Is Email Marketing Effective?

November 22, 2008

November 19, 2008

 Is Email Marketing Effective?”

Email marketing can be effective when used properly.  There is no guarantee of success with any marketing campaign. However, with such a low cost many are resorting to email as a marketing tool, but the abuse of such tool has put the effectiveness of email marketing into a debated area.  Here we will look at some useful tips, tricks and suggestions with regards to email marketing.

An article at wiliam.com examines how to make email marketing campaigns more effective while examining a survey done with 302 different web merchants.  The email marketing industry standards state that in order for an email marketing campaign to be considered effective it must have a delivery rate of 80% to 85% and an open rate of 35%. Out of the 302 merchants that were surveyed, only 59.3% had acceptable email delivery rates. The article suggests in order to combate the problem of low delivery rates, that maintaining and updating email lists is crucial. William.com also suggests that low open rates and click through rates can be attributed to poor content and subject lines. The last thing the article suggests is that in order to insure action is taken by the recipient that the email sent out be specific as possible and targeted to specific groups, and that the more relevant the content is to the user the more likely they will take action.

  •          Avoid emailing during Holidays, many people take a holiday away from emails during the holidays, so therefore emails during this time are not very effective
  •         Learn from Spammers, as spammers can teach you a lot about email marketing and what not to do, and so that you can avoid leaving a spam-like impression with recipients
  •       Figure out what the best time frequency of emailing will work for you and aim to stick to that frequency. For example, you may find that sending out one email on the 15th of every month will work for you. Consistency is always good.
  •       Include an easy to use un-subscription link in your email, as unhappy subscribers are worse than no subscribers. 

The article actually lists over 30 different tips and suggestions but those were the ones that seem most useful. While perusing the internet for information and research regarding effective email, the most predominant tip that was stated was to make considerable efforts to avoid making your email look like spam.  An article written by Eric J. Adams, at creativepro.com also examines how one could make email marketing campaigns effective and does so while examining the results of a consumer based survey.  More than 70% of consumers feel that they receive too many emails, with an average of 110 per week. Two-thirds of the consumers surveyed admitted that most the emails they receive don’t offer anything that interests them. Adams states that this type of consumer perception can lead to a serious disrespect and disregard for emails.  He states his 9 best practices that he believes are worth incorporating into any email campaign. In no particular order he advices to: think service, not marketing, customize, offer user control, demonstrate value not information, use subject and addresses honestly, keep messages short and sweet, engage consumers, experiment and finally benchmark performances.

It is quite possible that if the use of email as a marketing tool does not adjust to consumers current perception of receiving emails from marketers that soon the general populous will completely disregard emails from anyone but friends or family. If all marketers were to take on the “avoid leaving a spam-like impression” approach then it is possible that the face of email marketing will be saved and that email marketing will be looked upon positively by recipients. It is strongly suggested that anyone considering an email campaign, do some external research and take into consideration all the tips and suggestions that are available, and try to make use of the ones that best fit their campaign.

 

 

 

More often than not people are bombarded with countless emails in their inbox a day. Marketers want to reach their target audience and not have their email disregarded as “junk”. Typically people will open emails, when they find it interests them, they have time, and they have some knowledge of the sender’s request.  An interesting article at about.com highlights some useful email tips, tricks and secrets, that are meant to enhance the power of email. Below you will find a summarization of the tips that were found to be most beneficial.

Affiliate Marketing Programs – Pros & Cons

November 15, 2008

November 14, 2008

“Affiliate Marketing Programs – Pro’s & Con’s”

Affiliate marketing programs are revenue sharing ventures between a website owner and an online merchant. Basically, a website owner places advertisements on his site to help the merchant sell his product or service. Usually, the website owner does not receive any commission unless a sale or lead has been generated. There are several ways that a web site owner can receive revenue through affiliate marketing. There are also several pros and con’s to affiliate marketing for both the merchant and the website owner. Here we will briefly examine the different forms of affiliate marketing and the pros and cons of such programs.

Website owners can get paid one of three ways – pay per click, pay per sale, and pay per lead. With pay per click, every time a potential customer leaves the affiliate website by clicking on the merchant’s advertisement, a certain amount of money is deposited into the affiliates account. With pay per sale, every time a sale is made as a result of the advertising on the affiliate’s page, the affiliate receives a portion of this revenue. Finally, with pay per lead, every time a potential customer registers on the merchant’s website as a result of the advertisement, a predetermined amount is deposited into the affiliate’s website. The article at www.wisegeek.com provides a brief but to the point description of what affiliate marketing is, the different ways an affiliate earns revenues, and suggestions on what to look for in an affiliate relationship.

