Previous month:
January 2007
Next month:
March 2007

Event Promotion: Getting More Out Of Your Print Ads

One place web site references show up all the time is in print advertising.  If you open a magazine it is difficult not to find a number of ads that contain a company’s web address.  The problem is that most advertisements don’t leverage a company's web site.  Listing your web site within your advertising isn’t enough.

Extending Your Brand
In many cases print advertising might be the first time a person is exposed to your product or service.  One of the most important things you can do with your print advertising is to encourage people to go visit your web site.  This falls into the realm of web centric marketing.  Use your web site as an extension of your print advertising.  The amount of information you can pass along via your web site is well beyond what you can do with traditional print ads.

Give Them A Reason To Visit

Provide the reader a compelling call to action that drives them to your web site. Below are some ideas you can include in your advertising along with your web address:

  • Get more information online …
  • Visit our web site for great coupons
  • Buy online for additional discounts
  • Signup for a FREE (Report, Audio, Sample, etc.) at our web site
  • Become at member of our discount club …

Print advertising is an important step in any marketing campaign.  You can get a much higher return on investment if you figure out compelling ways to get people to visit your web site.

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

Web Usability ISN’T Buzzworthy

Usability is a concept that every web user embraces. Who doesn't like an easy to use web site?  Combine an easy to use web site with some smart Internet marketing fundamentals and most companies have a decent chance of being successful online.  The problem is that the term usability confuses many people. 

Why Isn't Web Usability Buzzworthy? 

Unless you’re in the technology or web industry it is doubtful that many people can comprehend “web usability.”  When someone asks me “what do you do?” I reply with “web usability consultant.”  Their response is either “what?!?” or “I’ve never heard of that before.” Those words are almost instantaneously followed by a look of confusion.  After a brief explanation, some people might understand the basic premise of usability consulting.  Ask ten different people inside the web industry to define web usability and you'll get ten different explanations. I’d argue that in order to be buzzworthy people need to at least understand the basic term.

Then There Is Being Blunt
Here is the ironic part. If the description is diluted down to “I help companies make sure their web site doesn’t suck,” (an ode to Vincent Flanders) people know exactly what you’re talking about.  Is it professional? Absolutely not!  Do people instantaneously understand what you are talking about? Yes.  There are other words and explanation that someone could use to describe web usability, but it seems like the blunt approach is the most effective.  The blunt description is easily understood by upper level management to the casual web user.    

The problem of a good buzzword is problematic in other Internet segments. “Linkbait” is a term that many people in the SEO industry are trying to change.  Linkbaiting involves compelling people to provide a backlink to a web site or certain web page.  Unfortunately the term sounds like something bad or nefarious.   

The term concept of usability is great, but the term is far from sleek or catchy.  If people don’t easily understand the term “usability” how is anyone suppose to buy into the benefits of usability?

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

Getting Massive Marketing Insight from The Classic Marketeers

Buried Treasure
A few months ago I uncovered some advertising history at my local library.  A number of recent books on copywriting and marketing make reference to a list of advertising legends. John Caples is usually mentioned as a must read for anyone interested in learning more about copywriting or advertising.  The librarian had to go into the old stacks to find Caples’ books.  After spending time reading Caples you can see where many of today’s authors adopted and modified classic teachings.  Modern internet marketers have adopted many of their time tested techniques and found great success.

Timeless Techniques
Look at some of the timeless techniques the Internet has adopted from the newspaper industry.  One timeless technique is a powerful headline.  Headlines are a time tested chance to grab the reader's attention.  Great advertising headlines have transitioned into compelling email subject lines.  If your subject line isn't compelling, the email probably won't get opened.  The fundamentals haven’t changed in hundreds of years because they work.

Users are still driven by content.  If pictures and multimedia are all the rage, why do so many people still read novels that only contain words?  People still visit the library and take out books.  How many novels have you read in their entirety online? 

Split testing your ads. With the Internet and the ability to track performance via analytics, it has never been easier to split test your ads.  Today’s savvy web entrepreneurs are using the split testing methodology

Learn from the Past
Just like advertising and marketing there are certain techniques that work well for web sites.  Some of the most successful web sites integrate time tested director marketing techniques.  If you get a chance spend some time learning from the classic marketeers, look to David Ogilvy, John Caples, Victor Schwab, and Claude Hopkins.  Many of today's top advertising consultants have mastered and revised the works of legends.  For a more modern viewpoint look to people like Bob Bly, Dan Kennedy, Joe Sugarman, and Gary Halbert.  There is so much you can learn from the past.

