A Beginner’s Question… Submitting to Search Engines?

I just got an email from one of my clients who does web development and fulfillment for a number of websites in the communications industry. The question to me was:

Jon, can you take a look at the email below and see if you can assist me with understanding his concerns?

And the “email below” essentially stated (paraphrasing and taking my liberty to edit):

…With (my website) in reference to SEO, what are the benefits of bringing traffic by submitting to search engines? In addition what is the difference from submitting to sites and paying for clicks? I have done both with my domain and understand pay per click a litte (I know there are many little tricks which I do not know) but I do not understand the benefit of submitting to the search engines. Does this get you free traffic eventually when accepted or does it allow you to get in specific programs when accepted.

Where to begin? Well, as this post is essentially my recycling this (IMO noteworthy and useful) email conversation, here was my response:

I suggest he read some beginners guides to SEO. This is a great one – http://www.seomoz.org/beginners.php. Frankly it would take me several days to begin to answer his questions… I’d have to essentially teach him all about SEO…

In short, there are two ways to get traffic from search engines – “organic” which is the “regular” results… and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) which are the ads you typically see at the very top and on the right when searching. The two function very differently.

With PPC, you literally pay a small amount (anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars) every time someone clicks the ad and goes to your site. You can specify which keywords you want your ad to be shown for. There are entire companies that do nothing but manage large PPC campaigns all day long, so naturally it gets alot more in-depth than this.

The other method – referred to as organic SEO is the process of getting your site to rank high in the regular results. It does not cost “per click” as the other method does, but that’s not to say its without cost. Instead it basically a bunch of methods that do one of two links – 1) add more relevant content to your site about your site’s topic and 2) get links from other relevant sites to your site. Those two things are the two main criteria the search engines look at to determine which site is the “best” for a particular search. Again, it gets MUCH more involved than this… but that’s the general concept.

Of the two, the PPC is generally more costly but yields more immediate results. Organic SEO is more of a long-term venture and not as certain, yet generally has more volume potential and higher upside.

(The person with the original question) mentioned “submitting to search engines”. That phrase lets me know someone is new to SEO. First, only 3 search engines really matter much (Google, Yahoo, MSN) as they account for 97% (don’t quote me) of all search traffic. Second, you don’t need to submit to them. They will find your site so long as somewhere on the internet there is another site that they know about that links to your site. They proactively find sites this way.

Lastly, common advice as a first step for organic SEO is to “submit to directories”. Many people confuse this with “submit to search engines”. Directories are different – you tell them the name of your site, the URL and give a description and they list you, much in the same way a phone book might list companies. They don’t actually “search” the contents of your website.

So why submit to them? Three reasons: 1) they can bring you some traffic. 2) they will get a few links to your website such that now the search engines can find your website. 3) the links you get help one of those factors we discussed (getting other sites to link to yours). The general premise is that the more good sites that link to your site, the more credible your site is. Again, its much more complex than this, but that’s the general premise. Examples of a few good directories that produce some traffic are http://dmoz.org, http://www.joeant.com and also http://www.abilogic.com.

Hope this helps!

I did not go into any more detail than that, as if I did I might never stop typing… Its important to note that many people overdo the whole “submit to directories” idea and use that as a main method for link building. Submitting to directories is okay – Google even says so:

Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!, as well as to other industry-specific expert sites.

I advise to submit to directories that exhibit a certain level of quality in the sites they choose to list, and also preferably directories that have enough traffic and exposure to bring you some of that.  The general stance there is don’t build links for SEO, build links for traffic.  Even if your goal is really just search rankings, that stance would probably lead you in the right direction anyway.  Don’t overlook linking for traffic though, that would be a definite mistake.  Some people go and submit to any directory they can find.  IMO that is a waste of time.  Again, go for directories that are relevant (either topical or regional for example), exhibit quality in listings and hopefully have enough real traffic to matter.  A good link even if SEO did not exist… what a novel idea!

FCC Bill & Blocking Website Access

According to a Washington Post article, there is apparently a bill in Congress that seeks to limit the ability of the FCC to stop ISPs from blocking or slowing access to certain websites.

Read that again.  I had to.  A number of firms such as Microsoft, IAC, Google, Yahoo and e-Bay (again, all according to the WP article) weighed in against the bill, as the bill would essentially make it very difficult to prevent an ISP from telling the individual what sites they can and cannot visit.

