I’ve got my product, my web site and my keywords.  Now how to use them to drive the most business in my direction?  One way to go is to advertise by using Google’s AdWords service.   Adwords is Google’s money-making service that ties together your keywords with your advertisement.  So if you’ve got your keywords linked with AdWords, then each time someone searches using those keywords, your advertising link will appear in the search results.  You will only pay, though, when someone actually clicks on your link.  Mostly.

It is a bit more involved than this, really.  Where you show up on the list has a lot to do with how much you “bid” on popular keywords, how your web site is linked from other sites and even on how old your domain name is.  Some pay per click is flat rate, too.  Here’s a quick definition of the difference between bid based and flat rate from Google’s own Wikipedia.

There are two primary models for determining cost per click: flat-rate and bid-based. In both cases the advertiser must consider the potential value of a click from a given source. This value is based on the type of individual the advertiser is expecting to receive as a visitor to his or her website, and what the advertiser can gain from that visit, usually revenue, both in the short term as well as in the long term. As with other forms of advertising targeting is key, and factors that often play into PPC campaigns include the target’s interest (often defined by a search term they have entered into search engine, or the content of a page that they are browsing), intent (e.g. to purchase or not), location (for geo targeting), and the day and time that they are browsing.

So the trick is to figure out the best use of these techniques to make my product show up in enough searches to keep my business going.  Naturally the best way to do this is by simply keeping very good records of the number of hits you receive using one method or another.  Also, experimenting with the way your keywords are phrased could also lead to different search results.  Google your own keywords and see what the results are and then tweak to improve.  Keep tweaking and updating to encourage those visitors that will bring in the bucks.



afrog

I’ve always had this goofy idea of creating some kind of product that fills a need where no other product can.  I’ve come up with the idea of a frog feeder.  Now don’t laugh and don’t rip off my idea!   I’m sure you’ve seen on the gardening and DIY shows how popular water gardening has become.  Nearly every home shown now has a water feature.  When I built my water garden several years ago we soon found that one of the most enjoyable creatures to visit were frogs.  Since we spent so much time working around the pond, these frogs got used to us and we eventually had them eating  worms right from our hands.

aworm1

Now most frogs won’t do this, so I thought why not invent a frog feeder?  I knew I could toss worms onto lily pads where most of the time the frogs would see them, but occasionally the worms would slide into the water and end up as fish food.  What a waste of worm!   I decided that a floating platform with shallow sides would be a perfect frog feeder. Make it colorful and landscape friendly and voila!  The product you never thought you needed!   Now that I have my great idea, I need to know how to market my frog feeder on my web site.

alily1

One of the first things one needs to do when going online with their business venture is  to make their web site  search-engine friendly.  This is referred to as search engine optimization or SEO and means that you want your web site to rank high in the list of returns when a search is performed.   An article  from Allbusiness.com offers these tips to get started–

* Links from other sites: Search engine spiders move from site to site across the Internet by following hyperlinks. The more high quality and high trafficked sites you have pointing to your site, the more important the search engine will think you are. Make sure to register your site with directories such as Yahoo and the Open Directory Project.
* Internal links: Make sure your site is well-organized and easy to navigate. A site map will help visitors – and spiders – navigate your site.

* Meta tags: Meta tags are hidden HTML directions for Web browsers or search engines. They include important information such as the title of each page, relevant keywords describing site content, and the description of the site that shows up when a search engine returns a search. Make sure your meta tags accurately describe your content.
* Keywords: Consider likely words or phrases that users might type into search engines to find your site. Make sure your content contains those words or phrases, and include them in your title portions of your site and in relevant content.

I think for a start that a web site should very carefully prepare any copy used to make sure that they have used keywords that will lead search engines to the site.  So for Frog Feeders, Inc. the web site copy should contain words that are relevant to Frog Feeders–like frogs, feeders, worms, water gardens, ponds, hobby, fun, etc.  Using these words effectively within the web site’s copy will lead more people to the site.  Some may come for pond information and discover that they really need a frog feeder!  And that’s what we want!

