Tuesday, December 12, 2006

How to choose an SEO Company

Dmitry Buterin, President of Bonasource and Chief Apricot of WildApricot, the web site and membership database tool for non-profits and associations, wrote an excellent post on OneDegree yesterday on how to choose an SEO Company:

"In my experience, the best SEO companies are the ones which look at the whole picture - how SEO fits into overall online marketing strategy. (vs. narrowly looking at some technicalities of URL rewrites, meta-tags, keyword density etc.) Best SEO is also about balancing how content works for the user - vs. how it works for search engine (so conversion issues are given top priority)"

Dmitry is correct. SEO needs to be part of an overall marketing strategy. It can't just be one tactic that is applied without consideration for it's needs from and effects on the rest of the picture.

The rest of Dmitry's post goes on about the various other things you and an SEO company, should be considering. It's worthwhile to read the rest of his response to "Best in class SEO companies"

In addition to a list of points to consider, he goes on to write a glowing testimonial for me and my company. Thanks Dmitry!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

PPC Keywords: Long Tail or Tall Neck? Fat Torso!

Ralph Wilson's newsletter today brought a new term to the in the long tail discussion. I thought Tall neck was a cool addition - but now we have the "torso" (which I from now on choose to call the "Fat Torso").

The principles are perfectly sound - it describes where the real value keywords are for PPC campaigns:

It's not the tall neck, where all of the generic, one word, high traffic, sometimes very high priced keywords are. Those keywords are typically reserved for those with more money than brains.

It's also not necessarily the long tail, where you'll find thousands of three and four word highly targeted but infrequently searched words. These are great - don't get me wrong! It's just that on many of the phrases the trickle of traffic may not be worth the trouble.

It's the Fat Torso! The part in the middle with typically two word phrases that have a decent amount of traffic, a reasonable cost, and good targeting. Andrews suggestion is that most people don't spend enough time making the torso as fat as possible. He pushes us to think of all of the variations of your possible words. Have you really got them all???

All good (or at least great) PPC managers will know this, and revisit the list frequently to make sure, but Andrew Goodman just named it. Congratulations on coining a new term, Andrew.

The full article is here:

And wasn't I pleased to see that Andrew is from my very own city of Toronto, Canada!

Hey Andrew - if you are looking at your link reports or referring sites and come across this post, please drop me a line.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Affiliate Programs Help Drive Your Marketing!

Ken Shafer interviews Josh and Dallas, founders of DreamHost, about their affiliate program. Some good candid insights here for those thinking of starting affiliate programs.

Key concepts are:

  • How affiliate programs help drive customer referrals
  • How it helped them stop relying on paid advertising
  • How they used affiliate codes in special ways
  • How the blog helps drive traffic
  • Even though they give away a huge commission they make money on LTV (Lifetime Customer Value)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Email Marketing: Debunking Summer Campaign Myths

Emails deployed in July and August actually out-perform those deployed in September - even in the B2B industry! That's perhaps the most surprising item noted in this Email Trends Report Q3 2006 just referenced in ClickWeekly.

What I don't like about this report is that 'clicks' are measured as a percentage of open rate, vs. a percentage of delivery. I think this is a misleading number because it makes your click through rate appear far better than it is.

It is being reported as such because the author of the report uses ConstantContact, a service aimed at small businesses, and they choose to report it that way.

Read the full report here:

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Mobile Web Best Practices

With the new slew of mobile devices out there, and the increasing availability of wireless Internet, mobile web access is growing by leaps and bounds.

As a web designer, it is great to see some standards being introduced by the good ol' W3 org.

Written for designers of Web sites and content management systems, these guidelines describe how to author Web content that works well on mobile devices:


Friday, November 03, 2006

Toronto News Release Optimization Success Story

Finally, PR companies are seeing the value in optimizing for the online news search engines:
We just optimized a release for a PR company that is working for a skin care company. This company found us through Google, looking for "Toronto news release optimization". (We are number three if you select 'pages from Canada'... hmmm, I'll have to take another look at that because we can definitely do better there.)

Anyways, this is how it worked:

The first thing we did was research on the 20 or 30 appropriate terms to do wit their press release. Most of the terms are searched less than 10 times per day. One is searched more that 3000 times per day. So we chose the top 3 most searched terms and optimized for those. The release went out yesterday and here are the ranking results so far:

Google.ca News:
"skin care" - position #7
"lip liner" - position #1
"anti-aging" - position #1

Yahoo.com news:
"Skincare" - position #1 and #2
"Lip liner" - position #1 and #2
"Lipstick" - position #4
"Anti-aging" - position #1, #2

I cannot seem to find it in Yahoo Canada yet, which is strange. We'll check again later today. The results overall look very good so far! With the strong search traffic on the terms we chose it should be a huge success. Let's see what the traffic numbers look like in a few days.

If you are sending press releases, I highly recommend news release optimization and submission to Google and Yahoo news. The last release we did for ourselves quadrupled our daily traffic for several days, and we got a few very good leads in the first few days.

Monday, October 16, 2006

SEO: Top Google Ranking Examples

Cool! I just checked the search rankings for Agito Internet Marketing for the first time in a few weeks and found these NEW #1 positions in Google:

toronto e-mail marketing company
toronto web analytics company

toronto internet marketing company
toronto e-mail marketing company
toronto web analytics company
webtrends 8.0

Friday, September 08, 2006

Brilliant SEO Video by Andy Jenkins and Brad Fallen

I was just e-mailed a link to this video by Andy and Brad. I've so far only watched the first few minutes but it is real Gold. I'll review the whole thing soon, but for now - check it out yourself:

Monday, September 04, 2006

Links: How to Get Links for SEO

I checked out Stundubl today and saw he posted a great article on the 12 different types of links and how to get them.

This is actually a more useful article than the 101 ways to get links (from SEO Book) that I blogged about the other day. Here's what I liked in Todd's article:

#1: Authority Links: Going through the Google directory in your niche - duh, what a great idea! I am shocked at myself for not trying this one. It sure beats searching for "keyword phrase + add url, add a site, submit link, submit site, etc". Not that the searching isn't a great method, but the directory method here offers some fast quick hit ideas.

#11: Comment and Profile links: Matt Cutts shows us a cool method of obtaining x-ray vision for no-follow links (It's a hack for Firefox). So it makes sense to use this if you are big on commenting on blogs (a great way to build profile and get backlinks to your blog.)

The other ideas were pretty straightforward, but kudos to Todd for creating a no-nonsense list of the 12 different types of links.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Free Internet Marketing Tool Collection: Part One

I've been finding more and SEO / Internet marketing tools on sites these days, so just for fun I've decided to start a list. I've named this post "Part One" because I am sure there are PLENTY more out there, and I don't want to make this first post an exhaustive list. Here goes:

Interesting trending idea upgrade for them to make some money.

Linkhounds seems to be trying to create an all over linking resource site. Cool that their software is open-source. This requires some more looking in to.


Keyword ranking trending. Requires free login, but nice charts.


Nice link popularity, search engine saturation and keyword ranking tools with many industry benchmarks.


Really cool meta tag checker that shows keyword density and tag relevance to page content.

One of the more in-depth keyword density and prominence tool I've seen. The free access link is near the bottom of the page.

If any of my thousands of readers knows of any more, please feel free to add them to the comments. :-)

Update: September 4th: The Big List of SEO Tools:
Ok, these guys at seocompany.ca seem to have the biggest list of all:

Saturday, September 02, 2006

SEO: Search Engines to adopt new link tags

Want a laugh? It's about time all of the search engines got together and released some standards on linking that we can all use.

