Two Web 1.0 Favorites Still Have Enduring Value

tickertapeTo read all the hype about social media marketing, you might begin to think that traditional communications don’t matter anymore.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Social media is nothing more than a new way to reach customers and influencers, and it is very effective in the right circumstances.  However, human behavior has not been changed that much in the last five years, and we shouldn’t forget the value of two stalwarts: e-mail and the press release.

Let’s start with the trusty press release.  In his book, The New Rules Of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott points out that Yahoo changed the rules of marketing more than a decade ago when it elected to define press releases as news. Google followed suit and the PR profession has never been the same since. Today, many company searches on Yahoo or Google News turn up Business Wire copy as the top result. Likewise, the raw news feeds syndicated on thousands of publishing platforms across the Internet make little or no distinction between the Associated Press and PR Newswire.

That’s why press releases are still so relevant. Their newsy style, headlines, subheads and inverted-pyramid structure give them a distinctive format that satisfies certain kinds of information needs. These same factors also imbue them with outstanding search engine performance. Press releases are basically magnets for search engines because they have all the elements that those engines value most.

Think of press releases as the archival record of events at your company.  Assign them a special place on your website where they form a timeline of your company’s history.  Keep them brief, stick to the facts and move the nuance and discussion to your social media outposts. Make the press release archive the place that visitors go for official information. For practical value, you still can’t beat this venerable tool.

Permission to Contact

Facebook may be the start page for the under-25 crowd, but for most of us the inbox will be our cyber on-ramp for a long time to come. Just take a look around at your next conference and note how many people are in Outlook or on a BlackBerry.

emailE-mail is assuming a new role in this digitally diversified age: that of aggregator. Organizations are spreading their communications across so many social platforms that e-mail is finding new relevance as the one vehicle that ties everything together. It’s also the single most effective medium for communicating with your current customers.

E-mail has one other huge advantage over most forms of social media: you know who the subscribers are. Members of an opt-in e-mail list give you permission to periodically grab their attention — even if it’s only in a subject line — and deliver a message.  No other form of electronic communication carries with it that element of trust.

I encourage clients to embed e-mail subscription forms on every page of their website and take advantage of every opportunity to add subscribers to their e-mail list.  If you are managing the relationships well, this list should outperform all others.  Just don’t fumble the opportunity by subjecting recipients to sales pitches. Make it useful.

A regular e-mail newsletter is a great place to assemble all of your communications from other channels.  Group and organize this information topically and add in some big-picture perspective on fragmented messages.  Link back to the source material using unique URLs that you can track in your analytics program.  Remember that e-mail is a great way to determine the interests of a set of engaged customers by identifying their click-through behavior.

What do you think? Are new media channels changing the way you use press releases and e-mail marketing?

How to Make Money With Your Blog

From my weekly newsletter. To subscribe, just fill out the short form to the right.

The Travel Media Association of Canada recently brought me out to the lovely city of Vancouver to talk about new media.  The members were particularly interested in how to make money from blogging.  This gave me the opportunity to research this topic with some prominent bloggers I know. Over the next couple of issues, I’ll share a few observations.

Many Ways to Monetize

Making money with a blog is about more than just advertising. In fact, few bloggers make a living with advertising unless they count their daily page views in the tens of thousands. Google AdSense is a simple way to generate a little beer money and there’s little downside to using it. If you adopt AdSense,  be sure to read Google’s guidance on how to optimize your site for its ad targeting algorithm. Also, take advantage of the “channels” feature to test different placements and targets.  In general, the more specific the topic, the higher the revenue per click.  Be aware of the keywords that are most relevant to the ads you’re trying to attract and include them in your tags.  Google also has AdSense for search and for RSS feeds, although the potential revenue from those sources is quite small.

