Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Integrating Flash Video into Web Pages

I see that Macromedia are now giving away their "Flash Video Kit" when you purchase Dreamweaver before December 31. The "Video Kit" is regularly $99 and includes Sorenson Squeeze (special "lite" version) and the "extensions" required to integrate flash video with Dreamweaver.

Dreamweaver is $399 for the full package and $199 for the upgrade. I am not a Dreamweaver user, so I am not sure why you need the special extensions. For my own web pages I can just take the code generated from Flix Pro and paste it right into a page. Front Page recognizes it as an ActiveX control and lets you make adjustments by right clicking and going to "ActiveX Control Properties". Or even easier, you can just edit the html.

Here is what the html code for a typical video insertion looks like. This was set up for a movie that was 320 x 240 with a player added by Flix Pro. That accounts for the actual "object" dimensions of 325 x 274. Replace "movie.swf" with your own file name. And replace "server.com/swf" with your own server address.


<OBJECT width="325" height="274"
name="./movie.swf" id="./movie.swf" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs
<PARAM name="bgcolor" value="000000"><PARAM name="movie" value="http://www.server.com/swf/movie.swf" ref>
<PARAM name="loop" value="0">
<PARAM name="quality" value="High">
<PARAM name="play" value="0">
<PARAM name="menu" value="-1">
<param name="_cx" value="8599">
<param name="_cy" value="7250">
<param name="FlashVars" value>
<param name="Src" ref value="http://www.server.com/swf/movie.swf">
<param name="WMode" value="Window">
<param name="SAlign" value>
<param name="Base" value>
<param name="AllowScriptAccess" value="always">
<param name="Scale" value="ShowAll">
<param name="DeviceFont" value="0">
<param name="EmbedMovie" value="0">
<param name="SWRemote" value>
<param name="MovieData" value>
<param name="SeamlessTabbing" value="1">
<EMBED width="325" height="274" src="http://www.server.com/swf/movie.swf"
name="./movie.swf" bgcolor="#000000" play="TRUE" menu="TRUE" quality="high"
loop="false" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" pluginspage="http://www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/index.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash"></EMBED></OBJECT>


You should be able to copy and paste into your own web page, make edits to point to your own video at the correct size. Some of the parameters may look a bit mysterious. The most important are "loop" (keep restartign the movie) and "play" (start playing when the page is loaded". These are both set a "0" which means "no".

Once I get something like this to work the way I want I just copy and paste from a working page to a new one and make appropriate adjustments.

Of course you need to encode your video as a .swf file. For that you will need either Soreson Squeeze, or, my preference, Flix Pro.

-- Rick

This page is sponsored by Power Linking Strategies and Beautiful Vinyl Banners.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Impact of Outbound Links on Page Rank

If you have been following any of my "Power Linking" exploits you will know that I have recently been writing articles and creating content-rich pages and placing them strategically on as many sites as I can. Some of these are "article" sites, some of them are blog sites, and some of them are my own sites spread around on a variety of different hosts.

Regardless of where the content is placed, one of the questions that constantly comes up is "How many links should I plant in these pages?"

Let's say I want to write an article focusing on a specific product -- for instance, "Business Card Displays" -- in order to (among other things) increase the number of links pointing to the home page of the client's website (www.freecard.com). Should I restrict myself to planting one embedded link pointing back to the freecard.com home page? Or should I embed a number of other links as well, pointing to various other pages on the site? Quite a few SEO "experts" seem to think that the impact of a link is watered down by the total number of other links on that page, and, therefore presumably, that the impact of a link pointing from a specific page to your "target" page would be much more significant if it was one of only a few on the page.

I finally got around to doing a bit of research into this question.

The "PR Leak" position is stated very clearly in an article by Phil Craven called Outbound Links". Craven says:

"Outbound links are a drain on a site's total PageRank. They leak PageRank. To counter the drain, try to ensure that the links are reciprocated. Because of the PageRank of the pages at each end of an external link, and the number of links out from those pages, reciprocal links can gain or lose PageRank. You need to take care when choosing where to exchange links."

Craven is claiming that not only will your outbound links have a negative impact on the PR of the page containing them, but the outbound links of the pages linked to will drain PR away from your page as well. We might call this "second order PR Leak". He goes so far as to suggest that you should disguise outbound links with javascript.

Unfortunately he offers no theoretical or statistical evidence to support the "PR Leak" position.

Coming down on the other side of the debate is article by Jon Ricerca called Does the Number of Links on a Page Affect Its Ranking?. Jon Ricerca concludes: "...the results are very conclusive. Google ranks pages with outbound links much higher than pages without links. The SEOs touting the ‘PR Leak’ theory are simply wrong."

Ricerca's starting point is that the PR Leak theory is simply a theory -- pure speculation -- and therefore it needs statistical data to be either confirmed or denied. The statistical data he offers is based on a relatively limited number of sites, and a relatively limited number of searches (see his data and disclaimers).

The assumption he makes is that if the "PR Leak" theory were correct, then for any given keyword a significant number of high ranking sites would have fewer outbound links than the sites lower down in the rankings. The lower ranking sites would presumably have been negatively affected by their outbound links. But he finds exactly the opposite to be the case. All of the higher ranking sites have more outbound links than the lower ranked ones!

This is all very interesting, and is certainly pretty convincing evidence against the PR Leak theory.

Unfortunately, this is not exactly what I set out to determine. This shows that outbound links do not adversely affect the PR of the page that contains them. But I really started out wondering about the impact of links on the target page. After all, this is the point of "power linking" strategies -- to enhance the ranking of the target pages. So it is important to know if a link from a page with one outbound link is given more weight than a link from a page with numerous outbound links.

My Google searches did not turn up any useful answers to this question. Indeed, it is difficult to see how a study could be set up to answer this question. Any fairly simple study would have to make some pretty serious assumptions.