SEO: Link Building in 2006

Aaron Wall posted a great set of tips for link building in 2006 here.

Here's a one I like:

20. Create your own topical directory about your field of interest. Obviously link to your own site, deeplinking to important content where possible. Of course, if you make it into a truly useful resource, it will attract links on its own.

This is still an opportunuty in many industries, but don't underestimate the investment required to make a great quality portal. Our own new business networking events portal, BizNetworkNews.com, increased it's own search engine traffic by 250% last month.

But of course that's nothing to the guy that is making a killing selling Viagra (through affiliate links) because his hilarious Viagra prank ranks number 8 in Google for Viagra, a very, VERY, competitive term due to all of the back links from the Viral nature of his site.

A classic example of link bait that I don't see on Aaron's list.

Monday, August 28, 2006

AOL Search Data Insights for Local Search

Ken Mccarthy brought up an interesting point about the AOL data that was mistakenly published a few weeks ago. In his blog, attributing this point to Lee Gomes from the Wall Street Journal (published free here), these are the top 10 most searched words in the list:

1. free
2. new
3. lyrics
4. county
5. school
6. city
7. home
8. state
9. pictures
10. music

The fact that county, city and state are some of the top 10 most popular phrases seem to point to an increased number of local searches. This is huge to local search advertisers. Seems like my prediction of the death of the yellow pages (a fairly obvious prediction to me) is coming true (of course).

Another interesting point was the fact that so many searches start with the 5 W's: Who, What, When, Where, Why. It seems that searchers still like to put searches in the form of questions. You would think that AskJeeves would have done better than it did then, but there is still an opportunity here.

Perhaps we should be using more questions on our site linking to answers. FAQ's are an obvious place to do this. Also, working up personas and the questions each would have, and then posting the questions and answers on the appropriate pages would help bring search traffic.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Long Neck vs. The Long Tail

Sounds kind of like a research paper on evolution of a certain kind of pre-historic mammal, but it's not. It's a discussion on targeting web sites to a specific audience.

We've heard so much lately about the "long tail" - the long list of occasionally searched unique keyword phrases for every topic that follows a short list of frequently typed phrases.

Search engine optimizers and Pay Per Click marketing specialists like myself are quite interested in the long tail because there is so much value to be had there. For PPC the long tail is important because bidding on a huge list of less frequently searched phrases brings lower costs and better value for advertising dollars. For SEO the long tail is important because optimizing for these phrases is easier and more likely to succeed than optimizing for the most competitive phrases.

Well, Gerry McGovern, in his infinite wisdom, just coined a new one (as far as I know) with the "long neck"- and it is equally if not more important for the Internet marketer.

Check it out here: http://www.gerrymcgovern.com/nt/2006/nt-2006-08-14-long-neck.htm#cc

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Search Engine Spammers Say Big Thank You to AOL

AOL, in an apparently innocent release of search history information to the 'research community' has released 2GB of searches over a recent 3 month period.

They thought they didn't release personally identifiable information because they didn't include user information, however in reality it is possible to identify many AOL users simply by their search history. The files released link each search together by a randomly assigned user ID number.

Since many people do 'ego searches', that is, searching for their own name, address, etc., this alone can identify users. Linked with location searches, hobby searches, etc., many users can be identified by those looking with almost guaranteed accuracy.

What about those searching for pornography, new jobs, dating sites, illegal drugs, and on and on? Over 650,000 users have had their online privacy violated.

Of course AOL apologized, and removed the link to the data quickly, but the damage has been done.

Search Engine spammers will use this information to build massive automated sites on the 'long tail' of searches; optimizing pages for thousands of rarely searched terms that are easily targeted and will each bring a trickle of affiliate sales or adsense revenue.

Others will use the information for honest keyword research. This Internet marketer was lucky enough to grab a copy from a mirror site last night.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Google's Matt Cutts Answers Questions on SEO on Video

Fascinating that Matt decided to answer SEO mail via video.

Put a face and voice behind the always informative Matt Cutt's blog:

Links to his videos:

  1. On quality of good sites
  2. On SEO myths
  3. On whether sites should be optimized for search engines or users
What he had to say in a nut shell:
  • It's fine to have multiple sites on the same IP, unless you have thousands of sites :-)
  • If you are publishing millions of pages at once (crazy I know) you should launch them more softly.
  • You should optimize for search engines AND uses (duh...) Keep users interests and search engine interests as aligned as possible.
  • Google has a lot of tools to detect spam, but they are not public. You can look at Yahoo's site explorer, there are tools to see which sites are on one IP address, definitely check Google sitemaps
  • Cleanliness of code is not of ultimate importance. Since 40% of all pages have syntax errors we can't exclude everything that does not validate. It is a good idea, but it is not at the top of the list - good content is at the top of the list.
  • About sitemaps: pageviews are not a factor on when things are updated on sitemaps. Each of the elements in the diagnostics are updated on a separate schedule.
  • In general, the number one mistake people make in SEO is not to make it crawlable. If you can get through your entire site through a text browser you will be OK. Try Lynx.
  • Have good content so people will want to link to you. Good idea to have viral kind of content that people will want to link to - something interesting that sets you apart from the pack.
  • Think about the people that will be interested in your content and make sure they know about you.
  • Google uses the Dmoz snippet instead of the valid meta tag when it is a better match to the query. Snippets are actually query dependent. Very interesting! You can use a meta tag called no ODP snippet.
  • Google favours bold over strong tags, just a little - but not much.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fortune 500 execs DO use Internet for research and decisions

Since it's often an uphill battle convincing some people that executives actually search and read web sites, it's very exciting then when reports like this come out:

This from DMN.ca:

A study dispelling three Internet myths confirms that marketing, sales and product development professionals rely most heavily on information from the Internet for their daily decision making.

This study was apparently published by OutSell Inc., but I can't find it on the OutSell web site, and unfortunately DMN didn't quote the name of the study. Anyone that knows more about it please let me know.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Google SiteMaps Are Good For You

Recent enhancements to Google's SiteMaps tool are a boon to seo webmasters.

I had previously questioned the value of creating Google SiteMaps because it did not make a measurable difference in search results - but the true value is appearing as something different than expected:

Matt Cutts just made a post that mentioned enhancements to sitemaps diagnostics that made me quiver. I quickly validated my site with the service and found it reveals fascinating information about your site:

  • What crawl errors were found
  • URL's that timed out
  • unassigned pagerank pages
  • top words in your site
  • top words in links to your site
  • and very interestingly - top queries that returned your site in the top results
This last point showed me that my web site showed up on the second page of an important query that I wasn't even tracking yet. This is clearly going to be one of the growing arsenal of tools for Internet marketers.

Kudos for Google for being so democratic in their sharing of information.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Top Ten Reasons B2B Companies Under Invest in Their Web Sites

June's issue of Jacob Nielson's alert box inspired me to pound out all of the resistance I almost invariably see while speaking with our B2B customers and prospects about their web sites.

This is a little tongue and cheek, so if you've had any of these thoughts and don't like my comments please don't be offended. The Internet is changing so fast I can hardly keep up; I lose sleep over it. Just because it was true last year doesn't mean it's true today. Challenge your beliefs! You can use the Internet to generate leads and assist the sales process - and you can prove it for yourself.