 There are various pros and con’s to affiliate marketing programs for both the merchant and the publisher. This particular article by Jason Gazaway at www.jobbankusa.com examines the pros and cons of affiliate marketing programs. Gazaway states that affiliate marketing gives the merchant a lot of exposure. He also stresses that the one thing the merchant needs to keep in mind though, is finding a website that will be a good “fit” with their product and where their target customers will visit. Through affiliate marketing the merchant gains more and more customers without spending the time to look for them.  Finally, the article suggests that different customers coming from various websites can provide the merchant with some insight into consumer trends and demands. As for the affiliate, well they get to make a little extra revenue from simply reselling and promoting the merchants website.

However, there are some downsides to affiliate programs. Gazaway’s article suggests that the merchant may suffer from high commission costs, as well as costly set up and maintenance fees that are charged by most affiliates.  There have been cases where merchants will close down programs without informing the affiliate and may leave without paying commission. Basically, if there is a downside that sums up all the pitfalls of this program it would be around trust, efficacy, and legality. Kathy Hendershot-Hurd’s article at goaticles.com examines the key to success with affiliate programs, and explains the process behind the one to multi tier programs. She also distinguishes between the pros and cons of affiliate marketing for the merchant and the affiliate using business based examples.

Despite its disadvantages, affiliate marketing programs are still considered one of the best ways to make money online. Surely, this notion of affiliate marketing programs is steadily increasing. It is a good way for website owners to make money at no extra cost to them, and it is a good way for merchants to market their products for considerably cheaper then other marketing avenues. However, it is also important to note the benefits and disadvantages of these types of programs and that affiliate marketing programs may not be in the best interest of all e-commerce participants. Having a good fit between the affiliate and merchant will probably make the difference in the effectiveness of the marketing efforts

Click Fraud- Types, Cases, Perpetrators, & Preventative Measures”

November 7, 2008

November 06, 2008

 “Click Fraud- Types, Cases, Perpetrators & Preventative Measures”

Click fraud is clicking on a paid advertisement for a fraudulent or non-legitimate purpose. It is something that negatively affects all e-commerce participants, online marketers and search engines. Click fraud can come in many forms such as: network click fraud, competitive click fraud, and impression fraud. Here, we will distinguish the difference between these types of frauds, examine an example of a click fraud case, expose the source of click fraud, and briefly explore some preventative measures against this type of internet fraud.

 

 Forms of Click Fraud

An article at www.clickz.com explores the different types of click fraud and its implications. In short, network click fraud occurs when a network partner (usually the search engine) manufactures clicks, either through human or robotic means. This type of fraud benefits the publisher and the network owner.  Competitive click fraudoccurs when a competitor fraudulently clicks on a paid advertisement that you have purchased or bid on. For example, if you are a law firm in New York and decide to bid on the term “New York lawyer” which exceeds $10 CPC, and your listing gets a click a day from five people from a competitor in both Google and Overture, you’ll pay and extra $1500 a month, with no true benefit. A page impression occurs every time a page is viewed that contains Google Ads. Each impression is counted only once regardless of how many Google Ads it contains. A fictitious illustration of impression fraud was found at sem-faq.com , in brief, the story outlines how impression fraud works.Cindy has an ad for Christmas trees running on Google Ad words, she is generating decent traffic through her PPC campaign. A lot of visitors end up purchasing. Bob also has an ad running for Christmas trees on Google Ad words but his ad is not getting a lot of clicks. He has to pay more just to keep his add on display, so he decides to do something devious. He starts to search for Christmas tree related words on Google and asks his friends to do the same several times a day, though they never click on any of the links. This causes Cindy’s click-through-rate to go considerably down and she is now listed at the bottom of the heap. In reality the loss from impression fraud may run into the thousand dollar mark, and even more for larger businesses.

 

 

Cases & Perpetrators

 

A business week article entitled The dark side of online advertisingexposes the story of Martin Fleischmann who was deceived by click fraud. Fleischmann is the owner and founder of MostChoice.com a company that gives information and quotes on mortgages and insurance. Recently Fleischmann invested a total of $2 million in advertising fees (paid to Google); he later noticed a growing number of clicks coming from overseas destinations such as Bostwana, Mongolia and Syria, which seemed odd as most of his clients resided in the U.S. Fleishmann using high-grade software, discovered that the distant clicks had appeared not on Google or Yahoo pages but dummy websites with names like insurance1472.com and insurance060.com. When somebody would click on these recycled links on these dummy websites MostChoice would get billed. Google and the dummy website hosts and operators then share the revenue. To date he calculates that this fraudulent clicking has cost his business over $100,000 since 2003.