In fact, I may have some of the relevant data available to me on my own sites. I could begin by finding pairs of pages within the same site, both of which are linked to a specific page in another site. The first page in the pair will have lots of outbound links, and the second page will have considerably fewer. Then all I have to do is see which of these pages in any given pair is reported in the "backlinks" for the target page more often.

If the page with fewer outbound links is reported more often, then that supports the conclusion that outbound links from pages with fewer links are more valuable (have a greater -- or at least more consistent -- impact on the target page.) If there is no difference in the frequency of reportings, then that suggests that there is no significant difference.

I will try to compile some of this data over the next couple of days, and will report back...

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Developing a Product You Can Sell Online - Part 1

Marketing Your Product On the Web
by Rick Hendershot
Online Marketing

Part 1 — Developing a Product You Can Sell Online

Finding a product you can sell online is not as easy as it sounds. Even if you have a successful offline business, the chances are better than 50/50 that all of your product(s) will NOT be suitable for online sales. Some may be; but many most certainly will not be. Your first job is to figure out which ones will work in an online environment. Here are some of the most important considerations.

The importance of finding a "niche"

Simple, easy to understand products like "books" or "sporting goods" or "electronic products" have a built-in advantage, because virtually everybody knows what they are. That means they have a ready-made market.

But it does NOT mean that easily recognized products like this will always be more successful in your business ventures — online or offline. The success of any business venture depends on being able to find a product that is recognized by a specific target market — what we will call a TARGET NICHE. And often that means NOT trying to reach a large over-crowded, highly competitive market segment.

The advantages of a narrow niche

When you stop and think about it, the reasons for this are fairly obvious. Trying to reach a large, highly competitive market segment takes resources that you probably do not have — advertising budgets and large inventories, for instance. And you will be going head to head with the big boys who DO have those resources.

So does that leave you with the "dregs" — the unprofitable markets that nobody else wants?

Definitely not. Let's consider some of these "dregs"...
Almost everybody can visualize what you mean by "Personalized Golf Balls", but most will have problems with "Duralex Floorguard Graphics", or "Medical Transfer Pipettes."
This fact presents the pipette marketer with both a challenge and an opportunity. There are relatively few people who want your pipettes. But if you can actually isolate (and reach) these people, then you probably stand a better chance of selling something obscure like this (both online and offline) than you do a more common thing like "personalized golf balls".

The reason is pretty clear, isn't it? While the market is relatively small, the number of suppliers will be even smaller. And there is a good chance these suppliers will not be nearly as sharp and net savvy as the big boys who go after the big markets. That gives you a perfect opportunity to become a major player in your category. In fact the web is the perfect place to focus your attentions, because you can become a major player in a matter of weeks, and for a few hundred dollars.

Targeted Prospects (the ones in your "niche") are ready to buy

Another important reason to zero in on a narrowly targeted "niche" market, has to do with the "mindset" of the relatively few people out there looking for your specialized product. The facts are simply these: when someone goes looking for "pipettes" or "compressed air grommet installers", they are serious. They are not looking for fun. They are looking because they NEED, or WANT these things — NOW.

Let me give you a real world example. One of our clients sells trade show display hardware and graphics. This is a "niche" market if there ever was one. When you track the number of Google searches done on keywords like "trade show displays", "popup displays", or "portable displays", the numbers are not very impressive. So when this client runs Google adwords for these keywords, their exposure rate is not very high — something like 2,000 views a month.

But guess what? The click thru rate for these ads is surprisingly high. Again, the reason is pretty obvious. People searching for this product are serious about a purchase. They are READY! All you have to do is present prospects like this with a compelling reason to buy from you rather than the other guys, and you will get a higher than average conversion rate.

Specialization is important...

In other words, specialization may be the most important key to your online success. If you have expertise, or even a little bit of special knowledge about a relatively obscure topic or product area, then that might just be the product category you should focus on.

But, of course specialization is not enough. Having a specialized product is one thing. Reaching your prospective buyers with your message is another thing altogether.


If you want to improve the traffic to your web, you can start by checking out the "power linking" resources at The Linknet Network.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

An Example of Pointless Linking

Here is an link exchange request example that fails to meet at least three of my link exchange criteria:


1. Gambling site -- irrelevant to my subject matter
2. Excessive number of links on the page
3. Excessive number of link pages in this category

And this criterion which is implicit:

4. No realistic chance of ever getting any PR.

According to my count, this site has more than 30,000 outbound links pointing at "partners". Who knows how many have reciprocated. Maybe 25%??? Even that would be 7,500 inbound links.

None of these pages — including the home page — have any PR.

So what's the point?

Is it possible this webmaster is just gathering email addresses?

-- Rick

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

When to Reject Link Exchanges

Just about every morning I begin my day by evaluating the 10 or so link exchange requests I've received since the previous day. I get this many because I administer about 20 websites, and most have an automated link exchange program called LinkMachine installed.

The truth is, I've become so jaded about random link exchanges of this sort that I think it is hardly worth my time. I get way too many requests from people who either have junk websites, or sites that are completely unrelated to any of mine (gambling, for instance). There is no point trying to explain why you don't want certain links. These people simply don't care. They're just engaged in a relatively pointless numbers game.

The requests that really irk me are the ones from webmasters or link exchange "experts" who try to get a good link in exchange for a bad one. I've mentioned this in other posts. These are the people who want a link from a legitimate, categorized link page (mine) in exchange for a link from a page with hundreds or even thousands of links pointing to their link "partners".

No thanks.

It's even worse when they want you to link to their primary (important) site, and in return give you a link back from some content-less site that is nothing more than a bottomless pit of outbound links. So their real site has thousands of links pointing in, and virtually none pointing out. Very clever. Very deceptive.This is what I have called "Link Exchange Abuse".

As a result I've been forced to abandon my normally "permissive" attitude about things like this, and create some hard-nosed rules. Here is what they are... at least for now...