Affiliate marketing is potentially a more lucrative revenue stream because transaction fees for big-ticket items like airline flights and consumer electronics can be much larger than those from for pay-per-click ads.  Amazon Associates is probably the best-known example of an affiliate marketing program, but many e-commerce companies will pay bloggers a commission for transactions that originate on their site. You can sign up for these yourself or work through one of the many affiliate aggregators that handle the back-end processing. Here’s a list of more than 60 of them.

You can run several affiliate badges on a page, although the careful not to overdo it.  Sometimes one large ad can generate more revenue than several small ones.  Also, be sure to ask your readers and friends to start on your site whenever they want to make a purchase from one of your affiliate partners.  It doesn’t cost them anything extra and you get a commission out of it. Traveling Mamas is an example of a site that makes use of a lot of affiliate ads.

Get Creative When Selling Ads

Direct ads cut out the middleman and return the biggest profit, but they require you to be an ad salesperson, which isn’t for everyone. Still, it costs nothing to add an “advertise with us” page to your site and invite queries.

When you do get inquiries, be ready to get creative.  For starters, you should have some traffic statistics available from Google Analytics, StatCounter or one of the other free analytics services.  Never guarantee performance, but be ready to share relevant numbers such as page views, unique visitors and time spent on site with advertisers if they ask for them.  If you have statistics about the performance other advertising customers achieved, so much the better.

You can also get creative with ad placements and targeting.  Advertisers don’t always want traffic directly to their websites. Some look to boost their search performance by buying links on popular blogs.  If you’re one of the top blogs in your market, you may be able to charge several hundred dollars simply for a link on your homepage.  Consider the implications of this strategy, however.  You probably don’t want your good name to be used to enhance the search performance of a questionable business.

You can also sell ads on individual posts, particularly if they target a prospective advertiser’s market very specifically and get lots of traffic.  Your CPM (cost per thousand) for targeted ads should be higher then for run-of-site ads. You should also charge more for display advertising than for text links.

How much should you charge? This is a big question since there are no standard ad rates for blogs.  The easiest strategy is to ask other bloggers what they charge.  Many are happy to share this information.  Some bloggers actually publish their rates, so this can give you a starting point for comparison.  Don’t be afraid to shoot high and haggle your way down.  It’s always easier to come down from a high price than up from a low one.

You should also think creatively about alternative advertising vehicles, such as newsletters, podcasts, webcasts and packaged products.  In my next post, I’ll look at some of these opportunities in greater depth, as well as the much bigger potential of using your blog as a way to build your personal brand.

Why Online Matters More Than Print

A blog I write about the ongoing transformation of the newspaper industry has begun to acquire a following, and in the process it’s demonstrated to me why online press mentions are now more powerful than those in print. That’s right: you get more bang for the buck from a prominent blogger today than you do from an article in the New York Times, and I’ll show you why.

My blog is called Newspaper Death Watch. While the title betrays a certain pessimism, it’s actually a chronicle of change and rebirth. As concern over the perilous state of the newspaper industry has spread, Newspaper Death Watch has begun to attract some media attention. In January, I was fortunate to be mentioned in three prominent media outlets: Jeff Jarvis’s BuzzMachine blog, the lead paragraph of a major feature in The New Yorker and a short opinion piece in the Economist.

What was interesting was the impact these references had on the blog’s visibility. Prior to the reference in BuzzMachine, the site was getting about 500 unique visitors per day. After Jeff Jarvis linked to one of my year-end roundup articles, that average jumped by about 200 visitors a day. It jumped again after the mention in the Economist, eventually settling at about 1,000 average daily visitors, or nearly double its traffic at the beginning of the month. However, a prominent reference in the New Yorker, which is one of the most venerable English-language magazines, had no discernible impact.

Why? Because The New Yorker reference was the only one that didn’t include a hyperlink. That meant that anyone who was curious to find out about this offbeat blog would have to make a note to visit Google later and run a search. Who’s got time for that? Even if some people did go to the trouble, there was no way for me to know.

