that the paltry share of the ad serving market that it currently controls is not as important as inflicting serious damage to Google, which owns a much more significant slice of the online advertising pie (in actuality, at this point, Google's "slice" looks more like Pac-Man, but I digress).
Whatever happens with this flavor of behavioral advertising, there was recently a new type of advertising technology that raised some serious eyebrows, and this one could have been the most nefarious of all.

This latest behavioral advertising technology, brought to the surface by a company called NebuAd, is aimed at tracking user behavior at the ISP level. In other words, there ain't really a whole lot you can do about it. You need your ISP to get online, so your ISP has access to the information that you are accessing when you are online. They don't need no stinkin' cookies, so you can erase them to your heart's content and they'll happily keep tracking along.

For the unscrupulous ISP, this is a no-brainer. You allow NebuAd to install its platform at your service hub and then you split the profíts. And this is exactly what some of the smaller firms did in several "trials" of the behavioral advertising technology in the U.S.

Of course, there is a caveat - even a firm with cash flow problems and without an iota of ethics would probably want to create an opt-out system before unleashing this behavioral advertising technology platform on its users (you know, the people that already pay them and probably assume privacy). However, there's something very interesting about how these behavioral advertising trials were done - in just about every case, the ISP seemed interested in keeping the opt-out information as obscure as possible from its users. According to Anick Jesdanun from the AP (1).

1. CenturyTel Inc. rolled out the platform to 20,000 of its subscribers. To inform them of the new advertising technology, the company sent an email letting these subscribers know only that the privacy policy had been updated and had added a paragraph about NebuAd to the privacy policy. 85 out of 20,000 opted out.

2. Embarq Corp. rolled out the platform to 26,000 of its paid subscribers. Embarq didn't bother sending any emails to its subscribers; the company merely put a general notice within its privacy notice online. A whopping total of 15 out of the 26,000 people opted out.

3. WideOpenWest (or WOW) rolled out the NebuAd platform on 330,000 customers. The only notification before the fact was a posting on the company's website, along with a reminder in billing statements to review privacy policies online. They did email the 330,000 customers to tell them about the advertising technology trial - after it had concluded. 3,355 people opted out, but that figure may be inflated, because they aren't sure how many came from a single customer. WOW indeed.

4. Bresnan Communications, LLC, tried the platform on 6,000 of its customers. Unlike the other three providers above, the company did send an email directly to its users about the trial itself (although I have no idea how it was presented and whether the info was buried in a footer somewhere) and posted notices on its website. 18 people opted out.

There were two other participants in the trial - Cable One, Inc. and Knology, Inc. For the purposes of my numbers below, I've left them out - not because they don't support the general theory, but because they don't fít the parameters. Knology won't reveal how many customers were involved and how many opted out, although the company did post a notice on its website. Cable One, Inc. ran the test on 14,000 customers, but did not give them the chance to opt out.

To sum this up, the total number of "participants" of the four providers for which we have sufficient data was 382,000, and the number that opted out was 3,473 (which may be inflated due to the WOW factor, but let's leave that alone). The total percentage of opt-outs was less than one percent. I don't know about you, but I'm guessing that the number of opt-outs would have been much higher if each of these providers had sent a piece of dírect mail for the sole purpose of informing the subscribers that this type of behavioral advertising technology tracking method was going to take place and that they needed to opt out at such-and-such address. Better yet, they needed to opt-ín at such-and-such address (but I'm guessing that would doom the trial from the beginning).

All testing for behavioral advertising technology at this stage has been halted - it would appear because the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee has decided to look into the matter. Which I guess is fortunate, at least in the short term, for Google, Yahoo, and other big players in the search world. If anyone is going to be force-feeding you behavioral advertising and other targeted ads without your explicit consent, it's going to be them, not some snot-nosed little start-up.

Recently, the CEO of NebuAd announced his departure, and the company has announced plans to move forward with a more "traditional" advertising technology model (probably similar to the cookie-based platforms we're already used to worrying about). However, another company in Europe named Phorm has been having success with a similar behavioral advertising technology business model (ISP-based), but EU regulators are starting to jump into the fray.

If I had to guess, I would say that in the future any type of behavioral advertising technology on the ISP level will have to be done on a strict opt-ín basis, meaning that the person has taken an action that shows that he agrees with the process. Will there be a company that emerges that is willing to provide free or very cheap broadband to people who are willing to be targeted at the ISP level? Time will tell.

(c) Medium Blue 2008

Source: (1) Yahoo Tech News

About The Author
Scott Buresh is the CEO of Medium Blue Search Engine Marketing, which was named the number one organic search engine optimization company in the world in 2006 and 2007 by PromotionWorld. Scott has contributed content to many publications including The Complete Guide to Google Advertising (Atlantic, 2008) and Building Your Business with Google For Dummies (Wiley, 2004), MarketingProfs, ZDNet, WebProNews, DarwinMag, SiteProNews, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine Guide. Medium Blue serves local and national clients, including Boston Scientific, DS Waters, and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Visit MediumBlue.com to request a custom SEO guarantee based on your goals and your data.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Facebook in 15 Minutes a Day

I've often said that social networking can take up your entire day, if you allow it. You sit down at your desk in the morning, and you see several Facebook event invites and friend requests. As you log into your account, someone's Facebook status update catches your eye, and before you know it, 3 hours have passed while you're reading and responding to social networking messages. How can you possibly get any work done in your business or for your clients at this rate?

Facebook doesn't have to be a time hog. As a matter of fact, you can actually handle most of your Facebook tasks in as little as 15 minutes per day. Here's what I do when I log into my account each morning (thanks for wonderful training I've received from Facebook guru Mari Smith for these great tips):

1. Update your status . This is the first section that you'll see on your homepage when you log into Facebook. While you can do this from your Facebook account, I prefer to update my status in Ping.fm , as this service will update my status in all of my social networking sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and MySpace. However, if you're using only Facebook for social networking, then go ahead and use the status update there.

2. Review your news feeds . This is the first tab on the right on your home page. In this review, you're seeking stories on which you can share your expertise and on which you can comment. Some of your comments may be personal in nature, but this is a great opportuníty to showcase your experience in your field and industry.

3. Review news feeds of your friends . This feature is available from the home page as the down arrow on the far right of the home page tabs and permits you to view the feeds of your Friends Lists. Friend Lists allow you to create private groupings of friends based on your personal preferences. I've got my lists created by industry, i.e. Coaches, Virtual Assistants, Marketing Professionals, People to Watch, etc. Pick one líst and comment on those feeds just as you would yours.

If you have no Friends Lists, here's how to create them: Click Friends at the top of any Facebook page. From the following page, click "Make a new líst" on the left. After typing in the title of your list, you can add friends to your líst by typing your friend's name into the "Add to List" field. You can also click "Select Multiple Friends" to the right of the field, which will allow you to select many friends from your entire líst. After making your selections, click "Save List" to store your changes.

4. Review status updates . Take a quick moment to breeze through the status updates of your friends, and click on those on which you feel compelled to comment. Many people feed their blog posts into their status updates, so this is a great way to get out and comment on the blogs of others without having to search out relevant blog posts. In this case, I comment on the blog itself rather than the Facebook status update. I usually only go through one page of these to ensure I remain within my time constraints.

5. Acknowledge birthdays . These are listed under Events and Birthdays on the right side of your homepage. When you click on the birthday person's name, you'll be sent to their wall, where you can write your personalized birthday greeting (make more effort that just simply saying "Happy Birthday!"). I also take this opportuníty to find out a bit more about the friends on my list by clicking the "Info" tab on their home page and quickly scanning their profile. This helps me start to put names and faces together and get better acquainted with my network of friends, And, I take this opportuníty to add people to Friends List as appropriate.