1. No exchanges with adult sites.
2. No exchanges with online gambling sites.
3. Rejected if there is no link from the home page leading to the link pages.
4. Rejected if there is no defined category I can fit into. "Other" is not acceptable.
5. Rejected if there are more than 5 pages in my category.
6. Rejected if their typical link pages have more than 50 outbound links.
7. Rejected if they want to put me on a site other than the one I am linking to. (unless it is better).

That should filter out about 85% of the sites I want to reject. I'll have to fine-tune the rules as I go along to get the other 15%...

The bottom line is...I am not going to waste too much time sifting through link requests. There are better, more legitimate, easier ways to get valuable links.

-- Rick

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Vinyl Project Update

I've been reporting on my daily blow-by-blow progress with "The Vinyl Project" over at e_Marketing. But I just want to quickly summarize a couple of things I've noticed about the exercise of posting articles.

First, it is surprising how little consistency there is from one article site to another with respect to "formatting".

Some will take html, others just want unformatted text, and some will take a mixture of text and html and then make relatively unpredictable translations. What this does is drive everything towards the lowest common denominator -- namely, text only. I have a feeling this is because of the fixation with text only "ezines" and the alleged role of these article databases in providing content for them. I will comment on the "ezine" phenomenon in a future post. For now just let me say that an article database intended to be read makes more sense to me than one that pretends to provide ezine authors with content. As you will see when I get around to writing about them, most ezines (not all!) are nothing more than sales letters. Their authors don't include real "content", nor do they want any, except to support their own sales efforts. So why would they go to an article database to pick up content?

The best examples I can think of, off the top, of article sites meant to be read, are my own sites, Click-Partners.com, Traffic-Advisor.com, and Trade Show Tips. Other interesting examples, perhaps more pertinent because they have such tremendous potential, are blogs. Now here we have "content"! Meant to be read? I'm not sure.

Anyway, back to "The Vinyl Project".... The lack of formatting consistency from site to site has meant I have had to create at least three different versions of each article: an html version, a text version, and a summary version (for at least one site that takes only an article "description" rather than the article itself.)

That's OK. It's worth it. Until further notice I still believe what I am starting to call "Article Saturation" is the best, cheapest, and fastest way to get your name, product, and (especially) links out there live and active on the web.

Getting Your Act Together

Another thing I've noticed is that creating articles in "saturation mode" -- that is, lots of them all at once -- really makes you get your promotional act together. It really forces you to figure out your products, and have decent web pages that describe them. Why? Because you can't really create links pointing to your product web pages if those web pages either don't exist, are poorly written or only partially finished.

Try it. Try writing four or five articles about different features of your primary product. And try embedding a number of links in your articles so they point back to your most important product web pages. I think you will quickly see what I mean.

Campaigns are Where It's At

One final point. I think I have said somewhere that the primary purpose of article writing and distribution is promotional. Yes, I know, these articles contain valuable information, but they are "targeted" in a way that, say, Alice in Wonderland is not. They have specific promotional objectives: to get your name out there, to identify your product, to get visitors to your website, to get links pointing to your sites and influence Google, and so on.

Therefore it stands to reason that the same tried and true formulas that apply to advertising also apply to articles. Saturation, Reach and Frequency. Distribute as many articles as you can, in as many places as you can, as often as you can.

In other words, if you think you are going to do any real damage by publishing just ONE article, there's probably no point. You need MANY articles, preferably bunched together — campaign-style — focusing on a specific product for a specific time period.

That's the theory anyway. Once I finish with my two week Banner and Trade Show Display "blitz", I should slip into "maintenance mode" — a new article every month or so. Which will give me the opportunity to do a "blitz" for some other product — for example, Linknet.

But that is next month's project.

-- Rick

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Vinyl Project - Week 1 Report

As I outlined in Promoting Products with Blogs, Part 4 I have taken on a small project aimed at creating between 100 and 120 inbound links to two of my more important product web sites. The sites are America-Banners.com and TradeShow-Display-Experts.com.

The plan is to create 12 content-rich (keyword-rich) articles about the two product groups featured on these two sites: Vinyl Banners and Trade Show Displays. Each of these articles will contain at least one link pointing to the home page of these two sites, and a bunch of other links pointing to various pages within the sites. I will then post these articles on at least 10 article directory / archive sites such as IdeaMarketers.com, GoArticles.com, etc. 12 articles times 10 sites is 120 links.

Progress Report, Sunday, Nov 21/04

Yesterday I finished writing the last of the 12 articles and have now posted them all to the first article site, IdeaMarketers.com. Here are the links:

Links on IdeaMarketers.com to "Vinyl Project" articles:

Throw in an Extra Banner Stand

Banner Star has Changeable Graphic

What is a PopUp Display?

Do Special Events Require Special Websites?

Getting Piles of Trade Show Leads

Make Your PopUp Display A Winner

Not All Vinyl Banners are Created Equal

Putting Images on Large Vinyl Banners

1, 2, 3 Uses for Vinyl Banners

Super Big Vinyl Banners

Design Tips for Vinyl Banners

#1 Way to Draw Attention to Your Event

Writing Articles is Not Easy

As I point out in e_Marketing, articles don't just fall in your lap. You actually have to think of something interesting to say, write the article in an interesting, readable way, optimize it correctly with the appropriate key words, and then build in the links. And... oh yes, you have to actually post them on a bunch of different websites.

This all takes time, effort, and creative thought. Especially when the subject matter is something as relatively boring as "vinyl banners".

One of the interesting outcomes of this process is that it gave me the opportunity to RETHINK our product line and actually develop SOME NEW IDEAS! As I have said a few times in various articles, marketable product ideas are the "holy grail" for marketers. Without viable products you have to thrash around trying to figure out what (business) life is all about. But once you've got the products, life more or less takes care of itself. Everything falls into place.