I’m totally in agreement that this bill (and its limitation of the FCC’s power to intervene), which would enable censorship by my local ISP (Comcast would love nothing more than to control more of my life than they already do) is a bad thing.  Side note: apologies as I’m sure that sentence breaks several grammatical rules!

The internet is about freedom and accessability of information.  That’s what makes it so great.  If you take that away you start to get bias – the bias of whoever is deciding what gets through and what sites get blocked.  We’ve already got plenty of that in the mass media (and I’m totally not one of those huge anti-mainstream media people), we don’t need any more.  Keep the internet free and uncensored!

Blaming MySpace for Bad Parenting

Why do you think, is this guy missing the true issue at hand?  MySpace is merely a the convenient medium and largest network for this type of social behavior – be it good or bad.  Sure there are lots of slutty guys and girls posting sketchy photos of themselves – but is that really the fault or encouragement of the medium?  I think not.  Its a reflection of the person posting such photos, and what is clearly important (for better or worse) to themselves.

I have a MySpace account.  I do not have slutty photos of myself on it.

Why not?  Because I don’t want to.  I think its tacky and cheap.  I don’t wish for people to think of me in that way.  There are alot of people that use this type of social networking site in a way that even the most conversative watchdogs would think is acceptable moral behavior.
You can get rid of MySpace, but that won’t solve the problem.  If its not MySpace its Friendster or Xanga.  Again, they are not the problem – the “problem” this guy is truly worried about is the sluttiness of some of the young people he’s seen on the site.  He’s worried that young people may do things they regret later.  Isn’t that pretty much what being young is about?  Teenagers were doing stupid things that they regret long before MySpace or the internet in general.

I will say this – my only apprehension with such sites in the privacy and personal information stance.  If you are a parent, make sure your kid knows what is okay to share and what’s not.  Parents are supposed to do this – don’t shun this responsibility just because they are now using an online medium that they are more comfortable with than you.

Everyone’s parents tells them “Don’t talk to strangers.”  My mom drilled me when I was young not to get into a stranger’s car, or tell them where I live, etc.  Why not apply the same stance to the internet?

What is okay to share?  I’d say things like

  • general stories, blogs
  • first names
  • interests
  • activities

What might you want to avoid?  Really anything specific:

  • full name
  • address
  • SSN
  • you complete hourly whereabouts

Again, just use common sense.  Only share it if you are okay with a complete stranger, or rather many many complete strangers knowing it.  I think that’s how many bloggers (including myself) approach it.

Other MySpace Posts:

HitsLink – Tracking Dynamic Pages w/ Parameters in URL

If you know me, you know I love HitsLink. I’m not even paid to say that (hint to HitsLink!), as you’ll notice by the absence of any affiliate parameter in that link. My one big beef with them though is some of the tiny details they miss. They seem to have grown tremendously in the past year or so… Come on guys – take 20 minutes and add a little bit to your Implementation FAQ section!

So I have a site that, gasp, doesn’t use mod re-write to re-write the URLs. As such, without any modification HitsLink would just a page like http://www.example.com/page.asp?color=blue as simply “page.asp” in your reports. Gives you a rough idea, but now you have no idea if the red page is more popular than the blue, and so on. Previously the only way I knew around this was mod re-write the URLs to remove the variables, which isn’t a bad idea any way for many reasons. But sometimes technical limitations of the server (or the user) may make this not so practical. If you still want to have meaningful page stats in your HitsLink report what do you do?

I found this FAQ page which asks and answers “Can I track an ASP or PHP page that is generated dynamically?” The answer is yes, and then it gives two ways to do this depending on which version of script you are using. In this case I had the second version which has this variable in the script:

pageName=location.pathname;

…and it says to modify it like so, with ID simply being replaced by the parameter name you have tied to your page…

pageName=< %=request.querystring('ID')%>;

…but if you do this you’ll get this error:

Microsoft VBScript compilation error ‘800a03ea’

Syntax error

/directory/yourpagename.ext, line XX

Response.Write(request.querystring(‘yourvariable’))

The problem lies in the detail. You need to put ‘yourvariable’ in double quotes (“yourvariable”), so that line you modify should instead be:

pageName=< %=request.querystring("ID")%>;

Now I’m sure for most of the programmers out there this is a given, but to most of the rest of us who kinda learn the little bit of ASP or PHP or whatever other code that we need to learn and patchwork it together, this is not a given!

