Search engines are important for bringing new customers to your Web site. People who have never heard of your company can use a search engine to find that perfect gift for Father’s Day at your site. However, search engines aren’t psychic, and sometimes they’re not very intuitive, either. They can’t find what people are actually looking for, just what they’re asking for. So if people are searching for “flatware” and you’re selling “silverware” they may never find you. Optimizing your site for the wrong phrase is like sinking the 8 ball in the wrong hole.
So, how do you know what people are searching for? There are a number of ways to get the inside scoop on your prospects’ search habits. One of the most effective is a program called Word Tracker. Available at WordTracker.com, you can license it by the day, week, month or year. It gives you feedback on the key phrases you submit, makes recommendations for similar key phrases, then allows you to test them against the most important search engines and directories available. It lets you know how many people are searching for these phrases and how much “competition” from other sites is out there. Word Tracker then assigns a KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index) ranking for each phrase. You want to find the phrase that attracts the most interest and the least competition. You should then use this phrase (or these phrases) appropriately throughout your site in both your copy and your page titles.
The best time to do this is when you’re building the site so you won’t have to rewrite your copy later. However, there’s no wrong time to do it; if you won’t research what your customers are looking for your competition will!
If you have any questions about Word Tracker, key phrase research, or you would like flyte to perform the research for your site to be more successful, please contact us.
Your site’s been up for a while, generating traffic, leads, perhaps even profits. Suddenly you notice a dearth of activity. You visit your Web site to see if you can determine the cause of your problems and under your URL you see someone else’s Web site! Maybe it’s a search engine you’ve never heard of, maybe it’s a competitor, maybe it’s an adult site. (Better take a screen shot just in case there’s a court case.)
This happens more often than you might think. Although your registrar (a company that handles domain registrations) should contact you when your domain’s expiring, some aren’t as professional as you may like. Other times they may have attempted to contact you but your contact information was out of date.
There’s even a service called SnapNames which allows people to grab your domain the moment it expires! Then they may try and sell it back to you at a ridiculously inflated price. Depending on the size of your business and what they think they can get for it, it could be tens of thousands of dollars. If you choose not to buy it back you may need to reprint your stationery and business cards. How about if the book you wrote lists your domain? How about those newspaper/radio/tv ads? How about all those incoming links you’ve gathered?
So what can I do? An ounce of protection is worth a boatload of cure. Look up your domain information using a tool called WhoIs. This will tell you who are the contacts for your domain and when your registration expires. If you don’t see your name or your information is out of date take steps to rectify the situation immediately. If you’re unsure of how to change it contact your registrar or your Web developer.
But this can’t happen to smart, attractive people, right? Wrong! I lost an old domain, writeitdown.com, which is now a lousy looking Web site with annoying popups. According to the page the domain is for sale…for $2,288! (I’m sure there’s a line out the door.) Admittedly, I was considering letting it expire anyway, but I was caught napping. You can be sure I’ve triple checked all the other domains I own.
If you have any concerns about the status of your domain(s) please feel free to contact us.
Paypal no longer requires customers to signup for a Paypal account when paying through Paypal. See the flyte blog for more info.
There’s a lot involved in accepting credit cards online: building an online store, getting a merchant account through your bank, adding real time credit card verification to reduce fraud, getting a security certificate and putting it all on a secure server. Not to mention the startup costs and monthly fees that accompany all these items. (Oops. I just mentioned it.) If it all seems overwhelming PayPal may be your solution.
PayPal is the most widely recognized online payment system and is now owned by eBay, which should increase its acceptance. It handles all major credit cards, verifies their authenticity in real time, has no startup costs, no monthly fees, and charges you 2.9% or less per transaction.
Last year we began receiving requests to accept credit cards, but the high monthly fees of a merchant account were more than we could afford. We took the PayPal route to gauge customer interest. Our customers can now pay their invoices online through the PayPal system with any major credit card. They get their miles and we get money in the bank within 3 business days.