Viable Product Ideas are Rare

It is not easy. A viable "product idea" is much more than an idea. It is an idea that will WORK. In this case, it must be something that we can actually produce at a reasonable price without too much waste and other inefficiencies. And, of course, something that people will BUY.

So the development of a new product idea that actually might work is a RARE OCCURRENCE.

I think I've just hit on one. It's called BIG VINYL BANNERS.

We'll see. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

-- Rick

P.S. If you're asking "Why Vinyl Banners?"... it's because...
...the company whose products I am promoting, namely Canada Display Graphics, produces large display graphics for trade shows, and other promotional venues. Vinyl Banners and PopUp Displays are two of the company's most important products.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Why Online Audio and Video are Doomed

If you've followed some of my recent articles and posts you may have noticed my fixation on online audio and video. I'm well aware the internet as we know it is static and silent. It just sits there, and we "read" it.

"Content" is King

There are good reasons for this. Some of them are technical. Like for instance the extra bandwidth required to transmit online audio and video.

But many of these reasons are not technical. One claim often made is that the web is static and silent because it is a "content-rich" medium. "Content is King" we are told. This is supposed to make the web a serious cut above things like TV and radio — and more akin to print media like newspapers and magazines...or even books...saturated with serious content. So audio and video are not required for such a serious, meaningful activity.

The fact that web surfing is a "private", solitary activity is also important. The family does not sit around the computer together and check out their favorite website. We don't "share" the web surfing experience. One person one computer. Audio — and to a lesser extent, video — disrupt the privateness of the activity. Those of us who surf in the middle of the night don't want our computers suddenly erupting with a bunch of noise.

As online audio and video become more common these habits and expectations will change. We will eventually stop believing that written content is superior to televised content, and we will find ways to control the disruptiveness of the noise. Like buttons that turn the audio on and off, and the use of headphones to keep it private.

Hiding behind our copy

I think many internet marketers, publishers, and authors want the web to stay static and silent because this serves their purposes just fine. The truth is, creating static web pages is easy. Once you know how to get online all you really have to know is how to type. Technical knowledge about servers, html code, web programming... blogging has made all of these completely unnecessary.

We can also hide our "warts and all" behind the impersonal nature of static, silent web pages. Sure our writing will reveal something about the character we want to reveal. But it can be a completely fictitious character. This is useful for marketers — especially internet marketers — because they can say outrageously exaggerated things in print they might be less likely to say into a microphone or in front of a camera.

The real "technical" problems are not technical

But probably the single most important reason why audio and video will not work for many internet marketers is that our delivery is poor, our voices are unappealing, we look weird, or more likely, a combination of all these things. There are good reasons why not everybody can be a radio or TV personality. It is one thing to write a promotional pitch for your product. It is something completely different to present it into a microphone or in front of a camera.

I am reminded of the time I created a "video business card" for one of our sales people. A simple 15 second script took more than 3 hours to record. Take after take after take. This was not a klutz I was dealing with. He was a fairly polished guy who looked good, had a decent voice, and a pretty good delivery. Prior to this I had found that shooting video for a 30 second local TV commercial always took about 4 hours. Nothing had changed.

Four hours to shoot some relatively amateurish footage, and then another 3 or 4 hours (at least) to edit it. Is it worth this kind of hassle to the average internet marketer? I don't think so...

OK. OK... I know recording four or five minutes of audio doesn't have to take 3 hours. In my case, I've gotten the process down to pretty much one take and about 15 minutes of editing. But my point is, not very many of us are going to set up a little recording studio in their basement. Not very many of us are going to take the time to practice their delivery, edit out the coughs and stutters, organize the files, upload them, etc., etc.

And those services where you record your pitch on the phone...? Forget it. They are an interesting attempt at "democratizing" the world of online audio. But after your first telephone recording what will you do for an encore? I see there is now a similar video-oriented service... "Just use our exciting software to record yourself with an ordinary $30 webcam...then simply upload the file..."

Amazing! Have you ever seen pictures of yourself taken with one of those webcams. Cool. Very attractive. I'm sure that will get you lots of sales.

-- Rick
Online Audio and Video Concepts

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Promoting Products with Blogs, Part 4

In the third part of this series I outlined the procedure I intend to use to systematically create link-rich posts that focus on exactly the keywords and web pages that I want to enhance.

If you recall, this involved creating lists of products, features, and web pages reflecting these features. The links in my posts ultimately point at the most appropriate web pages.

I also commented on how this was going to require creating a number of "feature" web pages because I had not really done an adequate job of this when creating my product websites.

Creating Posts Galore

As you can tell by looking at this blog, and my others at Biz-Blogs.com I have begun this process of creating and entering posts. This is especially apparent in the blog called Trade Show Buzz, and to a lesser extent in my other marketing blog called e_Marketing.

You many have noticed a post called How many links for a PR5? When I read this and saw the numbers required to get a PR5 as outlined in this article, this reconfirmed my commitment to "Power Linking".

But it also reinforced the fact that just one strategy is not enough. Yes, I had committed myself to this "Power Linking with Blogs" experiment, and I have no doubt it is going to work. But this strategy is going to take a relatively long time, since I have to create quite a few original, content-rich posts. And then I have to wait for their impact to settle in. Eventually (I assume) my blogs will gain some PR, and eventually this will "rub off" onto my link targets. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but I have no idea how long this is going to take.

In the meantime I realized I might as well use the content I was creating as "articles", and post them to the best performing article sites — like IdeaMarketers.com for instance. In fact I developed a strategy to get at least 100 new links from this source pointing at each of my two highest priority home pages: TradeShow-Display-Experts.com and America-Banners.com

Here is the strategy:

1. I will create 6 original articles featuring Vinyl Banners with at least one link pointing to America-Banners.com and a number (as high as 8) of other links pointing to other important pages in this site.

2. I will create 6 original articles featuring Trade Show Displays with at least one link pointing to TradeShow-Display-Experts.com. These articles would also have up to 8 links pointing to other important pages in this site.

