Thursday, January 31, 2008

How to Start An Email Newsletter

Here Are The Goals:
You regularly send out relevant and anticipated email newsletters to your ever-growing list. You have a form on your website that asks people to sign up for your email newsletter. When someone signs up, they give you their name and email address and they receive a few automatic and customized emails that you previously crafted while they wait for their first newsletter edition. You have a database that stores each person's email address and you have a way to send out regular emails to them all, including beautiful HTML newsletters (e-zines). You watch the list grow over time and watch readers turn into customers.

Here Are The Benefits:
· You are continually building a list of loyal readers that grows over time.
· Your readers spread the word that your organization is helpful, knowledgeable and experienced.
· Your readers are regularly reminded of your organization's continued existence, growth and relevance.
· Some loyal readers will turn into loyal paying customers.
· You learn more about your customers and site visitors by asking them to communicate with you through the newsletter.
· You generate a new income stream by selling advertisement space.
· You'll have a regular source of fresh and original content to add to your website which will help search engine rankings.

There are two distinct, but equally important aspects of starting an email newsletter that need to be addressed for you to accomplish the goals and gain the benefits listed above. First, you need the infrastructure and functionality to make all this happen, such as a database, an HTML form, a method for sending out emails in quantity and so forth. Second, you need the content that will be in each newsletter. This article will explain how to do both.

The Needed Infrastructure & Functionality for an Email Newsletter

Does getting the infrastructure sound difficult? Does it sound like you have to know a lot about programming? Neither is true. This wheel doesn't need to be re-invented.

There are a number of websites that offer paid services that provide the entire infrastructure for you. The cost is a fraction of the cost of developing the infrastructure yourself. Two good examples of this type of service are Constant Contact and Aweber. I prefer Aweber and find its interface intuitive and easy to use. I use Aweber for our company email newsletter and suggest it to all our clients.

Using a browser I can log into my Aweber account and create text or HTML email auto-responder messages for people to receive when they visit our site or sign up for our e-zine. I can create a simple HTML form that asks for people's name and email as well. In fact, the html code for the form is created for me and all I have to do is cut and paste it into my site. No programming needed.

Each person's information is stored in a database on Aweber's servers. I can manage my leads list in my browser and sort by different ways. It also allows me to see how many of my auto- responders have been sent already. And every email that we send out has a personalized first name greeting.

There is a place in Aweber where I can manage my messages, whether they are regular emails to part of the list or a newsletter that's sent to the entire list. And there is a place where I can enter my messages, edit them, check to see if they will trip any sp@m filters, I can test the messages by sending them to my own email address first, and finally I can send them all out at once with one simple click.

The Needed Quality Content for an Email Newsletter

It's not good enough to just have the infrastructure and functionality. You need content that makes people want to accept and read your newsletters over and over again.

Your newsletter ought to be related to your website and organization. Every person and organization has valuable and unique knowledge and experience to offer others. And you'd be surprised at how many people want your unique knowledge. Sharing this knowledge and experience with your existing and potential customers is what the Web is all about. People use the Web for getting information. So make your newsletters about various aspects of your business or organization, and make them educational, so that your readers come away with more useful information than they had before.

So if you're a Web design firm, write about Web design in your newsletters. If you're a small local bookstore, write about how to become an author, or how to start a local bookstore. If you're a financial advisor, write about how people can make sound investments. If you're a furniture builder and seller, write about how to fix up old pieces of furniture on your own.

Newsletters that are just extended advertisements don't cut it. If your newsletter only has announcements of new or improved products or services, or specials that you're running, then you're missing the boat completely. There is so much more you can offer.

Creating newsletters that contain useful, relevant and anticipated information for your readers is what to aspire to. You want to give away ideas and concepts for free that can be used to help improve some aspect of your reader's lives. You obviously don't want to give away the whole farm since a lot of your expertise is what you charge for in the first place. But giving some information away for free is a win-win.

Most often, your readers don't care about you or your company or your specific products or deals, they only care about what you can do for them. If they take the time to open your email newsletter and read it, it better provide them with some real value or they won't bother again and your list will not grow, but eventually wither away into oblivion.

In return for providing useful, original content, you develop a constantly growing list of loyal readers who will spread the word that you are an authority in your field. Your readers may eventually buy from you if they haven't already. And you can use your list to occasionally sell your products or services, but do this very sparingly. You can use the newsletter for selling advertisement space, but again, use sparingly. Finally, you can use your list to learn more about your customers and site visitors. You can ask the people on your list to fill out an online survey, but be sure to offer them an incentive for their time.

If you don't know any programming or HTML but want to send out a regular newsletter, you can use Aweber to create text-only messages. If you want to send out professional HTML email newsletters, then either learn HTML and design (which is obviously time-consuming, but certainly possible), or hire a Web firm to do it for you. I would also suggest hiring a firm to help you with writing the content as well if you're not comfortable with writing.

But as you can see, you don't need much to get an email newsletter going. If you can regularly create quality content, just sign up for an online service like Aweber and away you go. An internal customer email list is a very valuable asset for any organization. Handle it with loving care. Never sell or rent your list to anyone, try to offer value in your writing, and don't overuse it as an advertisement medium.

Good luck and happy e-zining!

Learn more about Aweber -

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A weblog (usually shortened to blog, but occasionally spelled web log or weblog) is a web-based publication consisting primarily of periodic articles, most often in reverse chronological order.

Early weblogs were simply manually updated components of common websites. However, the evolution of tools to facilitate the production and maintenance of web articles posted in said chronological fashion made the publishing process feasible to a much larger, less technical, population. Ultimately, this resulted in the distinct class of online publishing that produces blogs we recognize today. For instance, the use of some sort of browser-based software is now a typical aspect of "blogging". Blogs can be hosted by dedicated blog hosting services, or they can be run using blog software on regular web hosting services.

Like other media, blogs often focus on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news. Some blogs function as online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic.

Blog basics

The term blog is a blend of the terms web and log, leading to web log, weblog, and finally blog. Authoring a blog, maintaining a blog or adding an article to an existing blog is called blogging. Individual articles on a blog are called "blog posts," "posts" or "entries". A person who posts these entries is called a blogger.

A blog entry typically consists of the following:

Title - main title, or headline, of the post.
Body - main content of the post.
Permalink - the URL of the full, individual article.
Post Date - date and time the post was published.