One of our clients, the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation, collects donations online through PayPal. The California Association of Medical Staff Services uses PayPal for member dues, annual conference payments, online classified ads and job opportunity listings. For artist Catherine Breer we set up a PayPal shopping cart to help her sell her calendars and cards.
Only people who have signed up with PayPal can use the PayPal system. Although signup is free, only takes two minutes and is nicely integrated into the buying process, in our short-attention-span society that may prove to be too long for some. If you’ve never used PayPal consider making a small donation to the JBRF or buying a calendar from Catherine Breer as a test drive. Or, if medical staff services interests you and you live in the Golden State consider joining CAMSS.
Final Analysis: If you are looking to accept credit cards online and are on a strict budget, PayPal is a good solution. It offers secure transactions for one-time purchases, recurring subscriptions, online donations, and shopping carts. Even if your ultimate goal is to get a merchant account and take credit cards directly, PayPal can be set up so quickly it can be a stopgap measure while you plan out your e-commerce strategy.
If you have any questions on integrating PayPal into your site please feel free to contact us.
There are a few important lessons I’ve learned during my Internet years. One is to never ‘Google’ your own joke. You may think you’re clever, but it will turn out that about a thousand people were equally as clever before you, which makes them funnier.
Another lesson–and the subject of today’s soapbox opera–is that an email newsletter is the sharpest tool in your Web Marketing toolbox. If you’re not sending one out you’re missing a great opportunity to connect with your customers and prospects.
Why do I say this? A number of reasons. Seven, in fact. Which is lucky, because that’s the title of this article.
1. It complements your Web site like white wine to fish. (Not that your Web site stinks like fish, mind you.)
While you may believe that the world waits with bated breath for your next article and will return to your Web site unprompted each and every month to read it, this is not always the case. Most people spend more time reading and answering emails than surfing the Web. With an email newsletter you can get in front of them on a regular basis. Don’t worry whether your content is delivered via a Web page or an email as long as you have an effective medium to reach your audience.
2. Email newsletters are more cost-effective than print newsletters. For example, I publish a quarterly newsletter that you may be aware of because you’re reading it right now. It’s a four-color, four-page job and we mail it out to approximately 500 discerning, intelligent and attractive readers across the U.S. Your newsletter may be a different length, may be black & white, or may be sent to more subscribers more often. But for the sake of comparison, let’s use these numbers.
The cost of arranging flyte log on the page–now that the template has been created–costs approximately $350. The printing costs, including freight, comes to $700. Postage, address labels and “mailing seals” cost another $200. Let’s ignore the worker hours to attach these “sticky” items, as I’m generally doing it while I watch football or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Since creating content is the same for either print or email let’s table that cost. This works out to approximately $2.50 per subscriber.
To send out our new e-newsletter, Honey Roasted Peanuts, to the same size group the cost would be fifteen cents per subscriber. This covers both our setup time and the cost of some nifty software we use to manage subscribers, handle expired emails and send out HTML newsletters that look like Web pages in your mailbox. When our subscriptions go up ten fold to 5,000 it will cost only 1.5 cents per subscriber. As our circulation grows past a certain size we’ll be hit with small fees to handle the increased subscriber base; however, the cost per subscriber will continue to decrease. Also, no matter how many colors or pages our e-newsletter is, or where in the world we send it, our costs stay relatively fixed.
If you’re looking to save money for your company or organization wean people off printed newsletters. Don’t get me wrong: there’s a benefit to hard copy newsletters or else we wouldn’t use them. Due to the nature of our business we’ve never met some of our customers except “virtually”; flyte log helps us to connect by giving our clients something they can touch. You may want to consider reducing the size or frequency of your print newsletter if you can’t abandon it completely.