3. Each of these articles will also have a link pointing to the other site. This would be easy to accomplish by putting a "For more information..." line at the bottom of each article with links to both sites.

4. I will post all 12 articles on at least 10 different article sites. That should give me at least 120 links from these 12 articles alone, pointing to each of these two sites. I will also get the benefit of all the "secondary" links embedded within these articles (120 placements).

Sounds like a plan!

Now all I have to do is write the articles (4 down, 8 to go), and start posting. In the meantime this will give me lots of content-rich material for Trade Show Buzz.

-- Rick

How many links for a PR5 rank?

In a recent issue of WebProNews SEO expert Olivier Duffez summarized some of his research into the question "How many backlinks do I need to get a PR5?".

He studied 1044 sites and concluded two main things...

1. "One needs far more backlinks in order to get a high PR than a low one". See the very brief summary below.

2. "...whatever the PR is, more backlinks than the month before are required every month to get a given PR."

In other words, this second point means that if you do not continue to add backlinks to your site, your PR will eventually start going down.

Here are some average numbers of backlinks for September and October, 2004:

Sept.PR3-12 linksPR4-60 linksPR5-220 linksPR6-1307 links
Oct.PR3-17 linksPR4-75 linksPR5-288 linksPR6-1508 links

You can see his complete report at PR Weaver.

-- Rick
originall published at Traffic-Advisor.com

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Exaggeration and Deception are Normal on the Web

I received my usual batch of SPAM this morning. All kinds of emails promising I would make thousands upon thousands of dollars from some "home based business", and tens of thousands a month from this or that "exciting business opportunity".

People continue to fall for this stuff. Even though there are literally hundreds of thousands of websites promising to make you rich; and even though the odds of my get-rich-quick site making significant money are probably smaller than me (at 56) making the PGA tour, people continue to fall for this crap.

It has to be a combination of greed, laziness, and stupidity that drives the "market" for get-rich-quick online businesses.

I'm not saying everyone who dives into their own "work-at-home online business" is greedy, lazy, and stupid. Most are just naive. And since the entry costs are incredibly low (websites are cheap, your spare time is cheap), and there is virtually no risk...voila, we have hundreds of thousands of new "entrepreneurs".

What bothers me most about the web is the level of dishonesty, misinformation, and deception we tolerate in the name of "entrepreneurship".

I am not talking about the really blatant scams — like the letters from would-be minor bank employees and government civil servants from obscure African countries who need your help to liberate $67 million from the bank account of a dead finance minister. I get at least one of these incredibly blatant attempts at outright deception every day

No, I am talking about the other twenty or thirty emails I get every day from well-meaning newbie consultants, "entrepreneurs", and "internet marketers" who are peddling more innocent sounding "business opportunities". These people have usually aligned themselves with some con-artist-with-a-marketing-scheme. The con artist / guru then encourages them to make outrageous claims for the plan. After all, if you don't hype the hell out of a scheme, nobody will buy it. And if nobody buys it, it will be a failure.

"You want to be successful don't you?" OK then. Go ahead and lie about how successful the plan is. Even though you have a pretty good idea it won't work. And even though you know it has not worked for you (yet?).

Perhaps this is just symptomatic of our age. What's a few exaggerated claims about something as insigificant as "home-based business opportunities"? After all, we're prepared to tolerate Colin Powell and Tony Blair making exaggerated claims about WMDs that result in a few thousand people being slaughtered, numerous towns and cities like Falluja being blown to bits, and untold millions of dollars being spent on weapons that could otherwise buy food, housing, medicine, water...

Hey. What's the big deal?

-- Rick

P.S. This morning I received requests for 5 links back to one of these newbie home-based-business sites. This always presents a dilemma for me. Should I go ahead and exchange links because this person sounds sincere, and is not making outrageous claims? Or should I reject the link exchange because this is just another site with a 98% chance of going nowhere? In this case, I chose the former.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Marketing Bites Radio is now live

I've just created a home for "Marketing Bites Radio" — an audio version of many of the articles and posts you will find in this blog. If you would rather listen than read, then Marketing Bites Radio is for you.

Like all the other examples of Linknet Radio you will find on various websites of mine, Marketing Bites Radio is driven by the Wimpy Player. You can find a description of how the Wimply Player works at my Online Media site called Videoinabox.com. Go to the series of articles called Is Flash Becoming a Viable Audio/Video Alternative?. You can find the audio version of these articles at Videoinabox Radio.

-- Rick

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Promoting Products with Blogs, Part 3

In Part 2 of this series I outlined how I decided to create two blog sites using Google's own blogspot.com for the first one, and a new domain of my own called biz-blogs.com for a series of business oriented blogs.

Once I had things set up in this way, I began the process of entering posts for promoting specific products. This process may sound a bit contrived for those of you who think blogs should be spontaneous "top of mind" journals. What I was proposing was something much more carefully structured and planned — a series of posts highlighting a range of specific features for a number of specific products. If this sounds like an "advertising campaign", that's fine with me, because that is exactly the way I decided to approach it.

When I say "highlighting a range of specific features for a number of specific products" it is important to understand this in the context of my "power linking strategy". What I am talking about here is creating links to pages within my websites that highlight specific features of the products I want to promote.

So I decided I needed to create some lists. First I needed a list of products. Second I needed a list of features, benefits, and interesting information about each of the products. And third, I needed a list of web pages where these features, benefits and information about the products can be found. When I have these I should be able to quickly put together a series of posts with lots of embedded links pointing directly at the most relevant pages within my sites.

For example:

Product: PopUp Displays
Features: Low cost, easy to set up, portable, low maintenance, low cost delivery,etc.
Links: pages highlighting each of these features.

Making the list of products is not problem. Making the list of features, benefits, and interesting tips and tricks for each product is also no problem. But finding the pages within my websites where these features, benefits and othe things are dealt with is a problem, because in many cases the pages simply don't exist.