A blog entry optionally includes the following:

Comments - comments added by readers
Categories (or tags) - subjects that the entry discusses
Trackback and or pingback - links to other sites that refer to the entry

Alongside the regularly updated entries, a blog site often has a less-frequently-updated list of links, or blogroll, of other blogs that the author reads; and/or, with whom he or she affiliates.

It is common for blogs to contain advertising in the form of AdWords. Popular blogs can generate significant revenue by this means, and also via banner ads and referral fees for promotion of items on commercial websites such as



Electronic communities existed before internetworking. For example the AP wire was, in effect, similar to a large chat room with "wire fights" and electronic conversations. Another pre-digital electronic community, amateur (or "ham") radio, allowed individuals who set up their own transmitters to communicate with others directly.

Before blogging became popular, digital communities took many forms, including Usenet, e-mail lists and bulletin board systems (BBS). In the 1990s Internet forum software, such as WebEx, created running conversations with "threads." Threads are topical connections between messages on a metaphorical "corkboard." See "Common terms," below.

The modern blog evolved from the online diary where people would keep a running account of their personal lives. The first of these started in 1994. Most of the writers called themselves diarists, journalists, journallers, or journalers. A few called themselves escribitionists. The Open Pages webring included members of the online-journal community.

Other forms of journals kept online also existed. A notable example was game programmer John Carmack's widely read journal, published via the finger protocol.

Websites, including both corporate sites and personal homepages, had and still often have "What's New" or "News" sections, often on the index page and sorted by date.

One noteworthy early precursor to a blog was the tongue-in-cheek personal website that was frequently updated by Usenet legend Kibo.

Blogging appears

The term "weblog" was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. The short form, "blog," was coined by Peter Merholz. He broke the word weblog into the phrase "we blog" in the sidebar of his weblog in April or May of 1999. [1] "Blog" was accepted as a noun (weblog shortened) and as a verb ("to blog," meaning "to edit one's weblog or to post to one's weblog"). [2]

Justin Hall, who began eleven years of personal "blogging" in 1994 while a student at Swarthmore College, is generally recognized as one of the earliest bloggers[3]. After a slow start, blogging rapidly gained in popularity: the site Xanga, launched in 1996, had only 100 diaries by 1997, and over 50 000 000 as of December 2005. Blog usage spread during 1999 and the years following, being further popularized by the near-simultaneous arrival of the first hosted blog tools:

Open Diary launched in October 1998, soon growing to thousands of online diaries. Open Diary innovated the reader comment, becoming the first blog community where readers could add comments to other writers' blog entries.

Brad Fitzpatrick started LiveJournal in March 1999.
Andrew Smales's projects: created in July 1999 (as an easier alternative to maintaining a 'news page' on a website), and Diaryland, created in September 1999 (focusing more on a personal diary community)[1]

Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan (Pyra Labs) launched in August 1999 (purchased by Google in February 2003)

Paul Kedrosky's GrokSoup

Blogging combined the personal web page with tools to make linking to other pages easier — specifically permalinks, blogrolls and TrackBacks. This, together with weblog search engines enabled bloggers to track the threads that connected them to others with similar interests.
Blogging gains influence

The first broadly popular American blogs emerged in 2001: Andrew Sullivan's, Ron Gunzburger's, Taegan Goddard's Political Wire and Jerome Armstrong's MyDD—all blogging primarily on politics.

In 1999, then owner of popular technology review portal, The Review Center, John Guilfoil theorized that daily, and often multi-daily updates instead of the often used weekly news updates seen throughout the technology reviews world would soon be needed in order for these web sites to survive. He suggested that shorter, more pointed news updates in the theme of, which was then a fledging blog site, would be necessary across the board. This revolution in up-to-the-minute updating and real-time news updates has led to the evolutionary shutdown of countless amateur technology web sites.

By 2001, blogging was enough of a phenomenon that how-to manuals began to appear, primarily focusing on technique. The importance of the blogging community (and its relationship to larger society) gained rapidly increasing importance. Established schools of journalism began researching blogging and noting the differences between journalism and blogging.

In 2002, Jerome Armstrong's friend and sometime partner Markos Moulitsas Zúniga began DailyKos. With up to a million visits a day during peak events, it has now become one of the Internet's most trafficked blogs.

Also in 2002, many blogs focused on comments by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. Senator Lott, at a party honoring U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, praised Senator Thurmond by suggesting that the United States would have been better off had Thurmond been elected president. Lott's critics saw these comments as a tacit approval of racial segregation, a policy advocated by Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign. This view was reinforced by documents and recorded interviews dug up by bloggers. (See Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo.) Though Lott's comments were made at a public event attended by the media, no major media organizations reported on his controversial comments until after blogs broke the story. Blogging helped to create a political crisis that forced Lott to step down as majority leader.

The shaping of this story gave greater credibility to blogs as a medium of news dissemination. Though often seen as partisan gossips, bloggers sometimes lead the way in bringing key information to public light. This puts the mainstream media in the unusual position of reacting to news that bloggers generate.

Since 2003, blogs have gained increasing notice and coverage for their role in breaking, shaping, and spinning news stories. The Iraq war saw both left-wing and right-wing bloggers taking measured and passionate points of view that did not reflect the traditional left-right divide.

Blogging by established politicians and political candidates, to express opinions on war and other issues, cemented blogs' role as a news source. (See Howard Dean and Wesley Clark.) Meanwhile, an increasing number of experts blogged, making blogs a source of in-depth analysis. (See Daniel Drezner and J. Bradford DeLong.)

The second Iraq war was the first "blog war" in another way: Iraqi bloggers gained wide readership, and one, Salam Pax, published a book of his blog. Blogs were also created by soldiers serving in the Iraq war. Such "milblogs" gave readers new perspectives on the realities of war, as well as often offering different viewpoints from those of official news sources.

Blogging was used to draw attention to obscure news sources. For example, bloggers posted links to traffic cameras in Madrid as a huge anti-terrorism demonstration filled the streets in the wake of the March 11 attacks.

Bloggers began to provide nearly-instant commentary on televised events, creating a secondary meaning of the word "blogging": to simultaneously transcribe and editorialize speeches and events shown on television. (For example, "I am blogging Rice's testimony" means "I am posting my reactions to Condoleezza Rice's testimony into my blog as I watch her on television.") Real-time commentary is sometimes referred to as "liveblogging."

