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Rochester, New York

« November 2006 | Main | January 2007 »

2006 Blog Highlights

Today’s post is short and sweet.  I’ve collected user data and visitor feedback to present my 2006 post highlights.  The highlights cover a wide swath of ground from aviation to Internet marketing.  My hope is that the various posts will get you thinking more about your own business ideas.   Make sure you take action!  Please feel free to pass the information to family and friends, because everyone interested in the web needs to know this stuff.

The Most Fun You Can Have with Your Clothes On
This post contains a short video and article about following your passion.  When your work is your passion, you’ll never work another day.

Thomas Edison and the Internet

Like computers, too many people fear making a mistake on the Internet.  Learn how Thomas Edison embraced mistakes and why you should strive to make mistakes online.

Online Marketing Like P.T. Barnum
(Part I)
More Marketing Like P.T. Barnum (Part II)
A look at Joe Vitale’s synopsis on P.T. Barnum’s “Rings of Power.” Learn how you can apply the techniques of the world’s greatest marketer to your web site or business.

Networks and Marketing

Discover the power of networks. You need to tap into the power of your industry networks.  Are you ready? Warm up your business cards.

Unexpected Online Business Success
Things never go as expected, especially online. The small things and targeted niche markets can help you.

Why Worry About Search Engine Optimization?
Learn why every business needs to consider leveraging Search End Optimization. SEO can drive high quality traffic to your web site.

Above the Fold
Do you know why it is so important to keep your most important content above the fold?

On Being Late
It’s important to be on time.  Yet there comes occasions when we become detailed.  Use this helpful advice to smooth over the next time you are late.

I’m really looking forward to the New Year.  It’s my goal to publish two Internet related books in the coming year.   Look for my “Do it Yourself Usability Guide” series coming shortly.  I’ll also be releasing a series of downloadable PDF documents focusing on SEO, Usability, and Internet Marketing.

See you later 2006!

There Is No Perfect Web Strategy

People approach me all the time about starting a web site. One of the most common questions is "What exactly should I do?"  They're usually disappointed by my answer.  Businesses need to understand there is no cookie cutter web strategy for every web site. Yes you can concentrate on some macro fundamentals like design, marketing, and usability.  These are things any web site should possess.  But in many cases it's the small things that count.  More important is a business giving their web strategy time to work.  Here is the best part; there is no set time frame. You need to use your own judgment.  Two important factors any company needs to take into consideration are time and strategy.

You need to look at your time frame with patience.  I've stated this previously, many businesses want immediate results with their web site.  The one thing you will learn on the web, much like investing, is that wealth and prosperity are built over time.  The "I want it yesterday" mentality dooms more web projects than you can imagine.  I've seen Fortune 500 companies sacrifice very smart strategies because they became impatient.  Yes you have to set limits on time frame. But make sure that limit isn't too short.

When it comes to strategy I look to other good examples within the business world.  A brick and mortar company that is an ideal success analogy is Wegmans Food Markets.  Wegmans' core model is based around being a grocery store. They have a very simple yet systematic approach to ancillary services.  Most stores have your staple grocery store service bakery, meat department, and pharmacy.  In many cases individual store demographics dictate which additional services are provided.  If a service (Sushi bar, Kids Fun Center, Photo Processing, Dry Cleaning, etc.) doesn't work out it is pulled and replaced with another.  If no ancillary service works out the individual store reverts to their core model.  This is a continuous store by store process until the right combination is found.

You can apply the Wegmans' methodology to your web strategy.  Concentrate on creating a long term strategy supported by ancillary services.  Your core strategy can be rooted in design, marketing, and usability.  These core services can be supported by additional technologies or services including: Organic SEO, PPC Campaigns, Copywriting, Public Relations, E-newsletter, Surveys, etc.  In many cases additional services can be added at comparatively low cost. Mix and match what works best.  You need to determine the proper time frame to test each service or combination of services.  Once again, there is no perfect combination and you can't rush success. Organic SEO can take several months to take root. Time is the largest mitigating factor.

You need to realize that there is no magic bullet or perfect web strategy.  When I recently asked a friend how he attains 40-60K visitors a day, he didn't have a concrete answer.  As he put it, "I just kind of did it." Successful web sites are built upon a systematic strategy that is continuously modified.   You need to make a decision on what you want to do and set forth in your strategy.  Regardless of your strategy make sure you give it time to work.

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Focus on Web Site Conversions

Are you converting your web site traffic?

One of the largest marketing mistakes web site owners commit is not having a plan to get visitors to take action upon arriving at their web site. Numerous companies look at their web statistics for the past month and are confused as to why so many people visited their site yet there is no appreciable change in revenue.  This is where the conversion factor comes into play.