What can you learn from marketing history and integrate into your web site?

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


Are You Opting-In Above the Fold?

Tamar Weinberg over at Techipedia posted an interesting question, “Should the Subscribe Button be Above the Fold?”  In her post she asks two important questions:

“I am curious to know whether the placement of the “subscribe” button on the top of the page has actually yielded more conversions than if it was in the middle of the page. I’d also be curious to know whether people fall victim to searching in the wrong textbox or if I am the only zombie to do such a silly thing.”

Email Subscription (Opt-In) Above the Fold
I would argue that there is enough room above the fold to give proper attention to both a search box and an email subscription opt-in.  Screen resolutions are going up and users are getting bigger monitors.  Web designers are getting more work space.  At the same time, just because there is more room doesn’t mean you need to abuse it.  Don’t forget about the importance of white space.

Subscription Placement
In terms of placement of a subscription box, I’ve read several recommendations on placing the subscription box into the upper right corner above the fold.  Offer the user good information and try to tempt them with great information.  From a usability standpoint one could argue that an opt-in box isn’t supporting good usability.  The Internet Marketer would probably take the stand that people who aren’t interested in additional information won’t enter an email address.  I’m torn between usability and marketing in this case.

There are a number of web sites that make use of adding a subscription text link to the end of each post.  If the author delivers quality content to the user, the web site owner might be more successful with asking for personal information after a good post.

Confusing Search and Subscription Boxes
Though I can’t recall falling victim to filling in a subscribe box with a search query it does bring up an interesting point.  The question should force any web designer to carefully think out the placement and presentation of search and subscription entry boxes.  Make sure your user won’t get confused by either selection.  Sometimes it's easy to take such simple things for granted.

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

Keep Your Text Columns Narrow

Today I ran across a few web pages with wide text columns.  The experience reemphasized a simple usability principal anyone can follow. It is in your best interest to keep text columns on your web site narrow.

Wide Text Columns
Imagine reading a newspaper in which the text column ran the entire width of the page. A full width column would make newspaper reading extremely difficult.  Now imagine the same scenario on your computer screen.  Our eyes already get tired much easier from reading off a computer screen.  Wide online columns are difficult to read.

Higher Resolutions and More Information
With screen resolutions getting higher and more monitors becoming wide screen the challenge is going to be presenting information effectively. There are a number of web sites that are designed for screen widths of 1024 pixels and higher.  How much information can you display onscreen at one time before a user gets lost?  In the coming years it will be interesting to see if users can keep up with the trend of higher resolution designs.

A History Lesson

We can look to history to give us a time proven example for column width. Pick up any newspaper and take notice of column width.  Each news story is broken down into narrow columns of text.  Have you ever seen a newspaper where the text column ran the full length of a page?  Narrow columns have been used for hundreds of years.  There is good reason for this. It is far easier for us to read and comprehend text that is in narrow columns.  The same standard can be found in the magazine industry. 

Make it easier for users to read your site, keep your text columns narrow.

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

Testing Web Usability and Not Leading Your Questions

Have you ever been asked a leading question?  It’s one of those questions that are phrased a certain way to get a certain response out of you.  The last place you want a leading question to show up is during a usability study.

If you are facilitator usability test of your web site or another web site make sure you aren’t leading the test user.  Leading is very easy to do.  Leading comes as a result of asking a question that already contains bias.  The question, “don’t you think the navigation is difficult to use?” is an example of a leading question.  Another example of a leading question: “Don’t you think that background color is inappropriate?”  Biased questions can have a negative impact on collecting good data.  You can skew the test user’s opinion either intentionally or unintentionally.  The end result is that your usability testing data and trends become inaccurate. 

How Do You Prevent Asking Leading Questions?
It is all about how you frame your questions. Always think ahead before you ask your questions. Make sure you aren’t loading the questions with any sort of bias.  The usability test facilitator should be as highly objective. 

Stay away from leading questions you can answer with a “Yes” or “No.”

  • Do you like this color? 
  • Isn’t that a great picture?
  • Don’t you think the navigation is difficult to use?

Ask questions that require the user to think or interact with the page to find and answer: 

  • What are you’re likes and dislikes on this page?
  • What services does company X offer?
  • How would you go about contacting company X?

