What’s Yahoo Worth to You?


Yahoo logo

Search engines play an essential role in Web marketing plans. One of the biggest, Yahoo, has made a lot of news lately by overhauling their pricing plans…once again.

So the question is, how do I get listed in Yahoo and what’s it going to cost me?

You can get listed in Yahoo via three different methods:

  • A Yahoo Directory listing.
  • A Yahoo Search listing.
  • A Pay-for-Performance listing. (We’ll review the pay-for-performance listing in a future issue.)

The Yahoo Directory listing costs $299/year. You submit your site to be reviewed by a Yahoo editor, and assuming they feel your site is worthy, they’ll add it to their directory.

Many search engine marketers feel this isn’t such a great deal. Although it will ultimately help with building your site’s “link popularity,” a Yahoo directory listing doesn’t automatically mean your site will be found by someone searching at Yahoo.

For example, let’s say you own an auto repair shop that offers detailing, but your directory listing reads “Carl’s Auto Repair – Fixing Cars in Arizona since 1962.” If someone searches Yahoo for “auto detailing in Arizona,” and you’re only included in the directory, you won’t be found. (The word “detailing” wasn’t included in your listing.)

There are currently two ways to get included in the Yahoo Search index:

  • Pay for it.
  • Get it for free.

(I recommend the latter. It turns out to be cheaper.)

Although you can’t use the free submission form without signing up for a Yahoo account (also free), I wouldn’t consider that to be a big obstacle. But, be aware that the free submission offers no guarantee that your site will be included in the Yahoo Search index.

Yahoo has recently rolled out a new product called Site Match™, which has been maligned in the search engine press. The service is provided by Overture, another Yahoo acquisition.

Unlike the free submission, Site Match guarantees your inclusion in the Yahoo index (and in a timely fashion) but not your placement in the search. In other words, it doesn’t help your site to rank higher. Your ranking is still based (supposedly) on your site’s relevance to the given search.

The first URL (Web page) is $49. The second through the tenth are $29 each. The price falls to $10 each after that. That’s not too much more than Inktomi was a year ago, and Yahoo has a much bigger market share.

However, (and this is about as big a “however” as you get,) every time someone clicks on your link, you pay Yahoo another 15 cents! (Some “select” categories charge 30 cents.) Note: if you got into the Yahoo Search index for free then there’s no charge per click.

Hmmm…I can probably get into the Yahoo Search for free, or I can pay Yahoo 50 bucks, plus maybe hundreds or thousands of dollars a month more for the exact same service. This is a tough one….

In Conclusion

I think you know the outcome of this one. I can’t recommend spending your money on Yahoo right now. The only reason to join the Yahoo Directory would be for link popularity. The only reason to sign up for Site Match is if you feel you have too much money or you’re concerned that Yahoo stock needs a bump.

Things will probably change in the future; Yahoo may get rid of the pay-per-click component of this plan, or they may rank Site Match participants higher than competing sites that didn’t pony up any cash. This could make Yahoo’s pricing plans more important to your Web marketing budget.

But for today, hold onto your money. If it’s burning a hole in your pocket consider making a donation to Maine Public Radio.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please contact us.

–Rich Brooks

President, flyte new media

“Hidden” Copy On Your Web Site – Copywriting Opportunities That Fall Between the Cracks


Copywriting Opportunities That Fall Between the Cracks

To separate yourself from your competition, your site should tell a compelling story with your own, unique voice. Since your story is constantly evolving, it’s a good idea to review your site every 3 – 6 months and see if your copy is still fresh. Like Chinese takeout lurking behind the milk, “hidden” copy can get moldy far from the light of day.

So, what is this “hidden” copy? Maybe you read over your home page occasionally, but when was the last time you completed your own contact form? Bought something from your own store? Signed up for your own newsletter? Each of these interactions generates a dialog with your visitors. This is the copy that you can’t easily see.

What’s the conversation that you’re having with your visitors when you’re not around? What text greets visitors after they’ve completed your contact form? What’s the tone of your autoresponder? What does the email confirmation say after someone has placed an order?

These are perfect opportunities to strengthen the relationship between you and your customer. You can choose to hold this conversation in your own voice, or in the all-purpose, generic, default text written by a programmer who created this form years ago. I work with programmers regularly and I can tell you that they are talented…at programming. However, they are not copywriters anymore than I’m a swimsuit model. (So I’ve learned…the hard way.)