FYI – I’d recommend not simply making this change in your one script if you use a global include file for the script. Instead, I’d identify all the different types of dynamic pages you are not currently able to view and the parameter you’d like to use for each, and then you might end up with 3 or 4 different scripts. That is to say, you may have pagename.asp?color=blue and pagename.asp?color=red and then also another set of pages like services.asp?size=big and services.asp?size=small. You’d probably want to use two different scripts on each of those template pages.

Other HitsLink Posts:

Teleflora – Site Design

So I just sent flowers online via Teleflora, and I just wanted to comment on what a great site design and layout they have. I had seen their logo in several florists before but didn’t know much about them – I’d always just thought 1800Flowers.com for that type of thing, or the local florist for local stuff.

Their site design and marketing/conversion approach its truly great. Here’s why:

  • Clean layout
  • Products stand out, not the design itself
  • Great knowledge of conversion process – they show you only what you need when you need it. They don’t bore you with showing every single navigation option and link when you are stage 3 of the checkout process and clearly don’t want that.
  • Lots of great sales tools – add person to your contacts list, get yourself reminded of the occasion next year, sample notes to put on the cards (great for a guy like me who might not feel know how to express a nice warm message in such few characters), etc.
  • Great navigation – browse by occasion or category (type of arrangement or product), and the occasions themselves have some crossover

Regarding that last bullet above, the wife instructed me to look for “something springy” for a birthday gift. So which do I use… “Spring” or “Birthday” as the occasion? I know (and care) zippy about flowers. Thankfully there were a few spring birthday arrangements. Nice.

The checkout process was easy too. They also did a great job of removing all unnecessary navigation and info to keep me focused on completing that checkout.

I truly love their design too. I think the best design if you are selling anything that has some sort of visual lure (flowers, clothes, cars, some electronics – anything where aesthetics are a factor) is to have a very simple clean white design that really lets the colors and images stand out. They’ve clearly done that. Okay now no more free publicity for them!

Funny Fake Link Directory

Got this in the SEOConsultants.com newsletter that is targeted for Monday morning. I’ve yet to go to sleep so I might well have been one of the first to see this 🙂 These are pretty funny. Read a few sentences and you’ll see the clever ways they poke fun at spam reciprocal link requests and the such. I especially like the removal instructions on the second link below. Link bait? Maybe. Its funny though, so they’re getting a link from me 🙂

Fake Link Exchange
Fake Link Request Emails

Yahoo’s New Look

Yahoo is testing a new homepage layout. Personally I don’t like it as much from an aesthetic standpoint – feel like its lost some color… But I do think it does a better job of displaying their news content. Makes me further associate them as a media portal and less as a search engine.

Yahoo!

Notice that its designed for 1024 resolution. I’m sure alot of research went into that decision. If it hasn’t already been said for the past year, its now the time when you can design for 1024, as 800 is now like the third most popular resolution, as far as I know…

Google Page Creator

Interesting story about Google’s new WYSIWYG web page creator that I expect will be duplicated and commented on many times over the next couple of days. Indeed I appear to be doing just that. No real time to comment much, but I did want to share. Apparently they are full today and aren’t accepting new accounts.

Here’s the official page.

The FAQ says these pages can be crawled within hours, but won’t receive any special treatment with regard to ranking. The pages will be on URLs such as http://username.googlepages.com. I have to wonder if that URL will inheritly (sp?) have a good bit of weight, thus boosting the pages rankings that way…

I just saw they also have a social bookmarking type service too. It appears as though if there’s a new cool idea on the internet than Goolge will either buy it or make their own version. Have we seen this before? (Cough, Cough… *Yahoo*)

Online Lead Generation – High Quality & Low Quality Leads

My firm deals mostly with service firms. We help to leverage their website and (to a lesser degree) other internet channels to help with their overall marketing efforts. In short, we try and get them more leads and more sales via the web.

With an e-commerce site the conversion process is rather simple.

1) Traffic comes to the website.
2) They either buy or don’t buy.

With a service company, the site’s purpose is typically to generate inquiries or leads, since services don’t frequently completely sell themselves on a website with no personal human interaction. Thus, the process is:

1) Traffic comes to the website.
2) They either become a lead or they don’t (by contacting the company).
3) They either buy or they don’t.