Follow The Feedback
In some cases you can turn the user’s feedback into a follow up question.  If a test user indicates that something on a web page is difficult to use, ask them for additional feedback. Like and dislike questions are a great way to bride into additional questions.

Give Them a Scenario
Use scenarios to examine the usability of a given page or web site. Have the test user move through the site with a predefined goal.  One scenario can be having a test user try to use an online calendar to find specific information.  Get the test user lost in the site and have them navigate back to the home page.  Think of simple scenarios to test the usability of the web site.

If you can keep your questions and scenarios highly objective you’ll get better data.  Better data will assist you in creating an easier to user web site.

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

Why Test A Company Web Site Outside The Office?

Have you ever tried to get a consensus on something amongst various departments in a company or small business?  A number of companies that create their own web sites utilize internal usability testing for reviewing their site.  They pool their testing users directly from the company.  The information collected can become a liability to the company.

Different Viewpoints
In Steve Krug’s, Don’t Make Me Think, he illustrates the various viewpoints different departments can have on a web site.  Many graphic designers skew their desires toward visual design.  Web programmers can be very application driven.  Then bring in management and you have yet another viewpoint.  Pretty soon you have a multitude of ideas fighting for attention.  The web site gets pulled in every possible direction with each new opinion.  In many cases, the end result is that the user gets left out.

Why test with users outside your organization?

Web usability testing should be highly objective. You need to start with identifying users that fall inside a web site’s demographics.  If you are looking for participants to conduct a usability test look outside of your organization.  Users outside of your organization are less likely to have organizational bias.  Look towards people who aren’t in the Internet at the professional level.  It is very easy for one web developer to find faults in another web developer’s work.

Leverage the Testing Data
The data collected by testing with users outside of the organization is great for leveraging inside an organization.  If there is an internal company dispute over something on the web site outside user testing might help in identifying a solution. The data and presentation is based on user opinion. Users are the people who are going to be using a web site on a daily basis.

In several years of usability testing the feedback from outside user testing has been extraordinary. It has prevented more than a few embarrassing moments.  This includes small things like grammar and spelling mistakes.  It’s the small things that can prove to be embarrassing online. Use testing to make sure you're putting your best foot forward.

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

Web Usability - ALERT! Dominant Users and Focus Groups

There I was … sitting in a room full of decision makers for a web site review meeting.  The review meeting was the culmination of months of work. On one side of the table was our development team and on the other side of the table the client’s team.  The review was conducted one page at a time in order to be meticulous and not miss anything.  After a few minutes of reviewing the site there was a distinct change in atmosphere.  The senior representative of the client’s team started making a series of comments and suggestions regarding the web site.  His subordinates acknowledged almost every single remark he made with a nod of agreement or vocalized their support.  He could have said anything and the client’s team would have accepted the suggestion without question or comment.  I sat there in disbelief as one bad suggestion followed another.  Most of the client’s suggestions were the complete opposite of good web design.  The suggestions that were implemented diluted the quality of the web site.  It was my first experience with a dominate user focus group.

Using Focus Groups
There are a number of people in the Internet development industry who make use of focus groups.  One specific use of focus groups is for web usability testing.  The above scenario is a perfect example of a dominate user focus group. It involves user testing of a web site, not idea generation.  In the scenario one person’s opinion influences or overshadows everyone else in the group.  Dominate users can have a negative impact on collecting good data and thus diminish the impact of the testing group.

One on One Testing
Focus groups for usability testing can be highly effective if you abide by one simple suggestion, break up the group.  When testing a web site make use of individual testing sessions. Sit down with your test user and go through a web site one on one. It is more time consuming, but the data you collect is significantly better. Users are much more likely to voice their opinion in an individual scenario as opposed to a group. 

How many times have you been reluctant to ask a “silly” question in a group or make a suggestion?  That reluctance changes when you get people one on one. It takes a little additional time to get test users to open up.  For all the usability tests I’ve conducted, I have yet to come across someone who has been reluctant to open up.  When users do open up you usually can’t take notes fast enough.  The feedback collected will be significantly better.

If you are considering doing a small usability test on your web site stay away from focus groups in the traditional sense. Use individual sessions to collect your data.  It is more time consuming, but the quality of data collected increases significantly.

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

Are Your Online Forms Usable?