Take some time today and do the following:

  • Test your contact forms. Try submitting your forms without completing the required fields. What does the “form error” page say? How would you say the same thing? Then try submitting the form correctly. Review the “thank you” page with the same questions in mind. If you have an autoresponder, be sure to look at that as well.
  • Don’t forget about your other online forms. Do you have an “Email This Article to a Friend” form? A “Recommend This Site” form? When was the last time you read the “marketing message” that gets sent with these emails?
  • Buy something from the online store. Was the process confusing? Could it be made clearer through better copy? What did the email receipt say? If it reads like every other receipt you’ve ever received, maybe you can make it stand out with your own voice.
  • Sign up for your email newsletter…again. You may need to get a free email account at Yahoo! or Hotmail, or you can unsubscribe then resubscribe using your current email address. “Listen” to the voice in the confirmation and welcome messages. Is this your voice? Purposely go to a missing page on your site. You can do this by going to www.yourdomain.com/asdf. What does this 404 error message say? Could you say it better?
  • Rewrite ALL of this “hidden” copy in your own voice. If you don’t say “Greetings and salutations!” in person, don’t say it in an autoresponder.

Your copy is how your visitors come to know you. Whether your “hidden” copy has become stale, irrelevant, or was never appropriate, it’s time to make it consistent with the rest of your site, and to say it in your own voice.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please contact us.

–Rich Brooks

President, flyte new media

Are You Getting Through to Your Subscribers? Four Tips for Delivering Your Newsletters Successfully


Four Tips For Delivering Your Newsletters

A few of our clients have recently discovered yet another downside of spam: spam filters are blocking their email newsletters from reaching their subscribers. In fact, I replaced the word “spam” in the newsletter with an image of said word because so many filters are set up to block emails containing that word!

Email filters come in two main varieties: ones that are set up by the ISP (Internet Service Provider,) i.e. AOL, Earthlink or MSN, and ones set up on the user’s email program,  i.e. Outlook, Eudora or Netscape.

Although there’s currently no solution that will solve all potential problems, there are some steps you can take to improve the chances of your newsletter getting through.

1. Educate Your Subscribers. A brief page explaining how to prevent email filters from blocking your newsletters is the first step. If possible, display this message immediately after someone subscribes.

If that’s not possible–or in addition–place a link on your home page beneath your signup box that reads: “Not receiving our emails? Click here!” You can see an example that we created for the Meal Makeover Moms here.

This page should also have your newsletter’s “From” address listed.

2. Your From Address. Many email programs filter mail based on the address they come from. If they don’t recognize an email address they may pop it in a “junk” or “spam” folder. If possible, use an address at your domain, such as newsletters@yourdomain.com as the “from” address and let your subscribers know this. Then they can tag the address as “friendly.”

3. Post Your Newsletters to Your Site. We’re dealing with a lot of newbies out there, people. They don’t understand what email filters are or how to change them. They don’t know who their ISP is or how to contact tech support. Even when you walk them through the process (which can be time consuming for just one subscriber) they don’t get it. To help these people we recommend posting all your newsletters to your site.

There are benefits beyond telling these people that they can always visit your site to read your newsletters. New content will get search engines to revisit your site more often, will encourage links from other sites, and will allow new subscribers to see what they’ve been missing.

4. Handle Responses Efficiently. You need to determine how to handle responses to your email newsletters. Even if you send your newsletter from  no-reply@yourdomain.com people will reply. It’s their nature. Plus, there’s a button labeled “Reply.”

The problem with having newsletter replies go to your email is that when your subscriber base gets to a certain size you are going to receive dozens, hundreds or even thousands of “Out of the Office” messages and other unnecessary emails.

You may also get people asking to be unsubscribed despite a very visible, very clickable link in your email for that very purpose. In fact, you may be unable to unsubscribe people if someone else is maintaining your newsletter.

I recommend having the replies sent to a specific email address that has its own autoresponder. This response should explain how to subscribe, unsubscribe, or update an email address. You may also want it to say that any messages sent to this address won’t be read, or won’t be answered in a timely fashion, and all correspondence should be sent to youremail@yourdomain.com.

Taking these steps will help your subscribers, your business, and your peace of mind.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please contact us.

–Rich Brooks

President, flyte new media

Custom 404 Errors: Keeping Lost Visitors at Your Site


We’ve all seen them; you click on a link and instead of the page you’re expecting you see:

The page cannot be found

The page you are looking for might have been removed,
had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

And then you’re asked to try different options, like double-checking your spelling, hitting the back button, or shutting off the computer and getting a life.