Blogging gains popularity

In 2004, the role of blogs became increasingly mainstream, as political consultants, news services and candidates began using them as tools for outreach and opinion forming. Even politicians not actively campaigning, such as MP Tom Watson of the UK Labour Party, began to blog to bond with constituents.

Minnesota Public Radio broadcast a program by Christopher Lydon and Matt Stoller called "The Blogging of the President," which covered a transformation in politics that blogging seemed to presage. The Columbia Journalism Review began regular coverage of blogs and blogging.

Anthologies of blog pieces reached print, and blogging personalities began appearing on radio and television. In the summer of 2004, both (America's Democratic and Republican) parties' conventions credentialed bloggers, and blogs became a standard part of the publicity arsenal. Mainstream television programs, such as Chris Matthews' Hardball, formed their own blogs.
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary declared "blog" as the word of the year in 2004. (Wikinews)

Blogs were among the driving forces behind the "Rathergate" scandal. To wit: (television journalist) Dan Rather presented documents (on the CBS show 60 Minutes) that conflicted with accepted accounts of President Bush's military service record. Conservative bloggers declared the documents to be forgeries and presented arguments in support of that view, and CBS apologized for what it said were inadequate reporting techniques. (See Little Green Footballs.) Many bloggers view this scandal as the advent of blogs' acceptance by the mass media, both as a source of news and opinion and as means of applying political pressure.

Some bloggers have moved over to other media. The following bloggers (and others) have appeared on radio and television: Duncan Black (known widely by his pseudonym, Atrios), Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) , Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (Daily Kos), and Ana Marie Cox (Wonkette). Hugh Hewitt is an example of a media personality who has moved in the other direction, adding to his reach in "old media" by being an influential blogger.

Some blogs were an important source of news during the December 2004 Tsunami such as Medecins Sans Frontieres, which used SMS text messaging to report from affected areas in Sri Lanka and Southern India.

In the United Kingdom, The Guardian newspaper launched a redesign in September 2005, which included a daily digest of blogs on page 2.

In January 2005, Fortune magazine listed eight bloggers that business people "could not ignore": Peter Rojas, Xeni Jardin, Ben Trott, Mena Trott, Jonathan Schwartz, Jason Goldman, Robert Scoble, and Jason Calacanis. [4]

Blog popularity dynamics

Recently, scientists have analyzed the dynamics of how blogs become popular. There are essentially two measures of this: popularity through citations (i.e. permalinks), as well as popularity through affiliation (i.e. blogroll). The basic conclusion from studies of the structure of blogs is that while in order for a blog to become popular through blogrolls takes a fair amount of time, permalinks can accumulate more quickly, and are perhaps more indicative of popularity and authority than blogrolls, since they denote that people are actually reading the blog's content and deem it valuable or noteworthy in specific cases.[2]

The Blogdex project was launched by researchers in the MIT Media Lab to crawl the web and gather data from thousands of blogs in order to investigate their social properties. It has now been gathering this information for over 4 years, and currently autonomously tracks the most contagious information spreading in the blog community.

Blogging and the mass media

Many bloggers differentiate themselves from the mainstream media, while others are members of that media working through a different channel. Some institutions see blogging as a means of "getting around the filter" and pushing messages directly to the public. Some critics worry that bloggers respect neither copyright nor the role of the mass media in presenting society with credible news.

Bloggers' credibility problem, however, can be an advantage for the bloggers and for the mainstream journalists who take an interest in them. News organizations are sometimes reluctant to tell stories that will upset important people. But when bloggers or activists make sensational claims, then they become stories themselves, and journalists can use them as cover for reporting the underlying scandals.

Blogs have also had an influence on minority languages, bringing together scattered speakers and learners; this is particularly so with Gaelic blogs, whose creators can be found as far away from traditional Gaelic areas as Kazakhstan and Alaska. Blogs are also used regularly by Welsh language activists. Minority language publishing (which may lack economic feasibility) can find its audience through inexpensive blogging.

How blogs are made

A variety of different systems are used to create and maintain blogs. Dedicated server-based systems can eliminate the need for bloggers to manage this software. With web interfaces, these systems allow travelers to blog from anywhere on the Internet, and allow users to create blogs without having to maintain their own server. Such systems allow users to work with tools such as Ecto, Elicit and w.bloggar which allow users to maintain their Web-hosted blog without the need to be online while composing or editing posts. Blog creation tools and blog hosting are also provided by some Web hosting companies (Tripod), Internet service providers (America Online), online publications ( and internet portals (Yahoo! 360º or Google). Some advanced users have developed custom blogging systems from scratch using server-side software, and often implement membership management and password protected areas. Others have created blogs using wiki software, such as the Mediawiki platform.[citation needed]

Types of blogs

The technology of the weblog allows for a very wide range of possible uses. This is a partial selection and it should be noted that many weblogs combine several uses.


Main article: Business blog

The stock market is a popular subject of blogging. Both amateur and professional investors use blogs to share stock tips.

Business blogs are used to promote and defame businesses, to argue economic concepts, to disseminate information, and more.


Main article: Clubbox

A clubbox is a type of blog prevalent in East Asia where the owner, upon paying a monthly fee, can post daily personal entries, pictures, and videos and usually has a large amount of bandwidth to share.


Main article: Cultural blog

Cultural blogs discuss music, sports, theater, other arts, and popular culture.


Main article: Moblog

A Moblog, or mobile blog, consists of content posted to the Internet from a mobile phone (i.e., cellular telephone) or a personal digital assistant (PDA). Moblogs may require special software.

Online diary

Main article: Online diary

In common speech, the term blog is often used to describe an online diary or journal, such as LiveJournal which was one of the earliest uses of blogs. The blog format allows inexperienced computer users to make diary entries with ease. People blog poems, prose, illicit thoughts, complaints, daily experiences, and more, often allowing others to contribute. In 2001, mainstream awareness of online diaries increased dramatically.

Online diaries are part of the daily lives of many teenagers and college students. Friends use blogs to communicate with each other, keeping each other up-to-date with events and thoughts in a non-intrusive manner. The appeal of this form of communication is that the recipient can read whenever it is convenient, and the writer does not need to remember who still needs to be updated with certain pieces of information - it is there, waiting, for whenever people wish to read it.