3. E-newsletters are interactive. In a printed newsletter you can refer to your Web site but you have to hope that your readers don’t mistype that URL when they go to their browser…assuming they even will. With an e-newsletter you can make sure your site (or a PDF, or a sound clip, or any document available on the Web) is just a click away.
4. You can test its effectiveness. Depending on the sophistication of the program you’re using to send out your newsletters you can track which links in your newsletter are being clicked on and which are being ignored.
5. E-newsletters encourage word-of-mouth advertising. It’s easy for your subscribers to forward your email to a friend or associate, especially with a friendly reminder from you at the end of each issue. It’s also a great way to build your subscriber base and market your services to people you might not have reached any other way.
6. You’re preaching to the choir. Your subscribers have signed up to receive your e-newsletters. These are your best customers! They want to know when your next book is coming out, when you’ll be speaking in their town, or when you’re bringing a new product to market. So be sure to promote your offerings in the newsletter.
7. Starting today will help build your subscriber base. Now that e-newsletter can contain formatted text, embedded images and even polls and surveys you’re no longer limited to boring plain text to get your message across. Soon you’ll be able to include forms, multi-media, and other marketing tools that you can deliver to your subscribers’ mailboxes. (With their permission, of course.) The best way to grow your subscriber base and take advantage of these new tools is to start right away.
In future issues we’ll look at what goes into a successful e-newsletter, how to attract more subscribers, and how to leverage e-newsletters effectively. (Or, if you can’t wait, you can contact us today!) However, there’s no reason to hold off on sending out your own e-mail newsletter and get a few practice issues under your belt. The sooner you start the quicker you’ll be connecting with your customers.
GOT LINKS? A QUICK WAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SEARCH ENGINE RANKINGS
It’s no wonder that everyone wants to rank higher in the search engines;
they bring visitors to your Web site that may not have found you any other
While there are plenty of methods to rank higher, one of the
most overlooked is increasing the incoming links to your
site from other Web sites. Many search engines,
view links to your site as “votes of confidence” and
will rank your site higher, all other things being equal.
How do you get these incoming links? Perhaps this bulleted list
Create content worth linking to, including articles, White
Papers, F.A.Q.’s and other resources.
Have a page of links to other complementary Web sites. Getting
an incoming link from a site is easier when you’re already
linking to them.
Ask, and ask again! Web masters and mistresses are busy people
just like you and me. If you don’t get a response within a
week or two send them a polite email asking again.
Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to
go out and get at least one new incoming link before the next
issue of Honey Roasted Peanuts! (I know you can do it, I have
faith in you.)
Do you have a retail space? Do clients visit your office? If so, a great way to promote your Web site is through a “Boaster Poster”.
These 16″ x 20″ framed Web portraits showcase your site, continue your branding, and remind customers you’re available after they leave your store. They display four Web pages of your choice as well as your URL. The cost is $140 with a discount for additional copies.
<Unsolicited Personal Recommendation> I ordered one for our office and was really impressed with the quality of the screen captures. We get a lot of compliments on it from visitors. These work best when promoting attractive sites like those designed by flyte new media. 😉 <Unsolicited Personal Recommendation>
More information and examples are available at BoasterPoster.com. Be sure to tell them Rich sent you!
If you’d like help in choosing or preparing the pages please contact us.
Welcome to “Honey Roasted Peanuts“, a monthly newsletter of tips & tricks to help you get the most of your Web site. These newsletters will be short and to the point, but if you would rather not receive them there’s an unsubscribe button at the bottom.
Search Engine Update: Yahoo! to Acquire Inktomi
Why is this important to you? Inktomi provides search results to other search engines. By getting your site listed at Inktomi you’ll also appear at MSN SearchandHotbot, among others.
How do you get your site listed at Inktomi? Inktomi charges $39 per year for your first Web page and has discounts after that.
So what does this acquisition mean? Currently Yahoo! pays Google for search results, so one way to get into Yahoo! is to be in Google. Now that Yahoo! owns Inktomi, why would they continue to pay their competition? I believe Yahoo! will start using Inktomi’s results and raise the fee for submitting to Inktomi.