That’s one more step, and its an important one. I once heard something saying that each time you make a person click a link you’ll lose 50% of your traffic. I think that was more true in the early days of the internet, but probably still holds at least some weight. In the lead-generation model there’s one more step where you’ll lose someone.

While I love to count the leads my clients receive, I realize the quantity of leads is meaningless to them. The quantity of quality leads, however, matters a great deal. It is the same for my business – if I can get 3 sales off of 4 leads that is much preferred to 3 sales off of 20 leads. It saves me time, and as we know – time is money.

Thus, the quest is getting high quality leads – those that are more likely to convert to actual sales. If you run an e-commerce site this is similar to the quest for traffic. Quantity is fine, but what you really covet is the high quality traffic that is more likely to convert.

Anyhow, what got me onto this is a new side-venture I have going, a website that serves to help homeowners find local home improvement professionals in Maryland and Virginia. The general service model for home improvement lead generation sites is to get a lead and sell it to a half-dozen firms. The problem is that these are then low-quality leads, because now at least 5 of your competitors also have the lead. As a best case, the lead-to-sale conversion rate for the group would be 1 in 6, or just under 17%.

Our solution – aka the business model of this new venture – is to match customers one-to-one with contractors. Only sell the lead to one contractor. “But wait Jon, that means you’ll make less money!” Eh, maybe initially. But I believe the users and the contractors will be happier with the service. I’ve learned that happy customers lead to good things.

AATH Press Release

All Around the Home

HitsLink – Prevent Duplicate Leads & Conversions From Being Reported

(Intro)

I’m a big fan of HitsLink – a third-party hosted client-side web stats service. Its similar to WebTrends, ClickTracks, Urchin, and all the others – although generally I’d classify it as a more basic offering. For many sites that makes it preferred – as its very quick to setup, is fairly flexible, and gives lots of great data. The new WebTrends 7.5 (or whatever version they are up to now) and other well-known web traffic analysis packages often can go a good bit deeper than HitsLink, but in my opinion the increased price and setup time they come with often does not justify it. I generally find that HitsLink has plenty of data for me – I barely have time to act on it… Lord knows what I would do with more data!

(Main Part of Post)

Anyhow, one issue I’ve had on many sites for a while now is that I had been getting duplicate conversions recorded in HitsLink for the same lead. Essentially it was when someone would fill out a form and maybe accidentially or (due to impatience) click “submit” twice. Or perhaps they’d fill out the form and submit, and then realize they wanted to add or correct something, so they’d hit the back button and submit the form again with a slight modification. One additional cause could be if you are using a “confirmation” page to call the conversion script, and the user decides to stick on the site for a while, maybe either refresh the confirmation page or navigate away, then hit the back button a number of times to find a previous page – during which time they would pass the confirmation page again, causing the script to be called and thus record another duplicate.

For most e-commerce sites you can plug in a unique order ID in the HitsLink conversion script:


… where you would just replace “YOUR-UNIQUE-ID” with a dynamic value generated by your e-commerce system – perhaps a sales order number or something like that. Each number is unique to that one transaction, and thus even if the script/image call was activated several times it would only count 1 conversion for each unique ID.

That’s great for e-commerce sites, but most of my clients are service businesses. They are lead generation sites. The conversion is a lead form that is not connected to any e-commerce engine, so I had no unique ID number available. Then I found a rather obvious solution. Use what you do have. Most contact forms ask for a Name, Email Address, perhaps a Phone Number, etc. Use one of those fields and pass that through. Thus, if person@email.com submitted the form and was therefore one lead, but activated the script 3 times (see above possible reasons for this), than if you used their email address – person@email.com as the unique ID it would only register the first conversion and not skew your stats. If you think about it, for most sites an email address will be unique for our purposes, unless of course your site aims to get repeat leads from the same person over time – in which case you should completely ignore this article 🙂

I was elated to discover this method. I had wanted to rely on HitsLink to count leads for my sites, but I often found duplicates skewed the numbers so I’d have to manually count leads or rely on another data source.