 

In addition to examining this particular case of click fraud, the article also talks about the “thriving click-fraud underground” community that has been populated by small-time players that makes detection difficult. The article gives an example of a married couple that engaged in click fraud and made more than $5,000 in four months. David and Renee Struck set up dummy websites with recycled Google ads and paid others to visit the sites and click repeatedly. There are actually numerous sites that disguise themselves as legitimate employment and will hire you as a “click agent”, where you can earn up to $10,000 or more of extra cash a year.  Google continues to defend their practice of recycled advertisements claiming that it helps point internet surfers toward relevant information.

 

 

Preventative Measures

 

The article on impression fraudat sem-faq.com suggests that keeping a close eye on traffic, CTR and impression activity is crucial. It also advises to reporting any strange or unusual activity such as lots of impression but little change in CTR to Google immediately and that this will help you get some compensation. But above all the article suggest that keeping a close eye on traffic coming to your site and the traffic that is not coming to your site is the most important point. Perhaps, general awareness may be the first step in terms of protection against click fraud. Awareness, education and prevention are usually regarded as the key components in detecting, avoiding and stopping fraud.  It will take a cooperative effort between law enforcement, search engines, advertisers, and publishers to stop or at least lesson the amount of click fraud out there.  

 

 

 

Search Engine Optimization – Tips & Myths

October 30, 2008

October 30, 2008

Search Engine Optimization

In General, search engine optimization (SEO) means ensuring that your Web pages are accessible to search engines such as Google, and Yahoo, and are focused in ways that help improve the chances they will be found. It is important to note the difference between search engine optimization, organic search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Search engine optimization is an automated way of optimizing the ranking of a particular website. Whereas, organic SEO is the process of optimizing a website to increase it’s rankings in unpaid search engine listing. While Search engine marketing revolves around advertisers bidding on specific keywords or phrases in order to ensure their sites are ranked at the top by search engines. One particular article at enzine.com explains more thoroughly the different between SEO, SEM, and what some of the implications for marketers are. Here, will explore some of the basics about organic SEO, some of the myths or misconceptions that surround search engine optimization, and visitor search behaviour.  

 

Most sources confirm that the more important technique in organic SEO is to arrange words carefully and in a planned manner. Words and the use of words are important because organic SEO is all about the placement of websites in the search engines based on the relevancy of subject matter given by the website.  Another enzine.com article suggests that “just framing a long list of ineffective words would only move consumers away”.  Organic SEO can save a lot of money in comparison to search engine marketing. However, planning a website for organic SEO can take months.  Alibiproduciton.com, provides an article that outlines some very useful tips and techniques that one can use in order to have their website reach its fullest potential. The article advises of three main tips to boosts your sites performance: 1) Keyword Research, 2) Develop Unique Content, and 3) Analyze Traffic.  To be effective organic search engine optimization takes ongoing maintenance and commitment.  For people who are new to the world of e-commerce and SEO or who want to broaden their knowledge surrounding SEO, reading the quide at http://www.seomoz.org/article/beginners-1-page is highly recommended. It is a guide that is designed to describe all areas of SEO – from discovery of the terms and phrases that will generate traffic, to making a site search engine friendly, to building the links and marketing the unique value of the site/organization’s offerings. Below is a diagram of the search engine market share in 2005.

 

 

Search Market Share 2005

Search Market Share 2005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a brief summation of some of the more common myths surrounding search engine optimization.

          Many people believe that keywords in the title are enough. This is not the case; keywords must appear in the title, description, Meta tags and in strategic locations on each page. (source:enzinearticle.com) 

          Search engine optimization implies an influx of traffic overnight. This is also a misconception as search engine optimization is a slow process.

          Once your site is at the top it will usually stay there. Untrue, there is no such thing as guaranteed top position. Most major search engines have some sort of disclaimer stating that they ultimately decide which Web pages will be included in their indexes.

          With the right bid, one can buy their way to the top. Also untrue, there’s no such thing as a permanent top position. New content and external links are added to sites all the time, which affects the search engine results. (source:clickz.com) 

          People only search once and then purchase.  This is also not the case. People usually search more than once before purchasing and there is usually a long time delay between the first and last click before purchasing.  An interesting article at asis.org outlines a scientifically based experiment that was done in order to examine consumer search behavior and the implications for advertisers.

This subject of search engine optimization is very impetrative to a website’s traffic, and therefore, it is an issue that should not be overlooked or undermined by marketers.  Many businesses these days are utilizing a combination of organic, standard or paid search engine optimization in order to give their sites the most exposure possible.  However, the element of quality content and the appropriate placement of keywords with either of the search engine methods cannot be overlooked.  In addition, as this concept of search engine optimization continues to grow, it is quite possible that the search engine behavior of visitors will play a more integral role in the way websites are optimized.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Networking Communities (MySpace and Facebook)

October 23, 2008

October 23, 2008

“Social Networking Communities (MySpace and Facebook)”

Many marketers are now discovering the importance and value of online social networking communities. Facebook and MySpace are great social networking tools that people can use to promote or sell their service, product, or message.  Different people will use various networking sites in a variety of ways. It is quite possible for someone to utilize a combination of networking sites in order to achieve their goals. The most important thing to remember when dealing with social networking sites is the ability and need to connect to people. Here we will examine some of the ways that marketers can utilize theses networking tools to their advantage. 