6. Review friend requests . Add friends as you see fit, or according to any guidelines you have set for yourself. Facebook guru Mari Smith suggests setting up a "Friending Request Policy" in which you write down the conditions under which you'll accept friends (i.e. picture must be on profile, have to have other friends in common, have to have submitted a personal note with the friend request, etc.) and to help you in your decision-making.

7. Respond to event invitations . Your friends will be sending a myriad of invites to various events (most of my invites are to teleclasses), so take a few moments to scroll through those and see if any are of interest to you, or if you have further questions about them.

8. Respond to group invitations . Most of these I ignore, but occasionally I'll join a private group, usually related to a program in which I'm enrolled. Or, if it's a group run by someone with whom I want to connect or from whom I want to learn, I'll accept the invite to the group. If I have time, I'll also visit one of the groups to see what's going on and respond to any messages here.

9. Add friends . Facebook does an amazíng job of suggesting people I actually know to add to my friends líst in their "People You May Know" section on my home page. If I happen to see such a suggestion, I send out a request to add that person as a friend. When requesting to add a friend, I ALWAYS send a personalize request, letting them know how I know about them.

10. Review notifications . The notifications icon is on the lower right side of your home page and lists what's going on in your account (friend requests accepted, notes on your wall, etc.). This is a good prompt for you to write on someone's wall when they accept your friend request or to respond to posts on your wall.

11. Eyeball your profile . Make sure your profile appears as it should, and take the opportuníty to catch up on anything you may have missed with your other steps.

12. Check your inbox . Many of the emails in your inbox are duplications of event and group invites or group emails. When I look at this, I'm seeking out any personal 1:1 emails that I might have received from someone on my líst. I've discovered that many people I want to contact respond better to their Facebook emails than through emails sent to them (or an assistant) via their website, so I often email them through Facebook, instead.

If you devote 15 minutes per day, or at least 15 minutes 3 times a week, to updating Facebook, you'll begin to see results from your social networking before you know it!

Website Slowing You Down?

In a world where more and more households are connected to the internet, bandwidth is becoming an issue and brownouts have been predicted to occur in the next few years. With the strain on the infrastructure of the internet this makes having an efficient, fast loading website all that much more important.

The bottom line for most site owners though, is not the efficiency of the internet as a whole, but rather the financial sustainability of their websites. While there are many ways to make a site perform better in terms of converting visitors, one of the simplest, and probably most important aspects is simply to reduce the load time of your website.

If your site suffers from poor performance, you could be missing out not only on sales and average visitor time on site, but also search rankings. Below I will discuss some of the negative impacts a slow loading site may experience, as well as a few ways you can correct the issue. In some cases, correcting the problem will cost you only some time, although it has the potential to really pay off in the long run.

Negative Impacts of Long Load Times

If your site takes too long to load this can have a number of negative effects including loss of sales, loss of rankings, and increased pay per click cost. It can even raise your hosting costs depending on the cause.

Loss of Sales

Let's pretend for a moment that search engines just didn't exist and rankings didn't matter. People are impatient - if your site takes too long to load, many potential customers will simply give up and go elsewhere.

Broadband connections are growing incredibly fast in the US; however, according to a study posted at FoxNews this past July, approximately 10% of Americans still have dial-up internet access. If your site loads slowly, you may be alienating 10% of your potential customers.

The last thing you want to do is frustrate your visitors. If you do this, you may drive them away, never to return. If you can provide a fast loading efficient website, you will improve the likelihood that your visitors will make a purchase, and return again in the future.

Increased Pay per Click Costs

Only a few short months ago a post by Heather Lane at the Inside AdWords blog announced that landing page load times will affect a keyword's quality score. The reason for this is quite simple: a fast loading website improves the end user experience. As a result, ads directing to a slow loading page will be given a lower quality score. This in turn will cause your keyword bids to be higher, costing you significantly on a per click basis.

Loss of Organic Rankings

We know two things for a fact. Google factors in load times with AdWords, and Google focuses on an improved end user experience. As a result, I for one am convinced that a site's load time does impact overall organic search rankings. While this is likely only a small piece of the very large algorithmic puzzle, it does play a part, and if you can speed up your site, you just may be able to move your rankings up a notch or two.

Speeding up your site is unlikely to move your site from page 8 all the way to page 1, but it may be enough to move up a few positions.

Increased Hosting Costs

Assuming your load times are due to file size issues and not other server constraints, your hosting costs may be more than they need to be. This factor will vary a great deal based on the hosting company and the package you have chosen.

Many hosts now provide packages where a significant amount of bandwidth usage is included, resulting in a single flat monthly or annual rate. ( LunarPages for example, has a $4.95 monthly plan with unlímited bandwidth per month.) If your hosting provider does put a limit on usage and you are using beyond the allocated max, you could be paying a fair bit in overage charges. If you fall into this category, optimizing your files to reduce bandwidth usages could save you a considerable amount of cash.

Issues and Fixes

There are a number of issues that can cause a site to load slowly. Below I have noted a few items that are fairly common and can be relatively easily corrected.

Issue: Un-Optimized Images

This is probably one of the biggest culprits out there impacting load time today. I have seen countless websites where image optimization is simply not done, resulting in significantly increased page load times. One of the biggest problems is when images are scaled down to fít the application.

Quite often webmasters will take a large image, and scale it down using the height and width attributes rather than physically resizing the image. What this does is then require the browser to load the full high resolution image, when it really only needs a fraction.

Let's take this real world example. A client recently had a photo on their home page; the photo was 600 x 403 pixels, weighed in at 124.68 KB, and visually they had scaled the image down to 473 x 317 pixels.

By resizing the original image to the desired dimensions, and then reducing the quality of the jpg to 70%, the end result was an image that looked identical on his website but weighed in at only 23 KB - that's 101.68 KB smaller than the original. Using a simple filesize download calculator I found online, 101.68 KB would take 14 seconds to download using a 56 Kb modem, or about 2 seconds on your run of the mill broadband connection.

For broadband users 2 seconds may not seem like much, but remember, this is only for a single image. When you add up all other images and on-site components, the time can significantly add up.

Issue: Un-Optimized files

Another way you can speed up your sites load time is to have clean HTML, CSS, and other included files. Remove extraneous code from your files, and use CSS wherever possible. Every piece of old html code adds up in size, even if it doesn't impact the visual site itself. I have seen many cases where links have been removed but the code remains accidentally, leaving something like:

<a href="http://www.site.com"></a>

This code, as tiny as it is, does contribute to an increased load time (and in this specific example, could also be seen as spam by search engines).

If your site makes use of CSS, consider compressing it to save on load times. You can do this by grouping identical styles to save space. For instance,

p {

font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;



li {

font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;



can be compressed by grouping these two styles, reducing the coding by half:

p,li {

font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;



Again this may not seem like much, but when you add this up with all of the other little things, it can ultimately result in a significantly increased load time for the page as a whole.

Audio and video can also be compressed. If your site uses a fair bit of multimedia, see if you can compress these files a bit more than you have already. You may be able to save some load time here as well without impacting user experience.

Issue: Hosting Server

It is possible that your site is perfect in every way, but the culprit is simply your web host. It does not necessarily mean that your host is slow, but if you are paying for an account on an old archaic computer with limited system resources servicing 1000 websites, this could seriously impact your site's load time. If you have worked to ensure that the site is well optimized for efficiency and the load times are still extreme, you may need to upgrade your hosting account to one more suited for your business needs.