A conversion is the process of your user taking some predetermined action or series of actions.  It is a measurable metric.  As an example, 10,000 people come to your web site in a month.  Of the 10,000 visitors, 100 of your visitors take a predetermined action.  In this case they make a purchase from your web site.  The end result is a 1% conversion rate.  100 purchases / 10,000 visitors = 1.0% Conversion rate.  In order to be successful online you need to concentrate on converting your web traffic.

Conversions don't always need to be in the form of a purchase.  Many people concentrate on building email lists to soft sell their product or service. Doing so increases the lifetime value of that perspective customer.  I know of one person over the last few years that amassed over 15,000 email addresses.  He delivered high quality content via his newsletters on a regular basis.  Imagine what you could do with 15,000 people dedicated people on your email list?

The cold hard truth is that most visitors come to your site and never return.  There are a plethora of reasons.  In some instances it takes several visits before a visitor will take any action.  You need to establish trust and credibility with your user.  A miniscule number of people will convert in their first visit.  You need to get people to come back to your site often enough to establish credibility.  In today's day of information privacy that can be a very daunting task.  After the trust is ultimately established it becomes much easier for you to convert users. Web sites that retain their traffic for subsequent visits are referred to as having a high degree of "stickiness."  Users are attracted to come back because of any number of onsite factors.

Here is a brief list of things you can do to establish trust and credibility:

If you can establish the criteria above you should be in good shape.  Can you put a check mark next to each item listed above? If so, you should be well on your way to creating a trustworthy and credible web presence.

Creative Thinking: Brains and Brawn

This post is an extension of the “Discovering Web Site Ideas” post.  In the post I briefly mentioned my methodology for coming up with new ideas.  Today I’m going to expand on this simple technique. Hopefully it will allow you to come up with some of your own great ideas or creative solutions.

I believe that everyone should visit the gym at least three times a week.  Being fit is extremely helpful if you want to be successful in the business world.  Exercising gives you that extra spark. When I work out in the morning I feel energized throughout the day.  If I miss my routine, I drag all day long.  What does exercising have to do with idea creation?  Some of my best ideas come to me while exercising. I'd like to share with you a technique that anyone can use.

During a recent visit to the gym I had a dilemma floating around my brain.  I wanted to make some extra money before the end of the year.  I wrote down the following question: “How do I make an extra $5K in the next week?”  Initially I had no idea.  At the end of the routine I had my solution.  A day later I presented my idea to the client and mission accomplished.  It isn’t always going to be that simple.  But we all have to start somewhere.

This process works best with a weight lifting routine, but can be modified accordingly.  It is based on a 1-2 hour workout.  It utilizes the time you rest between exercises or set.  Here is what works for me.

The Idea Creation Workout

  • Bring a small notebook or a sheet of paper and a pen to the gym.
  • Before you start, write down a question or two.
    e.g. “How do I market this new idea?” or “What can I do to increase services revenue?
  • Keep the notebook or paper with you throughout your routine.
  • In between each set or individual exercises try to write down an idea.

Make sure you don’t force your ideas onto paper.  An idea won't always pop into your mind.  Give the process time. This probably sounds hokey, but let your brain come up with a solution.  I’ve asked a few knowledgeable people on why this is such a simple yet powerful technique.  The best response I received is when you are working out, you are working your muscles not your brain.  Sometimes the best ideas come when our brain has a chance to relax.  You’re letting your subconscious mind take over.  It sounds crazy, but it really does work.

By the end of the routine I usually have all my ideas or solutions.   Here is the really important part.  You need to act upon your ideas.  Too many people talk about their ideas and then never act upon them.  The successful people in this world run with their ideas.  They might not get it perfect or right the first, second, or twentieth time.  But in the end successful people make it work.  Which person are you?

Learning How to Be an Online Business Success

People always use the excuse that they never have time to learn. I'd argue that there is a decent amount of time to learn something new every day.  Learning takes dedication. You probably have an hour or more a day to learn going to and from work. With the advent of MP3 players and the availability of downloadable podcasts, the chance to learn how to be successful online has never been easier. 

To be successful online you need to be constantly learning.  You might not be able to work on our web sites at every free moment. Tweaking your web site on your laptop while in traffic doesn't strike me as the best idea.  But we can certainly make the most of time when we aren't actually working. I've identified two easy to implement ideas that are tremendously helpful to learning.  They won't work if you aren't dedicated.

Learn while you drive or take public transportation
Try giving up some of your radio time to learn something new.  While you are driving or commuting to work listen to a book on tape or CD about business or marketing.  The selection of helpful audio books is vast. Your library might have some great books on tape or CD, all for free! MP3 players allow you to listen to audio podcasts of various online gurus.  Depending on where you live you might be able to get a few hours of learning, just sitting in traffic or on the train. 

Learn while you exercise
If you have an MP3 player, use it during running or working out. Load it up with some useful podcasts and you're good to go as you exercise.  If you use a paper notebook to track your workout routine keep an area to write down new ideas that jump into your brain. 