So what should you do? Boy you ask a lot of questions. I am recommending that you review your own site, choose the most important pages, and submit them to Inktomi as soon as possible!
If you would prefer flyte to do this for you just send us an email with the URL’s you’d like us to submit.
OFFERING MORE THAN STATIC: DYNAMIC WAYS TO PUMP UP YOUR ASSOCIATION’S WEB SITE
These days there are few organizations that don’t have a Web site–The International League of Luddites and The Association to Promote the Abacus come to mind–but generally every group with a TLA (three letter acronym) has staked out its territory on the Internet. Chances are you belong to a professional organization that has a Web site. So the question arises, is your organization taking advantage of the power of the Web and dynamically created pages, or is it simply offering a static online brochure?
Your organization probably maintains a database of members and may already personalize letters through a mail merge in a word processing program. So why not put the power of this database to work at your Web site? With an online version of your database and a programming language like Cold Fusion, ASP or PHP, you can create an experience that will increase the value of membership in your organization and your ability to attract new members.
The Benefits of Membership
Any group that collects membership dues is most likely offering special premiums to attract and retain members, be it online or off. A Members Only area at your Web site is an easy way to increase the benefits of joining your group. Members can log on to read or download special articles and resources, receive discounts at the online store, or whatever would best suit your membership. Calls to join the group can be made on the home page and promoted in a section called “Join Now” or “Become a Member” or “There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch So Step Away From the Buffet”.
Make it Easy for Them to Join
Let’s say your association already has a Web site. You have a Members Only area protected by a password. You communicate through email and sell products through an online store. So why are you making prospective members print up a form and mail you a check? This is the era of instant gratification and people don’t want to wait for anything. They want to give you their credit card–securely–and get instant access to your Members Only section. The National Center for Gender Issues and AD/HD (http://www.ncgiadd.org) utilizes a custom-developed online payment system. People wanting to join enter their credit card information into an online form at the site. Their information is checked in real time through a third-party provider, and once validated they are given a temporary password. With this password they can now enter the Center’s Members Only section. No form printing, no check writing, no waiting. Simplifying the process increases the likelihood surfers will become members.
Greet Them at the Door
Your Web database can personalize the experience for your members. After physicians at Good Samaritan Hospital – Los Angeles log on to the Members Only section they can access information specific to them. Since many of the physicians might log on at public computers at the hospital, they need to know that the personalized information is for them, and not for the previous physician who had logged on. To accomplish this goal Cold Fusion–a powerful programming language–is used to interact with the database. The Members Only home page greets the physician by name and displays their photograph, assuming they’ve provided one.
Allow Members to Update Their Information
Why should you have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to updates? If a member has a new email address, new job or has joined the Witness Relocation Program you can put the impetus on them to update their information. Once they’ve logged on they can click on an “Update My Information” link and change any information you allow them to. (You may want to allow them to change their password or home address, but not the renewal date on their membership.) The Human Resource Management Group (http://www.hrmg.org) offers just this arrangement for their members. HRMG is also alerted via email whenever a member changes their information. When HRMG wants to update their local database they can download the Web database to synchronize their information through a custom-designed admin system.
Personalize the Experience for Non-Members, Too
The Division for Learning Disabilities (http://www.teachingld.org) offers something special to both members and non-members alike. Educators of children with learning disabilities can go online at the site to the Find A Colleague section. After creating their own profile, including such information as where they’re located, what grades and subjects they teach, and optional questions such as why they got into teaching, they can then search through the other profiles to share ideas with colleagues.