It is difficult to go online and not come across an online form. From short to long, online forms are everywhere.  My most recent experience required me to fill out a long form just to watch a video clip.  Where is the justification in taking five minutes to fill out an online form to watch a two minute news video clip?  Before using forms on a web site spend some time thinking through the process from a user’s vantage. 

Questions you should ask yourself:

  • Is the form easy to use?
  • Has the form been tested?
  • Am I building enough trust to compel someone to fill out my form?

Ease of Use
Keep online forms short and easy to use.  Shopping carts are a perfect example.  Users abandon shopping carts because of poor usability factors.  Check your web log data to make sure people aren’t bouncing out during checkout.  Shopping cart forms can be too long or cumbersome for users.  Always think from a user’s perspective. Let the user know if the item is actually in stock before filling out any information.  Use an indicator bar on each page to show checkout progress.  Disclose shipping options up front.  Users can be quickly turned off by high shipping rates.  Make the checkout process as painless as possible.  If it isn’t a shopping cart keep the form short and too the point. Only ask for minimal information, name and email.  Asking for more without user trust is very difficult.

Test Your Forms
Always test online forms with your user base.  Take a few people from your demographic and have them go through your online form.  Take note of where users are encountering usability problems and make applicable corrections. The benefit of usable forms speaks for itself.  More users will fill out more forms if they’re usable.

Build Trust
A number of web sites are now requesting you to fill out personal information to watch video or listen to audio.  Trust and credibility are large factors in determining if users enter their personal information.  Most people are reluctant to enter any personal information.  Can users really be blamed? Everyone has felt the effects of SPAM.  SPAM is beyond annoying and a waste of time.  The user needs a very good reason to give up personal information.  One of the easiest ways to overcome this hurdle is with a privacy statement and promise not to SPAM.  Let people know exactly why you need their information.

The bottom line on forms is this: build enough trust with the user to have them fill out an online form.  When you’ve established the user’s trust, make it an easy process to collect their information.  The Internet is an interactive medium, keep that interactivity usable.

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

Business Problems and Customer Service

Everyone can recall examples of good and bad customer service.  Recently I witnessed the demise of a promising business. There were numerous factors that lead closing the business. Customer service was one of the largest issues.  In this case customer service took the form of a lack of communication with patrons.  Last Friday, I went to visit a business I kept a membership with for the last five year.  The doors were locked and a sign posted indicating they’re out of business.  I knew that the business had been having difficulty and that it would possibly be sold or closed down shortly.  Yet, the closing came with no advanced notice to most of their other patrons.  If you are experiencing an unusual challenge with your business let your clients or patrons know about the challenge. 

Regardless of the business situation, good or bad, keep the customers informed.  There are a number of instances when things are going bad and businesses aren’t forthright with their clients.  Most businesses won’t acknowledge problem until it is too late.  If you’re in a sticky business situation, let your customers know about the situation immediately.  You don’t have to divulge minute details. But at least acknowledge that there is a problem and a resolution is being implemented or planned.  It is always in your best interest to keep customers informed.

When customers start to speculate or become uncertain about a product or service they’ll start to look elsewhere for their needs.  This is exactly what happened in the situation I witnessed.  When people heard rumors about the business possibly shutting down they started to look elsewhere.  The customer’s loyalty became strained and they started to lose faith in the company.  Without customer support overcoming challenges can become significantly more difficult.

I’ll point back to an important statistic from a previous post: “95% of unhappy customers will do business again with you if their issue is resolved immediately.” (Source: Technical Assistance Research Programs) The problem was never acknowledged or resolved immediately. 

It is in your best interest to always keep your customers informed.

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

A Web Centric Marketing Example

West_herrA Web Centric Marketing Example
On my way home from the air show conference I decided to stop in Buffalo, New York.  During a stop at the Walden Galleria shopping mall I noticed the pictured advertisement.  It is a large indoor banner advertisement hanging in the middle of the mall.  The banner ad is a decent example of web centric marketing.

It has a few elements that help it stand out from most of the other advertisements I viewed.  It was the largest advertisement in the mall.  Because of its size it was difficult not to notice. Regardless of size it was positioned in a good location, right in the middle of a high traffic area.  Your almost forced to look at it because of size and position.  I doubt anyone goes to the mall with the intent of purchasing a new or used car.  But, shoppers might have the notion of needing to make a car purchase before or after visiting the mall.