There’s also another great benefit. Using either the email address or name or phone number makes it easier to match up the leads in your “Latest Transactions” report with what comes through either to your database or email if your contact form sends to one of those. In the past I tried to match up leads and see where each specific one (on a micro level) came from, what they searched on if they came from a search engine, etc. I had to use the time field to do this. I’d see what time the lead came in via email, and then match that up with HitsLink’s recorded time. Sometimes due to time zones or whatever else the two times might be 1-3 hours off (daylight savings, time zones, etc.) and/or also several minutes off. Thus Lead A might show 10:35 am in my email and 11:29 am in HitsLink. That’s a pain. Matching email addresses or actual names is much easier, and allows you to dig deeper to see where the “good” leads came from rather than just relying on drawing assumptions based on the macro-data.

Okay, So How?

Most forms post to some script or other page – maybe a Pearl page, ASP page, PHP page, etc. to process the form. Then, its common practice to redirect the user to a confirmation page. The processing page runs so quickly and is not displayed that to the user it just looks like they click submit and are taken to a confirmation page.

This is the method I used, and thus what I’ll describe. You can do it other ways too. Steps for this method:

1) Pick your unique ID field and make sure its going to be unique for each lead – a Name (usually unique, although you might have issues with real common names and high traffic sites), an email address (generally pretty unique), etc.

2) On your form processing page you’ll need to add a call for this value into the URL of the confirmation page. Thus, instead of redirecting to www.website.com/confirmation.php you’ll need to redirect to www.website.com/confirmation.php?unique=person@email.com where “unique” can be any parameter name you want and “person@email.com” must be a dynamic value – a call for the name of the field. In ASP you might try plugging in

request.QueryString(“unique”)

into your URL. Something like this would work:

response.redirect (“http://www.website.com/confirmation.asp?unique=”&request.QueryString(“name_of_form_field_youre_using”))

Be aware that you may need to play with the syntax as your dynamic call might have apostrophes and parenthesis that cause issues. Talk to someone who knows the programming language and they should be able to give you a work around for the syntax. Once implemented, this will redirect the person to the confirmation page upon form submission, and in the URL it will pass your unique value.

3) The next step is to grab that unique value from the URL and plug it into HitsLinks confirmation image call – which is basically what records the event in HitsLink. Thus you’ll modify that script:


by plugging in the value you passed in the URL into the YOUR-UNIQUE-ID area (replace it). In our example that would look like this:

&orderAmount=YOUR-ORDER-AMOUNT&pl=1">

if you were to use ASP – where < %=Request.QueryString("unique")%> is the ASP call to grab the “unique” value from the URL string. That will render first server-side, such that when the HTML is loaded into the browser it will replace < %=Request.QueryString("unique")%> with person@email.com or whatever you chose, and record that into HitsLink.

Now you’ve just eliminated the chance for having your HitsLink skewed with duplicate leads from person@email.com, and you’ve also made it easier to match up the lead that was delivered to you with their campaign, search engine, search phrase, or whatever other data you want in the “Latest Transactions” report in HitsLink.

Wow that took a long time to write! I hope this helps someone or several someones!

My Other Posts About HitsLink:

By the way, I just did a Google search on hitslink and saw that their URL displayed is showing a source=Alexa parameter. In practice, that would make it look as though every visitor that actually came to their site from Google with that search (their name) was recorded as being from the “Alexa” campaign.

As a general rule of thumb I advise ONLY using source= or other campaign tracking codes on links that won’t be indexed – such as when imbedded in a script via a banner ad or on a pay-per-click ad. Those URLs aren’t indexed, and thus won’t skew your stats. HitsLink is great at making a good product, though not so sure they are great at using their own product!!! 🙂

Postaroo – New Online Classifieds Site

For the past week or two I’ve been seeing TV ads for Postaroo – a site offering free online classified ads. I assumed it was similar to Craigslist. Upon review – it is similar to Craigslist… sort of.

Its an open format with no real verification or review process other than having you submit an email and then click a verification link. I think that will cause them to get a ton of spam – as some of that is already evident. I’d be surprised if they don’t put a clamp on that rather quickly.


Postaroo

In digging a bit more I noticed they are also based in the greater Baltimore area, in Maryland (I too am in the Baltimore area). The domain name was registered on September 20, 2005 – so they are really quite new. Fairly impressive in registering a domain, getting the branding, designing a site, testing it, launching it, creating TV ads and running them in that short of a time period.