Popular online destinations for personal blogs include social networking sites such as MySpace and Xanga.


Main article: Photoblog

Photoblogs consist of a gallery of images published regularly. Text following the image can be just as important, or not important at all, depending on the user.

Sketchblogs are akin to photoblogs, only focused on sketches and other forms of visual art on a regular basis.


Main article: Political blog

Political blogs receive an increasing amount of media and academic attention - particularly in the US [5], though only a small minority of webloggers produce predominantly political blogs[6]. Most political blogs are news driven, and as such political bloggers will link to articles from news web sites, often adding their own comments as well. Other political blogs heavily feature original commentary, with occasional hyperlinks to back up the blogger's talking points. These blogs have often come under fire for poor fact checking. A warblog is a weblog devoted mostly or wholly to covering news events concerning an ongoing war. Sometimes the use of the term "warblog" implies that the blog concerned has a pro-war slant.


Main article: Science blog

Scientists have mixed feelings about blogging: while some see it as an excellent new way to disseminate and discuss data, others fear that blogs (and other informal means of publication) could damage the credibility of science by bypassing the peer review system.[citation needed]

Shock Blog

Main article: Shock blog

Shocklogs aim by means of shock and aggressive content to attract large audiences. Unhindered by independent and restrictive journalistic boundaries of the established media sharp articles of current affairs and the state of the world are written.


Main article: Spam blog

Spam blogs (splogs) are a form of high-pressure advertising. Like spam e-mails, splogs are characterized by bold lettering and outrageous claims. Affiliated splogs often link to each other to increase their Internet presence. (See PageRank.)


Main article: Topical blog

Topical blogs focus on a niche. For example, the Google Blog covers nothing but news about Google. A blog may fit more than one topical category or may be both topical and general. Blog directories must manage the needs of bloggers, who want to increase readership, and readers, who want relevant search results. Local blogs are a type of topical blog. Neighborhood reporting is ideal for blogging: Locals are the best witnesses of local events.


Main article: Vlog

A Vlog, or video blog, consists of blog posts with mainly video content.


Main article: Travel blog

Travel blogs or journals are one of the web's most popular types of blogs as people love to share their vacation stories and photos with friends, family and the web community as a whole. They are also a great way for traveler's to stay in touch with people back home, especially when traveling for extended periods.

Many bloggers simply create their own blog using any of the standard blogging software but many sites have popped up offering specialized services for users to create their own travel blogs and share their photos.

Legal issues

The emergence of blogging has brought a range of legal liabilities. Employers have sacked their employees who maintain personal blogs, which discuss their employers.[3] The major areas of concern are the issues of proprietary or confidential information, and defamation. Several cases have been brought before the national courts against bloggers and the courts have returned with mixed verdicts. In John Doe v. Patrick Cahill, the Delaware Supreme Court held that stringent standards had to be met to unmask anonymous bloggers, and also took the unusual step of dismissing the libel case itself (as unfounded under defendant-friendly American libel law) rather than referring it back to the trial court for reconsideration.[4] In Singapore, on the other hand, two ethnic Chinese were punished under the country’s anti-sedition law for posting anti-Muslim remarks in their weblogs.[5] Internet Service Providers, in general, are immune from liability for information that originates with Third Parties (U.S. Communications Decency Act and the EU Directive 2000/31/EC).

There is a documented case in which a British college lecturer contributed to a blog in which she referred to a politician (who had also expressed his views in the same blog) using various uncomplimentary names, including referring to him as a "Nazi". The politician found out the real name of the lecturer (she wrote under a pseudonym) via the ISP and successfully sued her for £10,000 in damages and £7,200 costs.[6]

Common terms

Blogging, like any other human practice, has developed a specialized vocabulary that has evolved into almost seemingly casual conversations between aquaintances and has even found its way into some schools to their educators' chagrin. See List of blogging terms.
See also
Blog client
Blog hosting service
Blog software
Commonplace: a historical precedent for the weblog
Content Management System
Google bomb
Massively distributed collaboration
News aggregator
Political blog
Virtual Community

Blogging software
See also: Blog software category
Blogging Systems
Movable Type
Nucleus CMS
Roller Weblogger

Kline, David and Burstein, Dan (2005). blog!. Squibnocket Partners LLC. ISBN 978-1-59315-141-1.
^ Jensen, Mallory A Brief History of Weblogs
^ Marlow, C. Audience, structure and authority in the weblog community. Presented at the International Communication Association Conference, May, 2004, New Orleans, LA.
^ Read the case of Ellen Simonetti
^ "John Doe No. 1 v. Patrick Cahill and Julia Cahill
^ Kierkegaard, Sylvia (2006). Blogs, Lies and the Doocing in Computer Law and Security Report Volume 22 Issue 2.
^ Gibson, Owen, "Warning to chatroom users after libel award for man labelled a Nazi", The Guardian, 2006-03-23. URL accessed on 2006-05-17.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How to get a good ranking on search engines

There are literally thousands of search engines available on the Internet. Some of them concentrate on searching for information from a particular country, others from a certain sector. But getting a high ranking in the leading worldwide search engines like Google, Yahoo! and MSN should be the priority when trying to increase traffic to your site.

There are two types of search engine - pure search engines and directories. Having an understanding how they work and how to submit your site is key to getting a good ranking.

Pure search engines, such as Google, rely on user submissions and ‘spiders’ to find new websites, whereas directories, such as Yahoo!, require you to submit your website for inclusion. See this useful article which explains the two types of search engine in greater detail.

It’s a good idea to become familiar with how these search engines work and how to submit your site to them. Most provide information on getting a listing and provide information that can help increase your ranking. See Google, Yahoo! and MSN for their tips and suggestions.

Here are some other tips and tricks you can employ to get your website a higher place in the search engine rankings:

Populate your site with relevant keywords. The more carefully you populate your site with these keywords, the more opportunities there will be for search engine spiders to find it. You can check your level of keywording against other sites with this free tool.

Work on your link popularity. The more websites that link to yours, the higher your site will appear in search results. Try contacting non-competing, related businesses and persuade them to put a link to you on their site.