 

MySpace

MySpace and other social networking tools give the marketer a built-in audience to sell to. Dotty Blake in his blog suggests that digital products are the easiest to sell online since there is no shipping charges or hassle.  In his blog he outlines what he think are the necessary steps that need to be taken in order to use both clickbank.com and MySpace to sell your product.  He suggests treating each MySpace profile like a person and to give each profile person-like characteristics.  He actually suggests setting up numerous profiles and making each profile an “actress or actor”. For example, he says if you were to sell a quit smoking product on your MySpace page, then you would initiate a blog about your product and other people (actors or actresses) would start to comment, and that would hopefully initiate conversation among actual visitors.  He says that on affiliate profiles you could even have the actors or actresses suggest the product by posting comments such as “yes I had the same problem till I discovered this book”.

 

Facebook

Brian Wallace at Nowsource.com  compiled some tips and suggestions on how to fully take advantage of Facebook. He emphasis the importance of facebook’s applications, such as Blog Friends where you can add in your friend’s blogs as well as friends of friends. He also makes note of RSS feeds.  You can put other website feeds on your Facebook profile, which is great for small businesses and entrepreneurs.  Justin Smith is the author of “The Facebook Marketing Bible”. His blog is a synopsis of this book. For anyone wanting to use Facebook to the fullest this blog if not book ,is definitely a useful read. Smith states that the most important part of utilizing Facebook is your profile page, because that is where your audience gets to engage with certain parts of your identity. He admits that the profile page is where you can express your passion for you brand, company or product. Smith explores every possible application of Facebook. Some of the less traditional Facebook applications that he examines include:

Social Ads:   With Social Ads, Facebook offers advertisers the option to pay on a CPC or CPM basis, whichever they prefer.

Integrated Opportunities: if you represent a large account, Facebook has partnered with Microsoft to serve advertisers wit higher campaign budgets.

Polls: polls offer an easy way for marketers to quickly conduct research within their targeted audience.

Finally Smith admits that Facebook marketing campaigns will require much more creativity than any other SEM campaigns. Facebook provides brand marketers the opportunity to design immersive and persuasive brand experiences.  Some of the success of Facebook should be credit towards its instant feedback nature, where user’s activity is constantly being updated and displayed.

 

Whichever social networking tool(s) you decide to use it is important to note that these tools are effective because they are personal yet non-intrusive.  If your audience consists of young people then Myspace may be the tool for you. If you plan on creating a Myspace profile consider leveraging third party services to bring multimedia content (i.e. flash widgets) onto your page. The fore mentioned piece on Myspace was merely an example of how one could use the Myspace to sell or promote a product but certainly not the only option available.  If you plan on using Facebook or Myspace or a combination of the two, it is important to remember that creativity and need to connect to people are two of the most important success factors. There is presumably more research online about how to fully utilize facebook and MySpace then could be fixed into this blog.

 

 

 

 

Viral Marketing Word of Mouth

October 16, 2008

October 16, 2008

“Viral Marketing (Word-of-Mouth)”

Viral Marketing is any marketing technique that induces web site users to pass on a marketing message to other site or users, creating a potential growth or “buzz” about your message. In other words, it is letting the users of the Internet do your marketing for you.  Marketing guru Seth Goldin defines viral marketing as “getting people to talk about you and your product”. Viral marketing can be the cheapest most successful form of marketing. Here, we will explore some of the basic principles of viral marketing, examples of effective viral campaigns, and some of the pitfalls or challenges of viral marketing. 

Some viral marketing campaigns will be more effective than others. In addition, some target markets will eat up viral marketing better than other demographics, such as young adults and teenagers.  Wilsonweb.com  has a great article about the 6 basic viral marketing principles. Below you will find a summation of those 6 principles and the key points to be aware of.

1.    Give away valuable products or service

Free” is the most powerful word in a marketer’s vocabulary.  Most viral marketing programs give away valuable products or services to attract attention, i.e. free e-mail, free info, free “cool” buttons, and free software and so on.  Offering something for free may not profit today, but if it generates interest and a buzz, then it will profit soon and for the rest of your life. “Patience, my friends!  Free attracts eyeballs”

 

2.    Provide for effortless transfer to others

Viral marketing is only effective if it easy to spread around (hence, the word viral). The medium that carries your marketing message must be easy to transfer and replicate. For example at the bottom of your website you can have “recommend this site to a friend” buttons or other useful widgets.