What I discovered is that I had not structured my website(s) this way. It seems perfectly obvious that when you put a website together you should say "OK, first, what product(s) do I want to feature? And second, what are the specific features of these products?" And then set about creating pages covering these things. So you would think your website would have a page for e.g., "PopUp Displays", and then two or three or four pages focusing on specific features of popup displays.

But as I discovered, I had not really done this. Either I simply hadn't had enough time — I've been working on a large number of brand new projects over the last six months — or I hadn't felt it was necessary.

In any event, this little blog promotion effort illustrated that it is necessary, and that I had not adequately "fleshed out" my websites. Sure, I had created basic sites with product descriptions, photos, ordering information, etc. But I hadn't gone the extra mile and created the supporting pages that do the backup selling of these products. There were pages missing that should have been created — all the ones carefully and pointedly describing the most important selling features and benefits of the products I was supposed to be promoting.

As a result, before I could finish my blog posts I had to create a bunch of new web pages that I could use my "Power Links" to point to. In the end this was a good thing. But of course it meant a simple little project had just become quite a bit more involved than I had hoped it would.

Here is an example of the kind of "blog post pages" I am creating. It is a slow process, but I think this is the best way to create keyword-rich posts with the best range of embedded "power links". And in the process I will be fleshing out my most important sites — the ones with the most important products.

-- Rick
SuperCharge Your Website with Power Linking

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Syndicating Marketing Bites

"The deeper I get into this blog thing, the more I realize how much I don't know." I think Socrates said that, or perhaps it was the oracle at Delphi.

Yesterday I decided to try to get my blog "feed" to show up on a couple of other websites. You can see the result at Small-Business-Online.com. Like most web programming chores, getting this to work was not as straightforward as I think it should be.

Step One. Figuring out what a "feed" is

First, it requires understanding what a blog "feed" is. It turns out that your serious blogging software -- like blogspot.com which I use for "Marketing Bites", and also b2evolution which I use for Biz-Blogs.com -- these automatically create a "feed" that other people can tap into and access.

Step 2. How do people access your feed?

If your blog has been automatically "syndicated" (i.e., turned into an xml file) by your blogging software -- as, I discovered, is the case with mine -- that feed will have a special address. For instance, the address for the RSS feed for my blog called "Trade Show Buzz" is "http://biz-blogs.com/b2e/xmlsrv/rss2.php?blog=2". Enter this address into your browser and you will see the xml version of the blog, as interpreted by the browser.

Of course these feeds are not really meant to be viewed in browsers -- you can just go look at the blog itself if you want to use your browser. Rather, they are meant to be viewed in a special "feed reader" like FeedDemon. A feed reader lets you create "Channels" for each of your favourite blog feeds, and lets you easily view the current contents of those blog feeds. This is much quicker and more efficient than using a browser. There are also versions of feed readers that will run on portable devices such as pdas and connected cell phones.

Step 3. Making Your Feed Easy to Find

OK. You've got a feed. And you know how to access it with a browser and with a "feed reader". The next step -- possibly optional, but I am not yet sure -- is to fine tune your feed so a) it is universally accessible, and b) looks the way you want it to look. One way to accomplish both these objectives -- and many more I am told -- is to route your feed through an "aggregator" or feed publisher.

After an extensive 5 minute search I decided to use Feedburner.com. You punch your feed address into their system, and it routes it through their own server, formatting it according to various parameters you enter. It also "universalizes" the feed making it compatible with the maximum number of browsers and feed readers out there.

This was important in my case, because blogspot (Marketing Bites) creates an "Atom" formatted feed, but the software I decided to use to post my feed on my websites (see Step 4, following) can only accept RSS format. Feedburner turns the Atom feed into a RSS feed. And then it gives me a new feed address: http://feeds.feedburner.com/MarketingBites. This is a bit easier to remember, and therefore also a bit easier to promote.

This also lets me "aggregate" my feeds all in one place, even if they are located at different addresses. So in other words, if you have five different blog feeds they could be:


...rather than a variety of different addresses.

Feedburner.com also monitors the traffic to your feed. So you can see how many people are actually viewing it. It also creates cool promotional buttons like this:

which you can stick on websites and in email signatures.

Step 4. Putting your feed on your static website(s)

Now that you have a feed with an easily remembered address, a universal format, and some formatting control, you can "feed" it to your own website(s). My preliminary research led me to CARP, an inexpensive script for integrating feeds with websites. I downloaded and installed Carp in about 5 minutes. Configuring it took a bit longer -- possibly an hour or two before I figured out how to control the way the feed looks on your page.

In order to get this to work I created a .php page with the feed instructions and configuration details, and then added it to my home page as an "include" file. That way it is not part of the actual code of my web page. That allows me to add the same .php file to any other pages (within the same site) using the same techniqe. No need to create a new feed file every time I want to use it.

I will report on this further as time goes by.

-- Rick

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Linknet Radio is "On the Air"

After much preperation and experimentation, I finally got "Linknet Radio" up and running. This is my much anticipated "Flash Alternative for Online Media". It uses a very simple implementation of the Wimpy Player (the one you can see at Power Linking with Linknet and Business Blogs) using its "playlist" capabilities. I know there are alternative players out there — and eventually I hope to try them out — but the Wimpy Player is easy to get up and running, doesn't require any Flash experience, and it WORKS!

Audio about "Power Linking"
Programs being added daily

Monday, November 08, 2004

Link Exchange Abuse

Just about every morning I start out the work day by reviewing link exchange requests and updating my reciprocal link directories. Because I have a number of linknet websites I usually get between 5 and 10 link requests every day. I could get much more than this if I actually listed a number of my sites in directories and link exchange sites. But I don't want to be overwhelmed by pointless requests, and more importantly...

As I've mentioned in other posts, my attitude towards link exchanging has become jaded by actually DOING IT. I have concluded that:

1. Many webmasters do not understand the point of exchanging links. They seem to think "the bigger the link directory, the more impressive and effective the website". But the point is not to create outbound links it is to get inbound links -- and that doesn't require a link directory at all.