Don’t neglect your metadata. This is information that the search engines can see, but visitors to your pages can’t. It includes descriptions of what’s on the page, keywords and image captions. Experts are divided on how useful the information is to search engine rankings, but this useful guide provides a good overview.

Don’t try to fool the search engines - it may backfire. Overloading your website with popular keywords that aren’t actually relevant may cause a drop in rankings; so will hiding text by making it the same colour as the background. Most search engines provide a guide to what they will and won’t accept.

This guide provides further tips on gaining a higher ranking. But, in short, search engine rankings are certainly important, but you must follow basic business and marketing principles to ensure that your ranking will also result in your main target audience landing on your site.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This small business news article has been written by Cobweb Information Ltd, the UK's leading publisher of information for small businesses and their advisers. To get more regular, fresh, practical information and news about starting up and running a small business, go to

Monday, January 28, 2008

How Much Do You Know About Online Auctions?

by: Pradeep Aggarwal

Online auctions are a great way to find a bargain on almost everything and it is an excellent way of getting the best price for selling something of your own. These are Virtual auctions on the Internet. The seller sells the product to the person who offers the highest price. These products include houses, cars, seized electronics, jewelry, books, antiques and others.

Online auctions are different from their real-world counterparts. You are free to take your time browsing the listings and bidding takes place over a period of days rather than minutes. Online Auctions offer good opportunity for anyone wishing to start an online business for a number of reasons. If you feel you have the persistence necessary to run your own successful business, this is one opportunity you should consider.

There are thousands of online auctions on the Internet with more popping up everyday. People love them because they can usually find great bargains. Businesses are now also seeing the benefits of online auctions. Some of them:

Ø You could sell your excess or discontinued products at an online auction. It's an effective way to make extra income without any loss for your business. Thus you can make a profit depending on how much people will bid for your excess inventory. Also excessive inventory can be cleared off cost effectively.

Ø An easy way to test new product prices is to see what people will bid for them at an online auction. First, sell your product at three different online auctions. Next, calculate the average selling bid from all three auctions and that will be your selling price for your new product. Hence we can know the exact selling price of the product.

Ø There are numerous auction sites for bidding any product. Some of the auction sites draw over millions of hits a year. The key to being successful is to sell your product at multiple online auctions at the same time. Suppose if we sell a product at one hundred online auction sites that would be one hundred sales a day! This way we can increase our sales at one time.

Online auctions is the best place if you're looking for a collectible or thinking about selling an antique We've seen the benefits of online auctions but there are some common mistakes to be avoided in online auctions:

1. Listing an item with wrong auction expiration time.
It's a known fact that more buyers browse auction sites on Sunday evenings than any other time during the week.

2. Not giving your listing the attention it deserves - Lots of people place items without photos and even good description. Some people use all kinds of flashing animation, multicolored text and other bells and whistles in an attempt to entice bidders. Listings like these are distracting, hard to read, and will always discourage people from bidding, resulting in a lower final sales price. So just give the description of the article upto the mark.

3. Using a reserve price - Use the fixed to guarantee that one will get a minimum price for an item. This also ensures the good quality of the product. People will not bid on "Reserve" auctions, as they don't want to get "Reserve not yet met" message.

4. Not planning your business activities - It is always better to create business plan and start implementing it. Some businesses require procedures to be done everyday so plan it thoroughly.
5. Not selecting several good drop shippers - Your business should be stable. Drop shippers can quit and also they can kill your business by not meeting your expectations. So keep rotating them until you get several good ones for your business.

Online Auctions offer good opportunity for anyone wishing to start an online business for a number of reasons. If you feel you have the persistence necessary to run your own successful business, this is one opportunity you should consider.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

10 Easy Steps to a Horrible Ecommerce Site

As a frequent visitor to forums in which people ask for critiques of their new ecommerce sites, I have seen the best and the worst of small business Web development. For the first 1000 posts or so, I was helpful, kind, and supportive when gently pointing out each developer's site issues and how he or she could make the site "the best it could be".

Funny thing though: I found out that this approach doesn't really work. Maybe the developers think their sites are somehow different, or that the basic rules of good online commerce don't apply to them for some reason. Site after posted site, I see the same errors in judgment and design. The following 10 tips now represent my standard advice to every budding Website entrepreneur.

1. Use your Ecommerce Software's Default Layout

Whatever shopping cart you use, the "stock" or default look is fine. After all, if it wasn't the best layout of all time, why would they distribute it as "stock" in the first place? Never mind that your site will look like every other lazy shop owner who decided that product presentation was overrated. Never mind that it has no flow, coherence, or style. And you might as well just ignore the fact that it makes you look like some high school kid in a basement trying to take their money and run.

You lack design talent? We understand. After all, if you could make nice Websites, you wouldn't be trying to sell whatever it is you make online: you'd sell nice Websites instead. Sure, you could get a ready made, beautiful drop-in template from one of hundreds of sites that specialize in that sort of thing -- some of them even custom-made for your cart platform -- for less than $200.00. But hey, you picked a FREE cart, and darn it, this site is going to be free if it kills you (or your chances of success). Those people that say you have to spend money to make money are all full of garbage, right?

2. Don't use Thumbnails

Why would you want to speed up load times for slow connections, or make your product shots look better? Good looking images are the sign of professionalism and class, and you surely don't want your site to have either of those. Sure, successful shop owners say better images sell more products, but you don't have to listen to those people. After all, what does a successful shop owner know that you don't?

Forget the fact that every cart on the planet either has the ability to use thumbnail images built in, or a free and easy-to-install contribution that handles them beautifully. Keep posting 800k images to your site, and laugh at those people who talk about "site optimization" and "load times".

3. Don't optimize your Images in Photoshop

Optimizing your images in Photoshop or some other image editing program takes time -- your valuable time. Leaving pictures at their original, huge dimensions and making the customer download 3MB of images for each page in your site takes time too -- the pesky customers' time. Everybody knows customers love to wait to buy your products. Play a game! See how big you can make your images, watch how your load time suffers, and then see how your conversion rates fare!

Challenge yourself to approach dialup speeds over your cable modem using your stellar layered, uncompressed image design. I'm sure your customers will love it!

4. Don't smooth the Checkout Process

People love filling out 8 pages of forms before they can buy stuff. Better yet, add in a couple more pages to surprise the customer just when they think they're finally through! You really do need the customer's age, gender, and the name of his first-born son before you can sell him your hand-painted dishrags.