The Pennsylvania Psychological Association (http://www.papsy.org) wanted to offer Continuing Education credits to both members and non-members. People can sign up at the PPA’s Web site and their credit card information is instantly validated through PayPal. (PayPal is an online service that will take credit cards for you even if you don’t have a Merchant Account.) Once the credit card has been checked a unique username and password is generated. Then the visitor can read through the materials and take a multiple-choice test at the end. If they pass they are taken to a page that allows them to print a Certificate of Completion. Those who don’t pass are allowed one more attempt. The PPA can review reports that say how many people have taken the test, how many are members, how many passed, and what their scores were. This is much more time and cost efficient than sending out printed tests, scoring them by hand, then mailing out Certificates of Completion. It’s also better for site visitors who can take the test at their convenience.
Save On Administrative Time and Costs
One of the many administrative expenses the medical staff office ran into at Good Samaritan Hospital was the time and effort spent on Affiliation Letters. Affiliation Letters–for those of you who aren’t medical staff officers–are documents of physician employment and status that one hospital requests from another. Before the development of this online tool, requests were processed, information pulled from the database, a letter was generated and printed, then mailed or faxed by hand to the requesting hospital. Now, other hospitals can simply log on, submit the physician’s name, and the Web site generates an Affiliation Letter including letterhead and signature. The requesting hospital gets their information instantaneously and the medical staff officers from Good Samaritan can put their time to better use.
Another activity for the medical staff officers was to coordinate dozens of meetings each month for the 600 or so physicians on staff. It was a time-consuming process to set up the meetings and invite a specific group of physicians to each meeting. There was no way to get quick feedback on who would be attending which meeting. Now, through an online admin system, the medical staff officers can create meetings and invite individual physicians or entire departments in less than two minutes. When members log on they can view their upcoming meetings and accept or decline the invitation. The medical staff officers can then view a specific meeting to see which physicians are able to attend.
Although your organization may not need to send out Affiliation Letters or plan dozens of meetings a month, there are probably activities that can be automated or simplified through your Web site. Membership renewals, email reminders for meetings, and regular updates to important documents are just a few places to save time.
As a membership benefit or for an additional fee, you could offer members their own Web pages at your site. A password protected admin system would allow members to update their information, add links to their own Web site or email, and upload their photo.
As you can see, there’s a lot of opportunity for your Web site to save you time and money, increase membership benefits, and generate funds for your organization. What you do with these tools is only tethered by the information in your database and your creativity.
The question clients most often ask me is “How do I get my site to come up higher in the search engines?” A close second: “Is that a goatee or a Van Dyke?” To answer the second question I went to google.com. (Currently it’s a Van Dyke, although I am considering the Fu Manchu.)
To answer the first question I went to Boston for Search Engine Strategies 2002; a two-day conference on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I returned filled with great ideas on how to improve the way flyte builds and markets Web sites and how we can help our clients reach a more targeted audience.
One thing I took away from the conference is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to market your services for free on the Internet. Going forward you’ll need to invest more time and/or money in Search Engine Marketing (SEM). I use the word “invest” carefully; a Web site may be your best method of alerting people to your services. A Search Engine (SE) may be the only way they will find your site.
This article will give you just an overview of SEM. A two-day conference cannot be condensed into a 1,200 word essay. (Trust me, this is my fifth rewrite.) My goal is to give you a basic understanding of what it takes to get higher placement in search engines. I strongly suggest talking to flyte or another firm who understands SEM to discuss your specific needs and can help tailor a strategy to fit your goals and your budget.
Before You Begin First, consider what key phrases most accurately describe your site. Increasing Web site traffic will not affect your bottom line if your visitors aren’t interested in your offerings. In the past we’ve talked about “key words”; words that people might use when searching for a site like yours. However studies have shown that people don’t search by key words, they search by key phrases. The more specific you can make your key phrases, the more you can pre-qualify your visitors.
Next, consider the sophistication of your audience. Will they use industry jargon or lay terms? “Rhinoplasty” or “nose job”? “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” or “short attention span”? Your target audience will help determine these answers. You can also do research into which key phrases are most popular. There are pay services which will allow you to compare search terms for popularity. Also, try searching at certain SE’s; often with your results they will recommend similar search ideas. For example, if you search for “cat toys” the SE may offer similar search terms that will give you an idea of what terms others have used: “pet supplies”, “catnip”, “laser pointers”.