Other elements that stand out on the pictured advertisement:

  1. The headline, which is arguably the most important element of any advertisement, is at the top.

  2. The person who I believe is the owner of the auto dealership is the person pictured. The individual pictured is also the dominate element of the advertisement.  This draws attention.  Around the person are a series of various car company logos.
  3. Below the picture and logos is the company's logo and associated tag line. This component establishes brand awareness.
  4. If you are interested in learning more about what West Herr has to offer they give you a web address.  The address is the smallest sized font on the advertisement, but it does stand out.  If someone is interested in more information, they can visit the web site.

The key to web centric marketing is getting people to come to your web site to find out additional information.

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

Point, Click, and Follow - Usability

After a plethora of usability studies you start to pick up on some of the finer details. Each day there are great technologies that emerge and make usability testing increasingly more accurate. It isn't always easy to make something simple, especially on the Internet.  One tremendously helpful piece of technology is eye tracking software. The software produces overlays of individual web pages indicating which areas get the most attention. Check the Importance of Organic Search post for an example of a heat map. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the budget to utilize high end eye tracking equipment to improve the usability of a web site. There is a simple alternative.

Usability Eye Tracking Done Inexpensively
The underappreciated mouse can give you great information about what the user is thinking. It is
analogous with body language.  You can learn a lot from watching the user's mouse actions.  Where is the cursor going on the screen and what is it doing?  The mouse pointer is an on screen discovery tool.  If a user is unsure of something they'll usually hover over an on page element (links, images, and other interactive elements).  Take note of user mouse pointer behavior.

Try it Out
Sit down with a friend or family member and take them through a web site of your choice. Watch their mouse pointer behavior. If a user gets confused about navigation they’ll roll the mouse over areas on the page to see if they’re clickable. Mouse pointer movements go up during active interactions and navigating. Users will point and click on various areas of the page to discover interactive elements.

One exception to the tracking is when the user is reading or skimming information on the page. If a user is reading the cursor is usually at the side of the page.

If you do sit down with a user and test your site, encourage them to vocalize their experience. You’ll find that they use the mouse to point to various elements are important or confusing. Make note of their feedback.

When taking someone through a simple usability test, always note the simple things. You can learn a lot from simple things in life.

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

Do You Just Have A Web Site?

Greetings from Niagara Falls ARS.  This weekend my time is dedicated to the North East Council of Air shows' Annual Conference.  It is an excellent opportunity to catch up with some of the best pilots and organizers in the air show industry.  If it is air show related it always involves a bar(somewhat responsibly) and socializing.  As with most industries business is usually done at the bar.  You get the drink, engage in conversation, and press forward. 

Being the resident geek it is almost guaranteed that web sites come up in conversation. Through the late 1990s and 2000s people gave a great deal of credence to those with a web site. In today's business world it isn't enough to just have a web site.

People still check if you have a web site.  It is the first step in establishing credibility for a company or service.  After the first step, most businesses don't have a second step.  One of the most common lines said: "We have a web site and it isn't doing anything for us." It is imperative for companies to look beyond just having a web presence.  If you already have a web site, ask the following question: "How is my web site facilitating to acquisition of new business or supporting my current business?" Most people, who have a business web site, don't have a decent answer to that question.

In order to be successful online you need to be able to leverage your web site. Companies have spent millions, possibly billions on ineffective web sites.  Think of ways to use your site to not only build trust and credibility, but to also act as an active way to generate new leads or business.

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

Why Think Globally?

When thinking of user demographics how often do we think globally?  A quick look into an established web site’s log files can provide you with a tremendous amount of information.  A web site allows anyone to push the confines of geography.  Anyone in the world can become a potential customer.  Knowing that the Earth is a global market place is quintessential to almost every web site.

Where to Start
The first place to start is with a frame of reference.  We’re all creatures of habit. If a familiar market place is local in nature we tend to think locally.  The easiest way to start thinking globally is to put yourself into a foreigner’s frame of reference.  Assume that a particular person reads your (web site, email, brochure, sales letter) and is fluent in the language used.  Do they know your location?

One client sends out an electronic newsletter on a regular basis. One particular newsletter was for a workshop announcement.  An interested participant responded from out of state wishing to participate not knowing the workshop was being held locally.  Always make sure to include details such as full address, plus telephone numbers with area codes and country codes.

Geographic Search Engine Optimization
The same methodology can be applied for search.  Ask yourself, are you listed properly in a geographical context?  I reside in Rochester, New York.  If an Internet user were to enter the search phrase: “Rochester Restaurant,” is that person searching for a “Restaurant” in “Rochester,” New York, Minnesota, New Hampshire, or United Kingdom?