Although some Type-A’s may continue to search for the missing page, most people will give up, cursing the site and looking for a competitor.

How does this happen?

In geek-speak this is called a 404 error. It occurs when you request a page from a Web server by clicking on a link or typing a URL into the address bar, but there’s no file at that address. To let you know this the server displays a generic 404 or “page not found” error, devoid of any links or helpful information.

404 errors are a fact of life; sites evolve, pages are reorganized, and links from other sites contain typos.

What can be done?

The fix is simple; most hosting companies allow you to upload a “custom” 404 error page, something to replace the generic error. This custom page can look like the rest of your site, include links to the most popular pages, and include a site map or search to help visitors locate moved pages.

You can also customize the tone of your message along with the look of the page to better fit with your site. Rather than a buttoned-down “Page Not Found” message, maybe “Can we help you find something?“, “Have you lost your way?“, or “You can’t get theah from heah,” might be more appropriate.

Don’t let lost visitors turn into lost opportunities; make sure you can help them find their way back.

If you’d like to add a custom 404 page, please contact us.

–Rich Brooks

President, flyte new media

If You Build It Will They Come? 8 Rules to Increase Traffic To Your Site


The movie Field of Dreams has always been a favorite of mine…any movie with a Fenway Park cameo should be beloved by everyone. However, a woman once told me that she hated it. “It’s so unrealistic.” Field. Of. Dreams. Maybe she missed the opening scene when they showed the title.

In the movie–for all you cricket fans–a voice keeps telling Kevin Costner that all he needs to do is build a baseball field and he will be reunited with his dead father (“if you build it he will come”). Many people, even after the hype of the Internet has subsided, still believe this is true with their own Web sites. That once the site is built their work is done, and people will visit their site in droves and buy out their entire inventory.

Field. Of. Dreams.

Successful Web sites require traffic, and traffic comes from ongoing marketing. This may include keyword analysis, search engine optimization, solid copywriting, reciprocal links, advertising, good PR, online tools, and cross-media pollination. If you are going to spend money on a Web site you should make sure people are going to find it. Celebrities don’t appear on David Letterman for the free mugs and abuse; they know that after their movie has wrapped they have to promote it if they want to sell tickets.

Here are some tried and true measures to increase your site’s visibility. While they won’t overcome a sluggish economy or a poor business plan (Tickle-Me-Marilyn-Manson dolls, anyone?), they will improve your chance at success.

Research your keywords. Whether you hire a firm or do it in house, uncover the exact phrases people are using to search for the products or services you offer. Don’t guess at success. If you’re selling “Trapper-Keepers” and everyone’s searching for “Back-to-School-Supplies” you won’t make many sales.

Optimize for the search engines. I’ve already written two articles on search engine optimization, so I won’t go into the details here. But the simple advice is this: take your researched keywords and sprinkle generously on your pages: in your copy, your headers, and most importantly your page titles. Set aside some of your budget to cover the submission fees that most major search engines now charge. They can range from $35 to $299 per year. You don’t have to get into every search engine, but try and cover the big four: Google, Yahoo, MSN Search and AOL Search. (Recent and future media buyouts and mergers may change this line up.)

Consider hiring a copywriter. I know, I know, you’ve written books, articles, and a dissertation on the mating dance of Norwegian bumblebees. You have an advanced degree from a well-respected school and patches on the elbows of your smoking jacket. You know your parts of speech and how not to dangle a participle. Regardless, that doesn’t mean you can write compelling copy for the Web. When writing for the Web you need to consider at least two audiences: humans and the search engines’ spiders that visit your Web site. If you do “go it alone” do your research and Google “Writing Tips for the Web” first.

Gather incoming links. Links to your site provide two important marketing benefits. First, people visiting other sites will find the link to your site, and if interested, visit. Secondly, many search engines consider a link to your site as a “vote of confidence” and will rank your site higher, all other things being equal. Since it’s difficult for new sites to have many incoming links consider search engine advertising for the first few months through a service like Google Adwords or Overture to help boost traffic.

Advertise. Yes, it can be expensive, but it can pay huge dividends. We may not all have the money for TV or even radio, but regular advertising in a local paper or magazine with a desirable, targeted readership can be very beneficial. A direct mail piece to primary care physicians might be a good buy if you are trying to be a preferred provider of certain specialized services. In his books “Selling the Invisible” and “What Clients Love”, Harry Beckwith suggests that people don’t remember whether it was an article or an ad, but they remember your brand. This improves consumer confidence and the likelihood they’ll choose your services. Be sure to include your URL in a prominent place and consider a special offer.