If your site is a fairly basic, such as a static 8 page html site, then a slow server may have little to no impact, but if your site requires extensive database queries and the help of an intensive content management system, and serves up tens of thousands of visitors a day, then you may need to switch to a higher end dedicated server. If you have found that your server is the only problem in your slow load times, contact your host to see what they can do for you.

Issue: HTTP Requests

According to a post at the Yahoo Developer Blog , " 80% of the end-user response time is spent on the front-end. Most of this time is tied up in downloading all the components in the page: images, style sheets, scripts, Flash, etc. Reducing the number of components in turn reduces the number of HTTP requests required to render the page. This is the key to faster pages ."

The article discusses combining files in order to reduce the number of HTTP requests, largely by the use of CSS Sprites. They also discuss using image maps to combine multiple images, however, from an SEO perspective, this is not something that I would recommend as my experience has shown image-mapped links are not always followed by search engine spiders.

They go on to explain a vast number of rather technical aspects to speeding up a page. If you are a technical person capable of implementing advanced techniques, the Yahoo Developer Network is definitely something you should check out.

Load Time Tools

Before you undergo any changes to your site to resolve the slow load times, I suggest first finding a tool and benchmarking your progress. Record how long your site takes to load, and then try again after you have made an effort to correct the problem.

There are a number of tools out there that can help you calculate your load times. One such tool is WebSiteOptimization.com . This site specializes in optimizing the performance of your site in order to decrease bandwidth and load times. They have created a very simple tool which will give you the load times for the individual components of your site, which can give you a good idea where to start.


If you take a bit of time to speed up the load time for your website by optimizing your existing content and cleaning up your code, you may just find yourself making more sales. As an added bonus you may also find improved search engine rankings, which will then in turn raise your sales further. Depending on your hosting provider, you may even have a reduced monthly hosting bill. Decreasing the load time of your site is really win-win for all.

As the internet becomes more and more bandwidth intensive with an ever increasing stream of users and higher use applications, doing whatever we can do reduce the strain on the system will make for a faster internet for all. If every webpage on the internet could be reduced by even just 100 kb, the web would be a much faster place.

Three Hot Trends to Watch Out For

Since the new year is right around the corner, bloggers and marketers alike are posting their predictions as if a psychics convention has come to town.

So in keeping with that tradition, I'd like to post a few of my own. But unlike those who post their predictions in point form, I won't make a specific líst but rather share with you some of my thoughts.

(Near the end, however, this post will culminate in what I believe will be three major trends to watch out for and dive into, if you want to make some serious money in 2008 and beyond.)

First off, let me state that you may or may not agree with me on these. But something is definitely going on right now that points to these three trends. All the clues are pretty evident, and you've probably seen some of these yourself.

What I'm talking about is...

... Internet marketing is correcting itself.

When the stock market tumbles, short of a full-on crash, they call it a "correction." Sometimes it happens precipitously. Other times, it takes place over a period of time.

Likewise, I believe that Internet marketing, right now, is going through a similar correction. It may not be as precipitous as the stock market, but it's indeed quite significant.

To explain what I mean, let me back up a bit.

If you've read Geoffrey Moore's " Crossing The Chasm ", then you understand the product adoption curve. (In marketing and academic circles, they call it the "Diffusion Process.")

In plain English, it means that new markets go through a certain adoption process that looks very much like a bell curve.

At first, new products are consumed by the innovators and early adopters (i.e., niche and early markets). They're the type of people who buy new things the moment they come out.

Then, they are consumed by the majority (i.e., mainstream markets, at the top of the bell curve, where products get widely adopted by the majority of people).

Finally, the laggards make up the late markets. They usually wait until everyone else has tried the products, which are no longer new.

According to Moore, between the niches and the mainstream, there's a gap. A chasm, as he calls it, especially with technology. It's where things seem to slow down once a product has saturated the early markets.

But then, after a while, something happens.

The product, if and when it crosses the chasm, enters the mainstream (often called the "middle" or just the "majority"), and becomes widespread.

This is where the bulk of the market lies (about 68% of the market pie, according to studies). And often, it happens fast. Very fast. (For example, Moore's follow-up book, "Inside the Tornado," explains this in detail.)

What does this mean in terms of Internet marketing?

It means that the geeks (e.g., the risk-takers, innovators, Internet enthusiasts, and the like) are the first ones to penetrate the Internet market. They set many precedents that shape the way we do business, whether it's through a new method, software, business model, or teaching.

(That's why we often call them "gurus.")

We've seen this happen. Top marketers have entered the market, sold many a product, and made massive amounts of money. But now, things are starting to change. We're hitting - if not crossing - the chasm.

One obvious piece of evidence is the recent flurry of "death of" reports. Whether they're meant to promote something or not is a moot point.

Clayton Makepeace listed his own predictions recently , and I not only agree with them wholeheartedly but also view them as part of this crossing of the chasm. To me, the most salient point is that only 18% of the world's population is online - but it's growing at a rapid rate, particularly in Asia.

If you don't believe me (or even Clayton), watch this video:


It's a presentation by a statistical researcher about income distribution around the globe, and how quickly some countries are growing in terms of wealth and gross national product, once the Internet enters them.

In short, the video shows that the Internet, while still in its infancy, is growing at a rapid rate, and that there is hyper-growth occurring right now in Asian and middle-Pacific countries, such as Singapore, India, and of course, China.

Let me put that aside for just a moment, and share with you a few observations. (I will tie all of this together very shortly, I promise.)

Here's a question:

Haven't you noticed lately how Internet marketing seminars are changing?

I mean, for many years seminars were not only filled to the rim but also filled with the usual suspects who seem to congregate there all the time.

I remember going to seminar after seminar, and seeing the same faces over and over again. The same million-dollar marketers. The same "big names." The same expert speakers. And very few newbies or unknowns.

But in 2007, a shift started to happen. Some of those faces are not showing up at seminars anymore. The number of old-timers seems to be shrinking, while new faces are making their appearances for the first time.

With each passing seminar, it seems, the audience is slowly being replaced with new marketers and total newbies - people who are completely new to Internet marketing and even to the Internet in general.

More and more veteran marketers are retiring. Some are leaving the Internet marketing field altogether. Many are no longer attending seminars, speaking at them, or teaching Internet marketing at all.

Is it because the Internet marketing industry is dying or jumping the shark?

Not at all. Quite the contrary, in fact. While some Internet marketers have moved on, many of them have simply refocused their businesses on those three major markets I was referring to earlier.

To give you a hint, let me tell you a true story...

At the last seminar my wife and I attended, I was surprised to see that the vast majority of attendees was completely new. The event was still packed to the rim (and even bigger than before). But many of them admitted to us that this was the first seminar they've ever attended.

In fact, they were so new that, at a previous seminar where my wife and I spoke, we were both surprised by the kinds of questions they asked us.

After speaking on stage and walking towards the back of the room, Sylvie and I were asked questions like, "What is an autoresponder?" Or, "How do you create a text file?" (No joke!)

And it didn't just happen once or twice. It happened many, many times. And it happened at almost every single seminar we've attended or spoke at in 2007.

Now, what does all this mean?

It means several things: Internet marketing is shifting. We are seeing more and more people entering it for the first time. We are seeing less of the successful, seasoned marketers who have made their wealth and moved on.

In other words, what we're seeing is a shift to people who are completely green, entering the world of Internet marketing, and launching a business online for the very first time - with very limited knowledge about it to boot.

And many of the existing, top marketers we have learned from in the last few years have either retired or decided to go after... well... the "majority!" That is, they are going offline.

Yes, offline.

And that, my friends, is the golden key.

More importantly, we're seeing - and we'll see more of - the Asian market, too, entering the Internet marketing sphere.