Whatever you do, make it as hard as you can for the customer to complete a sale and pay you money -- that's how you can tell if a customer is truly dedicated (or if they love pain).

5. Ignore the Market you're "Targeting"

Sure, there are 50,000 computer stores online, but yours is going to be the best! Market research is for people who don't know what they want to sell, right? You never researched for a term paper in high school and you passed. Why should an online business be any different? Don't invest time or money in unique products or services, and don't even think of developing some sort of unique selling proposition. Just bang out a site with the exact same products as your competition, only make yours more expensive, lesser known, and harder to deal with!

6. Don't add an SSL Certificate

All that junk about customers "Caring about their privacy" and being "Worried about identity theft" is unfounded. Just ask my friend "John" from Indonesia. Hey, by the way, he has $30,000,000.00 he wants to send you. He just needs your credit card number along with your name and billing address.

Never mind that SSL certificates enable the 128bit encrypted tunnel between customers' computers and your payment processor. All that stuff can just be sent plain text across the Internet. SSL certificates cost money, and you're on a budget. Sure, the customer can sue you after your Website is found responsible for their identity theft, but that's not very likely to happen. You treat your customers like they're dumb and their personally identifiable information is worthless, so they probably don't have the smarts to hire a lawyer to sue you all the way to the poor house. After all, $50 is a lot of money for security and peace of mind!

7. Don't add Terms of Use, Privacy, or Conditions of Sale Statements

Some might say that customers like to know who they are dealing with, but those people are full of it. Customers don't care about your return policies, what to do if they receive a broken product, or what to do if the size they ordered is wrong.

Likewise, they don't care what you're going to do with the personally identifiable information you collect. I know for a fact there are people who love SPAM mail: I received an email about it just the other day. Oddly enough, it had a link for cheap "V I AG RR A" in it too, whatever that is. Forget that mumbo jumbo about how providing privacy and terms of sale information is a legal requirement in most jurisdictions -- like I said, your customers are hardly going to get a lawyer! Everybody knows that people don't like to sue lazy, complacent companies for easy money, right?

8. Completely leave out Product Descriptions

All your customers need is a browser-resized, jagged picture of your product. They don't need to know its features, limitations, or comparisons to other products. Hey, if they knew all that, they'd probably go buy your competitor's widget right?

Don't describe your product at all. Be sure to use your own arbitrary part number scheme too, so customers can't search by the manufacturer's part number to find the products they already know they want to buy. Oh, and use some random picture for the product with a note at the bottom that says, "Picture is a demo, actual product may vary" so the customer never really knows what they're going to get.

9. Add Flash. Lots of it. Throw in some Java, too.

Flash intros rock. Add two of them, and make sure you don't put one of those annoying "skip intro" links at the bottom. Heck, if you did that, nobody would get the chance to experience your Uncle Joe's mediocre Flash skills. When you finally do let the three customers who are willing to sit through your tedious intros into your store, make sure you have a Flash product menu, a Flash header, and random Flash buttons all over the page. Page animations and moving text equate directly to quality and usability, and don't you ever forget it!

Now, if all that Flash doesn't slow your site down to a crawl, don't worry: you can always add Java. Sure, most professional developers and customers refer to Java as "That Damn Dirty Java", but your customers are different. Put random Java image switchers and scrollers on every page. Put that neat-o Java water ripple effect thingy on your homepage, because that wasn't old and tired enough in 1993. And make sure you require users to have Java installed, along with Flash, Windows Media Player, QuickTime, Comet Cursor, and goodness knows what else, in order to use your site properly. Maybe throw in an ActiveX dialler installer for good measure -- customers love to wait endlessly for compulsory ad-ware-laden downloads while trying to spend their money on your products!

10. Never post your Address or Phone Number

Customers never want to get a hold of you: that's why they buy online! Plus, if they have a complaint, they have no way of getting in touch with you other than email, and we all know how easy to ignore that is. Just think -- without them knowing who you are, where you are, or how to contact you, your customers can never send product returns, make complaints, or cause waves. It's brilliant! You can claim customer satisfaction is 100%, because nobody will ever be able to contact you to tell you otherwise.

Sure, this might put off about 90% of your potential customers, but don't let that stop you. That still leaves you 10% of the Internet, and trust me, the Internet sure is big. Make sure you ship your items from the shipping store or the post office so there is never a return address on the box. When the credit card company calls you about a chargeback, make sure you tell them the customer never called and complained, and you never received a return.

How Horrible is your Ecommerce Site?

While these "tips" were written in good humor, the above pointers cover serious advice that is not so much related to the technical nature of an ecommerce site as it is to product and company presentation.

Sometimes, the negative aspects of not taking certain actions have more impact than extolling the virtues of doing it right. This article is not designed to be a punch in the face to those diligent, passionate store owners who really care about the service they provide, but as more of a wake up call to future and existing shop owners and developers.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

10 Things To Do BEFORE You Bid On Any Product From An Online Auction

by: George Cuthbert

1. Know the value of the product before you bid. If the product is brand new, check to see what price retailers are charging for it. Only by doing this will you have any idea what price to bid. If the item is used or reconditioned, you will want to pay way less than the retail value.

2. If the product's description or picture isn't detailed enough for you, contact the merchant to get more information before you bid. You don't want to take a chance to waste your hard earned money. Not only this but the way in which the seller responds, ie promptly, pleasantly, and with full details, or the opposite of this, will give you more confidence about bidding or you may decide not to bid at all.

3. Work out the highest price you will bid for the product and stick with it. Don't get caught up in a bidding war; you may end up paying more than the product is worth. Add in all the possible extras such as the shipping costs and any import duties and taxes (if buying from abroad).

4. Visit a few online auctions before bidding because some merchants auction the same product on different Auction sites. You may be able to purchase the product For a lower price in an unpopular auction because there are less bidders.

5. Take a note of the time the auction begins and ends. You also want to know how long it will take to ship. You need to have this information if you want the product by a certain date, for instance, as a gift.

6. Find out about the payment options the merchant accepts before you bid on their item. If they only accept checks or money orders, it may take even longer to get the product because the payment has to clear. If they accept credit cards make sure they have a secure server.