Link Love

In contrast, The two online references had immediate impact. For one thing, I was aware of both within hours and was able to promote them to my readers and Twitter followers. For another, links beget links. In both the BuzzMachine and Economist cases, a surge of inbound links from other bloggers followed the mentions on their websites. This improved my Google search performance and Technorati authority rankings. Subscriptions to my RSS feed shot up by about 5% in each of the days following the links’ appearance.

Perhaps most importantly, one of them led to a call from a leading journalism foundation, which hired me to conduct a series of seminars for newspaper editors beginning next month.

In contrast, the print reference in The New Yorker generated a couple of nice notes from colleagues but little else that I could measure. Don’t get me wrong; I was grateful for the attention. But it was difficult to assign any clear benefit to the print reference.

Tables Have Turned

Not long ago, online publishers were frequently called upon to defend the value of a mention on their properties. Public relations professionals told me that Web coverage was nice, but their clients really valued a mention in a prominent print publication. I would submit that this scenario has now been reversed. With companies increasingly using the Web for promotion, lead generation, sales and customer support, a link from a prominent website is of far greater value than a print article in a prominent print or broadcast outlet. And as a younger generation of business and consumer readers gathers more of its information online, that value will only accelerate.

That print article may look nice on your wall, but if you’re looking for coverage that generates business results, the Web is where you want to be.

Recommended Reading, 1/28/09

Social Media Wins In Marketers’ ’09 Plans

A survey of 196 subscribers to a content marketing newsletter (all right, it’s clearly a biased sample) finds that social media and content marketing will be the big winners in the advertising recession this year. “More than half–56%–of marketing and publishing decision-makers plan to increase their content marketing spending next year.” Only 13% plan to decrease it.

The popular perception of Generation Y or “Millennials” is that they expect the world to beat a path to their door. Not true, says this piece in the Economist. Gen Y members actually have many of the same aspirations and motivations their parents did. The deteriorating economy is forcing them to work harder, but they’re up to the task. And they have multi-tasking and online skills that could benefit businesses in many ways.

If you follow the search world closely, you’ll probably know most of these tips, but there are some hidden gems in there, particularly about the importance of quality content and useful inbound links.

For a given set of pages, PageRank may fluctuate, and rankings do shift as the internet evolves. But in the end, what’s most important is consistently happy users: people who bookmark and share your site, who understand and respect your brand and who can confidently and seamlessly make that purchase.

From Ted Leonsis: Snagfilms is really scaling– we hit 20k affiliate sites that have snagged a virtual movie theatre widget and have reached 100 plus million uniques–since our launch in late July. Check it out and snag a widget today.

This is a great podcast. Paul Dunay speaks with Dan Schawbel the author of the Personal Branding blog as well as the forthcoming book Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success. He’s got lots of good advice for building your personal brand online, syndicating yourself and finding new channels to build awareness.

Paul Dunay’s list of C-level executives who use Twitter, including Richard Branson, George Colony, Tim O’Reilly and others. Still too many geeks and not enough mainstream brands here, but it’s coming along.

Todd Van Hoosear sums it up nicely. “Your job isn’t to get people to care about your product. Your job is to make it easy for a potential client to understand how your organization can help solve a problem.” Your Web presence shouldn’t be all about you; it should be all about your visitors.

Paul Dunay has links to some good reading on the question of whether brands should use Twitter, as well as a list of about 70 brands that do. Readers contribute several more.

The best free productivity and protection software for your PC

How To Trash Your Search Performance In One Easy Step

trashAs you can tell from the list to the right called  My Other Sites, I have a fairly busy online life.  I maintain a half dozen websites myself and contribute to a few others.  Until recently, I housed each of these sites in its own account at  This was expensive, but it’s the cost of doing business.

A few months ago, a GoDaddy support representative thought he was being helpful by convincing me to consolidate all those accounts under one master account and reorganize my sites subdirectories. Then I would simply forward each domain to the appropriate subdirectory.  The cost savings were compelling.