The more Asian citizens gain access to the web, the more Internet marketing will change, too, to reflect this shift. China, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and others are definitely going to be forces to be reckoned with.

We're seeing this already.

(Sylvie and I are speaking in Singapore next spring, by the way. Some of these events pack as many as 3,000 people.)

Bottom line, these shifts represent not only a major correction affecting the world of Internet marketing, but also show the three major markets to watch out for in the coming year:

The newbie market; The offline market; The Asian market. And that's my prediction for the new year and beyond. Watch out for these markets. Enter them. Serve them. Or get out of the way.

That said, I do have a few technology-related predictions. (A blog post on new year's predictions wouldn't be complete without them, eh?)

Some of the ones I made last year did come true - and we'll see more and more of them in 2008 as well.

For example, online video will become ubiquitous. The web will become increasingly "widgetized." People will demand for more simplification. And interactivity will become vastly more popular and sophisticated.

But what about some of the major technology companies?

Well, I hate to make those kinds of predictions because Internet marketing is as volatile as the stock market. But I agree that some major acquisitions are in store for the coming year. My guess? Any one of the following...

AOL by Yahoo!;

Yahoo! by Microsoft; Technorati or SixApart (makers of MovableType and TypePad) by Microsoft or Yahoo! (likely to compete in the blogging space against none other than giants WordPress and Google's Blogger); Or Facebook - maybe by Microsoft, Yahoo!, or someone else. Speaking of Facebook, whether or not it does get acquired, it's going to see the same kind of decline in popularity in 2008 that MySpace saw in 2007.

In fact, when my kids got me onto Facebook earlier this year, and I refused at first because I told them I already had a MySpace account, in a pretentious tone they replied, "But Dad, MySpace is soooo last year!"

I think Facebook will face the same fate, I fear. Anyway, there you have it.

Until next time, thank you for your support this year. I appreciate you and wish you a peaceful, healthy, profitable, happy, and prosperous new year!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Six Steps to Writing an Offer that Inspires Customers to ACT

Until fairly recently, writing marketing copy was a strange and mysterious undertaking to me.

It's funny because when I was doing advertising research, I often worked closely with copywriters. I would interview customers to learn how they responded to different messages and report back to the creative team. Sometimes the copywriter or art director would have questions they wanted me to ask my focus groups. So I got to know the writers and their work pretty well.

Yet, when they went back to their desk to actually create the message, I had no idea how they came up with the words that moved customers to action.

Customer-Focused Story to the Rescue!

Turns out like any professional, copywriters have systems. One such system that has made my writing life infinitely easier is the Customer Focused Story: A six step process that helps you develop a message that inspires action on the part of your readers.

[ Note: I am grateful to marketer/copywriter extraordinaire, Mark Silver, who developed the Customer Focused Story process and taught me how to use it. Learn more about Mark at www.heartofbusiness.com ] The power behind the Customer Focus Story is this: before people are ready to take action, it is absolutely critical that they feel safe to do so. By "safe" I mean your copy addresses two, usually unarticulated questions:

(1.) Do they feel that the business making the offer understands the problem they're struggling with?

(2.) Can the business help THEM?

If your copy helps them answer "yes" to those two questions, chances are very good your customers will take the next step.

Applying the Customer Focus Story: A Real Example

My client, Judy Rotunda of Pilates for Life, specializes in helping women who want to get fít but whose physical limitations make it difficult to use standard options such as fitness centers, aerobics classes, etc. Judy offers private and semi-private classes that enable clients to safely progress at their own pace. In this way clients get stronger and fitter without risking further injury.

Here is how we developed the Customer Focused Story for Pilates for Life:

STEP 1. Name the Who and the Problem with which They're Struggling.

The first thing you want to tell readers is "this is who I help and what I help them with." The point is to elicit a strong "Yes, that's me," in your ideal prospect so they will want to keep reading.

In the case of Pilates for Life, the who and what are:

" Women who are suffering from chronic back pain. Oftentimes, the pain is so bad it makes it hard for them to do things most of us take for granted ."

STEP 2. Specify the Solutions They've Tried which Didn't Work

I know when I first began using the Customer Focused Story, I resisted this step. Why wouldn't I immediately launch into my wonderful solution?

Here's why. Two little words: "Yeah, but." No doubt you've experienced this when you've talked to prospects. You tell them about your product or service and they respond to every claim you make with "Yeah, we tried that but it didn't work." This is normal. They don't want to buy something they already know doesn't work.

The best way to deal with "yeah buts" is to simply acknowledge the solutions they've probably already tried--the ones that didn't work.

For example:

" They've tried the usual fitness options: low impact aerobics, yoga, and weight training but often those options just make things worse ."

STEP 3. Explain Why Those Solutions Don't Work

When you not only acknowledge what your prospects probably tried but go on to say in effect, "Hey, what you did was perfectly understandable. That's what most people would have tried. I tried those things and my customers have tried those things." You're demonstrating empathy.

You are also letting them know they don't have to feel embarrassed or ashamed for trying and failing. That they are not the only ones who have struggled to find a solution to their problem.

Pilates for Life example:

" The problem with most mainstream exercise programs is the instructor's lack of experience working with back injuries and chronic pain. An instructor who is unfamiliar with these conditions may push for progress too quickly. Or they may assume persons with chronic back pain can do each movement in the same way as everyone else. Often times, this can strain the back muscles even more, cause more injury, and make the pain even more severe ."

STEP 4. Talk About What They Need to Do to Solve the Problem

Your reader is probably thinking, "Okay, I understand why what I tried didn't work. So what DOES?" Here's where you get to address their question.

Pilates for Life example:

"A successful fitness program for persons with chronic back pain requires three things:

(1.) a fitness trainer familiar with the physiology of back injuries;

(2.) private or semi-private classes so the instructor can make sure the participant is doing the movements properly; and

(3.) a significantly slower pace to allow the muscles to adjust to new movements."

STEP 5. Tell Them Why You're Qualified to Deliver the Solution That Works

Finally, you get to talk about your solution! Specifically, you are going to write about how you are qualified to deliver a solution that works (which you just wrote about in Step 4).

Qualifications you want to refer to can include your personal experience, formal training and education, success stories about how you've helped your customers, and testimonials.

Pilates for Life example:

" For over twenty years, Pilates for Life owner, Judy Rotunda, suffered from chronic pain due to a childhood back injury. She looked everywhere to find an exercise program that would improve her strength and flexibility and, she hoped, provide some relief from the constant pain. When a fríend suggested she try Pilates, she was skeptical but after just two sessions, she was a fan. In fact, she was so convinced that Pilates was the answer for persons suffering from back injuries and chronic pain that she decided to become a certified Pilates instructor. Today Judy owns her own fitness service, Pilates for Life, which offers private, closely supervised exercise sessions for persons for whom standard exercise programs just don't work ."

STEP 6. Tell the reader Exactly What the Next Step Is and How to Take It

At this point, a reader who is an ideal customer for you, is probably feeling hopeful and excited about learning more about what you do. So you are going to tell them exactly what the next steps are.

Pilates for Life example:

The ideal customer for Pilates for Life is a woman who is in chronic pain due to a back injury. Because they are in so much pain so much of the time, they are highly motivated to find solutions. There are two actions they could take:

" (1.) Go to the Pilates for Life Web site and complete a short assessment to help them determine whether Pilates is right for them.

(2.) Call Judy to talk about how Pilates might help them."

Putting It All Together

Once you complete Steps 1 through 6, you have all the pieces of your marketing message. The very last thing to do is to write it using "you" instead of "the customer" so it speaks to your customer in a personal way.