Here we go:

#10: We are not involved in e-commerce because we don't sell our products online. (People don't buy cars online either, so that's why the auto industry isn't online as well!)

#9: Our sales process is much more complex than B2C sales so it can't be done online. (Or you don't know how?)

#8: We have never received a lead or sale from our web site so it doesn't matter. (Umm... Shouldn't that be your first clue there may be a problem?)

#7: Our customers don't look on the Internet for information in our industry. (Sure! The Internet is probably only used for e-mail and porn anyway.)

#6: Our customers come from referrals and is closed by salespeople so it doesn't matter. (And, of course, they would never check your site before a meeting, and especially not before someone else in their company authorizes the purchase order.)

#5: Nobody searches for what we do. (Because when you checked the numbers were...?)

#4: The people that do search for what we do aren't our customers. (Because you've never got a good lead from your site? See number 8)

#3: Our product information changes too frequently so we just don't put any of it online. (I suppose it is cheaper to cut down trees?)

#2: Our customers are CEO's and Presidents, and they don't have time to look at our web site. (So they also don't have time to do any research before making a major purchase?)

And the number one reason? We don't want our competitors to know what we are doing! (Eureka! It's better just to keep everyone in the dark about the company!)

So there you go. I've cautiously hinted at my feelings on the matters. In my next blog post I am going to deconstruct these arguments and turn them on their head. I hope I can give you some ideas.

But, then again, I am sure none of my B2B prospects are reading this anyways, so I am probably just wasting my time. Hmm.... maybe I should cut my blog budget....

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Creating Killer Web Content

It's pretty cool when one industry heavyweight interviews another. That's exactly what happened yesterday when Jared Spool, of Usability Interface Engineering, published in his newsletter his interview with Gerry Mcgovern. Jared is one of the top two usability experts in the country (the other being Jacob Nielson). Gerry McGovern is probably the most well known content and information architecture consultant in the world.

Here's a couple of great excerpts from the conversation with my comments below:

You've stated that only a small percentage (approximately 10%) of content really makes any difference online. Does this mean that the bulk of content is a waste?

Essentially, yes. Most organizations face two challenges when it comes to content: data management and content management. Organizations produce huge quantities of content/data that needs to be stored for legal and other reasons. Nobody’s interested in this sort of stuff, unless in exceptional circumstances.

Then, you've got a small quantity of content that the customer wants‚—that will help make the sale, deliver the service, and build the brand. This is what I call the killer web content. The other stuff is the filler web content. If you mix the two together, the filler smothers the killer. The job of a web manager is to identify the killer web content.

The lesson here seems to be that even if you need to put up all of that filler content for legal or other reasons, you need to be ruthless in determining what the killer content is and make sure it is front and center, so that your customers and prospects can easily read what is interesting to them without hunting for it.

The number one skill that every web team should have is the ability and desire to relentlessly focus on the needs of the customer. Web teams must enjoy being around the customer, they must be stimulated by thinking of the customer. You have those skills and everything else fits into place.

The number one skill of an editor is not the ability to write. There are many people who are technically good writers but their content is not engaging. The editor must know their reader/customer inside out. They must also have empathy for their reader—be able to think like them, feel like them.

I find many of the organizations we deal with to plagued by what I call "inside out thinking". They view their web site in their own frame of reference; what they think is interesting, what they want the customer to be interested in, speaking in their own language instead of the language of the customer, etc.

It's a tough discipline, but you need to practice "outside in thinking". Put yourself in the shoes and mind of your customers and prospects. What will they be thinking? What kind of prejudices, concerns, thoughts do they have about your business, your industry? What kind of problems do they have that they want to solve. You should only be focused on your customers problems, their concerns, their hopes and dreams. How can you help them move from where they are now (the problem that they have), to where they want to be?

You may find that thinking about your web content in these terms produces very different kinds of content that you have now.

The full text of the interview can be found here:


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Google to become even more important for search engine optimization

Google and Dell announced on Thursday that Dell will be pre-installing Google software on their computers.

This is another made another major breakthrough for Google in their fight with Microsoft and Yahoo to own the world's search market. Google has a 43% market share currently, growing for the ninth straight month in a row. With Google partners included, Google provides the search results for more than 50% of the worlds searches each day.

With over 5 billion searches each month, optimizing your web site to get in front of your relevant traffic has never been more important.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Toronto Search Engine Optimization Company

Search engine optimization still has a long way to go to being a well understood and accepted marketing practice by most organizations.

For small and medium businesses, at least the ones I work with in Toronto, seo is often looked at as some kind of hocus pocus black magic that adds cost to a web design bill but doesn't produce any results.

Yet many online businesses today exist solely on the business provided by visitors from search. Many larger businesses get tremendous amounts of traffic from search.

What gives? Why are so many still so fearful of search engine optimization?

Part of the reason has to be the mis-information provided by web designers that do SEO as an afterthought. Poorly researched keyword choices, poor or non-existent reporting, lack of education to the client, and lack of accountability on the agency part are surely the problems.

Almost every web design company seems to be offering seo services. Yet the people that are doing the work are also responsible for so many other tasks within the organization that they don't have the luxury of focusing and specializing in the specific knowledge required to do the job well. SEO should not be considered a part time endeavor by a web designer or an IT person.

SEO is the rocket science of marketing, according to Robert Murray, President of iProspect, one of the most successful search engine optimization companies in the world. Robert is quoted in an excellent article revealing the results of a recent SEO study.

Search engine optimization requires a combination of skillsets; good copywriting, html coding, potential IT involvement on web server changes, reporting, analytics, analysis, changes and the persistence to keep tweaking and measuring until you get the results you are looking for. Not to mention you have to keep up with the constant search engine changes!

Moral of the story? Don't waste your money on SEO as an afterthought or a part-time endeavor. If you want results you should hire a professional SEO company like my Toronto Search Engine Optimization Company.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Agito Announces WebTrends Extension for Typo3 CMS

We issued this press release last week for a web analytics extension we wrote for our favourite content management system:

Free WebTrends Extension for Open Source Content Management System Released

A leading Toronto Internet marketing company has created an easy method of integrating WebTrends, a web analytics software program, with Typo3, the popular Open Source content management system. The free extension enables Typo3 users to easily configure and add WebTrends tags to their sites to enable deep analysis of their web traffic.

Toronto, Ontario (PRWEB) May 8, 2006 -- A free WebTrends web analytics extension is now available for Typo3, a popular open source content management system. With this extension, users of Typo3 can bring professional web analytics to their Typo3 powered web sites. Agito Internet Marketing Inc., a Toronto Internet marketing company, wrote and released this extension on the Typo3 web site as a contribution to the open source project.

“Typo3 is a very well developed content management system with plenty of extensions that have been developed by a large developer community. One of the missing components, however, has always been professional web analytics”, says Keith Holloway of Agito.

“Since we provide web analytics consulting to our clients with WebTrends, and we build web sites using Typo3, it was a natural fit for us to program an extension to merge the two applications. We then decided to make the extension freely available to all users of Typo3. We simply wanted to give back to the Typo3 project by contributing a useful extension for web analytics professionals.”

The WebTrends extension enables advanced Typo3 users to configure all WebTrends SDC (Smart Source Data Collector) tags to their pages within the Typo3 interface without any additional programming.