I made those changes, although not without difficulty.  At one point, I trashed an entire database and had to rebuild it from Google cache pages.  But I eventually consolidated five sites into one account.

Look Back in Horror

Last week I decided to take a look at the search engine performance of all my domains using HubSpot‘s excellent Website Grader tool.  I was stunned to find that the consolidated sites had plummeted in search effectiveness.  While my two main blogs – this one and — both scored better than 98% on Website Grader, the consolidated sites ranged from 65% down to a pathetic 7%.

I couldn’t find any explanation for this, so I consulted the smartest search expert I know: Mike Moran, author of Search Engine Marketing, Inc.  He confirmed my suspicions.

“Redirecting domains to subdomains saves money but, as you saw, it can sometimes hurt search rankings a great deal,” he wrote. “My suspicion is that search engines downgrade these sites because anyone working this hard to save money is more likely to have a low-quality site, and might even be a spammer.”

This logic baffled me until I thought it through a bit.  Google constantly fights a war against spammers and link farmers who tried to game the search algorithm.  One tactic they use is to buy up thousands of domains and point them to sites that are nothing but collections of keywords and links.  It’s safe to assume that some of these scavengers try to save money by consolidating their sites in a single directory.  Google’s strategy actually makes sense.  Unfortunately, it can also penalize people whose motivations are sincere.

I’m now going through the tedious process of restoring all of my websites to their original accounts.  Please excuse the occasional 404 error.  And learn from my example: don’t try this at home!

Just Listen to These

David Strom and I have been on a roll lately with guests on our MediaBlather podcast series. Two weeks ago we spent time with Forrester’s Josh Bernoff, who co-authored Groundswell, the best social media marketing book I read in 2008. Josh is all about humanizing interactions between customers and businesses these days, and he shared some great stories. I have a feeling there’s a book idea floating around there.

Check out the podcast with Josh Bernoff here.

We also just posted a 20-minute talk with Mike Moran, author of Search Engine Marketing, Inc. and a recent book whose title I love: Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules. I’m fascinated by search and Mike knows more about the topic than anybody I’ve ever met. This interview is packed with useful advice. Bottom line: you can’t game the system. Good content always wins.

Check out the podcast with Mike Moran here.

Social Media FAQ Wrap-Up

I’ve recently been answering questions asked by attendees at my recent “10 Secrets of Social Media Marketing” seminars. Here’s the conclusion to the series. For free webcasts on this topic, check out the recent event sponsored by Listrak and another sponsored by Awareness just this week.

Q: What are the best ways to link social media marketing directly to increased sales? Our clients are looking for absolute metrics.

A: Make sure the links on any social media channels you use lead back to unique URLs. This can be done through a simple server redirect, which in techie terms is called a 301 redirect. The person who administers your website should know how to do this. Unique URLs enable you to track which links are referring visitors to a landing page or order form. It’s then a simple task to find which of those visits result in orders.

You should also keep a close eye on referring URLs and visitor paths. A referring URL is a Web page that sends a visitor to your site. Look for the domains give you a lot of traffic because you’ll want to cultivate the owners of those sites. Visitor paths show you the track a visitor takes on your site. This can yield insights about which pages do the best job of guiding a visitor to a desired page, such as an order form. You’ll want to focus your marketing efforts on sending more traffic to those pages.

Referring URLs and visitor paths are standard metrics provided by tools like Google Analytics.
Q: How do you deal with legal issues when blogging and still make sure that reading your blog do not take what you are saying as legal advice?

A: Disclaim like crazy. Each page of your site should include a disclaimer and it’s a good idea to also disclaim individual content items such as blog entries or videos. However, I don’t want to be seen as giving legal advice myself :-). In some regulated industries , even disclaimers may be insufficient. It’s a good idea to check with an intellectual property attorney to understand the issues specific to your business.