The Internet gets new people every day.  Presenting the user with finer details can help you better focus your message and marketing efforts.  Remember your users could be coming from anywhere in the world.  Plan accordingly.

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

Countering the Weather & Event Marketing

Greetings from the frozen and snow filled Rochester, New York.  Over the past 24 hours almost two feet of snow have fallen.  Today the roads were a mess and more than a few businesses and organizations have been adversely affected. There are few things in this world that have as much indirect impact on a business as weather.  Thought you can’t control the weather there are certain actions you can take to minimize its impact.  One such action is using your web site and the Internet to keep your users or customers better informed when the weather throws you a curve ball.

The Ability to Quickly Communicate
Use the Internet to counteract the unpredictability of Mother Nature. The Internet offers you the ability to disseminate information in a very rapid fashion.  If a business is impacted by the weather you can use the Internet to inform employees and staff using the web. Compare and contrast one simple email blast to the time it takes to contact people over the telephone.  One important caveat is making sure your message is easily understood.  Emails or text messages can be easily misunderstood, stay clear and concise.

Multiple Channels
There are multiple channels for contacting people via the internet: web page, email, and messaging services. The first place you can start to inform people is right on your home page.  A simple update to a web site might be all that is required, if people know to check the web site for updates.  One example is a school district that is closed because of inclement weather.  An updated to the school web site helps parents in not having to search aimlessly to find information via more traditional forms of media.  They’re only a few words or a bookmark away from additional formation. 

Outdoor Events
Do you have an outdoor event?  It can be anything from a sporting event to an airshow.  The weather forecasters try their best, but they aren't always right. Airshows can lose thousands in potential revenue because of an incorrect weather forecast.  All it takes is the implication of inclement weather and people won't show up.  If you have emails for your patrons, use that to your advantage. 

Use technology to your advantage.  It can save you time and money. There are several options to choose from.  The Internet provides you an opportunity to send one universal message to countless people almost instantaneously.

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

The Internet and User Demographics

Users are an essential ingredient to any online venture.  Without users web sites have no means of survival.  Concentrating on just any user won’t suffice.  Web site users need to be qualified.  What makes a qualified user?  Qualified users are those who fit into the profile of your Internet User Demographic and have an affinity for what you have to offer. Each web site will have different demographics.  Knowing your user demographics is an important part of facilitating web site success. If you know what a majority of users want it is easier to provide for them.  It also helps you keep your marketing more focused.  More focused marketing can help reduce wasted advertising budget.  The Internet is brutally simple with respect to demographics. Web Sites that don’t provide for their users won’t survive.  Do you know your user?

User Demographics and Psychographics
Start looking at traditional demographic factors such as age, gender, education, etc.  Who are the people using your web site or purchasing your product or service?  Fill in the blank for each variable. When considering user demographics you should also take into account psychographics.  User psychographics refer to the values, attitudes, and various interests of the user.  The combination of demographics and psychographics should allow for a decent understanding of a web site’s target audience.  All efforts on the web site need to focus on the target user. From a marketing standpoint there is little value in targeting a market that lacks an affinity for what is being offered. 

Use "In the Can" Demographics
In many industries the user demographic has already been identified.  A quick glance at an industry guide or trade publication should provide you with the necessary information.  Look at the advertisements and articles. Take a visit to the library and see if they might have some information.  If the product or service is new there might not be a predefined demographic. If so, is there a closely related field that can provide a demographic starting point?  If you can’t find any information you have to do your own research.

Who's Our Demographic?
You can determine a demographic by using your existing web site.  Log files and online surveys are great resources to better understand a web site’s demographics.  They contain potential data for building a sketch of your web site demographic.

Analyze Log Files
Web site log files can be a gold mine of demographic details.  Data such as referrals and keywords used in search can help paint a better picture of your user. Look where users to your site are being referred from. Send off a simple email to the referring site owner asking for demographic information.  Make sure you are cordial in the request and explain why you are seeking the information.  You might be able to form a strategic partnership with other web sites.  Do the keywords in your log files give you any additional hint?  Certain phrases might point to one gender or another. E.g. “hot pink ipod.”

Conduct an Online Survey
If there are only a few people visiting a web site that might be enough to conduct an online survey.  Ask simple questions in the survey based around standard demographics (age, gender, education, income, etc.) Include some psychographic questions (general interest, values, and attitudes.)  Surveys should be short and sweet. 