You may also want to do some light editing to make sure the separate elements flow well as a single written piece.

Bottom Line

I see so many small business owners struggle with creating a strong, to the point marketing message that inspires customers to take action. The Customer Focused story, in my experience, is a common sense, straight forward solution to this problem.

About The Author

Judy Murdoch helps small business owners create low-cost, effective marketing campaigns using word-of-mouth referrals, guerrilla marketing activities, and five-star strategic alliances. Download a free copy of the workbook, " Where Does it Hurt? Marketíng Solutions to the problems that Drive Your Customers Crazy! " . You can contact Judy at 303-475-2015 or judy@judymurdoch.com .

Google Reveals More Linking Secrets To Webmasters

One of the most problematic and confusing issues most webmasters have with Google concerns linking. How your links are ranked? How you should link out? How you should construct your internal links? How you should get more inbound links? How many links should you have on a page? And the líst of questions goes on...

Perhaps, the most annoying aspect for the struggling webmaster, has been Google's secrecy in how it actually ranks links and pages. Google's whole PageRank and Ranking Algorithm is so complex that no one can fully boast they understand how the whole system works.

Google's ranking secrecy and complexity has probably been well-planned mainly because there are millíons of webmasters who would like to "game" the Google Algorithm and achieve high keyword rankings through manipulation with so-called "black-hat" SEO techniques and reverse engineering.

Wouldn't it be ironic if this whole secrecy and complexity is more of a smokescreen rather than an actual deception on Google's part. What if the keys to the kingdom are actually yours for the taking? What if the solution is hiding in plain sight for everyone to see? What if the secret to high rankings in Google is not a secret at all? Wouldn't that be a hoot!

Actually, that's not a far-fetched assumption to make, mainly because many of Google's linking policies and recommendations are freely given by Google. Whether you can believe Google is actually giving you the goods is another issue that we'll put on the back-burner for another day; but for now, Google's advice on link building is rather generous and informative.

As a part of Links Week held recently, Google's Maile Ohye gave some pointers on what Google is looking for and how it does its index ranking. No big surprise that content and inbound links are the two most important factors. This is what most SEO experts have been saying for years.

A site's content is one of the main factors. Therefore, you should have a compelling site with interesting information and/or provide quality products, entertainment, opinions...

(Quoting Maile Ohye)

" One of the strongest ranking factors is my site's content. Additionally, perhaps my site is also linked from three sources -- however, one inbound link is from a spammy site. As far as Google is concerned, we want only the two quality inbound links to contribute to the PageRank signal in our ranking ."

" Given the user's query, over 200 signals (including the analysis of the site's content and inbound links as mentioned above) are applied to return the most relevant results to the user ."

" As many of you know, relevant, quality inbound links can affect your PageRank (one of many factors in our ranking algorithm). And quality links often come naturally to sites with compelling content or offering a unique service ."

(End Quote)

Then Maile Ohye explained further how to create unique and compelling content for your site:

(Quoting Maile Ohye)

  • Start a blog: make videos, do original research, and post interesting stuff on a regular basis. If you're passionate about your site's topic, there are lots of great avenues to engage more users.
  • Teach readers new things, uncover new news, be entertaining or insightful, show your expertise, interview different personalities in your industry and highlight their interesting side. Make your site worthwhile.
  • Participate thoughtfully in blogs and user reviews related to your topic of interest. Offer your knowledgeable perspective to the community.
  • Provide a useful product or service. If visitors to your site get value from what you provide, they're more likely to link to you.

(End Quote)

SEO experts have been telling webmasters for years that creating valuable, unique, relevant useful content is one of the best ways to get your site and pages highly ranked in Google. If you create valuable content, then other sites will want to link to you naturally.

Linking out to other sites should be done in a "common sense" manner and it's a way of offering value to your visitor's experience. We expect helpful relevant links when we visit other sites since it's a natural way a good quality site should work; so be careful of linking out to spammy sites that only show pages of links with very little or no unique content.

There are several things every prudent webmaster should be checking like making sure your site hasn't been hacked and hidden links placed on your site without your knowledge; those with WordPress blogs should be installing the latest security measures and updates. Make sure you keep checking all your outbound links regularly since you may initially link out to a valuable resource, but over time this page may be closed or replaced with one of those spammy-links-holding pages. It can happen to the best of us.

What has confused things lately is all the "link buying" which Google greatly discourages and has shown its displeasure by de-ranking many paid directories. The size of your "wallet" shouldn't be the determining factor in how pages and content are ranked. If you're selling a link, it should have the "no-follow" tag so that it doesn't pass PageRank along and confuse the system. Policing or deciding what is or what is not a "paid link" has become a major problem for the search engines, including Google.

You should not have more than "100 links on a page" as this can overload the search engine robots that regularly crawl the web, indexing pages. Likewise, your site's "linking architecture" should be natural and easy for both your visitors and the robots to follow. Make sure your important pages are no more than a few clicks away from your homepage.

As to interior linking, the two main points being: Intuitive Navigation for your visitors and Crawlable Text Links for the search engine robots. Use descriptive anchor text links that explain your content to your visitors. The anchor text is the underlined clickable part of the link and many SEO experts suggest you place your keywords or variations of them in your anchor text.

Make sure your site is transparent. Do not use "link cloaking" on your site. Make sure what your visitor sees is what the robots are indexing. Use a 301 Redirect if you have permanently moved any webpages. Again, there is stressed the need for a sitemap as this can be very helpful for both your visitors and robots to see and find all your valuable content. Make sure you have a sitemap and all your important pages are listed on it.

One final note, many professional webmasters and marketers don't worry about PageRank as much as they are concerned with SERPs. Getting those top rankings for their sites in the search engine results is what really matters. Again, quality content and building quality links play an important role in achieving those top spots and maybe Google has already given you the formula for getting them. Maybe, maybe not.

About The Author

The author is a full-time online marketer who runs numerous web sites, including two sites on Internet marketing. For the latest web marketing tools try: www.bizwaremagic.com . Discover more about linking and ranking directly from Google here: googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com

2008 Titus Hoskins. This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.

What is Internet Marketing?

Internet marketing is still a complete mystery to a large majority of Internet users. For many users, internet marketing is seen as some foreign area of the web, populated with silly get-rich-quick schemes and unsavory characters ready to rip off the innocent and uninformed consumer at the click of a mouse.

In reality, Internet marketing is populated mainly with hard working professionals promoting and selling high quality brand products by many of the world's Top 500 companies.

Worldwide there are now over a billion Internet users, representing one large global consumer base or marketplace. The total amount of goods sold online has been steadily increasing each year as the Internet gains in both popularity and familiarity. Studies have shown people shop online because of lower prices, a wider selection of products, easier comparison shopping, and many just prefer not having to travel to stores to make a purchase.

Still Internet marketing has gotten a raw deal.

If you mention to any group of professionals that you're an Internet Marketer and that you work full time on the Internet... you will receive some very skeptical looks and more than one arched eyebrow of disbelief.

Regardless of this lingering skepticism, Internet marketing has become a viable alternative for many disgruntled professionals dissatisfied with their working hours or conditions. It has become a viable alternative for many people from all walks of life. From the college student to the bored housewife to the retired doctor... all are enjoying a part time or full time income from the comfort of their homes.

And since the Internet is now practically available to everyone, anywhere in the world - Internet marketing is a level playing field. There are many forms of Internet marketing. There are many online business models you can follow. There are countless ways to earn a good honest income from the Internet. Which path you take will be largely determined by research, work habits, and the time you are willing to put forth.