The topic in my  new media class this week was search engines and advertising by using web search services like Google, Yahoo or Ask.   Some were surprised that search engine sites  get paid to place search results at the top of the list.   As part of our research for this topic, we were to read an article from 2002 titled Straight Story Search Engines by Laurianne Mclaughlin about search engines and advertising.  I have to admit, I really can’t remember what Google looked like in 2002 or if I could tell the sponsored ad results from those considered “real.

aggo

It seems very easy now to identify search engine results as being either paid for or real.  Google identifies sponsored ads by highlighting and isolating paid results on the right side of the page.  Yahoo.com includes actual shopping results when an item such as digital cameras is queried.  When searching for digital cameras on Ask.com the top of the page yields Amazon.com search results for digital cameras.  Obviously these are sponsored links.

So the question is:  Did you know that advertisers pay to have their products placed strategically in search result lists?  Do you think there is anything wrong with that?

I don’t see anything wrong with sponsored links–as a matter of fact, if I’m researching an item like digital cameras, I want the top results to also include links to places I can buy a digital camera.  That way my comparison shopping is easier and I know that these companies are up to date enough to understand the importance of marketing well in this digital era.

 

We all visit web sites;  most of us on a daily basis.  So what makes one web site stand out over another?  Why do we continue to go back to one site rather than another?  I think that most of us visit some web sites again and again because they deal with a subject we’re interested in.  Maybe this subject is rare or unique and so the web sites where the topic is discussed are limited.

An example of this would be the Backyard Chickens web site that I visit almost daily.  Backyardchickens.com has taken a subject that is specific in its focus and has created a very active, interesting and informative site where people can meet, buy, sell and chat anything poultry related.  While there are other sites that also deal with keeping poultry, Backyardchickens.com, (BYC) is the most active and most visited.

From BYC’s “About Us” page

The site was originally just a simple chicken coop design . Over time more useful information was added. With more chicken information came more site visitors, some of which submitted their own coop designs.

As the content grew so did visits to the site and with visitors came questions… lots of questions. Everything from hatching eggs to how to raise chickens. We tried to answer as many questions as we could by adding information to the site but we realized there were too many different variables to create content for every situation. So, back in 2000 we started the first BYC Chicken Message Board. Over the years this forum has grown, moved, changed and moved again. Fortunately even when the forum had some very significant changes and moves (servers, software, etc.) the community has remained strong. At the time of updating this page, January 2009, we’ve got a vibrant community of more than 20,000 chicken owners who add about 4,000 new posts per DAY (on average 3 new posts every minute of every day)!

That’s an incredible record for such a niche subject area.  So why is BYC more popular than some of the other poultry sites?  From a personal point of view, I would say that the people behind BYC have been diligent in creating a place for poultry enthusiasts to share information, ideas and resources in a family friendly atmosphere.  They step in and edit posts when needed but primarily allow the BYC family to monitor themselves.  People that visit this forum to ask questions are provided the answers or are guided to the right place to find their answer.  Many share new ideas, equipment sources and daily life stories with their fellow BYCers.  I posted that I wanted some pictures to use in this post and within just a few moments, my BYC buddies have shared some great shots.  Here’s a few pictures of the kinds of things you’ll see on BYC.

This from Wifezilla:

Baby duckWho can resit a baby duck?

And this from Bil who shared his picture comparison of day old chicks to week old.

Chick comparison

This little peeper is being shared with us by Miss_Jayne.