 

3.    Scales easily from small to very large

In order for your message to spread like wildfire the transmission method must be rapidly scalable form small to very large. In other words, you must plan ahead of time and be prepared for small to large amounts of user traffic.

 

4.    Exploits common motivations and behaviors

Clever viral marketing plans take advantage of common human motivations. Greed drives people. So does the hunger to be popular, loved and understood. The resulting urge to communicate produces millions of websites and billions of e-mail messages. Design a strategy that builds on these common human motivations.

 

5.    Utilizes existing communication networks

Most people are social, with the exception of nerdy undergrad students. Social science tells us that the typical person has a network of 8 to 12 people of friends, family and associates. A person’s broader network may consist of hundreds or thousands of people. A waitress, for example, may communicate with hundreds of customers in a given week. Network marketers have long understood the power of human networks. People develop a network of relationships on the Internet too. The goal is to exploit such networks, and to place messages in existing communications between people, so that your message can multiply rapidly.

 

6.    Takes advantage of others’ resources

The most creative viral marketing plans use others resources to get the word out.  This can be done by placing your logos, or links on others websites. It is getting someone else’s web page to relay your marketing message. Therefore, someone else’s resources are depleted rather than your own.

 

In order to conceptualize some of these 6 principles let us now explore some successful examples of viral marketing campaigns. Various articles were found that explored some successful viral marketing campaigns that all differed in nature, purpose and scope. However it is important to note that precise duplication of viral marketing tactics or campaigns will fail. Why? Well the reason these ideas worked was because they were innovative, which means they are already taken, however, they can be taken as a point of influence or inspiration.

 

One article by Tamar Weingberg at techipedia.comexamines how the band “Weezer” used viral marketing to create an instant buzz about their video. Weezer gathered people from a handful of successful Youtube videos and put them in their music video. It was simple for them really all they did was take a bunch of already popular people and combined them into their video at the most memorable parts, the video has had 4 million views so far.  Weinberg states the takeaways are simple “look at who you’re targeting, review what they find interesting, and be inventive”.  Another successful viral campaign was launched out and executed by musical recording artist “Crooked I”. This artist put out a free track every single week, mostly through affiliate sites such as hiphopdx. This campaign worked for him, the tactic kept him as a featured artist on major hip-hop sites and the topic of discussion on many related hip-hop forums. Dan Zarella is a social & viral marketing scientist in his article , he lists what he believes are some of the most effective examples of viral marketing to date. He mentions the Bob Dylan Facebook Application, where users were allowed to make their own version of Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues video. He states that this is an viral marketing campaign example consisting entirely of “brand” interaction for the purpose of entertainment.  

 

Justin Bolden’s blog at Audiblehype.com, examines some of the challenges, and pitfalls of viral marketing. Bolden suggests that imitating something that has already been done won’t work, and he refers to Seth Godin’s remark about how people will drive by 1 million white cows but will stop and stare at a cow that is purple. The same Bolden admits, applies to the viral marketing world, where people are constantly looking for something new, exciting and emotionally stimulating to be entertained with. So viral marketing if done effectively can be a great benefit for anyone person attempting to sell something or get a message across to a large number of people. Marketingterms.com states that the success of this type of marketing depends on a high pass-along rate from person to person. If a large percentage of recipients pass it along to a large number of people, the overall growth snowballs very quickly. It the pass-along numbers get too low, the overall growth quickly fizzles.

Building Community within your Website

October 9, 2008

October 9th, 2008

“Building Community Within you website”

The notion of customer experience in e-commerce refers to targeting a customer’s perception & interpretation of all the stimuli encountered while interacting with a firm. There are 7 C’s to effectively building and maintaining a customer experience: context, content, community, customization, communication, connection and commerce. Here we will focus on community and explore some underlying methods of building community within your website.

Community refers to how sites build relationships between users. Strong community encourages stickiness and loyalty. Some examples of the way firms can build communities in their websites are: support forums, discussion/message boards or forums, member areas and blogs. Basically, building community is a way for users of your site to connect and communicate with each other. We will now look explore some of the tools used to build community in particularly discussion/message boards and blogs.

One article about discussion/message boards  examines the several advantages of a message board over an email list or instant chatting.  One of the advantages that stood out in the piece was the fact that past and present messages on a message board are readily viewable. This means that evidence of quality participation and a large group of participants is necessary to encourage more visitors to contribute.  The task then here is developing topics that drive traffic to the conversation.

Blogs can be a great way to encourage users to participate in your website and remain engaged with your websites content. However, professional blogger for Viral Garden, Mark Collier, has a some very interesting points and suggestions made in his article about blogging. He suggests that there is a big difference between blogging and expecting people to participate, and actually creating a viral community within your website. Some of the few blogs he links to include: Jack Yan’s “The Persuader Blog”, Clyde Smith’s “Hip-Hop Marketing”, and Toby Bloomberg’s “The Diva Marketing Blog”.