Build Your Web Site For the Target Audience

Any web site should be built and presented for the benefit of the user.  Too many companies try to put their interest in front of that of the user.  Don’t make the same mistake.   If you have good target data on your users and adhere to their needs you're a step ahead of most people.  Always concentrate on the user.

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

Reaching Online Critical Mass

At what point does a web site reach critical mass?  The notion of online critical mass comes up a number of times when you’re building an online presence.  People always ask “what does it take to be successful online?” Your web site needs to reach critical mass. Your site should reach a point where it becomes self perpetuating.  You no longer have to fight for traffic or sales.  It’s the online version of easy street.

In the simplest business sense critical mass is usually achieved when a business meets some predefined threshold.  This is usually profitability or a certain amount of market share. (Source: Netlingo)   When it comes to your web site it becomes a matter of finding enough users to support the goals of your site.  Two critical components to reaching online critical mass are content and leveraging search engine optimization.

On Content
You need enough high quality content to lure users to your site and keep them coming back. Keep your content fresh and up to date. This is a big reason why news web sites and blogs are so popular. Updating your content on a regular basis will help you get new users.  If you establish the trend of regular updates try your best to keep things updated.  The most important part of your content is making sure that you keep it relevant to your users.  Focus on serving their needs and desires.

Search Engine Optimization
SEO is important in getting visitors to your web site.  If you have a significant amount of high quality content you are in a good position to make the most of SEO. A number online success stories can attribute SEO as a large factor to their success. Search Marketing is going to allow you to build a stead stream of targeted traffic to your web site. One thing to keep in mind is that search engine optimization is not a fire and forget tactic.  You need to be constantly working toward improving your search engine traffic.

A Matter of Time

One particular quirk to online critical mass is the notion of time.  Because the web is perceived to be fast, people’s expectations are set accordingly.  This keeps web site owners on their toes in hopes of serving up the latest and greatest.  Too many people expect results in a very short time frame. When they don't reach their goals they give up.  Make sure you aren't this person.  Time is especially important when it comes to implementing an SEO campaign.

Keep Learning and Trying
I have yet to meet a highly successful web site owner who had zero training or experience.  Some people are lucky and others fail miserably.  Those who succeed online are smart enough to learn from their experience and march on! Nobody ever gets it right the first time.  The Internet allows you to fail very quickly.  As long as you're learning from the experience, fail as often as possible.  There are only so many times you can get it wrong before you get it right.

In order to reach critical mass online you need content, traffic from search, and a little bit of time. Always keep your web site moving in the right direction, up!

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


“The Secret” Marketing Method

Have you heard of “The Secret”?
For those not familiar with “The Secret” it is a feature movie and book focusing on the law of attraction for creating a better life.  Learn more about the Secret.

During my visit to a local bookstore I overheard a discussion regarding “The Secret.” There was a woman at the customer service desk asking for information regarding “The Secret.”  The customer service person responded with “we don’t have anything left, no books, no audio, nothing.  It’s all sold out!”  The Secret was recently featured on Oprah. If you go to “The Secret” is a best seller. There have been a few conversations where I’ve overheard people discussing the secret.  Two bookstore employees were baffled by The Secret’s sudden success.

The creators of The Secret smartly leveraged the Internet. They use the Internet to position their product and create a tremendous amount of buzz. Anyone can utilize the marketing process that made The Secret a tremendous success.

When I First Discovered The Secret
Back in late 2005, I stumbled across a web site and trailer advertising “What is The Secret.” In typical internet marketing fashion they asked for your email address to get more information. To satiate my curiosity I entered my email.  Every once in a while I would receive another clue or morsel of information.  When ever an email came through it was always something interested.  You were never spammed.

The Secret was originally suppose to air on network television, but was deemed unmarketable.  The television station was so convinced that The Secret wasn’t going to be successful that they gave up their rights.  With no network to broadcast, The Secret debuted online in 2006 and was available on DVD. Since its release last year the program has generated over $22 million USD in revenue. (Source: Not a Secret for long, The Age.) This is more than four times the cost to produce the movie.  This doesn’t include any of the ancillary products.  What was suppose to have been a bust turned into a bang.