Chickie

And how’s this for paying the rent?  Look at those eggs!–from Steve

mother

An example of what you can learn at BYC–how to help a struggling chick to complete their hatch.  (from Hangin wit my peeps!)  See how the chick is still wrapped in the membrane.

ahelp

Here’s that same chick!

ahelp2And this picture shows how our feathered friends tend to look out for each other.  What a sweet picture!  And did you catch those names!  (credit goes to BYC member “Hangin wit my peeps”!)

alove

BYC has also managed to keep their advertisers consistent with the theme of the website.  It is unobtrusive, not irritating and is marketing those products that poultry fanciers are interested in learning about.  The web site is easy to navigate with links that work and justifable pages.  In other words, any additional pages on the web site are all warranted.  Some web sites seem to have additional pages that are nothing more than a re-do of another page.  BYC includes only those pages necessary for an informative, easy to navigate, user friendly interface.

When looking at some of BYC’s competition, I find that while the sites don’t pull me in like BYC, they do offer the same types of information.  Why is it then that I prefer one over another?  I choose BYC because of the layout, design, colors, easy navigation and overall friendly feeling I get when visiting.  The bright colors and simple animations are appealing and the navigation bars are set up well.  The pages are not overloaded with animations and are consistent throughout the site.

So what makes a site truly bad?  I visited webpagesthatsuck.com to find out.  (Yes, that’s really the name of the site!)

What the top five winners (losers) from 2008 have in common is an insane amount of color!   Color and animations and so much minutia it almost makes your head hurt!  Check out this example http://www.havenworks.com/

and this one

http://www.fabricland.co.uk/

I think when creating a web presence they should really test it on a focus group of some kind before unleashing it on the public.  I just don’t see how Fabric Land has earned any profit from that web site.

What do you think is needed to make a web site attractive and inviting?  Do you have a favorite site that you return to again and again?

atwit

Twitter is continuing its wildfire like spread–now showing up in courts around the world.  Journalists are  seeking and gaining permission to Twitter about cases they’re covering so that those interested can follow the proceedings live.   While the debate about this continues, more and more judges are permitting Twitter in the courtroom.  Check out the discussion about the Pirate Bay case in Sweden.

apirate1

Follow Pirate Bay twitters here

Twitter continues to grow with an estimated 7 million who now consider themselves Twitterers.  What started as a simple idea–that of asking “what are you doing” to fellow twitterers,  has turned into a serious social phenomena .  President Obama used Twitter to promote fund-raising for his campaign and had a staff member producing Twitters for him at an astounding pace.  Mr. Obama has apparently ceased twittering since the inauguration and there are some who would like to know why.   A recent post by Paul Bouton in the New York Times is one who wants this question answered.

Barack Obama’s online presence drove his campaign’s early fund-raising and his primary victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton. His campaign’s use of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube proved that he was part of the Web 2.0 generation. In the run-up to November’s election, Senator Obama – or one of his staff members – typed more than 250 updates to his Twitter account at twitter.com/barackobama.

Some think Obama supporters have been “pumped and dumped” now that the election is over. Others believe that as president, Mr. Obama has been restricted from thumb-typing tweets on his BlackBerry because of federal restrictions on presidential communications. But that shouldn’t stop an eager intern from taking over.

What is most interesting about Twitter is its ability to yeild an extensive amount of marketing data directly from the consumer.  Twitter allows businesses to know when consumers are talking about them and what they’re saying.  It allows companies like Zappos.com to respond quickly to customer concerns and to encourage an interactive relationship.

Interviewed by  USA Today, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says that he uses Twitter to maintain contact with the public.

For people who follow us on Twitter, it gives them more depth into what we’re like, and my own personality,” he says.

Zappos  tested a new site, zeta.zappos.com, recently on Twitter, “and we were able to make some improvements based on the comments,” says Hsieh.

Jefferson Graham from USA Today quotes CEO Mike Hudak of Blip.tv as follows:

“In the past, companies would hire a market research firm to understand their audience,” says Mike Hudack, CEO of Blip.tv, a New York-based video website.