Priya Shah, a partner at a search engine marketing firm, in her article “How to build Traffic to your Blog”, states that “Write and they will come” isn’t exactly a magic formula to bring in traffic by the boatload. In her article she has 8 points of consideration for anyone wishing to build community through a blog.

  1. Write posts that People will Want to read
  2. Optimize your Post for Search Engines
  3. Submit your blog and RSS feed to directories
  4. Ping the Blog Service
  5. Build Links to Your blog
  6. Edit Your Blog Posts into Articles
  7. Create buzz about your blog
  8. Capture Subscribers by Email

Alot of things must be taken into consideration when implementing tools to build community and keeping that community together. Justilien Gaspard, at SerachEngineWatch.com discusses various aspects about building community in his article. He states that that a viral marketing campaign, whether it be blogging, forums, or discussion boards, or any combination of tools, has a greater likelihood of success by having specific objectives and targeting communities. There are no guarantees with viral marketing, he admits. Finally, he states that if it doesn’t succeed, explore what you can improve on, what you’ve learned and put that new knowledge into another campaign. He says at the very least you developed some relationships with people to promote your next vial marketing initiative. Building viral communities in your website is a good way to bring a group of people (your customers) together that share common interest(s), who can generate content to your website, and feel that they are an important and integral part of what you are offering. 

Choosing A Web Designer/Service for small Business

October 2, 2008

October 2, 2008

“Choosing a Web Designer/service provider for small businesses”

There are many different roles and functions needed in order to create an effective and successful website, such as web hosting, a website programmer, a web designer, a graphic designer, and an internet marketing specialist. Sometimes if you are lucky you can find all these essential services from one individual or company, but finding this really is a rare occurrence. Here we will look at the issue of web design and choosing a web designer or web designing service. Web design is the second phase of the whole web site development cycle, so we will be analyzing issues within this framework or phase.

 A web designer is someone “helps you to determine the page layout, graphics, text location and colors of your site, as well as the navigation and how pages will cross-link to one another. He may also do the actual computer programming and graphic art work for the site, or may hire out that work to a programming specialist. A Website Designer is the project manager for your site design or redesign” (http://www.passionforbusiness.com/articles/choose-website-designer.htm).   Choosing a web designer is not easy, and is actually a very critical step, especially when launching an e-commerce site for the first time.  When launching an e-commerce for the first time, a good website can attract customers and bad one can draw customers away, regardless if you are self-employed of a small –medium sized business. There are a number of factors that should be considered when choosing a web designer.

Firstly, one should consider their business and their customer’s needs, and what exactly they are attempting to offer their customer through their website. Website requirements will vary for service-based websites, information-based websites and so forth.  Secondly, in brief, it is important to have a realistic time frame and website plan and a budget to go with this plan. Thirdly, comes actually choosing the website designer, which should be accompanied by some research.

There are a number of things that should be considered prior to choosing a web designer such as: credentials, cost, contact, experience, vision, planning, testing, technology, consultation, legality, and ongoing support.  There is a great deal of informative articles, blogs and sites concerning this type of research for organizations to review. Based on some of this research, below is a summation of tips and suggestions that surrounds choosing a web designer, with a focus on credentials, cost, and experience. 

Credentials

An article found at mediacollege.com, (http://www.mediacollege.com/internet/intro/choose-designer.html), suggested that there a lot of web designers out there who claim to be qualified but have no real experience.  The sites suggests asking any prospective web designer if they can: manually write HTML code, work with languages such as JavaScript, create meta-tags, and optimise for search engines, create forms and other interactive content and work with websites in a secure server environment. If a web designer is lacking in any of the previously mentioned areas, they probably aren’t qualified to work on your website. The article also gives out advice with regards to warning signs, or indicators of a qualified versus an unprofessional web designer. For example, very few professional designers use Microsoft FrontPage; this would be a bad warning sign. Where as, many professional web designers use programs such as adobe dream weaver – this would be a good sign. 

Cost

Even if you are working on a tight budget, do not be blinded in by cheap quotes.  However, one should keep in mind that cost and end results go hand in hand. Karen Greenstreet is a self employment expert and small business coach, sharing tips, techniques and strategies with self employed people. In her article found at Passionforbusiness.com (http://www.passionforbusiness.com/articles/choose-website-designer.htm), she gives great advice concerning cost and web design. She states that if a web designer gives you a quote or estimate before even discussing the content or features of your website this is a bad sign. She also advises to pay attention to whether or not the designer will stick to your budget, or whether they will continues to suggest new add-ons and expensive features.  Finally, she suggests asking what the costs for maintenance or upgrades will be.