Here's a quick rundown of the most popular forms of Internet Marketing:

1. The Brick and Mortar Store Online . Most major companies and retail stores have created online versions of their brick and mortar businesses. Even if consumers don't buy online, many use these sites for gathering product information before buying in the real world. A factor many savvy businesses are exploiting in their overall marketing strategies.

2. Online Services . Many service industries have moved online, everything from travel to banking to dating! Again, the Internet can be a profitable extension for any service company.

3. Internet Gurus ... Internet marketing has a whole history of pioneers who have forged the methods and techniques of marketing online - opt-in lists, mini-sites, article marketing, pay-per-click advertising, joint ventures... a brief history populated with such names as John Reese, Marlon Sanders, Ralph Wilson, Yanik Silver, Corey Rudl, Ken Evoy and countless others.

A whole new industry has grown around 'How-to' market online, info products, workshops and web seminars - teaching people how to market on the Internet. A marketer creating his own product can prove very productive - as seen by John Reese's 2004 launch of Traffic Secrets, which earned over a million dollars in one day. (Without a penny of paid advertising!)

4. Online Advertising and Pay-Per-Click advertising such as those offered by Google Adwords and others, presents another viable marketing route. Keywords (the exact words typed into a search engine) fuel a large portion of the web's activity. Keyword marketing has become a major driving force behind most of the economic transactions on the web. This is a very lucrative sector for those Internet marketers who know exactly what they're doing.

Then there is the whole section of SEO experts and consultants who command high prices for positioning companies or products in the top positions on the major search engines. Acquiring organic Top 10 search results will greatly determine the profitability of your online product or company.

5. Affiliate Marketing . One of the least understood, yet one of the most profitable forms of Internet marketing is affíliate marketing. An online marketer can join any affíliate program and promote its products or services on the Internet. You market the products, find customers for the company and receive a commission for each sale you make from your marketing efforts. These commissions can run anywhere from 2% to over 75%. One affíliate click can earn you anywhere from a few cents to several hundred dollars.

Major third party affíliate programs or companies such as Commission Junction, Clickbank, LinkShare, Amazon, Shareasale... act as a brokerage or go-between, representing thousands of Top Brand companies such as Sony, Apple, Dell... to online affíliate marketers. Marketers can join a program such as Commission Junction or LinkShare and be able to promote and market hundred of top quality products or services online. They can consolidate their affíliate marketing through these third party programs.

Perhaps the most common business model for the majority of online marketers is the last example, or a combination of advertising and affíliate sales. Many work-from-home professionals have adopted this business model. They have created a site or sites on the topic that interests them and of which they have or have gained some expert knowledge.

Once these sites become established and gather a large amount of targeted web traffíc each day, making a nice income can only be a matter of putting the Google Adsense code on their pages and placing a few appropriate affíliate links on their sites.

The more traffíc these marketers deliver to their sites, the more income they earn. The more unique content they create, the more income they earn. The more web sites they design, the more income they earn.

What many people outside of the web marketing field fail to realize is that the Internet is a 24/7/365 business. The Internet is always on and working for you. It is automatically producing income for you 24 hours of the day - while you're sleeping, while you're enjoying a nice meal with friends, or even while you're on vacatíon.

Internet marketing can provide you with a lifestyle that is totally liberating - you can live and work anywhere in the world. You can be the boss, set your hours and work from the comfort of your home. Plus your whole online Internet business can be automated so it basically runs itself.

Internet marketing is totally flexible. You can adjust your workload to suit your work habits. Internet marketing is scalable, once you have learned how to make your first dollar; it is only a simple matter of repeating and scaling up what you did to earn that dollar. Computers and the Internet make it just as easy to handle a thousand sales as it is to handle one sale.

As Internet marketing becomes better known, it will gradually earn more and more respect. It will become a well recognized profession that many will aspire to and follow as a life long career. Mainly because Internet marketing will give you the freedom rarely seen in any other profession.

It offers you mobility, a high standard of living, and a working environment that can't be beat. It gives you the freedom to follow your interests and hobbies; all the while turning those interests into viable revenue streams that supports the lifestyle of your choosing.

When it is all said and done, earning a living just doesn't get any better than this.

3 Simple Tips to Make Your Website User-Friendly

The one assumption you need to make to follow along with me in this article is "People Buy People." It can be a hard concept for many people to understand and agree with. However, millions of spent dollars have proven this premise to me, so I consider it more of a law than a theory.

If you understand the rule that people buy people, then your website MUST have a pleasant atmosphere that allows the visitor to connect with you, your company and your products.

By now, you've heard me talk about our Celebrity Branding philosophies, and the fact that you need your picture on your website goes without saying. But, there are some smaller, often overlooked, areas that shouldn't be forgotten.

Here are three simple tip to make your website user-friendly:

1. Navigation

The navigation on your site is probably its most important element. If visitors find your site confusing or cannot successfully navigate through it, they will leave. Make your navigation bar as simple as possible. One of the worst mistakes is using an expanding navigation bar that makes the visitor scroll over it in order for the menu to reveal their options. Most often, this type of navigation bar has too many choices; your visitor doesn't know where to go, so they get flustered and leave.

Navigation on your site is an art, and you should direct your visitors through a logical path to where YOU want them to go (not to where they think they want to go). One way to do this is through call to action buttons or CTAs. We use these buttons on all of our sites; a visitor will go to a main page, and then we can direct them to the parts of that site that we want them to be aware of. We use this method instead of an expanding menu, because we find that it is more logical for visitors. With this method, you can direct visitors to where you want them to go, allowing you to control the buying process.

Quick Tip: most "expanding menus" are created in Macromedia Flash. Search engines cannot read Flash, and therefore they will not pick up these links on your website. If the search engines do not pick up the links on the navigation bar and these links are nowhere else on your site, they cannot accurately crawl or index your site. This is search engine suicide, because without even knowing it, you are stopping search engines from understanding what your site has to offer and from driving traffic to you.

A good rule of thumb is that a visitor should be able to get to every page on your site with two clicks from your home page. Now, this is not realistic for very complex sites. If your website is complex, you can have a sitemap to help visitors navigate. Some sort of search function may also be a good idea for your site.

2. Page Load Speed

It's hard to believe that some people are still stuck using dial up. Even if you have entered the world of high-speed Internet, no matter what you do, some websites will load slowly. (If you're frustrated using high-speed Internet, imagine the frustration of those on good 'ol dial up!)

Page load speed is VERY important. I know that when I am surfing the Internet and I stumble upon a site that loads slowly, I get annoyed, frustrated, and don't browse the site for very long. If your website is loading slowly, you are probably losing out on valuable customers, no matter what business you are in.

In today's web world, we are seeing more and more images, audio files and videos. These things are useful, but you have to be careful that they do not affect the inner workings of your site (in this case, the time it takes for a web page to load). You want to be careful about the size of the images on your website. Both large-sized images and using too many images can cause your website to take too long to load, resulting in visitors leaving. Another tip is to convert videos into a jpeg (image) that only loads and plays the video when a visitor clicks on it. Yes, you may be adding more images to your website, but these are usually small image files; in the hierarchy of the web, a video will slow down your website much more than a small image.

Another factor that can influence the load time of your website is the amount of excess code you have on your site (that is a topic for another day - but ask your webmaster, and they will know what I am talking about).

3. Information

The number one thing that visitors look for is information. They are coming to your site to be educated about your products and/or services and, most of all, how THEY can benefit. With this in mind, it is critical for the information on your website to be accurate, complete and up-to-date. Visitors will leave your site in a split second if the information you are providing is old news.

What's that best way to provide up-to-date information on your website? The best way we suggest is through blogs and articles. By having a section on your website for blogs and articles, you can provide new, relevant and educational information to your visitors. Adding them is not only simple, but it is fast too!