It appears that their parent company is Sinclair Broadcasting Group – a Baltimore-area media/broadcasting company. Apparently they control over 50 television stations.

I would guess that this relationship with Sinclair not only got Postaroo some discounted TV ads, but also helped them build over 3,000 inbound links in just a couple of months back to the Postaroo website according to Yahoo. A quick manual review of those links shows most of them are indeed television broadcasting stations. Now that’s being resourceful!

Update: 08/03/2007

Postaroo has released a new version of their site. I think its a nice improvement. Sometimes you need that initial time to see how people use the site, and then build upon it.

This is not the only case I’ve seen of traditional media companies creating and managing various websites and internet-based-businesses that leverage there media networks. Its not a bad strategy.

Aside from Postaroo, another one that comes to mind is BaltimoreatHome.com, which is somehow owned and/or affiliated with CBS Radio. I hear their radio commercials all the time which attempt to drive traffic to the website, and then encourage you to make it your home page aka start page. Note that BaltimoreatHome.com also looks strikingly similar to BuffaloatHome.com.

PPC Landing Page No-No

I’m on a roll today – lots of posts 🙂

So I was just doing an “actual” search, as I’m in need of some pre-printed 1099 forms. So of course, I did a search. I found Staples’ site and it had a targeted title, so I clicked it. I’m then taken to this page immediately after searching for “1099 preprinted forms” and clicking on their reasonably well targeted ad:

Poor PPC Targeting

Notice there’s absolutely no mention of 1099 preprinted forms or even tax-related forms anywhere on that page. Instead they want my zip code. My thoughts: Show me you have the product I’m looking for before I’m willing to give you any information about me! I can’t help but think they’d improve their conversion rate a great deal by moving that zip code request page further back in the process. Pull me in a bit more guys before asking my lazy and impatient self (i.e. typical web surfer) for some information. Let me know I’m in the right place!

Classic Debate – Splash Homepage vs. SEO/Content Homepage

This site addresses the debate many website owners (typically those with an offline business who are venturing online) have about their desire to have a pretty image-based splash homepage versus what their SEO company tells them about them needing to have content and link-based navigation on the homepage with a clear answer.

BOTH!

To me it depends on your business, but short of someone who is a flash media designer or a world-renowned painter I’ll almost always argue for having a useful homepage with links and content. Content b/c the homepage is:

a) the most important page on your site, and
b) the page that should let the visitor know in 3 seconds what the rest of the site is all about

It should also be the starting point – the page that routes the visitor to whatever subtopic or deeper information they want. As such, clear navigation is needed. Since its the homepage, I also always prefer simple HTML a href hyperlinks so the search engines can then crawl all the internal pages.

I find that a great many business owners really want either image-splash pages or flash intro pages. They think it looks high-end and is entertaining. I have news for these business owners: People aren’t coming to your website to be entertained. They coming to get information, to find a product, to request information, to solve a problem. Short of ESPN and maybe the Cartoon Network and a few other such sites, they aren’t coming to be entertained. They don’t care about you or seeing a pretty, “neat” movie clip. They want to know how you can address their need in 3 seconds. Go!

Content Hosting and Over-Optimization

I suppose if you look hard enough you’ll find a lot of this – but this one made me smile. I was on more of a personal site of a reasonably well known SEO (I will not mention his name out of respect, he’s a pretty cool guy) and found this:

wow

(click to enlarge)

Yes, every one of those links goes to the same site. Yes its going to an outside site that aside from the owner or marketer has nothing to do with the site its hosted on.

Google’s Links to SERPs Pages 2-10 Not Working

I just did a search and noticed an ad for Google Desktop in the footer – just to the right of where the “next” link is (see below).

Google Desktop

Anyhow, when I went to click on the “2” to view page 2, I couldn’t. No link. Nothing on 3 either, or any page beyond page 1. I’m guessing the just put that link to the Desktop application there to test it out briefly, and that possibly it caused the issue with the interior pages. They are usually pretty quick with these things, so I wouldn’t be surprised if its not fixed within the next 15 minutes or something.

Super Bowl & Internet Traffic

I just noticed an interesting article on MSNBC about Super Bowl TV Ads (selling this year for $2.5 million for a 30 second spot) and how they relate to traffic spikes on the websites of some advertisers. The article mentions that “microsites” are now becoming a key component of these commercials – enabling advertisers to extend the duration of their exposure and dialog with the viewer beyond that 30 seconds, so long as the viewer feels compelled enough to visit the microsite.