Get the word out with good PR. Once your site is launched, or after a major revision, get out a press release. This is something you can do yourself or hire that same copywriter to handle. It’s not expensive and a good copywriter may have experience in submitting press releases to both local papers (who are more likely to carry the piece because it’s got local flavor) and national periodicals that may target your audience.

Use viral marketing. By placing “Recommend This Site” or “Email this Article to a Friend” forms on your site you can use word-of-mouth advertising to connect with prospects. These forms allow people to email friends right from your Web page and you’ll be able to add your own marketing message along with links back to your site. Add a free email newsletter signup (see last issue) and start delivering new content right to subscribers’ email on a regular basis.

Cross-pollinate with other types of media. Your Web site should promote your other collateral and back again. Dare I say it, my dad has a good grasp of this. His Web site, www.drrobertbrooks.com, promotes his speaking engagements and books. His books list the URL for his site. At his talks he refers to his Web site and his free email newsletter. His email newsletter is delivered monthly to over 5,000 subscribers and contains links back to his Web site and any new books he has written. This is a great example of cross-promotion.

All this “extra work” may seem daunting when you’re first planning to develop your site, especially if you were under the impression “if you build it they will come”.

The point is not to be intimidated, but rather educated and realistic. Better to build a smaller site that people will visit than a larger one that will gather dust. Your site doesn’t need to be the biggest, flashiest, or even the best. It just needs to be effective in helping you reach your goals. Whether marketing your Web site means increasing your budget or reducing the size of your site, it’s an essential piece of Web marketing strategy.

–Rich Brooks
President, flyte new media

Keyword Analysis: A Success Story


Companies and individuals often contact me about increasing traffic to their site. Unfortunately, many balk at doing a keyword analysis which would uncover the most effective phrases to use on their site.

Others go ahead with the research, but then choose not to make the necessary changes often because they don’t realize the difference it can make to their bottom line.

What does keyword analysis do?

By rewriting (or “optimizing”) the copy on your site to take advantage of these high-ranking “key” phrases you can raise your site’s ranking at the search engines. However, it’s only effective if you know what people are searching for, not if you’re guessing.

If you’ve been holding off on a keyword analysis I’m hoping this success story will change your mind.

Case Study

After we developed a site for the New Image Weight Loss Center, our client, Dr. Artuso, was interested in increasing traffic to his site. We suggested a keyword analysis to uncover the phrases he should be using on his site, and then, based on the research, revamping his copy, content, and meta-tags. Dr. Artuso agreed and provided us with a brainstormed list of keyphrases that described his services.

We partnered with Harvey Marketing Group who handled the keyword research and provided analysis and recommendations. The research uncovered the most effective keyphrases, taking into consideration both the services offered and the center’s geographic location.

Based on our findings we edited the copy and added new content, headers, titles and meta-tags to his site.

The Results

Within just a few weeks New Image’s Google rankings increased dramatically:

Google Ranking Keyphrases
#1 gastric bypass surgery new york, gastric band surgery new
york, gastric bypass surgery new jersey, gastric bypass ct,
gastric band surgery nj, weight loss surgery new jersey,
dr artuso, lap band surgery new jersey;
#2 gastric band surgery ny, gastric bypass costs;
#3 bariatric bypass surgery, gastric bypass diets, gastric
bypass nj, bariatric surgery new york, weight loss surgery
new york, gastric bypass new jersey, gastric bypass connecticut,
lap band surgery new york;
surgery new york, bariatric surgeons new york, gastric bypass insurance,
gastric bypass support groups gastric bypass nutrition;
surgery ny;
bypass surgeons new york

New Image’s monthly traffic reports show the difference these changes and the higher rankings have made:

Month Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep
Unique Visitors 247 889 2,170 2,453 2,165 3,761

Your mileage may vary.

By optimizing the site for these phrases New Image was able to improve their ranking in the search engines which translated into more traffic, more visibility and more sales.

If you’d like to discuss what keyword analysis can do for your business, please contact us.