So there are my three simple tips for the month on how to make your website user-friendly. Although this covered just the beginning of what your website should contain, don't worry, I won't leave you stranded-- I'll reveal even more tips in next month's article!

Promoting Your New Website

This article did not dive into great detail on any specific topics, but rather touched on the key points you will want to address. In this article I will place most of the focus on the promotíon aspect of this previous article. Image of bullhorn saying 'Promoting Your New Website'

While at times new websites can experience organic search rankings in a matter of months, for the most part, it can take well over a year before you start to see any progress, and that is if you start promoting right away!


If your new website has not been properly optimized for the search engines, then this is a necessary first step you must take. Ensure that your new site has integrated the appropriate keywords into all the fundamental areas of the site. Without this critical step of optimizing your site, in many cases no level of promotíon will help you get those search rankings.

Note: Extreme numbers of inbound links can sometimes cause an un-optimized site to rank, but an optimized website will seriously reduce the number of links needed, and its associated cost. This varies from industry to industry, but is true as a general rule.

Ideally the optimization of your site occurred during the planning and building stages, but if it did not be sure to get this completed as soon as possible.

Press Releases

The first thing you should do when your site goes live is issue a press release. Be sure to include a link back to your website, preferably with your target phrase hyperlinked as well. Submit this press release to an aggregator such as PRWeb . This will help get the word out that your site is live, draw some attention from the public, and also get you that first valuable link to your website.

Search Engine Submission

These days search engines will find your site on their own, and submitting to them is not necessary. If you feel you must submit your site to the engines, submit it only once and shortly after the site goes live.

In order to help the search engines fully spider your new site, the best thing you can do in terms of submissions, is to create and submit an XML sitemap. Submit this sitemap to your Google Webmaster Tools account, and also be sure to include a call to it within your robots.txt file by adding the following line including a complete path to your sitemap:

Sitemap: http://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml

There are many tools out there to help you build your xml sitemap. Google has placed a líst of some of these tools on their " Third Party Programs " page.

Directory Submission

Back in August I wrote about using Directory Submission to help build links. The general gist of it is to be sure that there is a high level of relevance in the directories you submit your site to, especially if it is a paid directory. Currently DMOZ still has a high level of value as it is seen as a strong authority at Google. Make the attempt to have your site listed here in the most relevant category possible.

Link Building

There are a number of ways you can work to grow your back links. In July I wrote about 13 ways to help build links . Links are one of those strategic tools that won't ever be a bad investment. Today they play a significant role in search rankings for most industries, especially in Google. While the future will almost undoubtedly still see search value in links, even if that value declines, or disappears entirely, quality links can still help drive traffic as well, and a strong base of inbound links can deliver you customers well into the future.

Explore the different ways to build links to your site. A steady progressive rise in inbound links will help Google look positively in your direction. Do not be afraid of reciprocal links either. If you are trading with highly relevant websites to your industry, then you should have nothing to be afraid of.

Social Media

Promotíon largely consists of building links and becoming recognized by the search engines, but in order to help you build those links, getting your name and brand out there can really do wonders. By increasing awareness of your site and product, the public will often help create the buzz you need, and often, this can result in fresh links to your website.

To help get your site in the eyes of as many people as possible, take a look into Social Media and consider creating profiles on some of the popular platforms. This can include creating a YouTube account and uploading instructional, informational, or interesting product videos. You can set up a Facebook page, and work to build a community around your product. Create a profile page on Squidoo, MySpace, and Flickr, amongst many others.

These pages often act as backlinks to your site, and also help spread awareness. Be sure to keep your social endeavors updated regularly or any viewership you have will dwindle as people lose interest. If you are able to build a strong following, this can result in many individuals linking to your site and spreading the word, resulting in long term benefits for you and your site.

Your use of social media does not have to be exactly about your company. For instance, let's say you sell cars. Your use of the social platform, while it may note your business, can focus on other car info including trivia, news, photos, etc. The key is to keep it relevant, not identical - you are not looking to create a mirror of your site.

Article Writing

Write articles about the subject of your website and submit them to various services such as EzineArticles . Consider also writing for your blog to help grow your site content. By writing and distributing relevant articles you can create a nice cushion of relevant incoming links. By writing articles that closely match the topic of your site, and including a link back to relevant content within your site, you can help out not only with search engine rankings, but by creating an extra traffic stream for your site.

Pay Per Click

While Pay Per Click (PPC) will not give you many long standing benefits, it can help you to start making sales immediately which in turn can give you the funds needed to promote your site via other means. If you need that immediate traffic, this is one way to get it, but at a cost, and as soon as you stop paying, your traffic stops, so it is far from a reliable long term means. In some industries however, it can pay off, so it is definitely worth considering.


In general, reference your website everywhere possible. Get links from every relevant source you can think of, issue a press release, and get your site lísted in the key directories for your industry. The more eyes you can put your URL in front of and the more relevant sites you can get to link back to yours, the sooner you will start to see progress in the search engines.

For many industries it can literally take years to get those coveted first page results - in some industries it may be near impossible, but if you want a chance, you need to start promoting that new site of yours immediately.

10 Quick Tips For Making Your Large Graphics Load Faster

There's nothing worse then having to sit and wait while the images are loading on your webpages. We've become a society of convenience with microwaves, instant soup and lightening fast servers. We want things in the blink of an eye.

Your visitors expect nothing less when they land on your site. You've only got a couple of seconds before they hit that back button.... and they are gone... to a faster site that will give them the information they want instantly!

Here are 10 quick tips for decreasing the load time on your graphics.

1. Use Height and Width (Size) Attributes.

Example: width="144" height="259"

Every time a browser loads a webpage it looks for the the height and width attributes (size) of each image in your html code so it knows how to lay out the text and the graphics on that page.

This all takes place instantly behind the scenes. When the proper attributes are used, the browser loads the text before the graphics. This is good. It's faster this way.

If you don't use the attributes, it causes a delay waiting for the browser to download the images first and then lay out the text. The browser has to play catchup. It can't load text onto the screen until it has figured out the exact size of the graphics.

Make sure to use attributes on all your graphics, even those little tiny ones, like buttons and bullets.

2. Size Your Image Correctly

Lets say you're trying to place an image with a file size of 30k and height & width attributes of 300 pixels wide by 400 pixels high in a spot on your webpage that is designed to hold an image sized at 200 pixels wide by 300 pixels high.

To accomplish this you've changed the height & width attributes in your html code to 200 x 300.

You may think that since the image will be displayed at the lower size (200x300), the file size will be smaller and the image will load faster.

Not true. Regardless of what size attributes you use, that file size is still 30k and it will load at the same speed any other 30k image does.

Use an image editor to change the size of the image to the correct dimensions first. Then use the correct size attributes in your html. By resizing the image before you plug it into your html code, the file size will be smaller and the browser will load it quicker.

3. Animations

Animations are attention getters, but they quickly become annoying. They also slow down the loading of your page.

Limit the number of animated graphics on your page and set your annimation at a specific number of repetitions rather than allowing them to loop endlessly.

4. Use the Correct Image Format

If your image is simple with a small number of colors try converting it to a gif format. Good choices for this are clipart, bullets, buttons, charts and such.

A word to the wise. Not all images are suited for the gif format. Complex images, photos or those with enhancements such as reflections and drop shadows don't display well in this format.

The jpg format is suitable for complex images with lots of color variations. A good example of this is a photograph.

The png format can be used for either. The high end png format (png-24) produces a beautiful transparent image and maintains any enhancements you've included. The file sizes are generally higher so if you're at all concerned about load time, you may not want to consider the png format unless you have the software and skills to slice your images. (See Tip #5)

5. Slice Those Images

Image slicing is a technique used to breakdown a large image into smaller pieces to make it load faster.

