Monday, April 25, 2005

Thoughts on Pay Per Click Advertising

If you are considering doing Pay Per Click advertising (Google Adwords, Overture, etc.), there are two contrasting opinions expressed in two recently published articles.

In the first one, published by Lawrence Deon ("Surviving Google's Aging Delay") and referenced at e_Marketing, Lawrence suggests that search engine marketing practices that worked in the past (most notably, aggressive link trading and link buying) are no longer working quite as they were. Google seems to be delaying the results of aggressive linking, and therefore, you cannot count on SEO to get you short term traffic. The only way is with PPC. He says, "If you purchase non-directory links, reallocate that budget to Adwords advertising."

I am interpreting this as a general comment on SE marketing, not just link buying/trading. The very clear suggestion is that you will not get the same short term traffic from SEO and linking strategies, and therefore you should resort to PPC.

Contrast this with this article written by Cari Haus who points out that PPC is very hard to monitor and can very quickly drain away your promotion budget if you are not careful.

My own experience is that PPC is very powerful if you meet these conditions:

1. You must very clearly define your product in terms of the most critical key words, and target your ads to these keywords.
2. Your landing page must be geared to generating responses and sales.
3. You must have a very simple method of generating responses on your landing page.
4. Your product must be very competitive - the kind of thing potential buyers will buy NOW.

If you are trying to generate long term exposure, or build a web presence, PPC can be a very expensive way to do it.

My most successful PPC campaigns have been for:

Vinyl Banners, PopUp Trade Show Displays, and 25 Free Links. Notice how all three of these products and their corresponding landing pages meet the above criteria.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Paypal Features Outlined in Article

There is a very good article published at Trade Show Tips in which author Merle of MC Promotions outlines many of the features and advantages for small entrepreneurs of using PayPal.

If you have considered using PayPal as an alternative to getting a merchant account, or if you have held off on getting into online sales because of a lack of a merchant account, you really should read this article.

Bottom line: you don't need a merchant account to do online sales.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Creating a Basic Website Template

What is a web "template"?

As I understand this term, it is a design format which you can apply to all (or most) of the pages in a web site. Using a "template" system like this has two major advantages. First,it allows you to make your most important design decisions at the beginning, and then just focus on content. And second, it allows you to quickly create new pages based on your standard design.

The disadvantage is that many template-based websites look homogenized and lacking in unique character. Designers who sell templates tend to use the same formats over and over again, insert the same generic images, use the same techniques.

Just as important, I have never found one that I consider ready-to-go right out of the box. They always need modification, and often modifying a professionally prepared template is difficult because the designer will have used techniques you may not fully understand or are specific to the tools he or she used to create it.

So I prefer not to think of templates as the kind of thing you buy from an online template store. Rather I prefer to think of them as simply a basic page format that can be used over and over again. The best template is therefore one that uses "standard" techniques that can be modified without the use of specialized tools or programs (like Front Page or Dreamweaver).

Creating a Basic Template

If you are not familiar with web design, try working with a "bare bones" template to begin with. There are two ways you can go. You can work with basic html and tables, or you can create your basic template with CSS. I recommend you begin with CSS -- especially if you have not yet become used to constructing web pages with tables.

CSS stands for "Cascading Style Sheets", but at the beginning it is not important to understand what that means. What is important is to understand that CSS allows you to create a set of formatting parameters in a "style sheet" (a seperate file) which you then can very easily apply to your individual pages. In other words, you seperate the "style" from the "content".

A simple style sheet can contain just three or four design elements. Here is an example which you are free to copy (right click and "Save target as" to a location on your hard drive)


This template contains a definition for the body text, a header component (with a background image), a "navbar", and a definition for two headline styles, h1 and h2.

Now that you have a style sheet you can begin building your web site by creating a basic home page. Here is an example which embeds the style sheet referred to in the previous paragraph. You can get the html code by just opening the page in a browser window, looking at the "Source" code, and saving the resulting file on your hard drive as, for instance, "sample-1.html".

Now you should have two files in the same location on your hard drive -- "sample-1.css" and "sample-1.html". You can get the image file by just right clicking on the image in the sample page and saving it to the same location on your hard drive.

Your second step will be to create the pages referenced in the "navbar", so make sure you think of names for these pages before proceeding (e.g., howitworks.html, products.html, about.html, sitemap.html, contact.html). Then build your hyperlinks into the navbar. (Look at the code of the sample file to see how it is done.)

Once you have your basic home page with links, this then becomes your template. Just save it as "howitworks.html", "products.html", etc., and make the changes to the specific pages.

The result (once you upload it all to your host server) will be a basic, functional website containing a number of properly interlinked pages. It will also be search engine friendly because the design is not cluttered with scripts, and the most important elements are clearly laid out at the top of the page.

For more web design, SEO, blogging, and marketing tips see the Linknet Marketing Resource Library.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

If Google Delays Why be Conservative?

In the face of claims that Google has started delaying the impact of aggressive linking policies some SEO "experts" have concluded a more conservative linking policy is in order.

This does not make sense.

If you have to wait 6 to 8 months before links get their due (still a debatable conclusion) why does this lead to a "go slow" approach to acquiring links?

It doesn't.

Read more at e_Marketing

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Does Blogger Suck or Is it Just Me?

I just spent about an hour composing a masterpiece about Google link filters and the program screwed it up when I went to save it. This is not the first time this has happened. And it is not the only problem I have found with blogger.

So in the future I will post my substantive entries over at one of my other blogs, such as e_Marketing, and just post references here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Is Page Rank Overrated?

More and more web experts and SEO practitioners seem to think Google's Page Rank is becoming less important in the overall search engine scheme of things. The new rallying cry is "relevance". Create relevant content, get relevant inbound links, link to relevant sites in your area of expertise.

The simple fact is no one (including, I suspect, Google) knows exactly what relationship the Page Rank of a given page has to its likelihood of scoring well in specific searches. People ("experts" and otherwise) talk as though they know, but unless they are talking from actual experience they are just blowing different colours of smoke.

For instance, I recently had someone tell me they had heard that two domains placed on the same server, sharing the same ip address "will not get the credit of two sites but something between 1 and 2". This sounds marginally plausible until you think about it for a minute or two. Whether or not it is true, the bigger question remains the same: namely, "what good are these "credits" anyway?" What are they supposed to do for you?

Well, two things, I suppose:

1. Improve your Page Rank (or potential Page Rank), and
2. Improve your SE rankings for your most important keywords.

But both of these things beg the more fundamental question about traffic generation. Namely,

"What does any of this have to do with generating traffic or making sales?"

We assume that answer to this question is obvious. Higher PR means more traffic. But this presupposes traffic in itself is good.

It's not, unless you're selling advertising.

Traffic is only good if it is correctly targeted, and if your content can "convert" enough site visitors into readers, buyers, ad clickers, or whatever it is you're trying to get them to do.

I know it is a cliche, but it really does all come back to content. Websites or blogs that are devoid of meaningful and well constructed content turn out to be pointless -- PR or no PR. You may get visitors, but they will not buy anything, or stick around long enough to click on your Google ads.

Carefully crafted content, on the other hand will do well on all counts. The Search Engines will (eventually) start to recognize your greatness. Other webmasters will want to exchange links with you and send traffic your way. And site visitors will appreciate the information you provide and buy your products.