2. Reciprocal links are "poor man's links". Inbound links from link directories are often on pages with no traffic and no PR. What's the point?

3. Having a reciprocal link program may actually deter you from the more useful exercise of getting high value links -- what I call "power linking". You think you are doing something useful with your link exchange program. But often you are not (see above). Net result: time spent on useless activies instead of useful ones.

This morning I had several link requests that confirmed my growing feelings about exchanging links. First, I had several requests from an "adult" site. Since these were automated link requests making use of Link Machine, they are virtually entered in the link directory almost automatically (they still have to be confirmed, and can be removed). What if I was bombarded with hundreds of link requests like this?

Second, I received 7 automated link requests from the same site wanting me to link to 7 different pages within the same site. That's not a bad strategy -- you should get links to as many pages in your site as you can. But in return I was going to get ONE link back to my site.

This webmaster is either inexperienced, stupid, or just plain deceptive. Nobody in his right mind is going to trade SEVEN links from real link pages (i.e., my pages have real PR) in exchange for ONE link back to a page in a crappy link directory with ZERO PR.

To further make my point that this kind of link exchange is pointless, this site has almost 8,000 links in its link "directory" and ZERO PR for any page I looked at. Good plan. Good use of your time and resources.

-- Rick

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Promoting with Blogs, Part 2

In my previous post about "promoting Vinyl Banners with new blog site", I outlined the basic strategy I decided to pursue to use blog power linking as a general promotional tool, and, specifically, to promote our full color vinyl banners.

As part of my more general Blog Experiment I first had to nail down answers to the two most important questions: "Where was I going to put my blogs?" and "What software I was going to use?"

These are not easy questions to answer for the novice blogger. I had done some initial work. First, I had created this site (Marketing B.S.) at Google's blogspot.com a couple of weeks ago, and had some limited experience with making posts. In this limited time I have found blogspot easy to use, but because I wanted to create an initial 4 or 5 blogs, and eventually more, I thought it might be nice to have a more powerful program.

Two possibilities:

1. I could create 4 or 5 different blogs at different locations (free blog hosts?), using different software packages. This would help me address the questions "Which blogs sites are most effective?" and "Which blogging software has the most advantages?"


2. I could use software that allowed me to create a number of integrated blogs all within one "shell" (as it were). This would have the advantage of easier setup and shorter learning curve. But it might have other disadvantages I will leave it to you to think of...

Given the ridiculous amount of hands on work I have recently been doing developing new sites, entering articles, creating posts, and now creating these new blogs, I decided I would restrict my "research" to doing some very cursory initial checking on (a) blogging software and (b) free (or paid) blog site hosts.

My search for "blogging software" turned up an interesting website in which the author compared most of the leading software packages. The bottom line was that he recommended Wordpress. (more about this below)

My search for "blog hosting" turned up any number of possibilities. But after about 10 minutes I concluded there was no way I could draw any meaningful conclusions or make any useful comparisons without actually trying them out. All of them use different software, modified for their own application. If I wanted to create 4 or 5 blogs, I could end up using 4 or 5 different hosts and running 4 or 5 different software packages. Not a happy thought.

Plus there was the potential cost. I already have 3 hosting sites where I can register my own domains, and create virtually unlimited sites (including blog sites). So why wouldn't I just use my own resources?

One reason is that I felt having links pointing in to my sites from "outside" would be more powerful than having them pointing from "inside". But I quickly dispensed with this objection. First, since I have three different hosting alternatives of my own, if I stick my blog site on one of them, then this is "outside" to the other two already. This was part of my rationale in the first place for getting more than one host -- to let me spread my sites around at different ip addresses.

Second, one of my web hosts has ready-to-install scripts just sitting there waiting to be used -- for free. Installation is virtually brainless. And included among the available scripts are various blogging scripts -- including Wordpress (mentioned above as a preferred package), and b2evolution. So why wouldn't I go this route?

I would. And I did.

I registered a new domain especially for "business blogs", and was almost in business. Now I had to decide which software to install.

In fact I had already installed Wordpress on one of my sites to see if it would work. It did. But I didn't like it. I'm sure it has many features I am not aware of (remember, no time to do the proper research), but I wanted something that looked a bit more "dense".

That turned out to be b2evolution -- also available for free from my host. The big advantage for my situation is that it allows you to create numerous blogs right within the same blog site. You can then access them all from the same admin panel, and integrate the posts from all of them in one "master blog" which I call "Biz-Blogs".

So that is where things stand at this point. I have registered a new business blog domain name and created a site for it. I have installed b2evolution, and I have created 4 new blogs:

Trade Show Buzz
The WeekEnd Golfer
Inside Real Estate

In my next post (Part 3) I will describe how I am going to approach creating "promotional posts" without turning them into Link SPAM.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Promoting Products with Blogs, Part 1

Last night I started following through on some of my ideas for "Power Linking with Blogs". The strategy consists of these main points:

1. Choose a product to promote with blog power linking.
2. Isolate about 20 main keywords related to this product.
3. Find, or create some pages within the product website where these keywords are emphasized.
4. Create 5 or 6 relatively short blog posts -- about 100 words -- in which you cycle through all the keywords, and create links pointing to all the pages referenced in #3 above.

I decided to start to seriously promote our Vinyl Banners this way. We've had great success marketing this product using Google Adwords, and are starting to see some hits coming to our sites from regular searches.

But I decided way back last December that a viable strategy was to develop two or three seperate "niche" markets based on location with their own identity, websites, and marketing programs. I called this a "Location-Focused Identity".

The two niche markets I eventually chose were

1. Canada -- with a focus on "made in Canada", and
2. The USA -- with a focus on more "patriotic" themes

I had registered the domain names months ago -- www.banners-canada.com and www.america-banners.com. I got both websites up and running, started a serious link exchange program, and created hundreds of inbound links to both of them by posting articles and cross-linking with my othe sites.