Experience

Always ask a web designer for his portfolio, a professional web designer will have one to show you.  In addition, actually talking to some of their previous and preset clients to see how the process went is not a bad idea. Creative behaviour.com (http://www.creativebehavior.com/index.php?PID=47), suggests to first asking the designer how long they have been in business, and that this will be a good indication of how familiar or unfamiliar they are with the current technologies of web design. The websolutions blog at http://jyotitis-websolutions.blogspot.com/2008/01/how-to-choose-website-designer.html advises to ask the designer for a small test in order to examine their web designing ability. They also suggest checking out the potential web designer’s reputation online. Chances are that if a web designer has any sort of track record or history, whether it is good or bad, it can be found online. Finally, one should always look at the web designer’s site or company site; this will be a very good indication or professionalism and quality.

Having no website at all is better than having one that is unprofessional or amateur in design.  With any type of customer relationship, there should be a certain “fit” and the same applies to choosing a web designer. The research required in order to locate the web designer suited for your needs and business may be a little time consuming but it will be well worth it in the end.

 

Key Performance Indicators and Website Goals

September 25, 2008

 September 25, 2008

“Key Performance Indicators & Website Goals”

Key performance indicators (KPI’s) of a website are important; they help build, determine and analyze the effectiveness of a website relative to the websites goals. In other words, you need a way to measure if what you are doing with your website is helping your firm achieve its goals (KPI’s are those measurements). How do you use these measurements appropriately based on your firm’s goals? What KPI do you use?  Here we will explore, some of the guidelines surrounding key performance indicators in relation to a firms objectives.

In order for KPI to work effectively in relation to firms goals, the KPI’s should be quantifiable and reflect the firm’s goals, and secondly the firm’s goals should be specific.  An article found at Management.about.com, (http://management.about.com/cs/generalmanagement/a/keyperfindic_2.htm), distinguishes a good key performance indicator from a bad one by using real business based examples. Overall, the findings suggest that, any goal set, must be specific, “increased sales” is too broad a goal. There are a number of smaller yet just as imperative goals that lead up to increased sales such as: increased website traffic, returned visitors, reduced complaints, or maintaining web presence and user availability.  Similarly, if a KPI is to be of any value, they must be quantifiable. The article also, (http://management.about.com/cs/generalmanagement/a/keyperfindic.htm) explores poorly set key performance indicators and effective ones. It suggests that “Being the most popular web-based company” will be useless as a KPI unless there is a way to measure the company’s popularity or compare it to others.  It is important to remember that what you are measuring can actually be measured numerically.

Julie Mason is the General Manager for Kellysearch.com, a comprehensive online buyers’ guide and vertical search engine, with over 2 million companies listed worldwide. In her blog, (http://www.searchenginejournal.com/practical-guide-to-website-key-performance-indicators-kpis/5692/), she gives some direction as to how a company can determine what KPI’s it should be using.  She also advised that if certain KPI numbers don’t add up with your websites goals, there are areas of your site that need improving. 

Certain KPI’s will be used to measure certain goals, based on the firm’s purpose, size and scope. Let us observe just some of the more commonly used measurements that are available.

          Visitors per Conversion, Lead or Order: This is a basic calculation: leads divided by site visits. This is a primary metric to watch as changes are made to the site (http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3382981)

          Cost per Lead (CPL): CPL defines how much revenue a publisher receives when he creates a lead for an advertiser. For example, the publisher may place an ad for an investment site on his website. If a user clicks on the advertisement link, she is directed to the advertiser’s website where she can sign up for an investment account. If she chooses to sign up, a lead has been created and the publisher is paid a certain amount based on the CPL. (http://www.techterms.com/definition/cpl)

          Stickiness: measures the  level of involvement and length of time a visitor spends in a specific content area ( http://www.searchenginejournal.com/practical-guide-to-website-key-performance-indicators-kpis/5692/)

          Percentage of New Visitors: this ratio tells you how many people out of all your prospects were new to visiting your site, it is calculated by the equation

New Visitors/Unique Visitors = Percentage of New Visitors

(http://books.google.ca/books?id=g3sWkbuPTQcC&pg=PA114&lpg=PA114&dq=how+do+you+measure+the+percentage+of+new+visitors+to+a+website&source=web&ots=LLo_Aiyf6N&sig=1ySXNpzO1kAFbtvzUXUNiuy-m-k&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result)

 

Let us now put one of the KPI’s to use in an example. If for instance, you are an independent music artist and you have just set up your website, maybe one goal of your site is to get as many people as possible to join your email list. The question then raised is how would you use KPI’s to see if your website is achieving this goal?  Well, you could use the visitors per conversion measure. If 100 people visit your website but only 5 subscribe to the email list, this could indicate that there is a problem with this area of your site. Perhaps, there is content on the site that users find unappealing or invasive, or there could not be enough engaging content encouraging the user to join the list. Or possibly, this part of your site is hard to navigate or confusing, the layout could be poor, or it could require that users provide too much personal information. On a side note, as a website visitor, personally, I would want to join an email list, because by doing so I will get something in return, which I think should be taken in consideration by any organization wanting to create an email list.  