7. Check whether the merchant offers a warranty or money back guarantee before bidding. You don't want to get stuck with something that does not work or that you're not satisfied with.

8. Most online auctions allow you to check the merchants history with their auction. This is usually their “Feedback” record. Check to seeif people have complained about their products or business practices before you decide to bid.

9. Don’t place a bid early in the auction as this only alerts other potential bidders that you are interested and drives up the price. Wait until the last moments of an auction before bidding if you can. Naturally enough the auction site owners will exhort you to bid early as this is in their best interests, after all, they get more in fees the more an item makes. Remember not to go over your maximum bid price.

10. Following on from 9 above this is another reason to know when the auction ends; you can place a last minute bid. Other bidders may not be keeping track of when the auction ends or may not have the time to bid again.

Friday, January 25, 2008

6 Steps to an Effective Online Business

by: Sean Mize

Creating and running an effective online business is realistically comprised of several hundred, rather than 11, but this will serve as a guide for the direction of your efforts. Contrary to what you may hear rampantly on the Internet, there is no cookie-cutter, get-rich quick scheme on the web. Not only is every online business different, what works for one person or in one month may not work for another person or in the next month.

The Internet is constantly changing, and the online market is inherently different this year than it was last year. New technological improvements occur monthly, and impact the online business environment. What works for one individual when he is the first to sell a certain product a certain way may not work just six months later when he has sold his idea to 40,000 other marketers, and they all begin to promote it. Traffic generation tactics are significantly different than they were just a year ago, and hardly resemble profitable strategies three years ago.

These 6 Steps are simply the bare-bones skeleton of what has to happen for your online business to be successful. They are foundational, and although the implementation strategies are different today than several years ago, the basic steps remain the same.

1. Develop or discover a product. You must find a product that meets today’s needs. A 5 year old product whose resell rights you can buy for a dollar or get for free probably won’t meet the needs of today’s consumers. You must be willing to pay for the rights to sell a current , useful product, or become an affiliate marketer, where you promote a popular product, and in exchange are paid a percentage of the income from the sale.

2. Determine how the potential customers can view your product and see a sales presentation. If you develop your own product or purchase the rights to sell someone else’s, you will need a website. A few tips here: Rather than accept free web hosting, purchase your own domain name and pay to have your domain name and web site hosted by a professional web hosting company with a reputable history. If your free web hosting company goes bankrupt, they generally take your fledgling business with them.

3. Once you have your web site up and running, unless you are using an affiliate program that supplies a sales page, you must develop a sales script and web copy. Aside from your web hosting decision, this is probably the most important thing you can do. You may be tempted at first to write a sales pitch on your own, but unless you already have a lot of experience in the offline market writing effective sales letters, you need to, absolutely must, invest in a few courses on web copywriting. Be willing to spend some money upfront on learning this skill. Too many marketers try to wing it in this area and after a few months of losing money online, finally break down and purchase the knowledge to write a good sales pitch. Do it the other way around—buy the knowledge first, and start making sales from the beginning. Customers will not buy just because you have a web site---they buy from the web site that does the best job of convincing them it has the best product for their need.

4. You must develop a traffic source that works. When you first begin, you may be on a shoestring, and that is OK. Assuming you have been willing to spend some money on sales letter writing and a decent web host, you may be able to skimp in the traffic arena for awhile, if you have plenty of time. If you do not have money to advertise, nor time to seek out low cost advertising, you probably shouldn’t be attempting an online business. If you do choose to go the low-cost route—know two things up front—the returns are really low and you will spend vast amounts of time on traffic generation. Once you begin to make sales, you must invest your income in paid forms of traffic generation. If you do not, you will run out of enthusiasm for generating the free traffic, and without reinvesting the income from your first sales into advertising, you are sure to fail. Good sources of low-cost, but time consuming traffic are: writing articles and posting them to article directories, low cost classified ads, and ezine ads. You may see hyped-up ads for thousands or visitors for a low cost or millions of banner ads for another reasonable price—both of these methods may have worked 2 years ago, but they are a sure waste today.

5. Once you begin to get traffic to your online business site, you must keep detailed records of where the traffic comes from, and what percentage of visitors from each source are purchasing your product. If you have visitors that cost you $50 per hundred to come to your web site, but on average they only purchase $25 per hundred visitors, the income may feel good, but you are not profitable, and are losing money. By tracking your expenses on each type of visitor and by tracking your revenue on the same sources of visitors, you can determine which campaigns need changes or need to be eliminated and which need to be increased in intensity.

6. By following this pattern of steps, and by keeping diligent records (there is plenty of good web site tracking software on the market that can help you do that), you can develop a profitable online business. Again, it will not happen overnight, and you will not get rich quick. However, if you build a solid online business with a solid foundation, and are willing to spend some money learning how to do it right, you really can become successful in business online.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How to Explode your Online Sales

If you want to be successful online, there's one thing that you need to spend more time on than anything else.

It's more important than flashy graphics, more vital than amazing ad copy, more necessary than huge bonus offers.

"What is it?" I hear you ask ... Your HEADLINE!

Your headline is the heart and soul of not just your site, but your ENTIRE business.

It is the first thing that people see when they visit your site, so it should be the one thing that keeps them ON your site!

Successful online entrepreneurs know the secret to a great headline. Simply tweaking an existing headline can improve sales by more than 624%.

Plain and simple, it can mean the difference between success and failure.

So just how do YOU write a "Killer Headline"?

There are simple formulas you can use to skyrocket your website response changing only your headline.

n Make a clear, yet BOLD statement.

Take the following headlines: "You will lose lots of weight with our new pill" and "Shed 25lbs in just 25 days with our Amazing New diet-pill"

Which do you think is the more effective? Of course it's the second one. It has a bold statement with a well defined benefit for the user.

n Use Power words

Take the above example. Simply using words like "Shed" and "Amazing" will create a sense of emotion in the reader. They will become intrigued by the words, enticed to read on. The effect is almost Hypnotic. Other Power words such as "Discover, build, secret, learn, fast, sell" all encourage the reader to stay on your page and read more of your carefully crafted sales letter.

n Ask the reader a question.

"How would you like to make $3,564 a month from home?" Asking a question engages the reader in a more personal manner. They are no longer just reading your sales pitch, but they are stopping to ponder on your question. They wonder, would they really like to make $3,564 a month... You betcha! You've just wet their appetite, they'll have to keep reading to find out more!