I use the image slicer feature in Photoshop but there are also many options available to do this if you don't use Photoshop.

Search for "Image Splitter" - without quotes in your favorite search engine for líst of resources for slicing images.

6. Limit the Number of Graphics you Place on Each Page.

If your pages are loading too slow, consider removing some of the images. Keep only those that absolutely necessary.

7. Use Thumbnails

Use a java script to display a thumbnail and load the larger image only when the reader rolls their mouse over the thumbnail.

I use this technique when I have a lot of images I want to put on one page, but the page would be too big if I included them all at normal size.

I got this script from Dynamic Drive. As long as you keep their copyright notice in the html code you can use their scripts for free.

8. Browser Cache

Graphics and text are stored in what's called cache on your hard drive. This makes it easier and quicker to load files that are displayed in your browser. It loads them from the cache rather than over the net each and every time, if it's available.

To improve your visitors experience, take advantage of their browser cache. The best way to do this is by not putting identical images in more than one folder, subfolder or directory on your server. If the browser always calls the image from the same folder, it loads much quicker.

9. Optimize Your Images

Optimizing your images is a great way to reduce the load time. I generally optimize images I make for my clients to about 60%. I've found this to be the magic number that reduces the file to a reasonable size yet doesn't compromise the quality of the image.

I caution you on optimizing further. Greater percentages of optimization may leave your images blotchy with speckled blocks of color. It will often make your colors look washed-out and you may lose some of the fine details.

10. Progressive Optimization

A sneaky little trick I've learned is to select progressive settings when you're optimizing your images.

This doesn't really make your images load faster, however, they do load first at a very low resolution and continue to load progressively, with more detail, until they are fully loaded.

Your visitor at least has something to view and content to read while the loading process finishes up. This technique works with JPG, JPEG, PNG and GIF 89 file types.

In Conclusion

As we progress into the Internet future there will come a time when our connection speeds are so fast the speed at which webpages load won't be an issue. News information and graphics will flash across your screen at record breaking speeds. We'll get there. Maybe not in the next few years but eventually we will. History has already taught us that the technology is here. It's only a matter of time before we see it.

But until that happens how quickly our webpages load is something we need to take responsibility for.

10 Ways to Drive Massive Traffic to Your Website

Targeted traffíc is the lifeblood of any successful business. In this article, I'm going to show you how to get laser targeted traffíc in just a few simple steps.

1. Article Marketing - One of the best ways to drive targeted traffíc to your website is through the use of article marketing. This is one of the oldest techniques for generating traffic, but it's still one of the best.

Once you have written your article, you can then submít it to some of the top article directories like EzineArticles, GoArticles, Buzzle, the American Chronicle, ArticlesBase, and SearchWarp. For a listing of the top article directories online, go to...


You can also publish your website to Web 2.0 sites like Squidoo, HubPages, Zimbio, and Gather.com.

For a complete listing of Web 2.0 sites, go to...

Web 2.0 Directory : eConsultant

Article marketing is even more powerful when you submit exclusive articles to bloggers and owners of newsletters. This technique has sent me thousands of visitors with a single article. The key is to find the right distribution outlets.

Just imagine if you spend just one hour each day writing and distributing one article. In three months you would have 100 articles all sending you traffic on a daily basis.

So get out there and start syndicating your articles, submitting guests posts, and writing for online newsletters.

2. Viral Ebooks - Why not bundle your articles together and create a viral ebook? Giving away free ebooks is one of the best ways to generate traffic online. It's also one of the best ways to build your mailing líst.

You can submit your PDF ebooks to:







FreeIQ , and


For a complete líst of ebook directories you can submit to, go to Free Ebook Directories .

Quick Tip: You can also convert your ebooks to exe files and submít them to all the different software directories online. You can convert your ebooks using a free piece of software called WebsiteZip Packer .

3. Blogging - Blogging is one of the best things you can do for your business. Blogging is a great way to get to know your readers. Plus, blogging can play a major role in getting valuable search engine traffic from Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

4. Submit your articles to Blog Carnivals . A blog carnival is a collection of blog posts on a particular subject. They are then posted together on on blog - called a host. The host (who is also a blogger), publishes the carnival on their blog, with links to each blog post that has been submitted.

This creates an excellent opportuníty to get your blog posts shared on other blogs.

There are a number of benefits to participating in blog carnivals. Not only will you generate extra traffic, but it also provides you with quality backlinks and an excellent opportuníty to connect with other bloggers.

To submit your article to a blog carnival, go to Blog Carnival - Blog Communities Publishing Magazines . For extra exposure, submit to multiple blog carnivals. Just make sure they're all relevant to your topic.

This is one of the easiest ways to create one-way backlinks coming into your site, which is one of the biggest factors when it comes to ranking high in Google.

5. Submit your blog posts to social bookmarking sites.

Social Bookmarking is one of the easiest ways to get extra traffic and links coming into your blog. Social bookmarking allows Internet users to save and organize bookmarks to a public website, tag them with keywords, share them with others, and browse what others have bookmarked.

Digg, Delicious, Mixx, and Digg are just a few of the social bookmarking sites you can use to maximize your exposure.

You can do a semi-automated submission to over 50 social bookmarking sites at AutoPoster.com .

You can also encourage your blog readers to bookmark your posts as well with a Wordpress plugin called ShareThis .

6. Ustream.tv - Ustream allows you to create your very own tv station on the Web. However, it's better than TV because it's a live, interactive experience. While you're broadcasting the video, you're also getting feedback from the live chatroom.

Ustream gives your business a human face and a real personality. This is extremely valuable, because people like to buy and interact with people, not impersonal companies.

Live video allows you to reach entirely new audiences and develop a much greater level of engagement. A deeper level of engagement almost equates to a higher conversion rate when done correctly.

It's also an excellent way to get feedback from your audience.

7. Forum Marketing - Forums are another way to drive targeted visitors to your website. The key to getting quality traffic from forums is to find a forum that is highly targeted to your website, become involved in the community, and create a benefit-laden signature.

You can put a link back to your website in your signature. It's critical that you use your signature to provide something of extreme value along with a good call-to-action. Otherwise, why would anybody click?

The biggest benefit of marketing in forums is that they are centered around a very tight group of people who are all interested in the same subject. This is essentially a community of raving fans for a particular topic, making them extremely targeted prospects.

Forums are also an excellent way to connect with other bloggers, meet other marketers, and gain insights into your market.

8. Interviews are another great way to generate traffic.

When you interview a fellow blogger, they will almost always publish a link to the interview on their blog. At the same time, you are also sending traffic to their website by posting the interview on your blog.

This can be a very effective technique for generating traffic and meeting new bloggers. Unfortunately, most people are just afraid to ask.

9. Build a List - If you're not building a líst, you're missing out on a major source of ongoing traffic. Your líst is the most valuable asset in your business.

Best of all, it can be leveraged at anytime to drive a funnel of visitors to your website.

10. Video Marketing - Video sites have quickly become some of the most highly trafficked sites on the Internet, making them one of the best places to generate lots of extra traffic.

And don't worry, your video doesn't have to be a Spielberg classic. In fact, it can just be a PowerPoint presentation with audio. Even simple videos can drive thousands of visitors to your site.

Once you've created your video, you can then submit it to the top video submission sites with a tool called TubeMogul .

And finally, My Favorite...

Search Engine Optimization is one of the best ways to generate extremely targeted traffíc online. By following just a few basic principles, you can get lots of traffic from the search engines every month.