Use The Secret’s Marketing Methodology
Whoever created the marketing plan for the Secret deserves a great deal of credit.  They used curiosity and a high quality product to create a fire storm of interest. If you check out the Alexa rankings for the site it shot up vertically from nowhere after the Secret debuted online. You can use a similar methodology for your own purposes of marketing a product via the Internet.  Focus on building product anticipation and delivering a high quality product.

Build Product Anticipation

Anticipation is probably one of the biggest reasons the Secret enjoyed so much success. The creators utilized an email marketing to build a tremendous amount of buzz.  Not only did I get emails directly from the Secret site, but also from some of the experts who contributed and endorsed The Secret.  If you have a product you are looking to launch use the web to build anticipation. The Secret’s hook was curiosity. Can you think of a way to build curiosity for your product?

Create a High Quality Product
The production cost of “the Secret” was millions of dollars.  Obviously we all don’t have that type of investment capital.  But that shouldn’t stop us from creating a high quality product. Use your web site to test your product before it’s released.  Surveys and user feedback are great ways to get people excited about what you have coming and allow you to make product improvements. The Secret was segmented into books, audio, and video. If you have an information product how many different ways can it be delivered?  Are there opportunities for ancillary products?

The Internet is a great way to build product anticipation and make improvements.  There are a number of successful models you can emulate.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Go online and find one today.

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

Who Else Wants Great Clients?

Aaron Wall of was good enough to give me a few minutes of his time today.  I called him up to ask about some of the challenges associated with Internet consulting, specifically as it relates to selecting the right clients. There are a number of people I know who have been on roller coaster rides with clients, myself included.  The advice Aaron passes along is a fresh take on things and helps refocus on the possibilities the Internet has to offer.

Here is a summary of some of the helpful advice he passed along with some of my interjected anecdotes:

Be Highly Selective of Your Clients
Finding_clients You can solve 90% of you client frustration problems by being highly selective of clients.  Match yourself and your services with companies who are a good fit.  Your interaction with another company or client is two way street.  Too many people focus on money they might get as opposed to the opportunity.  If you end up with a difficult client it can take the wind right out of your sails and you work will likely suffer. Aaron said he has been fortunate enough to work with some really good clients by virtue of being very selective.  The better the client the more you can accomplish together.

Brain Tracy has a great quote when it comes to selecting the right clients “Fish for Whales, not minnows. Remember that if you catch 1,000 minnows, all you have is a bucketful of fish. But if you catch a single whale, you will pay for the whole voyage.”

Develop Passive Revenue Streams
Aaron points out that it is easier to be more selective of clients if you aren’t worrying about money.  The Internet is full of opportunity, but you need to act upon it. Aaron has created a great ebook that you pay for and can instantly download.  It contains a plethora of helpful information on Search Engine Optimization and is being constantly being updated.  His book establishes him as an expert and generates leads every day.

Abundance Mentality
The Abundance Mentality goes beyond just being positive in everything thing you do. You need to realize that there is more than enough of anything to go around.  Focus on the infinite possibilities the Internet has to offer.  Stay focused on your goals, but don’t be greedy.  You can’t get anywhere online without the help and support of others.   

Provide People with Value
Give away great information with everything you do.  In his SEOBook, Aaron mentions the impact of his Blog in helping him sell his ebook "there is probably about a 99% chance you would have never bought this e-book if I did not write the associated blog.” Years ago one of my business mentors gave me the advice to give away as much free information as possible.  At the time I really didn’t think this was the best course of action.  Today I’ve changed my mentality.  The more you give away the more you get back.

To find out more about Aaron Wall and Search Engine Optimization, visit his web site at

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

Clean Code and Better SEO

Yesterday evening I had a short telephone conversation with one of my friends.  He maintains a very large web site that gets tens of thousands of visitors daily.  A few months ago we sat down for dinner and he told me about some of the changes he was making to his web site.  At that time, he was in the arduous process of cleaning up his code.   The end result was well worth his time.

Sloppy Code and SEO
Search Engines don't like sloppy code.  Think of it like trying to read someone's really sloppy hand writing. Now imagine having to read through pages of sloppy handwriting.  There probably would come a point in time when you would want to give up.  The search engine spiders are the same way. If there is a significant amount of code that is clogging up your individual pages the search engine spiders just stop.  This has a negative impact on your search engine optimization.

Recently Google has become much better with reading CSS and Javascript. You can still miss out on getting important pages indexed properly or not indexed at all. It is in your best interest to keep your code very clean.

Continue reading "Clean Code and Better SEO" »