Read while you wait
Another suggestion is always have a book to read.  Just one book at a time would suffice.  Bring it with you where ever you go.  Whenever you are waiting in line or waiting for an appointment, start reading.  If you put forth a decent amount of dedication you could probably finish a book in a week or two.

With all the technology at our disposal it has never been easier to learn something new.  You probably have your own ideas for learning sessions.  It's up to you to determine how you use your time. You can always make more money, but you can't make more time.
Additional Resources:

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Are You Taking the Time to Analyze Your Web Statistics?

My main focus for today is to encourage people to get setup with analytics software and learn how to use it.  A later post will look into some of the finer points of analyzing web statistics.

There are plenty of decent analytics programs on the market.  One of my personal favorites is Google Analytics.  It is a free service with few restrictions.  Google Analytics is easy to install and web based.  This allows you to check your web statistics from anywhere with a web connection.  Data is compiled every few hours, making it near real time.  Their current restriction allows you up to 5 million page views per month.  If you have a Google Adwords account their page view restriction is lifted.  If you are getting over 5 million page views a month, that’s a good problem.  Purchasing higher end analytics software should be a question at that time.

Whatever analytics software you use, take the time to read the manual.  There are so many people that only have a basic grasp of how to use their analytics software.  The more you understand about the program the more you can leverage the data.

You should check your analytics on a regular basis. Some people check monthly or every few months.  This isn’t enough.  My usual routine is checking at least twice a day.  You don’t need to spend an extended period of time going through statistics. As you learn to use your web statistics program the process becomes very quick.  It should only take a minute or two each time you check.  Real time tracking is beneficial in this area because you don’t need to compile a report each time you check your data.

When I check my statistics daily I look for two things: daily traffic trends and referring traffic sources.  First, I compare my daily traffic from day to day. This helps me gauge in the short term my traffic performance.  Second, analyzing referring traffic sources helps me to determine the effectiveness of my organic and paid search engine campaigns.  I might also look at what pages or articles people are checking regularly.

Make sure you understand the difference between hits and statistics.  Businesses need to recognize the difference because they are inadvertently misrepresenting their statistical data. 

Another pet peeve is hearing business people brag about how much traffic they get to their web site.  Traffic is great as long as you can capitalize.  You need to start with concentrating on getting high quality traffic.  High quality traffic refers to users from your target market, not the general user populous.  Those users are interested in what you have to offer. After getting high quality traffic, you can then focus on converting that traffic.  A conversion usually involves an online sale, capturing an email address, or another set of performance metrics.  It’s not about quantity of traffic but quality of traffic.

If you are serious about your online aspirations make sure you have a good web analytics application working for you.  After you have good data to work from you need to be able to interpret that data.  Get setup and go play.

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A Controversial Topic for the Real World

Merry Christmas and Holiday Greetings to everyone!  I have nothing relevant to add to my Internet advice today.  In my first contribution to off topic subjects I've decided on a controversial topic: sweatpants in public.  One of my friends insisted that I would never write on such an offbeat topic. Here you have a light hearted post for Christmas.

As my friend Mike put it he "wouldn't be caught dead in public" with sweatpants.  He says it's an unwritten rule that you aren't allowed to wear sweats in public.  Personally, I don't see the big deal.  Sweat pants seem to have an unfair prejudice against them.  How many people wear sweat shirts in public or hoodies?  It is the same family of fabric. Why the prejudice below the belt?

Below is an interesting supporting perspective provided at Iris.com.

  • They're comfortable--it's a no-brainer.
  • You don't have to change out of OR back into your pajamas in the morning and evening.
  • You know you don't need to put on anything with buttons or a zipper to catch the eye of that hottie at the coffee shop. (Not sure if "hottie" refers to a man or a woman. Shrug.)
  • No one ever split the seam of their sweatpants bending over.

Brian Moylan at WashingtonBlade.com posted the following: "The style of dress in this country has gotten excessively casual to the point that it's even acceptable to wear sweatpants in public in places other than the gym."

There you have the information; now you decide. Merry Christmas, Mike!

Expecting Success Online

Everyone with a web site should have a goal in mind.  As I’ve stated before, having a web site just to have a web site isn’t enough.  Be pragmatic when setting online goals and strategy .  Most businesses miss the boat by setting goals that are far too difficult to achieve.   When the desired result isn’t achieved, in the shortest time possible, most get frustrated and quit.

I’m fairly pithy in this article.  Please don’t confuse an experienced and pragmatic viewpoint as negativity.  Many people get frustrated when I don’t tell them what they like to hear.  I refuse to pass along impractical online dreams to the masses.  But, I do believe you need to be smart, realistic, and positive with your online pursuits.  To be successful online takes dedication and hard work.