Can we say “call to action”? Especially for more expensive goods, ones the may require a bit more research before a consumer looks to purchase… well… for those I think this is quite effective. I’m not likely to run out right after the game and buy a Buick. But I may visit the website if my computer is in the other room (and given that its already booted up) and check out Buick’s website… That’s another “touch”, and likely to be a much more valuable one than the 30 second spot – b/c this time I initiated it, and I am more likely to focus my visit on the two or three things I’m most concerned with.

Hopefully these sites are done well and have some sort of immediately-actionable call to action themselves!

MarketingSherpa Article on Internet Advertising 2005/2006

I was just sent a link to a great article on Internet Marketing opinions, budgets, and spending habits on MarketingSherpa. Its a bit of a survey for 2005 and projections for 2006. In short, it seems as though PPC search engine ads are the most beloved, and organic search engine optimization is slightly less highly thought of. I wonder how Google’s tweaks to AdWords and a general loss in ROI through PPC many people I know of are experiencing will impact this in the next 12 months. Anyhow, the article is certainly worth a look.

How Long it Takes For Your Niche Directory Site to Get Innundated with Spam Signups

Just over 1 year.

I run a very high-value, simple niche directory site that focuses on listing professionals in one industry by the US state they are located in. Its a small directory, and I don’t really make any money from it (just a few bucks more than what’s needed to cover the hosting and such), and as such I tend to only review the signups once a month or so at best.

Anyhow, I’ve had it running for about 14 months now, and from the start I had the occasional manual spam/unrelated/optimistic signups. They ranged between 10% and 30% of all signups. Traffic has remained relatively steady since roughly month 3 through month 14, as again, I really don’t work on this site hardly at all. Small traffic increases. Anyhow, I just now went to review signups and whereas before maybe I would have 30 signups in a month and 10-15 would be spam, this time I had about 400, with about 380 of them clearly being spam. It took 14 months, but apparently the directory is now on at least one if not more mass-spam lists.

I’ll be changing the URL and signup process in the near future 🙂

FireFox, IE and Stupid Design & Site Access Decisions

Sunday is football day for me, so posting on Sunday is rare… but this is really a hoot:

I was looking through my referral stats for this site and noticed a few people found my post about the teamsoftwareusa.net software scam. As I do on occassion, I went to Google and ran a quick search for one of the referring searches, just to see how the site ranked. It was 3rd or 4th for the particular search – doesn’t matter for our purposes here. Just below my site was another site that is pulling a feed from my site, www.seofeeds.com. I clicked on their link to see what they had, as I had not heard of that site before. This is what I got:

Now I love FireFox as much as the next guy, but that said I do probably split my internet surfing 50/50 with FireFox and Internet Explorer. For me FireFox takes and extra minute to load on my PC, and sometimes I’m just not that patient. But still – check out general internet usage stats and even though FireFox has really burst onto the scene, you’ll still see that 90% of people are still using MS Internet Explorer. FireFox gets roughly 8-10% with a very small percentage (maybe 2% or so) for Opera, Safari and other browsers.

Why in the world would you design a site that is only compatible with FireFox? You’re missing 90% of the market!!!

Come on people! Shoot I’ll even give you that with that SEO-targeted site maybe that market is not like the general market – and perhaps you’ll even get a 50/50 split between IE and FireFox on that site – but still, why make the site useless for literally half or more of your audience? That’s about as ridiculous a thing I can think of.

And even if you did do that, at least let the site run with whatever small quirks it might have in IE – maybe it will look a little funny or something, but to allow absolutely no way to view the site at all using the browser that the vast majority of people use (whether you like it or not – whether its a good browser or not, you can’t debate that the market is using it) is just absolutely absurd!

My advice: Do not put up roadblocks that prevent 90% of the universe from accessing your site. If you have such a roadblock, try removing it and you’ll likely see your conversion rate skyrocket!

As a footnote, it seems as though the discounter online/teamsoftwareusa.net scam post, the video professor scam post and my MySpace selling for $580 Million posts have drawn likely 75% of my traffic the past month or so. Shows that controversy and community are where the online traffic is at. No real surprise there.