“Now we use Twitter to get the fastest, most honest research any company ever heard – the good, bad and ugly – and it doesn’t cost a cent,” he says.
What could be more important to those in marketing than honest, fast, up to date research coming  directly from the consumer?  And Twitter is free!

ab

I thought it was a silly joke played on Barbie because of her upcoming 50th birthday, but apparently it isn’t.  Can this Democratic lawmaker be for real?  What ever happened to a parent’s choice in what their child can and cannot play with?  Is Mr. Eldridge going to call for the honorable discharge of  G.I. Joe next?  What about Big Bird and Thomas the tank engine?  Will our kids grow up disillusioned when they find out they can’t be a giant yellow bird or a train engine?  Just because a child plays with a certain TOY doesn’t mean  they believe they should BE that toy!

This from the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette:

West Virginia Democratic Delegate Jeff Eldridge Tuesday proposed a bill to ban the sale of Barbie and similar dolls that promote physical beauty to the detriment of girls’ intellectual and emotional development.

“I just hate the image that we give to our kids that if you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful and you don’t have to be smart,” the second-term state lawmaker, who has been an educator and social worker, told West Virginia media Tuesday.

Also, what makes Mr. Eldridge think that Barbie’s a big dummy?  I happen to know that Barbie has been a teacher, nurse, doctor, and in the 1960s Barbie headed into space as an astronaut.

abarbi

She is smart enough to pursue any career she wants and Mattel has done an incredible job of keeping Barbie fresh and growing.  Just recently she became celebrity chef  for a network cooking show!

abarb

I wonder where this kind of coddling stops.  Are our children really so gullible that they believe they should look like Barbie?  If we ban Barbie because she may harm the self esteem of young girls, does that mean we should also ban crayons?   Won’t it hurt our kids’ self -esteem when they find it hard to stay in the lines?  Won’t it hurt them when they slide into second base playing baseball?  It seems our kids are becoming weaker by the day.  They don’t know how to lose with grace, to win with honor or to try their best.  We seem to be tip toeing around our kids, always afraid that we are somehow going to damage them.

What is the marketing department of Mattel supposed to do with this kind of political pronouncement?  Do they ignore it and hope that there are many out there like me who think its ridiculous?  Or do they try to fight back for the sake of little Barbie lovers around the world?   The fact that Barbie has already been banned in Iran makes you wonder–do we want our girls to grow up like little Iranian ladies?

OK–now I await the bashing.

What a great quote from Erma Bombeck.  And doesn’t it seem true?  Any parent can relate to the effect little dancing cartoons has on their children’s wants.  Have you ever bought a cereal with a chocolaty count or a box of mac and cheese with a  square, yellow dude on the package?  I’m sure if you did its because your kids had a voice in the choice.

The Count

The Count

Do you know that there’s Count Chocula lip balm and a Count Chocula Halloween costume?

And who would have thought that SpongeBob Squarepants would be showing up as Mac & Cheese?

Kraft's spongebob Macaroni & Cheese

Kraft's SpongeBob Macaroni & Cheese

According to BusinessWeek, Nickelodeon’s  SpongeBob character is now bringing in over 1$ billion a year in licensed products.  Many concerned with the issue of rising obesity rates in children are protesting the use of characters like SpongeBob  promoting  high fat, low nutrition foods.   The little yellow dude is being accused of making kids fat because his smiling face  graces the packages of products like Kellogg’s Pop Tarts, Breyer’s SpongeBob  Ice Cream, and SpongeBob Cheese Nips.

Nickelodeon appears to be trying to play both sides of the field with this issue by promoting healthy eating and excersise by SpongeBob thru programming, public service messages and web site content.

From BusinessWeek’s David Killey–

To make the scene more confusing for kids and parents, SpongeBob, which drives about $1 billion a year in licensed goods, is now featured on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Nabisco Fruit Snacks in new “Nicktritional” labels, doling out advice such as drinking lots of water and playing games like soccer for exercise. These are just the first products carrying Nicktritional labels, which Nick hopes expands to more Kraft products and to other food companies as well.