 

Those are just some of KPI measures that were found across a number of different articles and websites. One blog in particular located at http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/2008/09/rules-choosing-web-analytics-key-performance-indicators.html, is a great read concerning KPI’s. In this blog Avanish (the blog writer), posts what he thinks are the most effective KPI’s to use, eight tips to use KPI’s effectively, and accompanies his opinions and reasons with great graphs and charts. Avanish states that one of his favourite KPI’s is “Days & Visits to ‘Purchase’”. He comically compares consumer shopping habits to their dating habits.  He states whilst referring to people’s shopping habits, that, “Life rarely is about one night stands. People don’t behave that way. We like to take our time”.  The “Day’s & Visits to ‘Purchase” measure basically counts how long it takes for a person to complete and outcome on your website, with that outcome most commonly being a purchase.

 

 

Avanish also suggests the following KPI’s as most effective: average order value, visitor loyalty & recency, and task completion rate. For anyone considering the application and use of key performance indicators, Avanish’s blog is definitely insightful.

Determining which KPI’s to use will be based on the purpose and goal of your website. It is important to keep in mind that goals should be specific, and note that they will change over time as your firm gets closer to achieving its goals. Also, KPI’s should be measurable, and relevant to the firm’s goals.  Firms should start to see results if the KPI matches the goals and if the results are analyzed effectively.

Independent Music Artists & Marketing on the Internet

September 17, 2008

September 17, 2008

“Independent Music Artists & Marketing on the Internet

With the every approaching presence of digital communication, independent music artist are now finding it easier to work and succeed outside of the typical label relationship. The Internet can be a great tool for independent artist to promote and market their music, and basically get them noticed by the public digital sphere. Here we will explore examples of some bands and their on-line marketing tactics, and scratch the surface in terms of what the Internet has to offer independent music artists.

One article from Mixonline.com examines bands and artists that made their music visions reality by reaching out to the public through use of the Internet. In this article, artist, Pat Green, who compares himself to the likes of Jimmy Puffet, expressed that when a record deal finally came along he had enough autonomy that he didn’t find the need for one anymore thanks to the use of the Internet. Another band by the name of “Trapt”, admitted to marketing themselves on-line for two-years before reaching the billboard charts. Trapt set up a website, www.iuma.com  , where kids could look for bands and every night Chris (lead vocalist), would email back and forth with hundreds of kids from all over the world.  Trapt’s Internet campaign also included blasts to a weekly e-mail list of 10,000 fans, and hundreds of Webzine reviews and interviews.  Their savvy Internet campaign led them to winning a vote-for-your favourite-artist promotion on www.Coke.com, a worldwide streaming of their single “Headstrong” on AOL radio, 300,000 downloads of Trapt’s Winamp “Skin”, and the creation of Internet fan “E Teams” who helped spread the word.  The full article at http://mixonline.com/newmedia/internetaudio/audio_getting_noticed/index.html  provides a lot more detail and insight into Trapt’s and other bands successful Internet campaigns.

Another website that provides useful information for music artists looking for ways to promote and market themselves on-line is http://www.artistshousemusic.org.   Artisthousemusic.org is an incredibly valuable website, covering such topics as advertising, publicity/promotion, distribution, merchandising, touring, creating a fan base, and much more.  On the site there are various video clippings of John Vanhala, who is the VP of New Media and Strategic Marketing for verve music group. Vanhala discusses everything from “Challenges in on-line Marketing” to “How to promote your career as an independent artist”.  In one video clip he recommends various dependable and practical digital distribution companies for artists to sell their music through.  He also discusses the various self-publish Internet opportunities that artists can take advantage of. He stresses the importance of Myspace, Blogs and Pod-casting among other on-line tools.  He also addresses the fact that there is a difference between good marketing and spam which can actually annoy fans and draw them away from you and your music, and that artist should be aware of this difference.  The full video clip and other clips can be viewed at http://www.artistshousemusic.org/videos/jon+vanhala. In addition to being a very helpful website, maixonline.com, also has links to other useful related websites and articles. 

The research and findings suggest that the Internet serves as a great window of opportunity for independent music artists to market their music. Before artists engage in any Internet campaign or are considering the use of on-line marketing channels, it is recommended that research be done to see what other artists are doing, what professionals and experts in the field recommend, and to generally become more aware of the Internet and its possibilities. There are numerous Internet communication tools that artist can use in order capture their audience and get their message’s across, however, the use of these tools will mostly likely be the determent of success.