Q: When you’re ready to spin off new blogs from established ones, should the timeframe be shortened from the original schedule, or should you count on the same schedule/time requirements?

A: Effective campaigns should achieve enough traction within a year to enable the owner to consider spinning off targeted sites or communities. You should expect to develop traction much more quickly in spun-off properties because the audience is already familiar with your content and your value. Very often you will be dividing an audience into two parts, much as a cell divides, but the combined growth of those two parts should be greater than it would have been had you not divided them. In addition, some of your members or participants will continue to be active in both communities, providing an additional boost.

Q: Are there certain phrases or keywords that rise up on the blog list?
Keyword popularity is entirely dependent on the topic. I suggest your goal should not be to dominate the most popular keywords in your market but rather to own the keywords that customers use to find you.

Think outside the box. A bicycle shop’s best prospects may not be people looking for “bicycles” but rather people searching for “green transportation.” One free tool you can use to assess keyword popularity is Google AdWords Keyword Tool. A less useful, but still interesting tool is Google Trends. The Wordtracker Keyword Suggestion tool is another one to look at. It actually recommends keywords you should use.

FAQ, Part Deux

I’ve recently conducted a couple of online seminars about social media topics. The Q&A sessions at these events are almost always too short to get to the issues that are on people’s minds. So over the next few issues of this newsletter, I’ll run down a few of the best questions I didn’t get to. For a good, free webcast on this topic, check out the recent event sponsored by Listrak.

To subscribe to my weekly newsletter, just fill out the short form to the right.

Q: What can millennials best teach us about social networking?

A: How to infuse it into everyday life. There’s a myth about millennials that the group is completely tuned in to the use of social media tools. In fact, I find that most young people are active users of Facebook, instant messaging and text messaging, but not much else. They don’t blog, rarely listen to podcasts and don’t use Twitter. What’s more, they don’t have much perspective on the value of these tools beyond their usefulness in everyday life. They’ll learn those things through experience and training, just like everyone else. But they’re not really as social media-savvy as they’re often given credit for.

What they are exceptionally good at doing it is managing relationships online. They don’t have any more close friends than their parents did at the same age, but they have a much larger number of casual acquaintances that they keep alive through occasional and indirect communication. I think that’s something we can all learn from.

Q: Have you found that social media outlets are used by particular age demographics or does it apply to all age ranges?

A: Nearly all age groups use a media, though there are variations. If you want to go into detail, get Groundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li. Their top-line observations are that the most active users are the under-25 group, but that usage is quite consistent between 25-and 55-year olds. It drops off rather sharply after that. However, there are significant variations by media and industry. For example, under-25s are more inclined to use instant messaging, text messaging and online video while podcasting and blogging are more popular with older age groups. It’s also interesting that the percentage of people under 25 who prefer instant messaging over e-mail is nearly the exact inverse of people over 25.

Q: How does the Google “Link:” command work?

A: In the Google search bar, type “” substituting whatever URL you want. You can also access this command from Google’s advanced search page. This will give you a list of all webpages in Google’s search index that link to the specified domain or page.

Q: What’s the best way to convert your audience to make an actual purchase using social media?

A: There are many ways to do this, so I’ll give you an example of a direct and an indirect approach.  A direct approach might be to offer a discount coupon to people who join your social network, fill out a form or respond to a contest. Or you might ask people to view a short video to get an access code that they could redeem on a website.  The coupon could be delivered electronically as a thank-you message when visitors submit the form.

And indirect approach might be to set up an informational blog that educates visitors about your company or your area of expertise.  You can then surround this educational content with promotions or offers.

Recommended Reading – 12/10/08

Apps: The Newest Brand Graveyard
AdWeek says most corporate Facebook apps are failing, the victim of over-engineering, complexity, abandonment, isolation and various other factors.