About Agito Internet Marketing Inc.:
Agito is a leading Toronto based Internet marketing company that provides email marketing, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, and web analytics consulting to successful medium sized businesses worldwide. They help companies take advantage of the new marketing capabilities of the Internet to improve lead generation, improve lead follow up, improve customer retention and increase sales. For more information visit: http://www.AgitoInternetMarketing.com

About WebTrends, Inc.:
WebTrends is the acknowledged global web analytics market leader for more than twelve years. With an uncompromising focus on delivering the most accurate and actionable metrics, WebTrends enables thousands of web-smart organizations to easily improve campaign performance and web site conversion as well as build stronger relationships with their customers. Companies such as Microsoft, Ticketmaster, IKEA, Reuters, General Mills, US Bank and more than half of the Fortune and Global 500 rely on WebTrends as their trusted standard. For more information, visit www.WebTrends.com

About Typo3:
TYPO3 is a free Open Source content management system for enterprise purposes on the web and in intranets. It offers full flexibility and extendability while featuring an accomplished set of ready-made interfaces, functions and modules. This enterprise-class Content Management Framework offers the best of both worlds: out-of-the-box operation with a complete set of standard modules and a clean and sturdy high-performance architecture accommodating virtually every kind of custom solution or extension. For more information, visit www.Typo3.com

For additional information on the release of the WebTrends extension for Typo3 by Agito Internet Marketing Inc, (or for a demo), contact Keith Holloway or visit http://www.AgitoInternetMarketing.com.

Keith Holloway, President
Agito Internet Marketing Inc.

This release is listed on:



Thursday, April 20, 2006

e-Mail Newsletter Subscription Policies

Creating a professional and appropriate e-mail newsletter policy:

If I sent you an e-mail, met you at a trade show, or downloaded something off of your web site - should I automatically start receiving your newsletter?

I think not.

Yet this seems to be the policy of many businesses with an e-mail newsletter. It's an easy trap to fall into because there are compelling reasons to do it this way:

  1. You'll have far more subscribers, and grow your subscriber list faster if you simply subscribe everyone you ever have and ever will come in contact with - whether they know it or not.
  2. It's just easier. If you have downloads on your web site then you'll have to create an extra checkbox for the newsletter and ensure that contacts choices are enforced in all future mailings.
Bigger and easier is not always better
At a recent conference I was chatting with a group of professionals who were lamenting about the frequency to which they were subscribed to companies newsletters just because they exchanged cards at a trade show. The general feeling was that a newsletter that arrived unexpectedly was considered both spam and unprofessional - even though they knew the company it was coming from.

It is far better to ask each person if they would like to receive the newsletter. Yes, it is more work, and yes, it requires procedures and policy enforcement - but the arrival of the newsletter in the recipients inbox is welcomed instead of being considered a breach of relationship.

What policies should be in place?

  • Opt-in on your forms:
    First - for every form on your web site - have a check box for the newsletter. Ask your visitors if they would also like to receive your newsletter. The box should be unchecked if you want a true opt-in newsletter.

    Some choose to have the box pre-checked to get more sign-ups, but that is what we call an opt-out newsletter. It's because you have to uncheck the box in order to opt-out of receiving the newsletter. Interesting, not asking people if they want the newsletter at all but still sending it to them is also considered an opt-out newsletter.

  • Opt-in in person:
    Ask people you meet if they would like to receive your newsletter. At a trade show you could have a newsletter sign up sheet for people to write their name and e-mail. If you are collecting business cards for a draw, have the sign up sheet next to the draw box.

    Why not also ASK each person if they would like to be on your newsletter as their card in the box? Always have a compelling reason to sign up for your newsletter, a free gift or some valuable information to maximize subscriptions.

  • Opt-in on the phone:
    Ask each person you speak to if they would like to receive your newsletter and make sure the e-mail is entered in your e-mail marketing system. Give your sales reps an easy way to do so.

  • Manual e-mail entry:
    Every person that manually enters contacts into your marketing database needs to be made aware that only people with the newsletter option 'checked' will receive the newsletter. A decision needs to be made for each contact being entered whether they should be receiving the newsletter or not.

  • e-Mail imports:
    Same goes for mass import. A decision needs to be made for each list imported - or perhaps even each contact on each list, whether or not the contact should be subscribed to receive the newsletter.

  • Sending Policy:
    Only send to those that have expressed their desire to receive your newsletter.
Benefits of having a newsletter policy
  • In future people can choose to unsubscribe from the newsletter, but still remain subscribed to the database to receive other important information like special announcements.

    This is a way that you can actually help retain people on your list (reduce churn). For example, a contact goes to unsubscribe from the newsletter and they see a couple of options - newsletter, special announcements, press releases, etc. And they can manage their preferences without completely unsubscribing. If you do not have a newsletter subscription option they can only either be subscribed or unsubscribed.

  • Giving people the option doesn't risk diminishing the trusting relationship. If someone downloads a whitepaper and then starts receiving the newsletter they might be put off by it.
Permission policies pay off Being professional in your communications and practicing good permission habits pays off in your relationship with prospects and customers alike.

Some areas of privacy are fuzzy and you may get away with lax policies that maximize your subscriptions or save work, but if you do it the way you'd expect to be treated yourself you will gain trust and guarantee you are on the right side of the law.


If you would like more information on e-mail marketing best practices, e-mail marketing ideas, or services that can help you gain maximum value from your e-mail marketing campaigns, please visit the web site of our Toronto e-mail marketing company.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The White Hat Vs. Black Hat Search Engine Optimization Debate is BS

That's the word from the CAC2006 conference in Amsterdam.

Rasmus Srrensson from Notabene.net, a 25 person search engine optimization firm in Denmark, proclaimed "there is no black hat or white hat search engine optimization. It is all just risk assessment", in his presentation to the audience of affiliates and sponsor companies.

Rasmus suggested you ask yourself: "are willing to have your site dropped? If no, maybe you shouldn't even be trying to rank in search engines... Search engine spamming and black hat SEO techniques are not illegal."

The CAC is the Casino Affiliate Conference. It is held twice annually, once in Las Vegas and once in Amsterdam. Over 600 affiliates and sponsor online gaming companies congregate to share information and make new business deals.

I feel that to be best the field of search engine optimization, one needs to be understand be able to apply the techniques of the best search optimizers in the world. The decision to go to the CAC2006 in Amsterdam was not a mistake.

By far the hottest topic this year is search engine optimization. The companies and affiliates that manage to secure the top positions for the most trafficked phrases are scoring the biggest new customers wins. With the worldwide online gaming market estimated to be somewhere between 15 and 30 billion dollars (USD) annually, the competition for search engine rankings is among the highest in the world.

Search optimization is all grey hat
Clearly, if so called "black hat search engine optimization techniques" are not illegal, then the option is available to all competitors in any industry. The most aggressive will likely use it and probably dominate the search engine results.

Rasmus has a good point. If you are concerned about your search engine rankings, and especially if you are in an already highly competitive online category, you need to be aware of the options available to you and your competitors to compete in the search engines.

Black and white are far too polarized terms to describe search engine optimization techniques. In reality, everything is a shade of grey. Often it's not what you do, but how you do it that makes it lighter or darker in the spectrum.

Take content for example. Increasing site content is an important factor in search engine optimization. The kind of content that you create, or how you create it, makes it black hat or white hat. Pure white hat would be adding relevant articles that you created from company resources. Pure black hat would be creating portals by scraping content off of other sites and mixing it up with other content so as to be unique.

The realist, the grey hat SEO, understands that in order to provide quality content for the user, and compete with the pure black hat optimizers, it must take a more aggressive approach to search engine optimization.