But I hadn't really gotten serious about promoting the US site (www.america-banners.com), even though most of our inquiries, and many of our sales come from all over the US. I decided it was time to get seious about getting some "web presence" for www.america-banners.com, and I was going to begin by using my very own "Power Linking with Blogs" strategy.

In my next post I'll detail what I've done.

-- Rick

A Question about Keywords

Supercharge your Website with Power Linking

Here is a question I recently received:

Hi Rick,

I have a question about keywords, which is not exactly what your articles were about, but it is in a similar category. Basically, I want to understand how to use keywords.

I have read quite a bit about them, and you read all the time that you must use a tool like Overture's Keyword Tool to enter your main keyword, and then see what related keywords are being searched for by people. But once you find this out, what do you do with the information? Do you enter hundreds of keywords into your meta keyword tag? That seems an unlikely scenario, but there must be a purpose to identifying these related keywords.

Thanking you in anticipation,




Dear AB...

Your question is not naïve at all. It is actually very important, and I will do my best to give you a useful answer...

First, I assume you have a PRODUCT you want to market online.

If you don't have any products to market online, then all this concern with keywords is basically irrelevant...

Second, I assume you have determined the MIKW ("Most Important Keywords") for your product.

Assuming you have a product, if you have NOT determined your "Most Important Keywords", then you should. This is the starting point. In my experience, the best way to do this is to run a Google Adwords test campaign. I wrote an article about this some time ago that might be helpful... Adwords Article

Your test campaign will tell you a couple of things very quickly...

1. Is there a demand for your product as you have defined and described it? If nobody clicks on your ad, there is no demand...go back to the drawing board...

2. Does your website "convert" the click thrus at a high enough rate to justify the campaign?

3. Which keywords do people most frequently click on? The Google Adwords advertiser tools will tell you exactly what you need to know after a very short campaign. It will give you a list of "fruitful" keywords -- keywords that people actually click on.

This last point gets to the sort of information you are after:

1. Which keywords should I use?

2. Why would I use "secondary" keywords if nobody ever clicks on them?

3. How do I use my "fruitful" keywords once I know what they are?

Here are my answers...

1. Which keywords should I use?
You should use the "fruitful" ones. The ones that people use to identify your product. You determine what these are by (first) using analytical tools like the Overture tools, Google tools, Wordtracker, etc. But the BEST WAY is to run a Google Adwords test campaign as described above and in my article. Once you have actually started generating traffic to your site, you should have some method of TRACKING the click thrus so you see what keywords people use to get to your site, and what other sites they are using to get to yours. Add these keywords to your list of "fruitful" ones.

2. Why would I use "secondary" keywords if nobody ever clicks on them?
You shouldn't. If nobody ever clicks on them or gets to your site by searching for them, then don't bother with them. But there WILL be secondary keywords (just like there will be secondary Search Engines) that generate dribs and drabs of traffic. Say you have one Primary Keyword that generates the most traffic (this is what I find usually happens). And say that generates 10 TIMES the number of the clickthrus to your site that any other keyword generates. OK... that is the keyword to emphasize.

But if you can find 10 other "secondary" keywords that generate just 10% (each) of the traffic generated by your PKW (Primary Keyword), you will have DOUBLED YOUR CLICK THRUS. Ten keywords x 10% = 100%.

3. What do I do with my "fruitful" keywords once I know what they are?
Use them in all your traffic generating strategies...

Strategy #1: Pay Per Click ads. List all your "fruitful" keywords (FKs) in your ads.

Srategey #2: Search Engine Optimization: Create pages for all your FKs. Optimize them. Repeat the FKS throughout your pages. Get inbound links to these pages from as many sources as you can.

Strategy #3: Power Linking Strategies. Link Exchange, Articles, Blogs, forum posts, link purchases, etc. Build link text emphasizing all your FKs and create links to as many of your optimized pages as you can. Don't just link to your home page. Link to your secondary pages too. Here is an example of some link-optimized text I created for my Power Linking course:

keyword-rich link text

I hope this is helpful. If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask them.

Best regards,

Rick Hendershot

P.S. By the way, notice I haven't mentioned the "Keyword Meta Tag". Most Search Engines ignore this because it is so often used for keyword SPAM. Build your MIKWs (most important keywords) into your content -- especially into the first part of your pages, the main headlines, the first paragraph or two, the last paragraph(s) on the page. Also build your MIKW into the TITLE tag, the DESCRIPTION tag, and the file name of the page, if you can. This is basic "Search Engine Optimization" stuff...

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

New Banner Exchange Started

-- by Rick Hendershot
Free Banner Exchange

I've started a new advertising banner exchange, primarily to provide ad banners for my websites and to advertise specific products. Anyone who would like to join (for free), and have your banners rotate through about 20 websites, go to the sign up page...

Free Banner Exchange

Banner test....

The banner sample does not work, because javascript is not allowed.

Monday, November 01, 2004

A Quick Definition of Spam

SEO, Power Linking

I think SEO tends to get things upside down. We do not create text primarily for SE purposes, but rather to say something. If we are not trying to say something, then what exactly are we trying to do?

Answer: Trick the Search Engines.

The "solution" is NOT to try harder to trick the Search Engines (with more cleverly disguised "optimized" text"). The "solution" is to onlypublish things that say something. I would claim that if we publish things that are meant to say something (are intended to be read by other people), then BY DEFINITION this is not spam. No matter what Google says.

Spam is not meant to be read. It is meant to trick. If your copy is meant to be read, it is not SPAM.

Furthermore, if it is meant to be read, go ahead and build in as much keyword-rich content as you can. No need to fear or be worried about being accused of spamming. It is not spam because it is readable. That's all there is to it.

-- Rick
Marketing B.S. (Blog Site)