Nicktritional labeling is an idea driven by Nickelodeon, anxious to avoid becoming a lightning rod for childhood obesity. Nick spokesman David Bittler admits that its efforts, like SpongeBob touting healthy living habits, are sending mixed signals. He says the kids’ entertainment giant has been jawboning advertisers for over a year, trying to get its characters onto healthier offerings.

Apparently Nickelodeon has succeeded in reaching producers of healthier foods as SpongeBob and other Nick characters are now appearing on bags of spinach, carrots and some citrus fruits.

Carrots

This all comes down to Nickelodeon trying to do the right thing in order to not become a target of regulation that could seriously put a damper on their liscensing efforts.  So, my question is—how come Nickelodeon has to try and avoid these regulations?  Why is it  that parents don’t seem to be as “strong” as they once were?  I can still remember shopping with my mom and wanting Lucky Charms.  I did not get them and I have not been scarred for life.  It seems to me that the proliferation of liscensed products targeting children is a result of the parents not having the upper hand.  Dont’ you think that if parents would just say no a bit more often that issues like childhood obesity  wouldn’t exist?  Is it right to blame advertisers for using a technique that works?  The kids aren’t the ones with the paycheck.  The parents are.  Sure the kids may whine about wanting SpongeBob ice cream, but all mom or dad needs to do is say no.  Believe me, the kids will survive.  And to those who say it’s just too hard to say no when the characters are so prevelent, I say turn off the TV, avoid the mall and go outside.

Have you ever seen a short film that in reality was a commercial— a film created to generate buzz and  interest in a product?  Do you think you would be pleased or discouraged to find that a short film you’ve enjoyed was in actuality, a commercial?   I suppose that if you’re in the marketing field or any business that sells, you may view an interesting short film that successfully promotes a product  as a great idea.  I think even more that if done correctly  a short film can help to influence behaviors in ways that don’t directly involve purchasing a product.

For example have you seen any of the short films from the series sponsored by Glamour, Clinique, Channel, Suave and others called Glamour Reel Moments?  This intriguing concept lets advertisers sponsor A-list Hollywood actresses in directorial debuts.   A press release from Glamour offers the following:

In three years of the project, two of the short films have been accepted into the Sundance Film Festival and the shorts have shown in over 25 film festivals including Berlin and Toronto. Unlike any magazine marketing program in recent memory, Glamour Reel Moments transcended the trade media and was critically acclaimed by The New York TimesReel Moments, USA Today, Entertainment Tonight and the Today show. In 2006 Oprah devoted an entire show to the project’s positive impact for women in film that included Wackermann and Jennifer Aniston as guests. He then went on to introduce Glamour Reel Docs, a documentary that follows people as Glamour helps make their dreams come true.

What is encouraging about this program is that Glamour readers, actresses and  sponsors are all benefiting from this project.  Readers write in with suggestions for stories and then Glamour and its sponsors make it happen on film using the talents of female celebrities. The sponsors who support the films’ production gain brand awareness and respect from their involvement with the project.

Courtney Cox & Demi Moore

Courtney Cox & Demi Moore

This following short film is a great example of the quality that this series from Glamour inspires.  This one features Lauren Graham.  Does this film seem like a commercial to you?

Now take a look at the following short film produced for JCPenney.  This one received some flak because of the subject matter, but there are many out there who think that its just another example of political correctness gone too far.  Can you see what caused the “controversy”?

Do you think that using short films in this manner is good for a brand? What happens when a short film is not well thought out and results in creating a poor brand image?  This is what happened last year when BMW produced a film titled, “The Ramp.”  This 33 minute film was supposed to demonstrate the quality German engineering behind BMW vehicles.  Unfortuneatly the film comes across as a dull, booring, listless mockumentary that does nothing to promote the brand.  BMW was so disappointed in the film that for several months they denied having anything to do with the film.