The grey hat SEO asks himself:
Where can I find quality content of interest to my audience?

  • Quality on topic blogs with RSS feeds?
  • News feeds?
  • Press release feeds?
  • Articles from other sites?
  • Partners: customers, suppliers, friends?

How can I create a page, or whole sections of content, targeted specifically at a two, three or four word phrase that I am most interested in?

How can I maximize the use of this content? Can I reuse bits and pieces of different content sources randomly to increase the uniqueness of each page? This is important if you have hundreds or thousands of pages targeting very specific, but similar phrases.

Can I create geographically targeted content? For example, can I build a separate page for each town and city that you sell in (taking care to have unique content on each page), and linking them all up through the site map for the search engines to find?

Should I create a portal for my industry? Can I create enough content to make a valuable industry resource, and then use it as both an advertising vehicle for my own site and a search optimization playground?

Does having a portal - or multiple portals - allow me to better take on the "black hat" seo competition without risking my own site's reputation?

These are just a few of the options for content alone. Then there is the actual optimization and linking strategies to consider. What about blogspam, linkspam, logspam and hijacking? What do you need to know about these activities?

What everyone needs to know:
  • the competitive landscape for your industry
  • the options available and potential rewards of each option
  • and costs and the risks of each option

To know these you will likely need a competent search engine optimization company. Not just a web design firm that knows how to make the meta tags correctly, submit your site to a bunch of search engines and make a monthly report. You need a company that understands the whole search engine optimization landscape.

My company, Agito Internet Marketing, specializes in SEO for small and medium mainstream businesses for the purposes of lead generation and online sales. If you are looking for a Toronto search engine optimization company, please contact me.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

4 P's of Internet Marketing for Affiliates

A new cottage industry has been spawned by the Internet. It's called affiliate marketing.

It's the marketing of other companies products and services via specially tagged links on the Internet. When a link is clicked through to a store, and something is purchased by that person, the company pays a commission to the affiliate (typically an individual, or small group).

Affiliates can find customers through paid search engine marketing (PPC, or pay per click), search engine optimization, SEO, banner ads, purchased links on other sites, email and more. All of this is perfectly legal and legitimate - and both sides win.

The company receives new customers and pays only a percentage of each sale or a pre-defined flat fee. The affiliate receives this commission for create thinking and marketing of the companies products or services a new audience.

Affiliate programs, in addition to providing excellent exposure to new markets, also provide an important boost to search engine visibility and traffic because of the large number of links to the sponsor company web site created by the affiliates. Special care has to be taken by the company in choosing an affiliate program to ensure that the links are created properly - or the links will have no value.

How do affiliates find new customers?
Online Portals and SEO:
The best method by many measurements is the operation of online portals. These are information rich web sites about a particular topic that provide links and sometimes reviews to companies for which they have an affiliate relationship. These web sites are highly optimized for search and capture many clicks from potential customers from the search engines. The best web sites have high quality information and provide value to visitors that have an interest in the topic.

Affiliates may build large opt-in e-mail lists where they provide current information and advertising or recommendations for products.PPC:Affiliates are often experts in Pay Per Click marketing. They bid on clicks from certain search terms and send those clicks directly to their sponsors web sites with their special tracking code. Affiliates can often be far more effective in pay per click campaign management than the sponsor company, so there can be a large margin for profit for the affiliate. The sponsor company typically pays a flat fee or percentage per sale, so the affiliate takes all of the risk and work in attempting to purchase customers through efficient targeting of ads in search engines.

Banner and Link Advertising:
Affiliates buy banners or links on popular web sites targeting a specific audience and send the traffic to their portals or to the sponsors web site directly. Affiliates become knowledgeable in the places to buy advertising efficiently and can purchase links on thousands of web sites the sponsor would not know of.

Affiliate Marketing: An established industry
A large affiliate industry has grown up. There are affiliate networks like Commission Junction and LinkShare that provide the affiliate programs for thousands of companies. They provide the merchants with tracking and payment services, and provide affiliates with consolidated reporting and a convenient way to sign up for many programs. There are many smaller vendors that provide easy to set up and inexpensive affiliate program options as well.What are the industries that are benefiting the most?

There are businesses in virtually every industry using affiliate programs to provide a strong channel of online sales through their websites. One look at the Kolimbo Network (requires free affiliate account) will give you an idea of the breadth of this industry.

The most obvious choices for affiliate program adoption are the companies already selling a product or service online, but their are opportunities for way of selling in almost every industry - and the first coveted first-to-market positions in every industry are rapidly being filled.

One industry of note is online content, estimated to be worth $50 Billion Annually.The big money in affiliate marketing, however, are in the markets with the most online activity. The barriers to entry are as large as the profits. Interestingly, the industries that are most active amongst affiliates share something in common. I call these:

The four P's of Internet marketing for affiliates:

Of course there are many others, but these seem to shine amongst affiliates, these industries have even spawed largely attended trade shows and conferences such as the CAC - Casino Affiliate Conference, iDate - Internet Dating Conference, COPHARM, Online Pharmaceuticals Conference and others.

The affiliate industry is maturing
The four P's aside, 'mainstream' businesses in every industry are creating online stores or lead generating web sites that are trackable with affiliate software and reaping the benefits of an affiliate program.

As this industry matures, I see larger affiliate networks, larger affiliates, and more business partnerships. Businesses like my Toronto Internet marketing company are forming partnerships with companies in different industries to bring their products to market online through the use of search engine optimization, pay per click marketing, text link purchases, corporate blogging, e-mail marketing, web analytics speclialties and resources that are difficult and inefficient to maintain inhouse.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Is your web site invisible to search engines?

I just reviewed a web site for a client that is completely invisible on the Internet.

While there are several hundred links to the site (measured by Google, Yahoo and MSN), none of these major search engines have indexed a single page of the site, which means the site will not come up in a search for anything - except perhaps the domain name.

If you want a quick check to see if the search engines have indexed your pages you can check it out with our free search engine visibility analysis tool here:
Free search engine visibility analysis tool

After you have run the report take a look at the search engine saturation score. This is the number of pages that each of the search engines have indexed. If it is zero - then you have a problem. The site I am looking at today has that problem.

The site in question today has a good amount of information on it, and could do very well in the search engines if it was properly structured. The structure as it stands now, however, is difficult to use from a user perspective, and impossible to index by the search engines. The indexing problem is caused by use of dynamic URL's like this:

The bolded part of the URL above is what is known as a robot "stop". Once the search engines sees this dynamic URL structure it just stops and doesn't follow the link.

The moral? Before you spend any time thinking about search engine optimization you first need to make sure that your site is built in such a way that the search engines can actually see it.
So what if my site is indexed by the search engines?
Well that's great. Now you can optimize. The site I looked at today had not been optimized for search engines at all. The meta tags are incorrect and there is no use of proper title or headline tags. A good search engine optimization program on this site will make a huge difference to the search engine visibility.

My recommendations for the badly built site:

Phase One:

First and foremost, the site structure needs to be fixed for the search engines and the users. This can be done with existing content and new HTML while preserving many aspects of the existing design. The entire site should be re-built in search engine friendly manner. Once this is done, the new search engine visibility can be used as a benchmark for a phase two rebuild for a much better site.

Products required:
- Search engine optimization
- Site re-development in search friendly html (priced per page, standard web design fees)
- WebTrends integration. Basic is included in SEO package, advanced configuration includes training and configuring web trends to understand the site structure so reports can be viewed on most interesting key performance indicators for the site.