–Rich Brooks

President, flyte new media

Stopping Spam from Your Web site


Important Note as of 12/30/03:

I’ve done some testing with SpamStopper and I can’t recommend it. I put up a test email address protected by SpamStopper that wasn’t anywhere else on the Internet. Within 24 hours I was receiving spam at that address. This article has been since edited to hide the email addresses being used as examples.

Once your Web site is up and running you may be inundated with spam for low home interest rates, cable descramblers, male enhancement drugs that rhyme with Niagara and, ironically, software to reduce spam.

How Do They Get Your Email?

One method spammers—the people sending spam—use to collect email addresses is through “harvesting”. Their software scours the Web to collect email addresses that appear on Web pages. Once they have your email address they will spam you into submission. Since many sites contain the owner’s email address (and why not?) they inadvertently invite spam to the site owner’s mailbox.

In a recent FTC study, 86% of emails created for the study and posted to the Web received spam within just six weeks! If the address had the “@” sign in it, it drew spam.

How Do You Stop Them?


A piece of software called SpamStopper can help reduce your chances of being found by these harvesters. Most characters (a-z, 1-9, @, “, ”, and ¢ for example) can be converted into a special code which can be read by a browser. [Edited to hide email addresses now.]

How Do You Get The Software?

SpamStopper is only for the people who work on your site and know HTML. Also, it won’t help you with all spam, and harvesters may one day adapt. The software is like the The Club for your car: it won’t stop everyone, but it will make you a less attractive target.

If you’d like us to convert the emails on your own site to code, talk to your Web developer or contact us.

I’d like to thank our client Robert Gerzon who turned me on to this piece of software. He’s the author of the highly-acclaimed Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety and has a Web site dedicated to Conscious and Creative Living.

–Rich Brooks


President, flyte new media

Putting Autoresponders to Work for You


You probably used an autoresponder last time you took a vacation. Simply stated, when you receive an email an autoresponder sends a response to the sender. At flyte we use them on our contact form to tell visitors we’ve received their email and will respond shortly.

But an autoresponder can accomplish much more for you. Say you have some valuable content: tips, industry reports, white papers, etc. You want to provide them to your visitors, but you want to follow up by email to “seal the deal”. How do you make sure they’re providing you with their REAL emails, and not a made up email–like x@x.com?

Set up an email address like articles@yourdomain.com and set up an autoresponder that contains the content of the article. By providing their real email address they’ll receive the article. If the email is bogus, they’ll get bupkis.

Alternatively, your autoresponder could contain a link to an article as opposed to containing the article itself. This method will give you more control over the formatting of your data, and will allow you to protect material not easily sent via email, such as a Flash movie or an audio file.

Using an autoresponder to deliver content will increase its perceived value to your visitor. However, it may reduce the number of people who view that material, so use it judiciously. While it may make sense to protect some unique, sensitive or proprietary data, you shouldn’t make it difficult for visitors to read your sales or marketing material.

If you have questions on how to set up an autoresponder on your own site, please contact us.

–Rich Brooks
President, flyte new media

Copywriting Tips for the Web


Many of my clients are excellent writers, and quite a few have several books under their belts. However, very few have experience in writing for the Web.

Writing for the Web is different than other types of writing. People tend to have a short attention span while surfing, and reading large blocks of text on a screen is tiresome.

Here are 7 tips that will improve your copywriting:

  • Use compelling, descriptive headlines; this may also help with search engine optimization.
  • Use keywords in your copy to help you get a higher ranking in the search engines. (Don’t guess at keywords, do your research for best results.)
  • People love bullet points; chances are you skipped right to these 7 tips, didn’t you?
  • Keep the focus on your visitor, not yourself. Don’t talk about your services and products, but about their needs (and then how you can help them)…use the word “you” in your copy, not “we”.
  • Break copy into bite-sized pieces; short paragraphs that cover only one idea work best. White space will help improve comprehension.
  • Use ellipses…they help the reader’s eye quickly scan the copy…(elipses are these dots…)
  • Less is more; ’nuff said?

Bonus Tip: Consider hiring a professional copywriter to write your copy or edit existing copy. It will be one of the best investments you make in your Web site.

Props to Liz Harvey who helped with the copyediting of this issue, since my Mom is on vacation.

–Rich Brooks
President, flyte new media

PayPal: An Inexpensive E-Commerce Solution


Important Note:
Paypal no longer requires customers to signup for a Paypal account when paying through Paypal. See the flyte blog for more info.

PayPal logo

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.

Our Story:
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.

Catherine BreerClient Examples:
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.

–Rich Brooks
President, flyte new media