Finally, review your traffic reports. You should know how people are finding you now so you have some way of comparing your results after you’ve started your campaign for better rankings.
Search Engines, Directories and Results The term “Search Engines” usually refers to both Search Engines and Directories–confusing, I know. True SE’s use automated “spiders” to search the Web and read your content; that content is then added to their own index or database. It is this index that you actually search when using a SE like Google or Alta Vista, for example. Directories, such as Yahoo and Looksmart, use human reviewers who make editorial decisions on whether to include your site in their directory. Going forward we’ll refer to both under the umbrella term of Search Engines.
What you may not have realized is that most SE’s get their listing from multiple sources. You may have noticed on Yahoo that some of their Web site page results say “Powered by Google.” That means that after Yahoo has exhausted their own directory trying to find appropriate results they pull from Google’s index. Seeing your site on these pages is not the same as being listed in Yahoo. Google hasn’t always provided results for Yahoo, and they may not be the provider in the future. The only sure way to stay in Yahoo is to get listed in their directory, almost always through a paid listing.
Paying to Be Listed Yes, Virginia, you can still get listed for free. flyte routinely submits all of our clients’ sites to the major free SE’s upon launch. Non-commercial sites have more avenues available to them in this regard. However, it’s becoming more difficult to get listed no matter who you are, and if you’re serious about getting found you should budget either time or money for SEM.
Paid placement, or pay for placement (PFP), is when you pay to be included and ranked artificially higher than similar results in a given search. This method is often keyword (or key phrase) driven; depending on the SE, you pay each time your results appear under that specific search, or more commonly only when someone clicks on your link. At SE’s, these results are often separated from the regular results and called “Featured Results”, “Sponsored Links”, etc. Often the order of these links are determined not by relevancy but by the bid. Overture, Google, Looksmart and Ah-ha all offer PFP services.
Paid inclusion, or pay for inclusion (PFI), is when you pay to be included in a database or index that will provide search results; sometimes this inclusion is guaranteed, other times only the review is guaranteed. There is no guarantee of ranking with paid inclusion. With PFI you usually pay to have a specific URL included in the index that generally lasts for a year. PFI does not affect relevancy either positively or negatively so make sure you’ve optimized your site for the search engines. Yahoo, Inktomi, Looksmart, Alta Vista, and FAST all offer PFI services.
Search Engine Relationships To get the most bang for your buck, it’s important to know where SE’s get their results. For example, getting listed in Inktomi (whose results are used by AOL, MSN Search and other big SE’s) costs $35/url/year and getting listed in Teoma (whose results only end up in Ask Jeeves) also costs $35/url/year. Obviously, getting listed in Inktomi takes priority.
However, these relationships are constantly changing. If you are interested there are several resources on the Web that will keep you up-to-date. In my opinion the best is Search Engine Watch at searchenginewatch.com. There’s also a paid members section with highly-detailed information. There are also a few listservs (I-Search and SearchDay) that will email you updates once a day. Since most site owners don’t have the time or the interest to keep up with the minutiae of SE’s, they rely on Web development firms to do it for them.
Whatever your budget, it’s important to realize that SE’s may be an important way of bringing qualified customers to your Web site. Remember:
Review your traffic reports – find out what terms people are using to find your services.
Review and optimize your key phrases – this will help you find your site’s focus.
Rewrite key content on your site – this will make it more search engine ready.
Budget time and money for PFP and/or PFI.
Review your traffic reports at least once a month to see if these changes are having the desired effect.
Discover the tools, tactics, and techniques you need to get on the first page of Google. Uncover the best keyword opportunities and create content that answers your ideal customer's search query. All in a half an hour!