Phase Two:
Redesign look and feel of web site. (May or may not include a complete rebranding)
Write new content, edit, revise and update existing content.
Update existing web site templates build in phase one, and modify and add new content as created in phase two.
Create whitepapers, etc for downloads and other sign in forms to collect contact information.

This two phased approach is my best recommendation on taking an old site with a lot of good content and making it quickly visible, and then measuring and building on that visibility. Step two would focus on making the site a selling web site, and converting those visitors to leads.

Learn more about our search engine optimization services here:
Agito Internet Marketing. A Toronto search engine optimization company

Monday, March 27, 2006

How to Avoid Search Engine Optimization Scams

Search Engine Optimization scams are nothing new. I've been watching seo companies offering all kinds of questionable programs since I started working in seo in the late nineties.

The troubling part is I see them getting worse before they get better. The seo industry is growing faster each year; 125% in 2005 and predicted to grow 150% more in 2006 according to SEMPO, a search engine optimisation industry organization. With professional seo companies charging anywhere from $2000 and 30,000 per month, the stakes are higher now than they were a few years ago, so the competition is getting fiercer.

We gained a customer last year who came to us to fix their broken seo program after they hired a company they met via e-mail. Their rankings had improved but the only pages that showed up in the search results were very ugly, spammy doorway pages that no-one would ever click on.

The first rule of thumb? Don't buy search engine optimization that is promoted to you via unsolicited email. You want to get to know a company that is going to be intimately involved in the your sites evolution.

Rule number two - get references. This can help identify companies that are more interested in cheap customer acquisition than providing value.

I have been recently been cold-called by a few ambitious seo companies looking for my business. You would think they would do a little more research so as to avoid calling my Toronto search engine optimization company trying to sell search engine optimisation! If you have ended up becoming interested in seo services after a call like this - do yourself a favour and get three quotes. And not only for price comparison but for more important service comparison. Seo is expertise, it's not a commodity.

Rule Number three - get educated on the issues of search engine optimization. When evaluating seo companies for your site, ask and take the time to listen to their proposed plan for your project and compare.

Simply put, seo requires about three or four general areas of knowledge and activity (depending on how you divide it). Unless your potential seo company has a good plan for each of the areas, your solution likely won't provide much benefit.

This is what needs attention on your site:

  • The content. The quality, quantity, depth and freshness are essential. One of the reasons why the good seo companies charge so much per month is because they need to work with you on the planning, creation and optimization of new content. You should be prepared to work with your seo on this, and they should be recommending quality, desirable content for your audience.
  • The code. This is also all of the technical stuff you don't see such as the alternate picture tags, the page titles, the coding of the important elements such as headlines and subheadlines, the page names, the javascript, the stylesheets and more.
  • The architecture. This includes where pages are located, how they are linked, which pages link to each other and what those links say.
  • Your site popularity. The above three are only as important as your sites linkage within the web of other related sites on the Internet. If few other related sites link to yours, your site cannot be very important and will be treated as such in the search results. Visit our site for more information on increasing link popularity.
Anatomy of an SEO scam
One of my top reads these days is the blog by Black Hat SEO. I believe that as an seo expert you need to be at least up to date on the techniques in the black arts so you know what you are up against. He recently published a supposedly funny , but actually quite scary article on how to make $200k per year as a search engine optimization scammer.

The future of the search engine optimization industry:
Now contrast this with a fabulous article written by one of the best SEO's in the business, Bruce Clay. In the emperors new clothes, Bruce lays out his vision of the future of search engine optimization. He covers the main challenges and what it takes to rise to the challenge for the honest and professional SEO practitioner:

Google's take on the SEO industry:
Google has published a page of tips on how to distinguish between good and bad search engine optimization companies.

Information on my Toronto Search Engine Optimization Company:
Toronto Search Engine Optimization Company

Friday, March 10, 2006

Blogs Helping to Achieve High Search Engine Positions

Blogging has taken the Internet by Storm. Not only do they provide an easy method of keeping your audience up to date with your news, help develop stronger relationships with your readers and raise your profile as an expert - they are incredibly effective at helping you increase your web site's ranking in the search engines.

Search engines are giving a large value to blogs. Why? Search engine's common goal is to provide users with the most relevant search results. Relevant content typically equals recent content. Therefore the most relevant results to searches are usually provided on recently updated pages.

Search engines love fresh content, but most of the content on the Internet is quite stale. Blogs, on the other hand, provide loads of recently updated content for the search engines to spider. In contrast, many corporate web sites have not been updated for months or even years.

Search engines also love sites with lots of inbound links.
Many inbound links (links pointing to a site) give the search engines an indication that the site the links point to must be popular or important, and therefore valuable and relevant.

In the blogoshpere it is quite easy to generate a lot of inbound links very quickly. Bloggers and blog readers like to comment on other blogs (which link back to writer) as well as link to other blogs in the main copy and sidebars. If your blog has good content and you actively market yourself in the blogoshpere you will increase your inbound links very quickly. (More on marketing your blog in an upcoming post)

To rank well for almost any phrase in a search engine, you need search optimized content. This is as basic as including the keyword phrases you want to rank for in the content you post to your blog. I'll use my site as an example:

I would like my Toronto Internet marketing company to rank number one in Google for the phrase "Toronto Internet marketing company". If I use the phrase "Toronto Internet marketing company" in my blogposts frequently, the search engine spiders will see this and conclude that my blog must be about a "Toronto Internet marketing company".

Ok this is fine, you may be thinking, I see how I can use keywords in my blog to optimize them for search engines - but how does this help my web site?

In many ways. The first comes back to linking:

The context and content of links are another way search engines determine the content and relevancy of the pages they link to. Search engines are using the anchor text in a link (the text that is actually linked) and the context of the link as a method of determining what the page it links to is about. It's called latent Semantic indexing.

The search engines basically figure that what one site says about another site is a better gauge of truth than what one site says about itself. Compound this times lots of inbound links saying the same things, and the importance of the sites that are saying those things, the search engines have a very good way to measure the relevance of a page for any search.

You need to link to your web site and optimize those links. Since the search engines will read the text that is linked to your web site, they will use those links as a guide to what your web site is about.

I'll use my site as an example again. I have 3 main sections on my web site:

By creatively working these links into my copy, using the correct link text, and linking to the appropriate sections of my site, I am telling the search engines - and my readers - what my site is about. As I get more links and more readers to my blog, I also get the added benefit of more awareness and visitors to my site.

The second benefit is through RSS feeds. You can easily display the live feed of your blog right on your web site, therefore:
  • automatically updating your web site each time you post to your blog
  • increasing the keyword optimization on your web site
  • increasing the content on your web site
Other sites may also choose to display your blog's feed on their site (with each story linking back to you), creating even more links, more readers and more visitors to your blog and site.

Another way you can make the links to your blog help your sites search rankings is to host your blog on your own site. This is easy to do with most blogging software like Blogger, because you can have it simply FTP the blog to your site everytime you post.

Your blog can either be in a subfolder (yoursite.com/blog) or a subdomain (blog.yoursite.com). When you host the blog on your own site - all of the links to your blog are also considered links to your site.

In Summary: Blogs, written well and marketed well, provide all three of the components of a high ranking site - fresh content, optimized content, and lots of semantically relevant, important links.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Separating Qualified Leads from Tire Kickers

B2B companies that sell expensive, enterprise solutions seem to have a common problem: They receive a lot of inquiries from their web site, but many are not qualified prospects.