So now you have an idea of how to formulate your headline, but there are still a few points to remember to make sure you don't undo all that hard work.

n DON'T make your headline too long.

All the power words and questions wont mean a thing if your visitors get bored half way through. For that reason, keep your headline, short and to the point. Give them just enough to want more - that's when your sales copy takes over.

n DON'T leave out benefits for the reader. If you want people to listen to you, then you need
to understand this fundamental rule about the human race...

We (that includes me!) will only be interested if we feel that there is something for us at the end of it. It's a commonly (though surprisingly little known) technique of addressing the "What's In It For Me?" factor. Tell the reader how it will help them and they'll have to read more.

n Imagine that the headline is the only thing they will see and that you have to convey your point there and then.

Many people rely on lots of long sales copy, with bulleted points and raving testimonials, but this is worthless unless you can grab the reader from the start. Think of an email. If you want someone to read your email, you have to make your headline scream "Open Me" without the reader even seeing the rest of the contents. Treat your site just the same, make your headline scream "Read ME!"

To sum up..

If your site is not pulling well, the first thing you should look at is your headline. The greatest sales pitch in the world wont mean a thing without the greatest headline to go with it. Visit other sites too. If they get you reading on and on without realising it, stop and go back to their headline to see how they did it.

Pretty soon, you'also be able to "Explode your Online Sales"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Harness the Marketing Power of Blogs

This newest web phenomenon can rank your site #1 in search engines, boost traffic and sales, and establish you as an expert in your industry.

I'm sure you've heard about one of the biggest things to hit the web in the last few years: blogging.

A "blog" (derived from the term "web log") is basically just a website with two key differences: First, it's extremely easy to add information to it. A blog is like an online journal, so you just log in, type what happened today, post it, and you're done! Second, you can add a simple little feature that automatically tells a whole bunch of other websites that you've made an update to your blog--every time you make a change.

However, what you may not know is that a blog can also be a very powerful marketing tool for your business, and some people actually earn an income just from blogging alone.
The fact is, blogging is fast becoming an extremely important strategy for any online marketer. An effective blog can:

drive swarms of traffic to your main website,
generate more product sales,
create an additional stream of advertising income,
be a great customer service tool,
and much more!

Blogs have an informal, conversational style, and readers can join in by commenting on each post. Blogs can be chatty, informative, opinionated and often humorous, and it's this "human" aspect of blogs that draws many people to them.

But the best part about blogs is how accessible they are to everyone. Blogs are free (or very inexpensive) to set up using services like Blogger or TypePad. They're also easy to use (you can literally create your own blog in less than five minutes) and easy to promote with all the new tools and resources that have been created specifically for blogs.

How You Can Use a Blog to Accelerate Online Success
The fact is, blogs are no longer just online diaries of people's personal lives. Both online and offline businesses can use blogs to take their products and services to a wider audience, increasing their traffic, leads and sales.

Let's look more closely at a few of the extremely powerful ways your business can benefit from a blog. With an effective business blog, you can:

Humanize your business. Because a blog is much more informal than other websites, you can write posts in your own voice and give your business more of a human face. This helps reassure prospective customers that there's a "real person" behind the website who'll take care of their needs. It also allows you to inject much more of your own personality into your online business than your main sales site could do.

Improve your customer service. Your blog can act as a kind of interactive FAQ, allowing your customers to submit questions and you to answer them. You can also provide product updates, how-to articles, and other information of relevance to your customers. Prospective customers who see your blog will be encouraged by your commitment to good customer service.

Give your target market the information they're looking for. With its automatic archiving feature--by date and category--a blog is a fantastic content-management system. It's easy for you to post new information on a regular basis, and it's easy for your visitors to find the information they want. With a well-written, regularly updated blog, you can become a reliable resource in your industry and build a following of loyal readers who depend on your content. These people will be your best potential customers.

Drive traffic to your sales website. If you already have a website, a blog can give your traffic levels a real boost. For starters, your blog will attract new visitors that you can then redirect to your main sales website through links and special offers. But an even more effective technique is to use strategic keywords and links to specific sales pages to dramatically improve the search engine rankings of both your blog and your main website.

Build your credibility and establish yourself as an industry expert. You can give your credibility a real boost by regularly posting valuable and relevant information on your blog. It's a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your subject area, and allow your visitors to feel much more comfortable buying from you.

Promote your products or services. You can actually sell products directly from a blog, or you can use your blog to mention new products and direct visitors to your sales website.

Generate extra income. There are now several advertising programs available, such as Google AdSense, that allow you to monetize your blog and generate an extra revenue stream.

Excited yet? You should be--blogging's not just a winning strategy, it's also a lot of fun! The beauty of blogging is that you can easily incorporate it into your daily schedule of tasks. You can even blog when you're on the road.
But what does it take to become a really successful blogger?

Great content: If your content isn't interesting and relevant to your target market, your blog won't work. It's as simple as that. You'll be surprised, however, how easy it is to find things to write about if you really put your mind to it. It could be news articles about your industry, product updates, interviews, personal insights into topics of importance to your target audience, and much more.

Regular updating: I won't lie to you: there are some days when I really find it hard to find the time to post a new article. But if I don't post, no one will come back. It's like subscribing to a daily newspaper but only getting a copy delivered now and then! So post often and your audience will keep coming back. And regularly adding fresh content to your blog also gives you a boost in the search engine rankings.

Your own distinct voice: It's important that you write in your own voice. A blog is no place for formality and corporate speak. It's more of a forum, a place where ideas can flourish and topics of current interest can be debated. You don't even need to be a brilliant writer; you just need to be able to relate to your audience and give them good content.

Final Thoughts

Starting a blog can take as little as five minutes. Of course, starting a blog is the easy part; turning your blog into a strategic tool that drives traffic and sales to your online business is a completely different matter.

Building a truly effective blog that keeps people coming back again and again takes a lot more than five minutes; it takes time and dedication to develop a blog that keeps your audience coming back for more.

Derek Gehl is's "E-Business" columnist and the CEO of the Internet Marketing Center, an internet marketing firm that has helped thousands of people learn to start and run their own online businesses. He is also author of the online guide, Blogging for Dollars.
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