One of the biggest keys to online success is embodied in the following words “Marketing. Marketing, and Marketing.” People need to know about your web site and how to get there.  You can take a decent product or service and market it properly to achieve tremendous success.  Or you can have the best product in the world with zero marketing and go nowhere.  Smart marketing is quintessential!

I have a number of friends who want to become wealthy using the Internet.  Yet when I tell them what’s involved they respond with “I don’t have the time.” I think this is a load of dung.  The people who are serious about being successful online find the time.  I’ve tried to help and encourage almost a hundred people over the last decade.  Of all the advice that I’ve given to friends; two people have taken the initiative to move forward.  They understand the risk versus rewards scenario.  At the end of the day it’s up to the an individual to take initiative.

Almost every single online success story had humble beginnings. I cannot think of anyone who did remarkably well right from startup. Several people stumble through the online growing process.  Most of the Internet gurus started off making a few hundred dollars a month. Today some of them make in excess of $150K a month.

Set your online expectations reasonably high, but not too high.  If you choose to play the online game: play it with knowledge, tenacity, and determination.Nobody is entitled to anything but opportunity.  Not even to a level playing field. Nothing. Nada. Just opportunity.”  - Dan Kennedy

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:


A Web Site Redesign Mistake

Are you considering a web site redesign in the near future?
During a web site redesign there is a mistake that many businesses unnecessarily commit. This article takes into consideration that you already have an existing web site.  The mistake involves taking down your old site while transitioning to a new web site.  During the downtime a temporary page or splash page is usually erected. Such a scenario can create a liability to your brand and your web site.

Changing Over Too Quickly
In the web development world I see a tremendous amount of pressure to transition into a new site as soon as possible.   There are too many times when a client pressures their developer to put up an incomplete web site. I've been in this situation myself.  In my professional opinion the client's new site lacked a significant amount of content.  I attempted to justify my concern with the client. In the end the client insisted on launching the incomplete web site.  We complied with their request and posted the web site.  It looked very empty.

Why should I leave my old site up until my new site is complete?
Taking down your old web site can have an adverse affect on your SEO/SEM endeavors.  Over the short term references to your old web site files are still going to be indexed in search engines. If people click on a link that doesn't exist anymore you are going to face problems. When you put up your new site it might take weeks or months to get all your pages indexed properly.  Consider keeping to the same file naming conventions and directory structure.

Change in the Background
Keep your old site running while you test your new design.  Give your users a sneak peak of what direction you are headed in the future. Encourage users to provide you with feedback on the sneak peak.  They might be able to identify something that you didn't even consider or identify a costly mistake.

Your web site redesign transition should be seamless.  Keep your old site up until your new site is ready to go.  Changeovers should be done with minimum impact to your users. If you are expecting a time consuming changeover consider doing it late at night.  This will ensure minimal impact on the user.  Don't forget that the web is world wide.  Be conscientious of where you user base is located.

Take Your Time
Take your time when redesigning your web site because your users will never know the difference.  Make sure you get your site done right the first time as opposed to as quickly as possible. "I just didn't like how the old web site looked" is not an acceptable justification for removing your old site during a redesign. Something is better than nothing.

Remember you should redesign your web site for the convenience of the user. Sometimes business people have difficulty taking their ego out of the equation.  There are exceptions to this recommendation.  On exception is when the old web site is such a liability to you or your company that it needs to come down immediately.

If you take some time to think through the redesign process, you can save yourself significant time and money in the future.

In the Name of Backyard Adventure

Every once in a while it's good to get off topic.  While down in Florida, I try to make the most of my away time. I'm fortunate enough to have a wonderful place to stay whenever visiting Florida.  For me, vacation is about adventure and exploration. Take the time to look around you; it's amazing what you can find.

One place few people consider for an adventure is their own back yard.  You don't need to go some place exotic to find wonderful things.  Most people live their entire life without knowing about the interesting history that surrounds them.

Having grown up with the Goonies and living in a house with a small forest in the backyard created a catalyst for exploration. The great stories are endless. My immense intrigue of discovery is still present.  Being a little older provides you a greater appreciation for what you might discover and the historical context.

During the last two days in Florida I've made several interesting discoveries.  From a nearby 1715 Spanish treasure shipwreck to a hundred and fifty year old military fort.  The beach that I run on was once used to train for the D-Day invasion and considered the birthplace of the Navy SEAL. All of these historical landmarks are within two miles of where I'm staying.  Yet, most people who live here have no idea of their existence.

You probably have some treasures waiting to be uncovered in your area. Engage in some local history research at your library or online.  Just make sure you have permission to visit historical sites. Some sites are on private property. If something a little more modern is up your alley consider Geocaching.  It involves modern day GPS technology, the outdoors, and treasure hunting.  It's a blast!

With the Holidays upon us, everyone should take some time to have fun.

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