Depending on the industry and solution they provide, they may receive inquires from small businesses or even the general public looking for solutions that the company may seem to have a possible answer for, but for the company, the economies just don't work for these types of customers.

One large company I work with recently came to me with this issue.

They were looking over the ways they have been addressing the inquiries coming in.
Sometimes leads are assigned immediately to the sales reps and other times they try to fulfill these contacts’ need for information first (with administrative personnel), and then forward to the sales reps.

They wanted other ideas to handle their web inquiries – they wanted to spend less time responding to FAQs and concentrate more on those inquiries that are of direct business consequence.

There are many ways to deal with this issue, but most companies never give it the full attention that it deserves. Here are my suggestions:

Send an automatic FAQ email. Send a self service email designed to answer the most frequently asked questions in inquiries. You can phrase it so that you don't have to personally answer each email, but still provide a timely, relevant, professional response.

For example, tell people that you get a lot of responses, and to serve inquiries better you've put together this list of frequently asked questions that address most of the inquiries you receive. You will read their email, but if their answer is contained in the message they are reading, you won't be getting back to them. After all, they already have the answer. Tell them if they have any other questions, they should contact you again.

Create inquiry forms on your web site that send out custom messages with dynamically generated content for additional personalization. A form can ask many types of questions to give you insight into the nature of the inquiry.

Create auto response messages that include different links and different content depending on the prospects answers from the form. If prospects answer a certain way to a certain question, or series of questions, have that lead forwarded directly to a sales rep.

Follow up more than once. Create messages that go out in a timed sequence after the initial inquiry. Follow up in 2 days to ask if they have the information they need, or if they need any more. Ask if they found the brochure or case study they downloaded helpful. Ask if they would like to speak with a sales rep.

Follow up again after two weeks or a month, with an announcement or information on a recent project or new case study. Follow up again after two months. Start sending your entire email audience a monthly newsletter with information on your industry, your company, and recent developments.

Ask them to qualify themselves. In the follow up emails, ask them for more information. To do this effectively, you'll need to provide them with an incentive to take action. Have a new whitepaper, a demonstration, a sample, a free book, free tickers, a chance to win, something that would interest your audience enough to take a minute and answer a few question for you.

Ask the BANT (Budget, Authority, Needs, Timing) questions so you will see which prospects are 'hot', and respond appropriately.

Use Email polls and links that trigger other actions. With professional Email marketing software, you can trigger other email sequences based on which link a prospect clicks in an email.

For example, you can ask people if they currently use a product like yours or if they are considering it for the first time. Each answer has it's own link that goes to it's own landing page. Depending on which links the prospect clicks, you can send follow up emails that discuss your product in a different way. For the people that already use a similar product, you can provide feature comparisons. For those that are considering the product for the first time, you will want to focus on the benefits your product provides in a different way.

Use engagement devices on your web site to draw even more people in, and ask them to qualify themselves as part of the process. Create an interactive questionnaire on your site that promises to provide an answer to their problem. Ask a series of questions about their need, one after the other, in a small pop-up or embedded Flash or Java element on your site.

Ask questions that flag them as a prospect, a hot prospect, or an unqualified person or company. The end of the process give the answer you promised, and let them know if they should be talking with you or not. Follow up with an email campaign as discussed above, and have the good leads forwarded automatically to your sales reps.

Create more customer self service content on your site. Certainly 90% of the questions that come your way are similar questions asked over and over. Commit to a large, user friendly FAQ or knowledge base section on your site. Consider a forum. Use tag-based web analytics to monitor usage of the section and see how you can improve it. Add to it regularly. Review your search logs to see what the most common searches are, and increase the visibility of content you have, or add more content to address needs.

In Summary:

Focus on intelligent automation of customer self service instead of more efficient manual response to customer inquiries.
Time and money invested in this will pay for itself quickly in costs saved, improved customer relations, and new sales.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

B2B Lead Qualification Strategy

Lately we've been asked to many business-to-business lead qualification strategies for our B2B clients. It seems now that we have search optimized their sites and put persuasive copy and compelling offers to download information from their sites, they are realizing that they are getting a lot of leads and they need to follow up with them.

Surprised? No. But this is still a great development. Now they are coming around the full circle of Internet marketing and finally, naturally see and want the next step to automating their sales process.

These are my recommendations for business to business lead qualification:

1. Don't get so caught up in the technology - figure out your strategy first

The technology is secondary and the strategy is primary. When you start planning, you should forget the technology and focus on what you want to accomplish from a sales perspective. Let the technology guys figure out how to do it once you've got the strategy. Of course you need to have an idea of what's possible, but why not assume everything is possible from the outset and then figure out how to do it once you have the perfect strategy. Don't be limited by technology.

2. The theory on creating the strategy is simple:

  1. What do you know about them already?
    They have downloaded something(s)
    Whatever else they told us in the form

  2. What does what they've downloaded tell you about them?

  3. What would you say to them based on what you know to engage them further and deepen the relationship?

  4. What can you offer them in exchange for them giving you some more information?
    Here are some ideas: It could be, a chance to win something or something for free. Something for free could be a whitepaper, a demo, a flash demonstration, a free consultation, a free sample, competitive assessment, benchmarking data, etc.

  5. What sort of information do you want from them?
These are the questions you would probably want to ask in return for giving them something they find valuable:

  1. Was the content useful and would you like something else on this topic?
  2. What is your role in researching or buying our product? (also what's your title)
  3. What is your researching/buying time frame?
  4. Is a budget authorized for this product or service?
  5. How quickly do expect the buying process to be concluded?
  6. Would you like to talk to one of our reps?
(ED NOTE: I must admit that I borrowed the above questions from Manhatten's Marketing Maven, because they were so good I didn't have to rewrite them. Thanks Danny. The articles on the blog great except a few points on how to engage people where I differ)

3. Dynamic Content. Sometimes, people may have downloaded more than one item on the site. Therefore I recommend that you should not send out one message per download because many people will then receive multiple messages. You should instead create one message for every contact, and craft segments of the message that are custom to what they've downloaded. It's like an IF/THEN statement. As each message goes out our server will go through a series of IF/THEN's to craft the message. For example:

Dear {NAME}:

We are following up on your recent download of information on our web site.

[IF they downloaded A, THEN tell them this]

[IF they downloaded B, THEN tell them this]

[IF they downloaded C, THEN tell them this]

As a measure of our thanks, we would like to make a special offer to you....

(your choice of X, Y, or Z) ....
... just click here to receive it**


Your Company

** The link should go to a form where you ask for the new information, and fulfill the offer.

4. Automate the process
In a perfect world, this would have all been done before you started getting leads from the web site so that this campaign would go out automatically to each new lead using triggered e-mail within 48 hours. People will tend to forget quickly what sites they've visited and why. You need to remind them quickly to keep their attention.

But in our imperfect reality, where clients want to see proof that extra traffic will come, and that people will download things before they decide to make a bunch of autoresponders, this the next best thing:

1. You create this campaign and send it out to all of the people that have downloaded something. 2. You take the same campaign, and you implement it as an automatic follow up 24-48 hours after all new visitors sign up on your web site.

What you have accomplished is a single follow up to every lead you've generated so far, and then you send an automated follow up every day, for every new lead, from now till you decide to stop.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The value of tag based web analytics

What's the difference between the free stats programs offered by most web hosts and professional analytics applications like WebTrends 7.5 professional?