So the moral (at least according to me)–is that short films do have a place in marketing today.  However, how effective they are is like any other form of communication.  They need to be targeting the right audience, with the right message and at the right time.  Films have the ability to offer so much more than print, radio, or direct marketing pieces.  Films can incorporate music, sound effects, visual effects and much more in order to convey a feeling orbrand  message.   If this is done well, then the film has done its job and the brand can see results.

So what do you think of corporate blogs?  Do you know what a corporate blog is?  According to Wikipedia a corporate webblog is published and used by an organization to reach its organizational goals. The advantage of blogs is that posts and comments are easy to reach and follow due to centralized hosting and generally structured conversation threads.

Wikipedia goes on to explain  two types of corporate blogs.  Internal–meant for employees to view and comment on and external–published for the public to view.

The question here involves those corporate blogs created for the public to view, comment on and follow.  Are these blogs being visited? Do consumers take the time to look for and then read a company’s blog?  Why would they or why wouldn’t they?  It seems that the goal of an external company blog would be to build a relationship with their consumer by providing news and up to date information about their products.  While many attempt to do this, often the blog posts come across as nothing more than press releases—looked upon as just another company marketing attempt.

Josh Catone who blogs for Sitepoint, an online media company, discusses 15 companies who are successfully providing interesting, stimulating blogs that encourage discussion among readers.  Quoting  from a  Forrester Research report on corporate blogs, Catone discusses how  most B2B blogs are “dull, drab, and don’t stimulate discussion.”  Most of these businesses have not seen a significant value for their blogging attempts, either. The Forrester report suggests that companies not discontinue their blogs, but rather to boost their entertainment value so as to attract and keep interested consumers.

Some of Catone’s favorite corporate blogs include the following with his comments:

DellThough Dell’s corporate blog rarely strays from Dell-centric news, the company posts with a great conversational voice, often breaks news on their blog (which keeps people coming back), and listens and responds to customers. Dell also posts regularly (1-2 posts per day at least) which keeps content fresh and encourages repeat visits.

AdobeAdobe offers a huge collection of employee blogs, many of which are great reads. By allowing employees to blog, Adobe has empowered them to evangelize their products for them — many post tutorials, advice, reviews, and other great tid-bits promoting Adobe products — while not pigeon holing them into talking only about Adobe.

Southwest AirlinesSouthwest Airlines’ “Nuts About Southwest” blog doesn’t take itself too seriously — and that’s a good thing. The company blogs about itself and the airline industry with a personal touch and has been producing a series of fun, behind-the-scenes videos that are both interesting and engaging.

While these are great examples of successful corporate blogs, it doesn’t help the image of corporate blogs in general.  A recent article in Business Week written by Heather Green, (December, 09), further quotes the Forrester Research report with the amazing figure that only 16% of consumers put any trust in corporate blogs.  They rate these blogs on the trust scale lower than direct mail, print media and even corporate emails.   So what’s the secret to encouraging a brand relationship with your customer through the use of corporate blogs?  What is it that’s going to make the consumer sit up and take notice of your company’s blog?

A recent posting on The Agitationist discusses the trust issue with an eye on what a social media team can do to help.  The main gist of this post seems to be that a corporate blog must offer the consumer something– desired information, a solution to a problem, a believable insight into the company, entertainment, and a place where consumers can post their opinions and have proof that they have been listened to.  This may be why Dell has been so successful with their blogging.  By listening and responding to their customers’ ideas and opinions, they have created an active and interesting blog.  Direct2Dell is a prime example of how a coporate blog should work.

I said I was going to try and learn what I can about all of the new media available now.  One buzzword I keep seeing is Twitter.  This is one I didn’t have a clue about, so I’m now trying to become educated in Twitterspeak.

I found this video that gives a great basic description of just what Twitter does and how it works.  Check it out!    I posted this link  before,  but I wanted to mention it again–it’s that good.