Email: still #1, still a drag
It’s been said that the people who made the most money during the California Gold rush were the ones who sold picks and shovels, not the ones who panned for gold. That homily came to mind reading Brad Berens’ blog entry about a new MediaMark study showing that e-mail is the #1 Internet activity by far. The fact that the most prosaic Internet application is still the most popular attests to a reality of technology evolution: the mass market is always five to 10 years behind the leading edge.

Repeat Ad Nauseam: TV Spots Risk Driving Consumers Away – Advertising Age
Advertisers are finding that consumers have a lower tolerance for multiple messages than they once did, and viewers are even organizing ad hoc groups to protest ad saturation. consumer tolerance for repetitive ads has fallen by about half in the last 10 to 15 years. This has forced some advertisers into a corner. They can’t afford to produce enough ads to keep consumers interested. In response, they’re looking at product placements to fill the gap. Quoting:

More than 26% of TV households will have DVRs by the end of 2008, according to Interpublic Group’s Magna — that’s nearly one-third of potential customers for a cellphone, credit card or can of soup.
While it takes only three ads to cause wear-out in print — about the same as it did 10 to 15 years ago — a TV ad these days can reach the same point after only eight showings, down from 15 to 20 during the same time period.
“With the fragmentation of the marketplace, advertising on a top top-10 show brings you about half the audience it did 10 years ago,” said Nissan’s Mr. Marx.

Did Google Issue a Bear Call? – GigaOM
Om Malik sees an ominous message in a recent Wall Street Journal story about Google’s future. He thinks CEO Eric Schmidt’s comments about cutbacks and uncertainty portend a tough 2009 for the search giant. Worse, he thinks the malaise could extend well beyond next year. Google has pulled back on a lot of its experimental projects and is funneling more of its resources toward revenue-generating products. Sounds like it’s not as much fun as it used to be. Could bad times force Google to be more targeted and less innovative? Um, yes. And what’s wrong with that? Tight economic times nearly always force innovative companies to retrench. That doesn’t make them less innovative; it just makes them more focused. Everyone’s going to pull back next year. Is it a surprise that Google isn’t impervious to the factors shaping the rest of the economy?

Online social networks | Socialising all over the web?
The Economist says Facebook is trying to succeed where Microsoft failed. The social networking site has launched Facebook Connection, enabling members to sign in to other sites using their Facebook identity. The cool thin is that Connect lets Facebook members continue to banter and kibbitz with each other about topics of shared interested defined in their profiles, even while on third-party sites. A group of competitors has endorsed OpenID as a standardized way to do the same thing, but have you tried to actually use OpenID? I’m pretty geeky and I was baffled.

Google Friend Connect launches, eyes Facebook Connect
Not to be outdone, Google has quickly rushed out Google Friend Connect, its own response to Facebook. The service “allows website owners to embed social tools like review forms, comments, or photo-sharing widgets that pull data from established communities like Flickr.” Baiscally, you carry your social meia tools with you to any site. The downside, according to Ars Technica, is that ‘website owners have limited-to-no ability to actually incorporate data that users choose to interact with or share on their site.” Still, the concept has promise.

What You Need to Know About Search

The latest from my MediaBlather podcast with David Strom.

halliganIn the arcane world of search engine optimization, HubSpot of Cambridge, Mass. has made a name for itself by simplifying and automating the process. HubSpotCEO Brian Halligan knows a lot about how search engines work and how businesses can optimize their Web presence for search results. He calls it “inbound marketing.” Forget about playing games, Halligan says; it’s all about delivering quality content. HubSpot offers some free utilities — Website Grader, Twitter Grader and Press Release Grader – that can help. These services assess your site’s search performance and suggest ways to improve it. HubSpot also offers a suite of low-cost, do-it-yourself tools that marketers can use themselves, without paying for SEO consultants. In this interview, Halligan offers some tips for optimizing search performance.

Listen to the podcast (19:12) (Right click and save to download)