Most people are trained to think of their web stats as nothing more than a way to track unique visitors and page views. For a low traffic site, or one that is no more than a forgotten brochure for the business, the difference is perhaps unimportant. However, for anyone considering their web site as a valuable part of their marketing toolset - the difference is enormous.

Data without reference points is meaningless
Tag based analytics enables the marketer to provide meta data about the information on the web site so that the analytics software can provide relevant and interesting
information on the traffic and usage of the site.

A web server cannot tell one page from another from the eyes of a visitor or marketer. The un-tagged information on a free web stats program will not show if certain kinds of content are more popular than others. It will not show you organic search traffic from paid search, which types of visitors are more valuable, most popular paths through the site, or which groups of pages are more useful than others. To extract this kind of meaningful data about your site the marketer needs to teach the software about the site and its traffic.

Information rich data becomes action-able knowledge
The uses of tag based are as varied as the types of sites it can report on. Lead generating sites, e-commerce sites, advertising supported sites, customer service sites, portals and more can all use tag based analytics to provide business intelligence. It enable marketers to consistently improve their results in iteration after iteration of their web site changes. It enables them to target advertising more effectively. They can improve conversion rates, improve content effectiveness, improve user experience, and more.

Accuracy of Information
Before I move on to give specific examples of the information tag based web analytics can provide I think it is important to discuss an issue of accuracy provided by something called client side tagging versus log based statistics:

All free or low cost statistics programs, (and even higher end analytics software unless configured otherwise) will generate statistical data based on the log files created by the web server.

This has a serious flaw.

Web server log files are the raw data collected by the web server for every hit by a visitor. Every time s request is made on the web server, a hit is recorded as a new line in a text file. This can be a request for a page, an image, a PDF, an included object, or any other file on the web site. Each hit is recorded with a timestamp, and the IP address of the computer requesting it, the browser used, and other various and configurable information.

The statistics program simply reads these log files and organizes the information into human readable reports and graphs. Each unique IP address that shows up in the log file is considered a unique visitor.

The problem is, s unique IP address is not enough information to differentiate one user from another. Five users behind a DSL line in a small office will look like one unique visitor. One hundred users in an medium office may look like one visitor. Tens of thousands of AOL users all over America will look like one user. One user from Herndon, Virginia, in fact - because AOL uses a massive proxy server there so it can cache the most popular content on the intent to deliver it more quickly.

There are other log file methods, such as combining IP address and computer type to differentiate visitors, but the limited ways a standard web server can differentiate between one visitor and another is limited and ineffective. Because of this problem log based statistics should be considered by all to be inaccurate.

To solve this problem tag based analytics software uses a technology called client side tagging to uniquely identify each computer visiting it's website - regardless of whether they are in an environment that would otherwise fool the web server into counting them incorrectly. This "client side tag" is a few lines of JavaScript on each web page being analyzed by the analytics software. Each time one of these pages is requested, the computer requesting it automatically runs a script on the page, and reports back to the analytics server to identify itself as a unique computer.

The result is significantly more accurate statistics (nearly 100%), that typically show a large increase in the number of visitors being counted.

Tagging for content usage
Now that I have explained the accuracy of information issue in the two types of reporting, lets move on to the more exciting benefits of tag based analytics.

Paths and Pages
Starting from the most basic level, page name tagging allows you to provide meaningful names to the pages on the site so that it is easier to tell which pages are being visited.

Without tagging, the only ways to view a page in a report is either by URL (address of the page), which can be long, cryptic or meaningless, or the HTML title - which for un-optimized sites are often all the same, and for search optimized sites are often long and difficult to differentiate.

When you teach the analytics server what the pages mean to you - the results are just easier to read. Home for home, Products for products, etc. When you have hundreds or thousands of pages on a site, especially similar ones, this makes a big difference.

Web analytics software can also measure the order of pages visited by each visitor. It will then calculate the most common paths through the site. For example, an e-commerce sites most popular path may be - home, products, product a, product b, search, exit site.

This kind of information can be enlightening. For example, why don't most visitors go to product c? Why don't they add anything to their shopping cart? If everyone is searching what's wrong with the navigation? Is there something wrong with the search results? You can't test and measure without this kind of information.

Content groups and sub-content groups
On my own site, I have four major categories - email marketing, search engine marketing, web analytics, and reviews. Each category has many pages. Since I have tagged all of the pages in each category as a group, I can look at my online WebTrends reports and see which type of content is more useful or more popular with my visitors. This can be an indication of what the market is most interested in. I can check it against my sales and notice correlations or discrepancies.

To make it more interesting, each major section on my web site is broken down into products, services, and knowledge (frequently ask questions). I have tagged these as well so I can see which sub-sections are most popular.

Pages can also have more than one content group and sub-content group. This allows you to have pages show up in multiple group reports - if product A fits under category A and category B, no problem - just tag it correctly and you will see it in both category reports.

To continue with my example, I have tagged each page on my site to have two groups and sub-groups - in reverse of each other. So now I can look at the sub-sections as major sections to see which major sections have the most popular sub-sections.

Basically, any way you want to group your content can be achieved through a well planned tagging strategy.

Tagging for scenarios and funnels
Tagging for conversion is cool. Let's say you have a membership based site and you want to track how many visitors follow a certain path on your site. For example, you may want to track what percentage come to the home page, click the "learn more" page, click the "sign up" page, and then complete the sign up process. No problem.

In WebTrends, you would tag the series of pages as a scenario. You may choose to call the Scenario "perfect user", or "new signup", etc. You would tag each page as scenario step one, step two, etc., and name each of the steps. The end result is a beautiful graphical report that shows you how many visitors started each step, and what percentage went on to the next step.

Additional, invaluable information in this report is the "leakage" in the steps. Where do visitors go from each step besides where you want them to go? This is the information you need to make improvements on your site that will improve your conversion rates.

Tagging for conversion and sales data
For e-commerce and lead generating sites tags give you the information you need to improve your marketing spend. With tagging you can pull sales data into your WebTrends reports. WebTrends can pick up the items purchased and total sales from your 'thank you' page and display this information in your reports.

For search engine marketing (paid and natural search) you can break down your sales activity by keyword phrase and search engine. You can also see it by e-mail campaign, links form other sites, type of visitor and more.

Geographical reporting
It's one thing to see your visitors broken down by country, but what about province/state, city, area code, company, or designated marketing area? All possible thanks to the built in, up-to-date geo-IP database called GeoTrends. The GeoTrends database knows the location of every IP address in your reports and can therefore provide detailed and accurate visitor location information.

Getting the most from web analytics
A professional analytics program like WebTrends essentially allows you to track whatever data you need and turn it into action-able business intelligence. The functionality for this exists out-of-the-box, however to generate the most interesting reports for your business requires some effort on your part.

The ability to tag information on a web site comes with a responsibility to think through the data on the site and what kinds of reports need to be generated from the data collected.

At Agito, we go through a detailed process on every web site we track to ensure that we have identified all of the information we need and tag all of the pages properly. We go through a mapping process to define all of the desired paths through the site. We consider email campaigns and advertising campaigns and plan landing pages that can be tracked. We build spreadsheets of the web site to list every page and the tags that need to be associated with every page to achieve the desired outcomes.

If you want the most out of your web analytics, make sure you go through a process that will uncover your needs and then teach your software to deliver the results you want. You will be way ahead of those who use only free tools, or even professional tools with only out-of-the-box functionality.